Nintendo nostalgia kicked into high gear this week with the video game company's Friday launch of the SNES Classic, a limited-release mini-version of the Super Nintendo Entertainment System first released in the United States in 1991. Nintendo has already faced a pre-order supply debacle, prompting a promise that the company would make sure there will be units on store shelves.
But Nintendo shipped us a unit to review. The SNES Classic looks pretty much like an SNES, except that it is adorably small. Another noticeable design difference is that the Classic doesn't have a cartridge slot because, well, you don't need cartridges to play these days. But Nintendo has kept the overall look and feel of the console; there's even a completely nonfunctional eject button.
The controller cables on the SNES are substantially longer than on Nintendo's last nostalgia console, the NES Classic, which suffered greatly from too-short cables. They measure about five feet -- probably still too short for your main big-screen, but pretty good for a smaller television.
To be a success, though, all Nintendo really had to do was deliver these classic games on my modern TV without messing it up. And it has done that. It's hard to deny that feeling that classic controller in-hand was fantastic, as was seeing some of these familiar graphics and hearing those soundtracks.
Nintendo has released a pretty good set of one- and two-player games from the SNES's greatest hits, which include "Donkey Kong Country," "Super Mario World," and "Mega Man X:"
Contra III: The Alien Wars
Donkey Kong Country
Final Fantasy III
Kirby Super Star
Kirby's Dream Course
The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past
Mega Man X
Secret of Mana
Star Fox 2
Street Fighter II Turbo: Hyper Fighting
Super Castlevania IV
Super Ghouls 'n Ghosts
Super Mario Kart
Super Mario RPG: Legend of the Seven Stars
Super Mario World
As a bonus, it also includes the never-before-released "StarFox 2," which unlocks after you beat the first level of its predecessor.
Re-reviewing all 21 games wouldn't be prudent, but there are some general software highlights to point out. As with the NES Classic, Nintendo lets you "suspend" games in progress, so you don't have to wait to get to a save point in a game. (Though that is always an option as well.) There's also a "rewind" feature -- though it's not particularly easy to use -- that you can access to return to an earlier point in a suspended game.
Of course, any discussion of the SNES Classic also has to address its supply issues. Outside of the product itself, this has been a pretty controversial little console. Nintendo has been down this road before, having released the NES Classic -- a shrunken version of the Nintendo Entertainment System, in limited quantities. When it announced the SNES, preorders sold out just as fast and stores ran into all kinds of technical problems, much to the chagrin of a nostalgia-driven gaming public.
Addressing supply complaints, Nintendo of America chief executive Reggie Fils-Aime told the Financial Times that the company increased production of the SNES Classic and encouraged people not to buy from scalpers or pay more than the retail $80.
Is it even worth that? If you are more interested in the games than the trappings, then take a close look at the list of games. If your favorites aren't on there, then you may find that your money is better-spent elsewhere, even if this is an adorable little console.
Hobbyists across the Internet have step-by-step instructions on how to build your own version of these mini-consoles, though it should be noted that these are not at all legal. On the right side of the law, Nintendo has already started releasing some classic games as downloads for its more modern hardware, with more expected to come for the Switch console. Unless you're really itching to get these controllers back in hand (and, again, I couldn't blame you), you can probably save yourself some money and the time you'd spend looking for such a scarce product.
For others, though, it's almost certainly worth a buy if you can find one. This is a good concept, well-executed. (Supply issues aside.) One could easily see your parents using it to introduce their kids to the crazy days of 16-bit gaming -- or, of course, for anyone of a certain age to revisit their own childhood.