SNES Classic Review: The Super Nintendo is back, and you're in for nostalgia overload

Daniel Howley
Technology Editor

When Nintendo (NTDOY) released its Nintendo Entertainment System (NES) Classic, a miniature version of the company’s iconic home game console, last November, the world lost its mind.

Overnight, the $60 box, which featured 30 original NES titles, sold out. Retailers couldn’t keep the box in stock, and eBay (EBAY) and Amazon (AMZN) resellers jacked up their prices to $200 or more for the system.

And chances are you can expect more of the same with the follow-up to the NES Classic, the Super Nintendo Entertainment System (SNES) Classic.

Available on Sept. 28 for $80, the SNES Classic is a tiny version of the original SNES, released in 1990, with a number of tech upgrades to allow you to play it on modern TVs.

It’s a joyous blast from the past with an impressive list of games and simple setup. But it’s not without some minor faults, specifically the controller’s barely-too-short wires.

It’s the SNES, but tiny!

The SNES was the console to have in the early ‘90s. I, however, was firmly entrenched in the Sega Genesis camp, thanks to its edgy commercials, its hip mascot, Sonic the Hedgehog, and the fact that my parents bought it for me and would only let me have one system at a time.

But I remember playing the original SNES at my friend’s house whenever I had a chance. And somehow, as with the NES Classic, Nintendo managed to capture the look and feel of the SNES perfectly with the SNES Classic.

The SNES Classic will literally fit in the palm of your hand.

The system console itself is about a third of the size of the original system and seems like it weighs next to nothing. The cartridge slot and eject button don’t actually open, as all of the Classic’s games are built in, and the controller ports are merely decorative. You flip them open to reveal the real controller ports underneath.

You won’t have to wrestle with those red, yellow and white cables to connect the Classic to your TV, either — I used to need my brother to do that for me. Instead, Nintendo uses an HDMI cable and a USB power cord.

The place the SNES Classic feels the truest to its progenitor is its two controllers. Yes, unlike the NES Classic, which came with just one controller, the SNES Classic comes with a pair of controllers, and they’re nearly identical to the ones you smashed repeatedly against the floor whenever your friend beat you at “Street Fighter II Turbo: Hyper Fighting.”

Nintendo not only made the SNES controllers full-size, the company also throws in a second one for two-player games.

Ah, well there is one thing about the controllers. The cables are about 5 feet long, which is a big upgrade from the NES Classic’s 2.5-foot controller cables, but they’re still just a bit shorter than I’d like. Instead of being able to sit comfortably on my couch while playing games, I had to set up my dining room chair to get my game on.

That said, there will likely be plenty of aftermarket options for controllers, including wireless remotes for the system.

Jamming to the classics

The SNES wouldn’t have been a classic to begin with if it weren’t for the huge collection of incredible games created for the console, and Nintendo packed a boatload of them into the SNES Classic.

The Classic comes with 20 pre-installed games including titles like “Super Mario World,” “Super Mario Kart,” “Donkey Kong Country,” “The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past” and “Star Fox.”

The game selection screen is where you choose the game you want to play and can fiddle with the display settings.

That’s not all there is, either. You’ll also get some impressive role-playing games (RPGs) like “Final Fantasy III,” “Secret of Mana,” and “Earthbound.” I’m ashamed to admit, but I’ve never played these three before. But after firing them up on the Classic and playing for a number of hours, I quickly realized why they were so influential to RPGs over the last few decades.

Games play just as you remember back in the ‘90s, though they’re clearly smoother thanks to the improved hardware and use of HDMI inputs. I did notice a hint of slowdown while playing “Castlevania IV” during intense combat, but that was the only real issue I noticed.

In addition to the games you remember from your childhood, Nintendo has thrown in the never-before-released “Starfox 2.” You’ll need to complete a bit of the original “Starfox” first, but after that you’ll be able to dive right in.

It’s important to keep in mind that the SNES Classic, like the NES Classic, can’t connect to the internet, so you won’t be able to download additional games beyond the 20 that come with the system.

Get ready to dive back into “Zelda” on the SNES Classic.

There are other means of getting a larger games library, either via a competing classic games system or downloading game ROMs. However, those other systems will never be able to match Nintendo’s fit and finish and ROMs, well, aren’t exactly legal or nearly as clean as Nintendo’s offerings.

As with the NES Classic, the SNES Classic offers three display modes, Pixel Perfect, which turns each pixel into a perfect square; 4:3 aspect ratio, which was the standard when the SNES came out, and CRT, which adds horizontal scan lines to your game to make it look like you’re playing on an old-school TV. The CRT mode looks a little messy, on purpose, which helps smooth over some of the game’s rougher edges. Pixel Perfect is a bit too sharp for me, but 4:3 is a solid choice.

Want to save your game? Well, you’re going to have to press the SNES Classic’s reset button to get back out to the console’s Home screen. Some games, of course, have their own built-in save mechanism, but certainly not every one.

I wish Nintendo added a means to back out of your games without having to reach for the reset button, as doing so when I’m sitting in my chair can be a bit annoying. I play games so I don’t have to move, not because I want to move more than normal.

Should you get it?

If you’re a child of the ‘90s, love video games or just want something new to do besides scrolling through Instagram on your iPhone, the SNES Classic is a must-have.

Getting one, however, will be a completely different challenge, as Nintendo seems to be suffering from the same kinds of supply constraints that made the NES Classic so hard to come by.

In other words, if you can find the SNES Classic on sale anywhere and really want to make it yours, buy it then and there. Otherwise, you might have to wait until Nintendo is finally able to fill out its stock.

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Email Daniel at dhowley@yahoo-inc.com; follow him on Twitter at @DanielHowley.