Review: SNES Classic Mini (EU Version)

Nintendo’s second throwback console features the best of the 16-bit era while improving on some of its predecessor’s shortcomings.

Manufacturer: Nintendo | Year: 2017 | Price: $79.99 | Buy from Amazon

I got the NES Classic earlier this year and thoroughly enjoyed discovering classic games I’d never got a chance to try. But all but a couple of those games haven’t aged so well, and it was more of a historical time-capsule than a legitimate console you’d recommend to you friends. The Super Nintendo era is different. There’s a reason many modern indie games like Stardew Valley and Undertale find widespread success emulating the 16-bit style. The early nineties were a time when home video games started to distance itself from the arcade as a separate, valid entity, and as a result many of these games are lengthy, rich experiences.

A note on availability and version differences: I had a lot of difficulty getting my hands on a SNES Classic and eventually shipped one from Amazon France. In my experience, it is usually easier to find a European listing with the console in stock, but you’ll have to spend extra to ship it to North America. Nintendo will continue to manufacture and ship these well into 2018, and stock is slowly but surely catching up to demand, so don’t give in to the scalpers yet! Although the NA and EU versions look vastly different and have slightly different controllers (the NA version has concave X and Y buttons whereas all EU SNES’ buttons are convex), they are identical internally.

Hardware: The SNES Classic, like the NES Classic, is a heavily shrunk-down replica of its retro counterpart. It’s something that’s hard to convey in a picture, but here’s one anyway.

The SNES Classic Mini beside a DualShock 4 for scale

The console is pretty simple. On the back, it’s powered by 5V Micro USB and features HDMI output. On the top, there’s a Power switch, a dummy Eject button, and a Reset button, like on the original, and the fake SNES Controller ports flip open to reveal the ports compatible with the replica controller (like the NES Classic, it uses the same ports as the Wii Classic Controller).

A huge issue many had with the NES Classic’s controller was its ridiculously short 2 1/2 ft. cord. The SNES classic nearly doubles this and while this still isn’t long enough to stretch across the average living room, it largely alleviates the problem. I normally play games at my desk on my computer monitor (pictured above), so I’m perfectly okay with a shorter cord. Also, extra controllers are no longer sold separately. (Some would argue that extra NES Classic controllers also weren’t sold separately, as very few have been seen in stores.) Instead, Nintendo bypasses this opportunity for scalpers to jack up prices by simply including the second controller in the box. I never owned an original SNES, but from what I’ve read online, the controller feels pretty much identical to its retro counterpart.

SNES Classic Menu

Performance: The SNES Classic is basically a glorified emulation box, but it does what it does well. It starts up and loads games and a matter of seconds. The standard of emulation is much better than on the Wii U Virtual Console, where colours were often muted. Just like on the Virtual Console, you can create save states – up to four per game. New to the SNES Classic, however, is the rewind feature. You can now rewind a couple of minutes back in time, useful when you die to a boss and lose a ton of progress. It’s essentially cheating, and I’ll personally be avoiding using it, but it’s pretty cool and awesome that Nintendo is including such a robust emulation feature.

From the menu, you can switch between three display modes: CRT Filter, 4:3, and Pixel Perfect. The CRT Filter emulates the fuzzy effect of a tube TV, and the Pixel Perfect mode displays each pixel as a perfect square, but personally I like the 4:3 display best. Finally, the little green book icon you see in the picture above shows a QR code you can scan with your smart device that links to pdfs of all the games’ original manuals. Seriously, these are awesome and really make me lament the death of the video game manual. (Especially the Earthbound one, which is 130+ pages long and includes an illustrated walkthrough of the entire game!)

Games: It’s finally time to talk about the main attraction: the games themselves. The SNES Classic includes a selection of 20 of the best games from the SNES’ library, as well as Star Fox 2, which was finished in 1996 but never released as Nintendo feared it would look bad next to the newest games of the time. I obviously haven’t had a time to beat all these games, but I sat down for at least 15 minutes or so with each of them (some of them for much longer!) and I can give you my first impressions:

Super Mario World (1991) 
One of the best games of all time and my personal favourite Mario game. I played and reviewed the GBA port back in 2015. So many levels! So many secrets! It’s arguably a perfect game and an absolute must-play.

