Voltron has gotten an incredible remake. Star Trek is back on TV. Stephen King’s “IT” is terrifying a whole new generation of kids. It’s like the best parts of my childhood have come to life. Now I’ve gotten my hands on an entirely new Super NES Classic Edition – Nintendo’s latest mini-console, updated to work with modern TVs. No more legally-grey ROMs coupled with kludgy emulators — this is the real thing, running the real games, using the real controllers.
The Super NES library, at the end of its lifecycle, had a staggering 721 games. It must have been difficult for the Nintendo team to select just 21 games from that expansive library, and while this system has less packed-in games compared to the NES Classic, it’s clear that the focus was quality over quantity. The 21 games included with the Super NES Classic Edition are as follows:
- Contra III The Alien Wars
- Donkey Kong Country
- Final Fantasy III
- Kirby Super Star
- Kirby’s Dream Course
- The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past
- Mega Man X
- Secret of Mana
- Star Fox
- Star Fox 2
- Street Fighter II Turbo: Hyper Fighting
- Super Castlevania IV
- Super Ghouls’n Ghosts
- Super Mario Kart
- Super Mario RPG: Legend of the Seven Stars
- Super Mario World
- Super Mario World 2: Yoshi’s Island
- Super Metroid
- Super Punch-Out!!
Nintendo pulled out all of the stops, as you can see. When I think of the Super NES platform, it’s these games I think of. Super Mario RPG, Super Metroid, Star Fox, Secret of Mana, Final Fantasy III, F-Zero, Super Punch-Out!!! are genre-defining classics. In fact, every game on this list would be comfortable in any Top 50 list anywhere — the only thing I can say I’d add would be Chrono Trigger, Star Wars: Return of the Jedi, and Actraiser, but that’s a matter of personal choice. Games like NBA Jam, Super Mario All-Stars, and Earthworm Jim could just as easily take their place. The point I’m making is simple – there’s an embarrassment of riches in the Super NES library, and Nintendo has built a nearly perfect library to showcase this retro classic.
What’s in the box?
Like the original release of both the NES, Super NES, and last year’s NES Classic, the SNES Classic comes with everything you need to play, right in the box. Just to be clear, this is not a system where you can use your old carts (it’s actually about the size of a SNES cart, so that should be obvious). As you can see in our unboxing video above, this the Super NES Classic Edition box contains the following:
- Super NES Classic mini console
- Two wired Super NES Classic controllers
- USB charging cable
- AC Adapter
Nintendo has a reputation for listening closely to their fans, and this manifests in a few improvements in the SNES Classic over the NES Classic launch last year. The first and most obvious is that the SNES Classic comes with two controllers instead of one, and those controllers have five foot cables — two feet longer than the NES Classic. This is a huge improvement as most people will be playing on their 50”+ TV, and three feet away is just a bit too close.
I missed the boat on the NES Classic, so I didn’t get a chance to try out that rebooted console. I cannot thank Nintendo enough for giving us another shot at getting our hands on those next year, so players my age can re-live the formative console years of our childhoods. As you can imagine, I was excited to get my hands on the Super NES Classic.
I have fond memories of the “clicky” nature of my SNES. The power button was a chunky piece of plastic that clunked into place, and the reset button was equally as chunky. Ejecting the large plastic carts from the SNES was akin to popping a piece of bread from a toaster. Nintendo has kept the chunky power and reset buttons, but the eject button and the cartridge port are simply aesthetics at this point. The wear and tear of mechanical parts and the passage of time aren’t the greatest of bedfellows, so it makes sense that they’d go all-digital. That said, I’ll miss the never-recommended cartridge-blowing technique.
There’s also a bit of sleight of hand with the controllers that are packed in with the Super NES Classic. While the shell of the console has the look of the original ports, it’s behind those ports where the real connector ports hide. Using a proprietary connection similar to that of the Wii (the same ones used for the NES Classic), the two included controllers preserve the muscle-memory nostalgia of rapidly hammering buttons to get back up after a botched Bald Bull rush, or unleashing Chun Li’s Hyakuretsukyaku (Hundred Rending Legs – the rapid fire attack) kicks.
