Arts

Nintendo’s ‘SNES Classic Edition’ modernizes its best ‘90s games

The “SNES Classic Edition” improves image quality and offers the option to rewind during gameplay.

The “SNES Classic Edition” improves image quality and offers the option to rewind during gameplay.

Image By: Photo Courtesy of Creative Commons - Wikimedia Commons

As both a company and a brand, Nintendo has always managed to distinguish itself from other game companies in two distinct ways: by being generally more joyful and more convenient than the rest. The former is never something Nintendo has had a problem delivering upon, particularly in last Friday’s big release,“Super Nintendo Entertainment System (SNES) Classic Edition.” The product’s actual convenience, however, is not as straightforwardly delivered.

For the uninitiated, the “SNES Classic Edition” is a charming little box console, less than five and a half inches across at its longest, that throws back to Nintendo’s flagship console in the early ‘90s, the “SNES.” Nintendo basically took 20 of the very best games from that console’s day, tacked on the notable release of “Star Fox 2” (a 1995 game they never got around to finishing until now), threw in some ancillary features, stuck an $80 price tag on the whole thing and called it a day.

At that value, I have no qualms about unambiguously endorsing this bundle of brightly colored fantasies. Between sprawling, story-based RPGs like “Earthbound,” platforming delights like “Super Mario World” and even sports and fighting games like “Kirby’s Dream Course” and “Street Fighter 2 Turbo,” there’s something here for everyone with even a passing interest in older games. Every criticism I have about the “SNES Classic Edition” should be taken in the context that it is still, by far, the best legal way to play the games contained within. Every game is smoothly emulated and rendered. Outside the default, there are graphical options for making games either look like how they would on an old ‘90s CRT screen by creating a blurring effect to achieve this aesthetic or, conversely, to render every pixel of the game precisely — which can make games not relying on the blurring effect look crisper. To further ease frustration, there are the modern additions of four “save-states” per game and the ability to rewind gameplay for about a minute, both of which serve to help dampen the high difficulty for which some of these early ‘90s games are notorious. On top of all that, unlike previous Nintendo releases of “Classic Edition” products, this one comes with two controllers right out of the box, allowing immediate local multiplayer fun.

However, for every two anti-frustration features, there seems to be one frustration feature. Both of the aforementioned controllers are wired to be plugged into the console directly, and they have short cord lengths of only about four and a half feet. Pulling up your seat right next to the TV is a necessity. It is possible to purchase cord extensions and wireless controllers for the console, but that adds some costly charges to what is already an expensive purchase, and also not addressing the fact that regular physical contact with the machine itself is still required. In another frustrating feature, and a nod to the original “SNES,” Nintendo has designed this console so that in order to access the main menu, and thereby switch between games, save games, etc., the sliding button on the console unintuitively labeled “Reset” must be pressed. I can almost see what Nintendo was going for, in the strict adherence to retro style hardware conventions like that, but in a system that contains such an overwhelmingly larger number of modern conveniences, the gimmick comes across as tonally inconsistent.

Of course, nothing accounts for the biggest inconvenience of all: buying the console. These things are extremely popular, and Nintendo has not made very many of them. Pre-orders sold out almost immediately, and for day one walk-ins, most Walmarts began selling them at midnight of the release date, stocked with only about 25 copies. I showed up 40 minutes in advance of the midnight release, and was the 20th person in line. These consoles are scalped constantly — sometimes for up to double or triple of what they’re worth. At this point, people wanting to pay reasonable prices are going to have to do some leg work and some waiting.

More than anything, the “SNES Classic Edition” reflects the state of Nintendo as it is today, rather than as it was in the ‘90s. The games are still fantastic, possibly even better than ever, but the some of the finer decision-making around the periphery is a tad incompetent.

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