Nintendo’s second foray into mini retro consoles brings the power - super power.
As long as you were able to find one, the NES Classic was a fun novelty. Sure, the controller cord length was problematic and maybe the emulation wasn’t perfect - but it was a nice package of classic games, all playable easily on an HDTV. The bar wasn’t exactly set super high, but it was high enough that any successor had its work cut out for it to an extent. The Super NES Classic, coming with a slate of 21 games that are all almost entirely essential, clears that bar thanks mostly to its absolutely killer game lineup and improved usability.
The centerpiece of the Super NES Classic is the games. Most importantly, the never-before-released (officially and completely) Star Fox 2. The infamously cancelled late-gen Super Nintendo game makes its long-awaited debut and it’s, well, it’s weird. Check our other coverage for more details, but Star Fox 2 is profoundly different and distinct sequel that, if released, would have probably changed the trajectory of the entire series. Star Fox 2 is, in some ways, roguelike in its structure, and the more wide-open choose-your-own-path gameplay makes for an experience that is refined and focused. The levels are on the whole shorter and routinely, some outer space missions can last mere seconds. It’s highly replayable and the variety of missiles, fighters, bosses, dogfights, and sublime music might make your head spin. If you have any affection for Star Fox on SNES or Nintendo 64, Star Fox 2 is a must-play.
Outside of Star Fox 2, the rest of the Super NES Classic assortment is a who’s who of the greatest games of all time. From Nintendo, you have out-and-out masterpieces like Super Mario World, Yoshi’s Island, Super Metroid, and The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past. From third parties, you have excellent games such as Final Fantasy III/VI, Contra III, and Mega Man X. For RPG fans, it’s an embarrassment of riches, with EarthBound, Final Fantasy III/VI, Secret of Mana, and Super Mario RPG. Donkey Kong Country isn’t quite my personal cup of tea, but it’s impact on the industry and Nintendo’s history is undisputed. Same goes for Street Fighter II, though the Turbo: Hyper Fighting version here is not even the best on SNES. My personal favorite slightly off-the-beaten-path cuts are Super Mario RPG, Super Punch-Out, and Kirby’s Dream Course. Most of the games I want to rag on here a little bit hold enough notoriety in the system’s history that they should be in here, like the launch title F-Zero.
Outside of a few games I think should be here (namely ActRaiser and Chrono Trigger), the games list is amazing. As far as I can tell, the emulation is fantastic, too. The only changes that we at Nintendo World Report noticed were that Star Fox might run faster here, but we’re currently trying to figure out if that is because it is based on a later version of the game.
Each game can be displayed in three different ways: CRT Filter, 4:3, and Pixel Perfect. All three look great and can be accented by different borders. My personal favorite is the one that replicates the glow of the TV and changes to reflect the colors on the screen. The wood panel one is also cool, as is the space one that feels right at home when rocking Star Fox or F-Zero.
This time around, the controller cord isn’t as much of an issue. At five feet, the cords are long enough to not be absurdly short, but they’re still on the shorter side. Since going back to the main menu still requires pressing a button on the system itself, the shorter length has some logical reasoning, but like my time with the NES Classic, I have to sit on the floor or move up a chair.
Resetting the system back to the main menu is the only way to go back and use the brand new Rewind functionality, which also makes that an annoying and borderline unintuitive addition. Yes, you can now rewind games, but the process for doing it is cumbersome and only worth it if you’re going for a perfect run or messed up something catastrophic. It’s a nice addition, but I personally rarely used it. It’s just not convenient.
While the Super NES Classic has a number of little things that could be improved to make it better, the collection of games and the great presentation of them makes this an excellent device. Here’s hoping Nintendo can solve the stock problem with this one, because it’s a collection of some of the best games ever released on their platforms and it’s packaged together in a charming, novel way.