If there’s one thing I could wish for, it’s something provided by a handful of third party providers for the NES Mini — wireless controllers. In Nintendo’s update of this classic hardware, it would have been fantastic to see a move to wireless SNES controllers to answer the cord length question once and for all with something first party. Still, the inclusion of a second controller means you are ready to play Contra III The Alien Wars, F-Zero, Street Fighter II Turbo: Hyper Fighting, Super Mario Kart, and Donkey Kong Country without having to head to your local geek shop for a second input device.
Improving a classic
Legally dubious or otherwise, the emulation world has brought some great quality of life improvements to the classic gaming world. The Super NES Classic introduces save states, allowing you to snapshot up to four save points anywhere you’d like instead of just the developer-specified save points.
The Super NES Classic also adds a rewind function to the mix. This allows players to rewind roughly the last minute of gameplay, reversing any poorly timed jumps, bad turns, or weak tactical choices. When combined with the save states, it does have the effect of making otherwise difficult moments slightly easier, but it does mean reliving the classics without as much frustration. It’s also more welcoming to the newest generation of players who might not appreciate the added challenge.
As you can see below, firing up the Super NES Classic brings up a scrolling menu of games to play. By default, the games have a smoothing filter applied which makes them more palatable on a high-resolution TV. For the purists among you, you’ll be happy to know that you can toggle a “pixel perfect” emulation option (though that does make text a little hard to read), or CRT mode which provides a nostalgia-laden scanline result that’s sure to ignite some nostalgia.
One of the best aspects of the Super NES Classic Edition is the price. At release, the NES, SNES, and Nintendo 64 all debuted at $199.99. This new miniaturized version is just $79.99 and comes with some of the best games ever released. There are those who will argue that you could build an emulator on the cheap and play these same games and more, but it’s certainly less legal and more work. Here, it’s plug-and-play — just as it was when these games and this console were new.
Let’s talk about Star Fox 2
Star Fox has been so influential in the geek space that even uber-popular search engine Google lets you “Do a barrel roll” on their search engine (Try typing the phrase at Google.com for some fun). Nintendo had been working on Star Fox 2 at the tail end of the SNES’s life, but it was shelved in favor of the launch title work for the upcoming Nintendo 64. Now that we’ve gotten our hands on a full version of the game, it’s very clear that the concepts of this title had reverberations all the way to last year’s Star Fox Zero.
Gameplay in Star Fox 2 is is very similar to its predecessor, as you might imagine, but there are immediate differences that will sound familiar if you played Nintendo’s most recent efforts. Returning to the Lylat system to once again battle Emperor Andross and his band of goons as they fight to conquer the universe. Joined by two new pilots, it’s once again up to Fox and his pals to save the day.
As Emperor Andross bombards Fox’s home planet of Corneria, Fox and his co-pilot take to their ships (there are two new Arwing craft to play with) and engage in semi open-world combat in the atmosphere. Well ahead of many games that delivered on the open world concept, the team at Nintendo was preparing to show gamers the future. The game also shifts to the first person perspective for ship-to-ship combat, but that’s not the biggest surprise on offer.
It isn’t long before you’ll end up inside large ships where you can tap the select button to make the Arwing transform. Dropping to the ground with a satisfying clunk, the Arwing will pivot and turn into a tank, shifting combat from the high speed and frantic first person combat to a slower-paced third person slugfest. The parallels to Star Fox Zero don’t end there, but I’ll leave those surprises for you to uncover. To experience what this previously-unreleased gem has to offer, you simply have to complete Level 1-1 of the original title.
SNES Classic Edition
Nintendo absolutely knocks it out of the park with the Super NES Classic Edition. Their library is arguably perfect, and they’ve fixed almost every complaint fans had with the NES Classic release from last year. While the cords are longer, there’s still a desire for wireless controllers that will end up being filled by third parties, but being able to experience 21 of the best games ever made without the hassle of emulation is my nostalgic childhood brought to life.