After playing Ultimate NES Remix, Alex reviews the young series and offers his thoughts for the future.
Ultimate NES Remix is a unique package because it allows us to see the very best of what a series has to offer – a type of compilation usually exclusive to television and music. It includes challenges and remixes of the 16 most notable NES games out of 28 represented in the two NES Remix games on Wii U, now packaged for the 3DS audience. There are some unique additions, but Ultimate NES Remix is a greatest hits album above all else. Because the compilation allows us to see the series at its best, it also allows us to see the game’s blemishes in a new light.
But to start on a positive note, let’s be clear: the gameplay (which you can read more about in our reviews of NES Remix and NES Remix 2) is addicting and satisfying in ways that only WarioWare can usually touch. I put 17 hours into the original Wii U NES Remix getting three stars on every level, 10 hours doing the same in NES Remix 2, and another 10 doing it in this compilation. While the remixes are creative and have a fun sense of humor, it is the entire package that makes it a successful, endearing love letter to NES classics. I like this series a lot, and I hope Indieszero gives it a bright future with SNES Remix, Game Boy Remix, and more.
I also hope that future Nintendo Remix games fix some of the issues this game has. Primarily, the non-remix challenges are often less-than-creative ROM hacks that task you with doing things not fun (NES Remix 2 has the particularly pathetic “watch the intro cutscene” challenges) or not necessary (do we really need eight challenges of killing Koopas as an invincible Mario?). They also tend to feel very unbalanced. The original Super Mario Bros. has over 20 challenges devoted to doing things millions of Nintendo fans have already done before, but Punch-Out!! has seven challenges that fail to adequately cover even a third of the experience.
What’s worse is that these individual less-inspired game challenges pale in comparison to the actual 76-or-so remixes in the game, and often come across as filler content to pad out a package that wouldn’t have enough to do otherwise. The remixes are great on their own. A Super Mario Bros. ice level, Donkey Kong as Link, a bizarre take on Zero Suit Samus, and more make these the highlight of the game. It successfully offers creative, fun, and humorous bite-sized takes on classic games, but there aren’t enough of them. They also don’t get nearly as crazy as they could be or should be. 20-25% of the remixes consist of challenges based on a single game, and involve things like changing the lighting or messing with the camera (Excitebike in the dark, Mario in the dark, Mario Bros. with the camera pulled out, etc.). The actual crazy cool remixes like playing Mario as Samus or Kirby as Toad? There are maybe 15 challenges total like that and many of them are confined to simple one-screen tasks like “defeat three enemies” or “collect these 20 coins”.
As a fan of the series, it was harder to care about these issues before because I always assumed they were mainly the result of including lesser NES games, but now that we’re looking at a best-of compilation, it’s clear that some of these problems affect the game at its very core. You realize that these games are actually about 60% fluff and 40% fun that aren’t even reaching their true potential.
The question remains: how can the series be better? The answer is to give it a better structure and put a larger focus on creativity in the game's remixes. Here’s how I would do it:
- 10 non-Remix challenges per game that go through an abridged version of the experience. It prevents giving games like Mario 23 unnecessary challenges, and prevents giving Punch-Out!! only 7.
- Each game’s section also gets 5 bonus challenge remixes that change up the base game (for a total of 60-80 depending on how many games are in the package), like ice world Mario, zoomed-in Balloon Fight, etc.
- 50 Remix stages that fully remix multiple games together (Link Donkey Kong, Super Mario Bros. 3 using Super Mario Bros. 2 Peach powers, and so on). These would also be better and more creative than the ones in NES Remix and take cues from games that might not even be represented in the collection, though I’m not sure what this would take on a practical level.
- 10 extremely difficult final challenges, 5 of which given to anyone who gets three star times on every level and 5 of which to anyone who gets rainbow stars on every level.
- Upon getting rainbow stars on these final challenge levels, the game gives you a free eShop code to any one NES game of your choice represented in the game. To make this work, I imagine it would have to work through Club Nintendo in a way where the system couldn’t be gamed for multiple codes, and I imagine this would never happen, but it would be an excellent reward.
Ultimate NES Remix has other great ideas I would carry over to this hypothetical game. Famicom Remix is a special mode that unlocks upon beating the game, allowing you to play the same challenges you just beat from the Japanese versions of NES games. Differences are often very minor and rarely involve gameplay, but it’s a cool twist. I also love the collection’s online leaderboards of who finished challenges the quickest, which offer rankings among friends and region as well as video replays of the current record holder. The replays are an especially exceptional feature, as it was fun to see people take a 90 second boss rush and clear it using exploits in 8.5.
Despite my criticisms, I still like the NES Remix experience a lot – especially as someone who has cracked nearly 40 hours between all three games. However, it’s because I like the crazy addicting nature of NES Remix that I want it to be a better game that fully realizes the promise the title makes. It should show reverence to Nintendo classics and then immediately destroy that reverence by making you play Donkey Kong as Donkey Kong to take Pauline from Mario at the top of the level. If Indieszero can manage to turn up the crazy and turn down the fluff just a tad, I think we’ll have a real winner on our hands.
Are you playing Ultimate NES Remix? What do you think of the series? How would you improve it? Sound off below.