SNES Classic Edition Impressions — A Super-Powered Lineup

There have been plenty of stories about how difficult it’s been to preorder a Super NES Classic Edition in multiple territories in recent months, especially in America. Both Drew and I discussed how difficult it was for writers on this blog and plenty of others, but those stories haven’t ceased since the official release. Though Nintendo of America’s Reggie Fils-Aime said more of them would be available in stores this year, and he wasn’t entirely wrong, it’s still been difficult to get one. And those who still haven’t received their online preorders (notably from Amazon.com and Walmart) haven’t been shy in letting everyone know how disappointed they were.

The excitement and frustration around the system shows how anticipated it was, and you only have to get your hands on one to understand why those feeling exist.

I should actually say “your hand,” because the device itself is small and light enough that you barely need one to hold it. My hands aren’t the largest around (though they aren’t small, thanks), but I was surprised at how small and light it was upon first unboxing it. Like the NES Classic Edition last year, the device is a replica of the old North American Super Nintendo, though the cartridge slot doesn’t open and controllers are connected to the system in a different manner. Specifically, the two controllers included are plugged in after opening the front panel. I was concerned about this method killing the semi-nostalgia associated with the system’s looks for ridiculously particular people like me, but the connectors on the inside look similar enough that the look isn’t harmed when controllers are connected.

The controllers themselves are nigh-identical replicas of the old SNES controllers, and retain the excellent directional pad and concave X and Y buttons. I said “nigh” because while the cords are longer than the NES Classic controller’s, they’re still shorter than the original SNES controller’s. This isn’t a problem if you sit at an average distance from the TV like me, but anyone with a large TV who sits farther away might have an issue. If you’re in that category, you might have to use the other controller options, like a Wii Classic Controller or Classic Controller Pro or other third-party pads.

The SNES Classic comes with 21 preloaded games, a good deal (though far from all) of the classics from the SNES’ library. It also comes with several options to display the games, including the standard 4:3 view, an ideal CRT Filter for anyone playing on a CRT TV, and a Pixel Perfect option for a, well, pixel perfect visual option. There are also a series of frame options to choose the display for the sidebars, instead of having the typical black bars.

Since the device arrived, I’ve spent time playing several games. I finished Super Mario World, and I’m about halfway through The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past. I’ve also played several stages of Street Fighter II Turbo and Super Castlevania IV, and the introduction stage in Mega Man X. This was enough to determine that each title has great emulation. There was noticeable slowdown in all the games besides Turbo, but by including this, the games preserve the performance of the original titles. Many puzzled about the slowdown in some games might have experienced them through emulators, which altered some performance issues, or played ports that fixed the issue.

There was a little concern over the potential emulation quality after it was underwhelming all around on Wii U’s Virtual Console. But it was fine on the NES Classic, and this device continues the trend. Hopefully this is maintained for future devices, including a potential VC on Switch.

Nintendo included a good number of first and third-party classics on the device, but there are some games I dearly miss. It would have been nice to reexperience Chrono Trigger here, given that it’s widely referred to as one of the best RPGs to grace the system, but it’s noticeably missing. Donkey Kong Country 2 is another one. But given the price of the system and software already offered, I’m not complaining. There are still several good RPGs here, like Secret of Mana, Final Fantasy III (VI), Earthbound, and Super Mario RPG. The system also includes the first official release of Star Fox 2 and a game that’s dodged a VC release for various reasons in the last few years in Yoshi’s Island: Super Mario World 2 (though the Game Boy Advance version received one). It’s a good package for the price.

Of course, the console is being hacked as we speak, and owners will have the ability to add any SNES game they want (and perhaps more) once the community finishes the job. Given how quickly the NES Classic was hacked, they could finish by the end of the week, if not earlier.

If you enjoyed the SNES and want to reexperience the games that come on the device, or simply want to play them for the first time, it’s worth the $79.99 price. But it will be difficult to find one as the holiday season approaches, let alone during the season. Fortunately, Nintendo grew a conscience and plans to keep them in production into 2018, so there’s a good (though still not great) chance you’ll have an opportunity to obtain one eventually.

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