Review: Nintendo SNES Classic Edition

 In Technology
Even just mentioning the Super Nintendo brings memories flooding back: there’s little me, sitting in the playroom at the top of the stairs in my house in Massachusetts, battling my sister in Donkey Kong Country. She still swears she didn’t need my help, but deep down she knows I was the only one who could hack the mine cart levels. My family got a SNES a couple of years after its 1991 release, and didn’t upgrade for the better part of a decade. Why would we? The SNES had everything.

For me, and for millions of others, the SNES came at a formative moment in our lives and gaming careers. Which means I’m hopelessly biased in my review of the SNES Classic, the $80 console from Nintendo that will hit (and immediately fly off) store shelves this weekend. This is in no way a modern console, and it never tries to be one. It’s instead an indulgence in nostalgia, an $80 way to undo all the psychological damage inflicted when your parents tossed your SNES without even consulting you. It feels like home.

Over the last week, I’ve been knee-deep in Street Fighter II, Star Fox, Super Mario World, and most of the rest of the SNES Classic’s 21 included games. Some of the games hold up shockingly well; others are an eye-opening reminder of how far we’ve come, and how good that is. In general, the console’s a bit of an odd beast. It’s a largely faithful recreation of the original, but Nintendo missed a few easy chances to modernize. Ultimately, I have some quibbles, but I also have Donkey Kong Country. So I can’t really complain.

The Rights and Wrongs of Retro

The SNES Classic looks almost exactly like the SNES, only this one is smaller. Much smaller. The two included controllers take up more space. It’s the size of a paperback book, not the giant coffee-table tome that was the old console. Otherwise it’s identical: the same gray color, the same two sliding purple buttons for Power and Reset, the same Eject button for popping out the cartridge so you can blow on it.

Except, wait. There are no cartridges with the SNES Classic, all the games are built in. So why is there an Eject button? You try it and you realize, it doesn’t even do anything. It’s just there. And then you try to plug in the controllers, and you realize the ports are just etchings. You have to open up a flimsy little door and plug in there.