Review: Nintendo SNES Classic Edition
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.
Nintendo SNES Classic Edition
21 amazing games built in. Just holding the controller takes you back 25 years. Nintendo made smart decisions about how to display, save, and switch games.
Controller cords aren’t retro, they’re annoying. So is getting up every time you want to switch games.
So many design decisions about the SNES Classic were made with a slavish devotion to a ’90s aesthetic, in service of evoking that feeling of the original console. Mostly that’s the right thing to do. And Nintendo did add a few clever upgrades. The SNES Classic plugs into your TV via HDMI, and gets power through a Micro USB cable—you can even power it with your laptop. In fact, Nintendo made just enough changes that I wish it had made a few more.
Nintendo rightly didn’t touch the games, but I wish everything else had been up for discussion. By attaching the controllers to a 4.5-foot cable (mercifully longer than the NES Classic but even shorter than the original SNES) rather than making them wireless, Nintendo’s asking you to sit cross-legged on the floor in front of your television like you did in the old days, even though sitting that close to your 65-inch 4K TV won’t give you anything but a headache. Those controllers also ought to have a Home button on them, rather than forcing you to get up and press Reset every time you want to switch games. I can’t imagine any of these changes would have made my experience less nostalgic or enjoyable. I miss Kirby’s Dream Course, not wired controllers.