Click here to view the Super Nintendo Classic Description Page for more information.
Review by tankMage (December 2017)
The Super Nintendo Classic Edition (AKA SNES Classic or SNES Mini) has been available since September 2017 and has been well received, with gamers who happen to be found of Nintendo’s golden oldies scrambling to purchase it. Having recently bought one myself, I’ve set out to take an objective look at this product, which sells for roughly eighty USD at this point in time. Now, companies have been releasing plug and play consoles packed with everything from Atari 2600 to Sega Genesis for some time now, so it is no surprise that Nintendo wants in on the action, the problem is they could have done a better job designing it and there are a few issues that keep this product from being a retro gamer’s dream console. In brief, the controller cords are short and the built in library is rather small (a list of games featured on the SNES Mini can be found on it’s description page). Aside from it’s problems, the SNES Classic manages to be a solid product with a number of redeeming qualities, such HDMI compatibility, decent emulation, a variety of filters, and portability to name a few.
Ultimately the SNES Classic is an emulator and not a redesign of the Super Nintendo Entertainment System’s hardware, which is both a strength and weakness of the product. It would have been quite expensive for Nintendo to engineer the SNES in such a manner so that it woul be compatible with not only modern TVs, but also games made for the original SNES, so Nintendo’s decision to simply design a small computer that can emulate SNES was good for both the company and the consumer’s bottom line, but this came with a cost. Emulation is not an exact reproduction of hardware and the emulator Nintendo designed for the SNES Classic is not perfect either, but it does an excellent job recreating the FX chip, which allows it to run games like Star Fox 2 and Yoshi’s Island, which some popular emulators like the SNES9x have difficulty doing. Purists may notice that the mini does not recreate the the SNES perfectly, however, but is extremely close to the real thing.
The SNES Classic is styled after the original console and basically looks like a tiny Super Nintendo. The device itself is light and sturdy, which makes it easy to move around. It is also easy to set up, only requiring the user to plug in the HDMI cable and a USB cord. Two controllers are also packed in with the SNES Classic, which is great, because most of the games it comes with allow for two players. Unfortunately, there is no way to play Secret of Mana with three players as far as I know, since there are only two ports for the controllers. Speaking of controllers, they are well built and feel like actual SNES dog bone paddles, which is a nice touch.
Cord length is a major problem with this console, however. The controller cords are maybe about three feet long, which may have been fine back in 1992 when the average TV was tiny, but try playing this thing on a wall mounted sixty-five inch screen and you’ll soon have a cook in your neck. While it is possible to buy longer cords, it would have been nice if Nintendo had made them a few feet longer in the first place, especially considering the eighty dollar price tag on the SNES Mini.
The SNES Classic has some nice features, but also a few over sights on the designer’s part. A simple menu greets the user once the mini is powered up and it is easy to choose a game or change settings at this point. Being an emulator, the SNES Classic allows players to make a save state by pushing reset, which is helpful, and it is possible to choose from a variety of filters. 16-Bit games were made for lower resolution TVs and SNES games look blocky on modern screens, so the scalers really help smooth the image out. You can even choose from a number of screen borders, which also make up for the system’s old school aspect ratio, by filling up empty space on the screen. As nice as the UI may be, it has a major setback: users have to hit the reset button to bring up the menu. A simple Home button in the center of each controller could have remedied this problem. On the bright side, the controller cord is only three feet long, so you don’t have to go far to reach the console.
The size of the SNES Classic’s library is my primary gripe. The original Super Nintendo had hundreds games released in North America, Japan, and Europe. Twenty-one of those games are playable on the Super Nintendo Classic, which is less than ten percent… way less. Before I go on, I’ll acknowledge two points for the sake of fairness. First off, there are a lot of games on the SNES that most people wouldn’t want to play. Secondly, most of the games that do appear on this console are among the Super Nintendo’s best sellers and provide hundreds of hours of entertainment. With that said, much of the problem can be blamed on licensing issues, but it would have been nice to see games like Mega Man X2, Chrono Trigger, Donkey Kong Country 2, Super Mario All Stars and Gradius make it onto the SNES Classic, especially since companies like Capcom were willing to play nice with Nintendo on this project. On the bright side, it is easy to hack this system and add more games… not that we condone such things hehe.
Despite the tiny library, there are some really excellent titles on this system, including Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past, Earthbound, Super Mario World, and Super Castlevania IV to name a few. Nintendo even threw in a never before released title: Star Fox 2, which is a pretty good game and one of the few shooters included with the library. With such strong titles, players will find themselves getting months of entertainment out of this tiny console, so it’ll be a while before the library becomes an issue.
Honestly, I had trouble justifying this purchase to myself seeing how easy it is to emulate Super Nintendo games on a phone, PC, or laptop and hook it up to a TV these days, but the quality of the SNES Classic’s emulation makes it worthwhile. With that said, eighty bucks seems to be a steep price to pay for something with short cords, a small library, and no way to access the main menu via the controller, but then again your getting twenty one games as well. Simply put, Nintendo, maker of legendary gaming platforms like the NES, Wii, Switch, and the SNES itself could have done a better job with their mini console, but it is at least a solid product that delivers as advertised.
Those interested in reliving the glory days of the Super Nintendo or looking to experience them for the first time would do well to buy a Super Nintendo Classic, thanks to its high quality emulation, just be ready to shell out a bit more dough than seems reasonable.