Worth it for the games alone

The experience

The SNES Classic, in the US at least, comes with two controllers, a micro-USB power adapter and 21 games. I tested the UK version, which means it’s visually different (obviously I think it’s prettier, but all of my US colleagues disagree). Europeans just get a micro-USB cable, sans adapter, but all the games are the same. Pretty much any USB adapter will do the trick, for what it’s worth, and I just powered it from a spare USB port on my TV.

I love the original design of the SNES, but I’m not as enamored with the miniaturization. I’ll accept that this is a detail most people won’t care about, but I dislike the fact that the “controller ports” on the front are just for show. To plug in a pad, you have to pull down a flap to reveal the actual ports beneath. With the controllers connected, it looks a little goofy. If you’re the type who unplugs everything after use, then it’s probably not a big deal, but I’m not that sort of person at all.

Other than that, there’s little to complain about. It’s a tiny Super Nintendo, and it looks pretty when the pads aren’t plugged in. My colleague Sean Buckley (who has been playing with the US version for our video review) tells me that the dimensions of his console “are perfect, the colors are spot on, and the power and reset buttons not only work but also feel nearly identical to the respective click and springy tactility of the originals.” Here in Europe, our power button doesn’t spring, but it does make a satisfying “click” when you slide it upward.

If you were to take a random sampling of NES Classic reviews, you’d find two issues repeated everywhere. The first was the length of the controller cables; the second, the reset button on the console itself. Only one of those has been fixed.

The controller is a faithful reproduction of the original. It was the best controller around at the time, and there’s nothing I’d rather play these games on. While the NES Classic controller had a tiny 20-inch cable, the SNES Classic’s has 43 inches to play with. It’s just long enough for my apartment but still probably not up to scratch for the average American living room. Still, it’s a huge improvement.

Sadly, the complaints about the reset button have been ignored. If you want to go back to the menu to change a setting or swap games, you have to get up and press the reset button. Every. Time. Of course, this exactly mimics the original experience, but this was clearly something people didn’t like about the NES Classic and it’s strange that Nintendo didn’t do anything to address it. How simple would it be to make, say, a three-second hold of the start and select buttons return you to the main menu?

Honestly, though, I’m only annoyed for the people I know will hate this. As a kid, almost all the games I played at home were in front of a tiny TV in my brothers’ room. Then, as my eldest brother went to college and the other got a better console, I got to play games in front of a tiny TV in my room. Perhaps out of instinct, I installed the SNES Classic in my bedroom on a “tiny” 28-inch TV. It wasn’t until I was perched on the end of my bed, two feet away from the screen and an hour into Final Fantasy III, that I realized I’d unknowingly copied my mom’s ban on gaming in the living room.

I ended up moving the console to the living room the next weekend for a multiplayer session, but I put it straight back when that was wrapped. At least to me, playing this on my bed, when I know I should be doing homework (or writing this review), just feels right.

Navigating the SNES Classic is similar to its predecessor, which is to say, reset button aside, it’s a pleasure. Games are organized in a simple horizontal line of tiles that can be arranged alphabetically, by release date or by publisher. Like with the NES Classic, you get four “save” slots per game, but now you can also rewind up to 40 seconds from your save point. This sounded useful: Older games can be unforgiving, and being able to quickly save and retry after dying is neat. In reality, though, it’s cumbersome, and I barely used it outside of testing that it worked.

Having to press the reset button, navigate to the correct game and save file, and then rewind means rather than being an instant restart, you’re talking a good 30 seconds or so. Given that it’s an add-in feature and basically cheating, it’s not that important, but it does feel like it could’ve been implemented better.

One unexpected benefit of the rewind system is that your save files essentially become screen savers. If you’re at the home screen doing nothing, the system will cycle through your saves, showing you 40-second gameplay snippets right where you left off. It’s a neat feature, and on more than one occasion I was enticed to jump back into a game because I saw where I’d left off. Also, the menu music on this thing is amazing.


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