Portability is your best friend, even if it comes ultimately at a cost.
Ultimate NES Remix is in all respects a bit weird. Nintendo originally said that these remixed games wouldn't easily run on the handheld, but 11 months after the release of NES Remix on Wii U, here we are. Although playing these games again so soon wasn’t ultimately all that satisfying, that doesn’t mean I didn’t enjoy Ultimate NES Remix.
If you never played one of the Wii U entries, you are in for a treat. Ultimate NES Remix can be best described as a WarioWare-like experience, where you play challenges in very short bursts. Sometimes a stage contains multiple smaller challenges, while at other moments it's just a single major challenge. The menus offer columns of stages and each of these mostly focuses around one game. Ultimate NES Remix contains NES classics such as Donkey Kong, Super Mario Bros. 3 and The Legend of Zelda, among many others that you will find as you progress. With this being a ‘best of’ collection, the best and most familiar games have been selected. This leaves slightly more old-fashioned games in the dust and you have to kind of wonder why. Would it have been so difficult to include the likes of Pinball and Wario's Woods?
While the game selection is streamlined compared to the Wii U NES Remix titles, the progression for each game certainly isn't. In the regular course challenges, you will be thoroughly tested at various elements of the game. It begins easy, but by the end of the ride you will encounter some harsh obstacles. Challenges range from beating a specific time in Excitebike to taking down a certain amount of enemies with a Power Star in Super Mario Bros., and will put players' precision to the test. They play quite smoothly on the Nintendo 3DS with options to play using either the Circle Pad or D-Pad. The challenges have a few duds here and there, but mostly they are fun to play through.
All of the above statements also apply for the Remix challenges, of which roughly 75 are included. They alter the games in insane ways and keeping your cool is the key to success. You will be playing, for example, a game of Excitebike in a slippery winter course or a game of Donkey Kong where Link (who can’t jump) has to save Pauline. They are very exciting, but once again, the selection is somewhat too limited. There’s nothing new here to attract players who have already played these remix stages on Wii U.
As you complete challenges, you will be rewarded with stars based on your performance. These stars will unlock new Remix challenges and NES games giving you incentive to keep playing. You can also get the extra shiny rainbow stars, indicating a particularly high score. Your time, stars and video replay can be uploaded to the internet, where you can compare your results with strangers and friends. This is an impressive feature for a Nintendo 3DS game and I am super happy that it carried over from NES Remix 2 on Wii U.
If you manage to collect all the stars on the stages, you will be rewarded with Famicom Remix. In this mode, the games are slightly altered to offer a greater challenge and it is a nice way to keep you coming back for more. In addition to Famicom Remix, players can duke it out once again in the Nintendo World Championships Remix. Even though there was not all that much new to this mode, I enjoyed it still, and it’s nice that the leaderboards are now way better implemented. The final bonus mode is nothing more than a throwaway: in Speed Mario Bros., you will have to complete Super Mario Bros. while it’s sped up. That sounds like dumb fun in theory, but in reality, it is actually super buggy and not all that entertaining to undertake. I tried a couple of times and just found myself frustrated every single time, which is a shame.
Ultimate NES Remix is a nifty collection for the Nintendo 3DS. It isn't the full featured package of your dreams, but the games they have chosen are quite playable and make for a great way to spend your time. For the veteran of the Wii U games, this new collection might be not enough to warrant to a second go, but having these challenges on a portable system is certainly a nice thing. The online features of NES Remix 2 are also mostly here, though I do think that the leaderboards are what more direct than the random Miiverse posts. Those two things might give Ultimate the edge it needs to convince you.