The Nintendo Entertainment System (NES) Classic Mini was yet another victim of Nintendo’s commitment to underproducing their consoles & products. The SNES Classic Mini seemed like it was due to join it on that ever-growing list of must-have Nintendo goodies, but the overwhelming demand for it (and undoubtedly the demand for the NES Classic) led to Nintendo actually listening to its customers for once and releasing (still very limited) stock just in the run-up to the Christmas season. As someone who missed out on the first run of the SNES Classic I was incredibly grateful to Nintendo for, y’know, actually making enough of the thing people want from them.
I have incredibly fond memories of the original SNES: my mam bought it as a present for my dad in Roches Stores, and a few years later I claimed it for my own. TMNT 4: Turtles in Time was rarely out of the console, and Kirby was my jam. So I was beyond distraught when I wasn’t able to grab one of the SNES classics when they first went on sale in September, especially as I was unwilling to pay nearly double the RRP in places like eBay and CEX, or buy the naff looking American SNES design.
The SNES Classic costs €89.99 in stores like Smyths, but is going for anywhere between €120-150 on the resale market. The console itself is ridiculously tiny, and fits comfortably on the palm of your hand. The box includes the SNES Mini, two controllers, a HDMI cable, a USB power cable and a manual. The box warns that the A/C adapter isn’t included – which absolutely worried me – but any USB plug adapter should work (I used one from an iPhone charger, for example). Unlike the teenie tiny console, the controllers are about the same size as the original SNES, or at least they fit fairly well in the hand.
Nintendo don’t always have the best ideas – I’m looking at you, Virtual Boy & WiiU – but they almost always put effort into their hardware, and that extra effort is definitely put into the SNES Mini. The manual included is reminiscent of the originals, there’s a faux slot where the cartridges would go, that weird four-colour SNES logo – that always reminded me of the later Playstation logo – is present on the unit… even the rubber used on the cable for the controllers reminds me of the material used on the chords from the original. The attention to detail is astounding, especially as they could’ve likely half-assed it and sold just as many units.
There are 21 games installed on the system, or as the box claims 20+1 games. Those games are: Contra III: The Alien Wars, Donkey Kong Country, Final Fantasy VI (labelled as FF III as it was in the original release), F-Zero, Kirby Super Star, The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past, Mega Man X, Secret of Mana, Star Fox, 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 and Super Metroid. Earthbound, Kirby’s Dream Course, Street Fighter II Turbo: Hyper Fighting, Super Castlevania IV and Super Punch Out!! are present on the US & EU models of the SNES Classic, but these five games are swapped out for others on the Japanese model (Super Famicom Mini). The ‘+1’ in 20+1 is Star Fox 2, a sequel to the original Fox McCloud adventure that was never released by Nintendo. Star Fox 2 was originally cancelled very late into both its development cycle, and the life cycle of the SNES itself, and can be played after beating the first level of the first Star Fox game. The selection on offer is generally pretty good, a fairly decent collection of the ‘who’s who’ of the original console’s library (at least of the games that wouldn’t pose copyright problems for Nintendo). In the few days I’ve had the SNES Mini, Street Fighter II is rarely off the screen, and Kirby’s Dream Course offers a nice, calming experience to chase away any remaining grudges caused by Ryu and the gang. It takes a while to get used to the D-pad and controls, but once you’re back in the clock rolls right back to the mid-late 90s. There are multiple graphics options, including changing the aspect ratio and graphical quality. The only game with any issues is Super Mario Kart: the artwork has not aged well, and is honestly headache inducing, but the ‘pixel perfect’ setting helps to mitigate this.
When you turn on the system you’re greeted with a nice UI (user interface) reminiscent of the UI on the 3DS at present. It can take getting used to, especially when you switch out from games that use the B button for the most part. You have to press the reset button get back to the UI, but the wired controllers means you’re probably not too far away. When you hit reset you do have the option of essentially using a save-state, which was a nice touch, especially for the games with bad/non-existent save systems.
Overall, the SNES mini is a must-buy for anyone with any nostalgic feelings for the old Super Nintendo. One negative would be – and this is a general issue with a lot of games today – is that there are no manuals in the system, you have to scan a QR code to access them. And when it’s been ~20 years since you’ve played a lot of these games, manuals are a must. The console does miss out on a few key games, but licensing issues likely ruled out a few of the old favourites. An emulator can do a lot more for a lot less, but the unit is great to leave on your shelf or under your TV for some quick plug-and-play action.