Nintendo’s Super NES Classic Edition has been contentious since the product was announced. While the concept of a small retro game console with excellent emulation was enthusiastically received by gamers, last year’s execution was decidedly lacking. Nintendo’s decision to kill production of the NES Classic left thousands of gamers with no opportunity to buy the device. The Super NES Classic Edition has launched, with multiple reviews online–we’ve rounded up several of them to compare. For simplicity’s sake, all references to the NES and SNES can be assumed to refer to the devices Nintendo launched in 2016 and 2017 unless specifically stated otherwise.
Like the NES, the SNES is a smaller version of the original console, with near-identical styling. Hopefully these chassis avoid one of the problems with the original Super Nintendo, which had a tendency to yellow over time as the plastic molding aged. PC Mag notes that the platform includes two controllers rather than the single controller the NES sported, though the cables are still rather short (this was one of the only complaints about the NES Classic). While the platform has fewer games than the NES, the 21 included titles are generally of higher quality. The included games are:
- Contra III: The Alien Wars
- Donkey Kong Country
- Earthbound (Western markets)
- Final Fantasy VI
- Kirby’s Dream Course (Western markets)
- Kirby Super Star
- The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past
- Mega Man X
- Secret of Mana
- Star Fox
- Star Fox 2 (never previously released)
- Street Fighter II Turbo: Hyper Fighting (Western markets)
- Super Castlevania IV (Western markets)
- Super Punch Out!! (Western markets)
- Super Ghouls’n Ghosts
- Super Mario Kart
- Super Mario RPG: Legend of the Seven Stars
- Super Mario World
- Super Mario World 2: Yoshi’s Island
- Super Metroid
One game on this list deserves special mention. Star Fox 2 is a “new” NES game that’s never been released before. The game was cancelled just before release, because Nintendo didn’t want to launch it so close to the N64 and was afraid that the game wouldn’t stand up to what customers expected from 3D titles. All of the reviews we’ve seen have been pleased with the game — while it’s primitive compared to later iterations of the series, it’s also an example of how the game evolved over time and an interesting bit of Nintendo history.
Like the NES, the SNES allows you to save the game state to switch titles or do something else. Available filters seem to be identical to what the NES offered, with Standard, CRT (with scanlines), and Pixel Perfect modes. Players can also add borders to fill the blank space when playing games meant for 4:3 on a 16:9 monitor. Kotaku declares the console “lets you play games the way they were meant to be played.”
Metroid in a 4:3 aspect ratio with borders on the sides.
Polygon points out one major new feature that could be extremely useful in certain titles. You can rewind your game session by roughly a minute, as often as you like. This requires keeping the console close to you, and that’s a bit problematic since the controller cables are still short (four feet long as opposed to three for the NES). Even the included HDMI cable is a short one, at just five feet. Still, it’s a nice way to restore a game after a missed jump or mistake.
Eurogamer cracked open the SNES to see what makes it tick, and discovered that the hardware inside is almost identical to what Nintendo shipped with the NES last year. Both systems use an Allwinner R16 SoC with four ARM Cortex-A7 processors, an ARM Mali 400 MP2 GPU, 256MB of GDDR3, and 512MB of onboard storage. Nintendo will have no problem putting the NES back in production, given that it’s almost exactly the same hardware platform, but it also speaks to how Nintendo is artificially segmenting the market.
The best thing for consumers would be for Nintendo to offer a single platform with all of the company’s games from various eras preloaded, but that wouldn’t generate a fraction of the revenue the company can make by releasing independent platforms. Obviously at some point the company would need to move to faster hardware, but it’s not clear if Nintendo will drive this nostalgia-flavored gravy train farther than the N64.
Every review we’ve seen gives the SNES high marks for its library and capabilities, and the $80 price is generally considered fair. Availability will be the major question here–if Nintendo can’t produce enough of these systems to meet demand, it’s going to backfire on the company. If it can, it’s poised to make money hand over fist.