Nintendo has done it again: they continue to shrink down my precious childhood memories and resell them to me. Perspectives will vary on this hardware, whether there’s justifiable value, what the point is when there’s a number of ways to play these games, and if the supply shortage is manufactured or just poorly planned. I am sure for every person out there that raves about this $79.99 bundle of 16-bit classics there’s somebody else who is jaded on the whole thing. Yes you can emulate these games, yes there are other systems out there that already do this but with more titles, and yes you can still buy working SNES systems and play the real deal. Instead of weighing too heavily into that, I’ll focus on what these games did for me when I first played them and why I believe they’re important to preserve— in whatever way you see fit.
I first started gaming on the NES but when the SNES showed up (as my big christmas present) and I booted up Super Mario World for the first time, it was then that I knew that games were going to always be a part of my life. The colors popped like nothing I had played before, the sound effects and music so clear and warm. I remember the large moving walls of the first underground level, the bats fluttering past me as I navigated an environment like I had never seen before. This gaming moment took what I had loved from the first three Mario’s, but transcended it to something so much more interactive, something much more tangible. At the time, it felt like I was mere inches away from the Mushroom Kingdom and each time I picked up the SNES controller and clicked on the purple power button I got another glimpse into the future.
F-Zero was SO fast back in the day, that every other racing game you’d play felt sluggish, hard to control and sort of boring. F-Zero from it’s very first lap around Mute City has always been about management of speed (risk) vs skill (control) and that careful balance made it one of my favorite games. It was also awesome to zoom around in the fancy new Mode 7 graphics that the SNES was able to do, adding a great new perspective which allowed the camera to dip down below the vehicle and the backgrounds to scroll appropriately as you made turns, lending a new sense of propulsion that you could previously only find at the arcades. Super Mario Kart also utilized this new tech to great effect and we all know how well that series turned out. But it is still brilliant to play today, and astonishing that the core fundamentals of the modern Mario Kart that we play today were all in place back then in 1992.
When I first played Star Fox, it was unlike anything I had ever played at home before. While graphically it seems dated now, at the time the polygon graphics were mind-blowing and the arcade pick your own path structure lent a fantastic level of replayability to the action. But more importantly, this was an age when Nintendo was just coming out left and right with killer games and using the SNES to push boundaries. Super Metroid had atmosphere unlike anything I had played before. Donkey Kong Country had a pre-rendered look that was years ahead of its time and a soundtrack that seemed to be CD quality, on a cartridge. Established franchises like Castlevania, Mega Man, Final Fantasy all brought their experiences to the next level on the SNES. In many ways the 16-bit era of gaming is the finest of them all because of it’s raw creativity and pure focus on fun.
The height of all of these experiences belongs to one game and one game alone: The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past. The second you boot this game up, even today in 2017, it is clear this is a timeless masterpiece, never matched again until (arguably) with Nintendo’s new Breath of the Wild. The very structure, feel, and gameplay we know of Zelda was molded from A Link to the Past and remained largely unchanged ever since. The graphics were pixel-perfect, the sound iconic, and the controls and gameplay still tight and modern to this day. The dungeons and game world are ingenious— A Link to the Past will give any gamer chills. When I played it back when it came out, I first rented it from my local grocery store. I rented it like 8 times before I beat it. My mom loved to watch me play it so much that she bought it for me after I beat it, because she knew I’d play it again. Plus, it gave somebody else a chance to rent it! But boy was she right— I have probably played A Link to the Past start to finish over 10 times. And that’s a lot for me because I try to play as many games as possible!
The long and short of this is, the SNES was and is an incredible gaming system. If you missed out on these games, you owe it to yourself to play them. If you’re a young gamer, or know one, this will be one of the best ways to play these games. Why? Well because 1) The interface is simple and intuitive, 2) The controllers are pitch perfect replicas of the real deal, 3) The added ability to save anytime is crucial for modern sensibilities, 4) No tinkering necessary, everything works beautifully and has plenty of extra options too like graphic filters and cool customizations for the borders of the screen that aren’t used (the games run in 4:3).
It’s also paying money to Nintendo, the company who facilitated these gaming triumphs, and there’s something to be said about if anybody is going to get money, it should be them. New to the SNES Classic is a rewind feature that you can trigger when you reset a game, which allows you to scrub backwards until you can get to a place where you feel comfortable starting. To be honest I didn’t use it much, but its there. But the game selection is tops, with only a few strange omissions (Chrono Trigger, Mortal Kombat II). All in all, I could write a million paragraphs about my gaming experiences with the SNES, or how much I love A Link to the Past, but there’s a larger reason why I love that the SNES Classic exists. What’s important here is this release is a respectful reintroduction of the SNES to the zeitgeist of culture, and properly (and officially) honors and preserves its experiences for modern gamers and for future generations to come.
SNES Classic Edition System Gets:
4.5 out of 5
+All 21 games included are great, some are masterpieces
+HDMI output makes the graphics look great on modern TV’s
+Brand new SNES controllers!
+Keeps these games alive
+$79.99 is a fair price especially since you get 2 controllers
-If you can find one (seriously Nintendo???)
-Lots of ways to play these games other than this
-Cords could still be longer
-You can’t add games to it (officially, at least…)
One thought on “SNES Classic Review: Pure Joy Preserved”
I think in due time they’ll be fairly common. I think Pat Contri brought up a good point on his CUPodcast recently when, he noted on average after ebay fees, and shipping most scalpers are getting $20. A far cry from the NES Classic mini situation.
I do like the concept of these, and I’m surprised at how late to the party Nintendo really was with the concept seeing how long Atari, and now AtGames have been doing mini rom consoles. Still, it’s been huge. I know people who bought the domestic one, and then imported the European, and Japanese versions besides! Anyway, nice review!