F-Zero (1991)
Judged solely on racing mechanics, I actually think this beats out Super Mario Kart (see below). It’s fast and fluid, the soundtrack is catchy, and the pseudo-3D Mode 7 graphics are actually pretty cool. It does lack the unpredictability as well as some of the charm of Mario Kart, but it’s a solid racing game.

Super Ghouls ‘n Ghosts (1991)
I can say with near-absolute certainty that I will never beat this game. It feels a bit like Castlevania, only clunkier and more difficult. And every time you die it shows the entire map of the game, as if to taunt you that you died before even seeing 95% of what the game has to throw at you. It has a nice art-style, though, and the power-ups are kind of cool.

Super Castlevania IV (1991) 
This game is really fun! It plays a lot like the NES Castlevanias, but with a couple differences that smoothen the overall experience. You can now change directions mid-air rather than being locked into an animation, and you can now whip vertically and diagonally. The whip is also a lot longer as well. It’s still hard (in 20 minutes I only managed to make it to the first boss and got a game over before I could beat it) but I feel with some practice I could actually beat it.

Contra III: The Alien Wars (1992) 
I’ve never been a fan of run-and-gun shooters, but I know a lot of people are. If you enjoy the satisfaction of mowing down aliens with a wide range of fully-automatic weapons, then this is the game for you. I didn’t manage to beat the first stage before I ran out of continues.

The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past (1992) 
I do own the GBA port of this game but I only ever beat the first dungeon, as far as I can remember. I’m really excited to get into this game though, because it’s often on “best game of all-time” lists and also because I loved other 2D Zelda games like Link’s Awakening and A Link Between Worlds.

Super Mario Kart (1992) 
Another game that makes heavy use of the SNES’ Mode 7 graphics capabilities and the very first in the now ubiquitous Mario Kart series. I was struck by how much personality this game had. Although the processing and graphical capabilities are far from later (and better) games like Double Dash!! and Mario Kart 8, Super Mario Kart feels just like them. Something that is a little different is that there’s less emphasis on the items. Whereas in newer Mario Kart games, a blue shell can make or break a race, here it definitely feels more skill based and less unpredictable.

Star Fox (1993)
A 3D space shooter on a 16-bit console! I beat the first stage to unlock Star Fox 2, and it took me seven or eight tries! Seeing the screenshots of this game, it struck me as pretty crummy, but when I was playing it, I was actually seriously impressed that they managed to pull this off on the SNES. I can only imagine how impressive this was back in 1993.

Street Fighter II Turbo (1993) 
Until now, I’ve never played a Street Fighter game. I fiddled around with single-player mode for a while and I’m definitely intrigued. (I didn’t manage to beat the AI even once though!) It’s definitely meant to be a multiplayer experience, so maybe I’ll see if I can get one of my siblings into it over Christmas or summer break.

Secret of Mana (1993)
A Square RPG that I hear about all the time and know next to nothing about. I played the opening few minutes (just past the first boss), and I’m definitely interested in the story, though I’m not sure how I feel about the mechanics and controls. It definitely occupies a unique spot on the console, being the only action RPG here, and I’ll probably get into it one day… after I beat all the amazing first-party games that are on here! Oh yeah, it has a gorgeous art style.

Mega Man X (1994) 
I absolutely adore Mega Man 2 (and to a lesser extent, 3) on the NES, so I’m really excited to play its flashy 16-bit little brother. I played though the entire opening stage and it definitely feels like Mega Man, so this is certainly high on my priority list.

Super Metroid (1994) 
I’ve played a couple Metroid games, but I’ve never beat any of them (shameful, I know). I spent a good six hours playing the original Metroid on the NES Classic earlier this year (I even drew actual paper maps!). I played the opening with Ridley(?), the escape sequence, and a little bit of Brinstar, and now I’m pretty excited to get into Metroid again, especially since this one has a mini-map built in!

