“Now you’re playing with power — SUPER Power!”
This is why it pays to be an insomniac. Last year (or the year before), I was accused of never sleeping, always staying up writing, when my friends tried to slip a birthday surprise under my nose by waiting until I went to bed. Not gonna happen, NPCs. Y’know why? Because after all these late nights, it paid off when I was awake for a 45 minute window at Best Buy to pre-order a Super Nintendo Classic Edition!
Yes, I too pre-ordered one of the mini consoles from WalMart when pre-orders mistakenly went live at the retailer that once used a smiley face as their mascot before they realized nobody smiles at WalMart and changed it. WalMart infamously cancelled all of the pre-orders, disappointing every fan who managed to snag one while their website allowed, a tiny window that lasted about 25 minutes. I had the same sneaking suspicion that I might have my pre-order cancelled at Best Buy, but they actually pulled through.
No way was I going to miss out on this one, especially not after the fire and the flames I had to walk through to get the NES mini. The SNES is also my favorite console of all time and one of the greatest ever made for its sprawling library and historical significance. So here’s my take on the Super Nintendo Classic… in a 16-bit review!
The 16-bit Review
Like the NES Classic before it, the Super Nintendo Classic does not fail to elicit an “awwwww~” from any beholder, no matter how calloused. Sitting next to its big brother, it’s obvious it’s a perfect scale down. Too bad they didn’t make an optional version that was yellowed! I received a few helpful remarks from folks who told me about ways to clean up my original SNES, get rid of that yellowing, but really… that trusty old device followed me across both the Pacific and the Atlantic. It’s got battle scars and character that I wouldn’t trade for the world. I built so many memories with this system… I played it on a gas-powered generator. It was a constant when I went through my parents getting divorced. It survived many, many moves. I wouldn’t change a cosmetic thing.
2. Hardware Accuracy
It looks exactly like the original region-specific models, right down to the functioning power and reset buttons. The cartridge slot and eject tab are purely for the looks, of course. Nintendo doesn’t produce carts that size. The front light on the left even lights up when operating. Something I couldn’t tell before I handled it myself (and heavier than I thought it’d be) was the front of the console has a false cover that swings open to reveal the real controller ports. The controllers that come with the SNES Classic do not use the same style connections as the original. Speaking of controllers…
3. Controller Cord Length
One of the biggest complaints about the NES Classic were the controller cords were too short. There are ways around this, notably with third party controllers you can buy separately, but I’ll come to that in a twinkling of an eye. The controller cords for the NES Classic were 3 feet long and Nintendo has stated that the controller cords for the SNES Classic are about 2 feet longer, for a whopping total of 5 feet. That’s still not all that long and it may not work entirely depending on your TV set up. For me, my game seat is quite close to my tele so it’s not a huge issue, but compare the lengths of Nintendo’s cords historically in the snapshot I took below.
Left to right: NES Classic controller, original NES controller (complete with worn segment), SNES Classic controller, original SNES controller, 8bitdo NES30 wireless Bluetooth controller (cord length infinity, I guess?). On a nit-picky note, the SNES Classic controllers (two come with the system now) feel thicker and much more abrasive than the originals do. Even the buttons feels different. Still very comfortable controllers, though.
4. Resetting the system
The biggest drawback with the controller isn’t the short cord at all, to my mind. Because it makes you have to sit close to the TV. I love sitting close to the TV, mostly because I can’t see (maybe because I sit to close to TVs). It’s nostalgic crowding around it, huddled over the console, as well, but I completely understand that that just doesn’t work for everyone, especially with modern TVs in excess of 50 inches. So, no, the biggest drawback with the controller is there’s no way to soft reset the system and return to the game select screen to either pick another title or save your game with a Suspend Point.
The only way to do that is to hit the reset button on the console itself. That’s exactly the same problem the NES Classic had. Makes it tough to relax while playing if you have to keep getting up to take advantage of the save states. Maybe it’s there to help resist the temptation of saving every minute of a game. The SNES included a way to reset a game by holding down select, start, L and R… and I was really hoping that would allow me to get back to the main interface. Alas.
5. Compatibility with other controllers
That’s where the other controllers come in. I reviewed the NES30 controller by 8bitdo. I love that thing. Read my take on it by following the link for more details, but essentially it uses a Bluetooth receiver that plugs into the mini console in the controller port. The NES30 is compatible with both the NES and SNES classics (and the Switch!), plus it has the capability of returning to the main menu by holding down select. The 8bitdo controllers are top notch and high quality. If you plan to play a lot of the games on the system, like the longer RPGs, then consider investing in one of these. Other variations at 8bitdo.com.
6. Set up
Setting up this plug n’ play system isn’t something that bears too much explanation. It uses a simple two-piece AC cord and adapter, and an HD cable. I’ve got mine hooked up on an HDMI switchboard I picked up from Lowes that lets me cycle through extra HDMI channels.
Exactly like the NES Classic, the SNES Classic features a central hub, a main interface, which lets you select from the 21 games included (Star Fox 2 is locked at first and can be obtained by finishing the first stage in Star Fox). The system includes three display modes: CRT Filter, 4:3, and Pixel Perfect. There are also a bunch of useless frames you can add to the black spaces around the games you play, just so you have something to blame when you die. Pixel Perfect is where it’s at, though. These games look super clean on a modern big screen!
8. Save states
So the SNES Classic uses the same feature we saw in the NES Classic to record save states on the fly. They’re called Suspend Points and they’re temporarily created when you hit the reset button and return to the main menu. They’ll go away if you try to select another game or turn the system off, so you have to manually save a Suspend Point in one of four slots available to each game. You can then lock these to ensure you don’t automatically overwrite them and pick from any of them to jump back into the game at the moment you left. Note that this can dramatically lower the difficulty of some of these games and their challenge is part of what makes them so engaging after all these years! A lot of the games have in-game saving features as well.
9. Rewind feature
New to the SNES Classic is the capability to move time forward and backward in ten second intervals if you select the Rewind feature when loading a saved Suspend Point. This let’s you handily avoid one of the downfalls of save states: sometimes you saved at a super inconvenient moment and there’s not enough time to avoid instant death. It happens. It happened to this guy… too bad he didn’t have a rewind feature…
10. My Game Play Demo
Another new feature is the SNES Classic can turn your previous playthroughs into demos that’ll run automatically if you remain idle on the main menu. This can be embarrassing, depending on your skill level and the snootiness of your company, but luckily you can turn the feature off and let the game do its own preset demos.
11. The UI
The interface itself is identical to that on the NES Classic. Scroll sideways to select the games, options, manual QR code, display modes, languages at the top, and save states at the bottom. Very user friendly.
Attention went once again into carefully crafting how the SNES Classic is presented in box. When I picked the parcel up on my front step, I really thought it felt heavier than it should be. There was more hardware packed into the box but the box was the same size as the first mini. The packaging beautifully emulated the classic SNES commercial design, plus it includes another awesome poster!
13. The games that are on it
Nearly every single game on this system is one I’d consider an 8 or higher. These are some of the best classics you can find, exemplary games demonstrating the capabilities of the original system. Only two of them are ones I’ve never played and only one is a game I don’t actually care for.
Five easy recommendations are:
If you’re curious about any of these games, follow the links to some in-depth reviews! As for Star Fox 2 (never before released), what I’ve played of it was interesting and different, not what I expected. I think the original is more fun to play but I’m glad the second game is a different flavor, rather than what could’ve felt like Star Fox bonus levels.
14. The games that aren’t on it
With only 21 games this time (for some reason), there are a slew of great games that didn’t make the cut. The SNES library is tremendous and I wish we could’ve seen more here. That said, these are my top five SNES games that didn’t make it to the mini:
I’d have swapped out Kirby’s Dream Course for any of these games… heck for nearly any game at all.
15. Emulation Quality
The SNES Classic looks and feels great and authentic. You can tell that these games have not been extensively touched up. The FPS rate can still drag. Gameplay restraints are still present. Cumbersome passwords are here to stay. It would’ve been easy to streamline these but that would’ve erased their significance as influential works of history.
16. Why buy one at all?
This is a question I see a lot from people: Why bother about the SNES Classic at all when there’s [fill in the blank]. They may cite any kind of emulator, raspberry pi, or what have you. For me, I bought this because I’m a collector, because it’s an official Nintendo product, because of its ease in setting up and playing on my TV, and because I’m anti-emulator. Emulators don’t always run perfectly and this is the next best thing in terms of accuracy except for the original carts themselves!
You’ll consistently see articles saying you can buy something like the Retron 3 or other third party consoles that can play any of those old carts, but unless you have a massive collection of them, or are willing to shell out hundreds of dollars to get such a collection, then the SNES Classic is a great, affordable, available alternative to the horrors of navigating the retro gaming market. $80 for 21 games that reliably function in HD on modern televisions. That is of course… if you can find it.
Nintendo has promised to ramp up production of the SNES Classic, so if you want one, I hope you’ll be able to get your own mini console soon. Just remember: save the future, don’t pay a gouger.
In your service,
-The Well-Red Mage
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