SNES Classic Review: Nice Dose of Retro Gaming, if You Can Get One

By Tom Pritchard on at

Shared from Gizmodo UK

After the success of last year's NES Classic, which proved to be far more popular than Nintendo ever even considered, it was no surprise that it went ahead with a miniature version of the SNES. So far the whole pre-order farce has shown that it's going to be just as, if not more, popular than its predecessor. But is it worth it?

The Console

It's a pretty simple description. It's a miniature version of the European SNES, with only a few differences. The main one is that the cartridge slot is a fake, as are the eject button and the controller ports on the front. The fake ports are a nice touch, since they preserve the aesthetic of the original console for the people that care. The actual ports are hidden underneath the fake ones, which function as a flap of sorts.

Oh,and both the power and output ports are different, naturally, since times have changed and keeping the originals would be stupid. It's microUSB for power, and HDMI to connect it to your TV.

If your living room is already filled with consoles, you don't need to worry. There's a reason this thing is referred to as the Mini SNES after all, with it measuring 13cm x 10.5cm x 4cm. It's not exactly a space hog.

The Controller

The controller is identical to the original SNES controller, with the same dimensions and everything. The only change is the connector, which is the same one found on last year's NES Classic controllers. I do wonder if the NES Classic controllers are compatible, but I don't have any on hand to test. Not that it really matters, since SNES games need the two bumper triggers to play anyway.

There's not much to say. Clearly ergonomics weren't a high priority for Nintendo in the late-'80s, because they're both a bit small for my adult-sized hands. Then again, games were made for kids in those days, so I'm not sure why I'm surprised. The buttons work, and they have a nice audible click when you hit them. Which is nice, because it means you know they're working.

The cables are still quite short and less than 1.5 metres in length. If you plan on playing far away from the TV you're going to have to get an extension cable or a pricey wireless controller. But why would you do that? Better recreate the days of youth by sitting far too close to the TV. It's nearly double the length of the one from the NES Classic though, so that's something.

The Games

Like the NES Classic before it, the SNES Classic has a feature called the Suspend Point List. This is essentially an alternate save point of sorts, and if you reset the console you're able to go to the last game you played and save your progress. There are four slots for each game, and each suspend point lets you go back to where you were when you reset the console, more or less.

Those suspend points are also used as on-screen demos if you leave the console idle for too long. So everyone can see how amazingly well (or awful) you are, without actually sitting down and watching you play.

The other cool thing about the Suspend Point is that it lets you rewind your game and try sections again without restarting the whole level. That's brand new, and means that if you screw up (because everyone knows old games were harder than they are now) you can cycle back a bit and attempt it again.

How far you can go back depends on the game, with Nintendo revealing that action games like Super Mario World let you go back about 40 seconds, while role-playing games will let you go back a few minutes. That's up to you to play with then, and means you probably shouldn't wait too long after messing up if you plan on going back.

There were over 700 games released for the SNES in the west, so there was no way all of them were going to get crammed onto this little thing. there are 20 classics, plus the unreleased Starfox 2 for a total of 21 games. Plenty of good stuff got the boot, though it does mean that the games that made the cut are the best of the best. It's even got Mario Kart for crying out loud, so what more could you ask for?

It's a shame there's no option to connect to the eShop and buy more, but £70 for 21 games isn't a bad trade.

It's important to mention that all these games are exactly the same as they were back in the day, and that means they're designed to be played with the manual - particularly A Link to the Past. Here's the problem: Nintendo has a menu section for the manuals, which brings up an on-screen QR code to scan. The problem is that this QR code (and the accompanying on-screen URL) takes you to Nintendo's Japanese website. It's also a dead link, but I can only assume that this is because at the time of writing the SNES Classic is only in the hands of journalists.

My guess is that the manuals will be available for download in English from Nintendo UK or Nintendo of America. I can't see anything right now, but I can't believe they wouldn't be available. Failing that, however, these games are over 20 or so years old, so there are probably good quality scans available somewhere online.

Also in there are filters that can switch to a boxed aspect ratio, and another to mimic the display of a CRT TV. These are mostly for a bit of nostalgia than anything, but if you miss the days of gaming on a box that wasn't so crisp as modern LCD TVs then the SNES Classic has something for you.

Using it

There isn't so much to say here. It's like using a SNES, or a NES for that matter, just with a homescreen that offers access to a bunch of other games. It's a clean interface that's easy to use, and even a small child could figure it out. Everything you need is within easy access, except those manuals, and you're not going to have to go hunting through layers of settings menus to do something important. In fact using the settings at all will be a pretty rare occurrence, unless you can't help but switch the CRT filter on and off all the time.

You do need to physically press the reset button to switch games, though, which is still a huge flaw. I get that Nintendo wanted to preserve the aesthetics of the original games, but it would make life a lot easier if there was something added somewhere that let players quit the the main menu without having to be within reach of the console.

Should You Get One?

If you're a fan of old Nintendo games, yes, particularly if you're able to get it at the RRP. Is it worth eBay scalper prices? I'm not so sure. I guess it depends how much price gouging is going on. £10 more? Sure. £20? Maybe.

If you're not a big fan of Nintendo classics, then no, you should not. It looks nice, but it's just not going to be worth the effort. This isn't really an impulse buy, thanks to Nintendo Nintendoing everything up, but at least the RRP is probably less than buying each individual game from the eShop.

Still, Nintendo did announce that the SNES Classic would continue to be manufactured and sold beyond the end of this year, so you definitely shouldn't pay scalper prices. If you want one and haven't got one yet, you just need to be patient.

TL;DR

  • A decent representation of the classic console, complete with an identical controller and better optimised for modern displays
  • The console doesn't have manuals preinstalled, instead opting for a QR code that takes you to a dead link on Nintendo's Japanese website
  • The controller's a little small and un-ergonomic by modern standards, but remember that this is a machine designed for kids
  • The controller cable is still pretty short, but it's nearly twice the length of the one from the NES Classic
  • There's no 'quit to main menu option', so be prepared to get up and hit the reset button to swap games.
  • Great fun selection of games, which should go down well with new and old Nintendo fans. They're good games too, so it's more than just nostalgia at work.
  • The suspend point's rewind feature is a nice touch, particularly for the games that are deviously difficult.
  • An must have for Nintendo junkies, a maybe for people who aren't but want to enjoy some good old games. A definite no for people who couldn't care less

Shared from Gizmodo UK