Super Punch-Out!! (1994) 
I played the first fight until I beat the old dude. I’d played the original Punch-Out on NES Classic but I guess I forgot about it… I feel like Punch-Out is what would happen if you stripped down a game like Dark Souls to just its boss fights, then stripped the movement out of that until it’s just the dodging and lunging left.

Final Fantasy III (1994) 
Now usually referred to as Final Fantasy VI, this is one of the most iconic role-playing games of all-time. I reviewed the GBA port back in 2014. Epic is an overused word but this game is nothing short of epic. It’s often hailed as one of the first cinematic video games. I’d liken it to a play like Les Misérables where there is an ensemble cast of a dozen or so characters, but their backstories and motivations are all so elegantly expressed that the viewer (or in the case of Final Fantasy III, the player) is led to care and empathise with each and every one of them.

Donkey Kong Country (1994) 
I played the first two levels and got a Game Over two inches from the end of the second level. (Might be a good time to use the rewind feature!) But I can’t believe I haven’t played this game before! I associate 2.5D platormers with jankiness because I played one too many janky 2.5D platformers on GBA as a kid. This game feels like quality though.

Kirby’s Dream Course (1995) 
I played 7 holes before I got a Game Over and I have so many questions. Why is there a Kirby Golf game? If Kirby is the ball, who or what is the club? Why did I get a Game Over when I hit the B button? Why is this game on the SNES Classic? Why not Chrono Trigger?

EarthBound (1995)
A game so good it’s getting in the way of me trying all the other games! It’s a quirky RPG that tells the story of Ness and his friends as they defend the world from an alien invasion. The soundtrack is great and the writing is funny and clever. I played the first couple hours back on Wii U VC and eventually forgot about it, but this time I fully intend to complete it so expect a full review soon.

Super Mario World 2: Yoshi’s Island (1995) 
This was the very first Mario game I ever owned (on GBA) before I gave it to Coconut. It’s her favourite Mario game. I personally don’t think it’s as good as actual Mario games like Super Mario World and Super Mario Bros. 3, but I do plan on beating it just because it’s a travesty that this game has been in my life for over a decade and I’ve never gotten to beating it.

Super Mario RPG: Legend of the Seven Stars (1996) 
I played the tutorial in which Mario escapes Bowser’s castle by defying physics. I still can’t believe that Square and Nintendo teamed up to make a Mario RPG back in 1996 (shortly before Square jumped ship and released Final Fantasy VII on PlayStation). Super Mario RPG lives today in the Paper Mario and Mario & Luigi series but it’s cool to see where it all started.

Kirby Super Star (1996) 
My brother had the DS port of this game growing up but I didn’t know it was originally on the SNES. I’m not a big fan of Kirby games, but this is the best one I’ve played. The soundtrack is catchy.

Star Fox 2 (2017 – previously unreleased) 
It’s kind of funny that the game that has been the most advertised on this console is also one of the worst. (I hesitate to call it the worst because Kirby’s Dream Course is on here.) But playing it now, I can see why this game wasn’t released back in 1996. It’s ambitious to have a 3D space shooter on the SNES that isn’t on rails but in practice, it’s extremely frustrating to control a spaceship’s movement and camera with just a D-pad.

Verdict: The SNES Classic is perfect for anyone interested in exploring a wonderful era in gaming’s history. For $80, you’re getting a half-dozen of the best games of all time, and then at least another dozen great games. I’m especially excited for a new generation of gamers to have access this wonderful trove of experiences. (If you’re looking for a Christmas present for a kid who’s interested in games, please strongly consider the SNES Classic!)

Bonus thoughts:

  • I like how Earthbound’s box art is ~15% taller just to accommodate the oversized Robo (see picture above, it’s even evident in the tiny row of box art below the games).
  • Is SNES the only Nintendo console to have the B button as the ‘Yes’ button for a bunch of the games?
  • When the N64 Classic is released, will the controller be original size? How will they fit in the box? How will they fit two in the box? Will the analog stick still degrade to the point where you have to wrap rubber bands around it.
  • The manuals are awesome. Seriously.

Have you got your hands on a SNES Classic? Tell us in the comments! If you haven’t, keep searching and don’t give in to the scalpers! And in the meantime, check out the rest of our gaming news and articles!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *