After the success of the Nintendo Classic Mini last year it was only a matter of time before Nintendo moved their sights towards its 16-bit cousin. The Super Nintendo has arguably the strongest, most diverse and importantly, most fondly remembered game library of all their systems so how does the hardware and the included game lineup hold up after twenty-plus years?
The first thing that strikes you about the Nintendo Classic Mini: Super Nintendo Entertainment System (the SNES Classic Mini from now on for all our sanities!) is how small and adorable it is, it’s around a quarter of the size of the original system, it fits easily in one hand and looks exactly like its elder. It houses both a HDMI and a USB port on the rear for video and power respectively and features a functional power switch and reset button on the top of the unit that mimic the feel of the original, the power switch having a similarly tactile click to it.
The rest of the moulding is purely cosmetic, the cartridge slot and eject button are sadly static and the controller ports are a facade which pulls forward to reveal the real ports for the SNES controllers. The controllers themselves are exactly the same as the originals with only the different plug connector revealing their true nature and feel great in the hand having a slightly textured surface to aid your grip.
All in all it looks exactly as you expect it to although the small size will probably surprise you even knowing that it’s… mini. The included HDMI and USB power cable are of a decent length and the controller’s leads this time around are around 4.5 feet which is a couple of feet longer than the infamously short NES Classic Mini cords but still feel too short. Something that isn’t included in the box is a USB to AC Adapter plug, luckily any USB charging plug should fit the bill but it’s still frustrating that one isn’t included.
Onto the system itself then, once powered up you are presented with a menu not unlike the one from the NES Classic Mini last year. A strip of game box art runs across the middle with tiny thumbnails beneath and a row of option icons along the top sandwiched between art that looks like the front and back of the system, with the Japanese Super Famicom iconography in the background. It’s an appealing looking layout and it has a catchy little musical ditty to go with it.
Useful information is presented in a fairly intuitive manner with pips beneath the box art indicating whether you have any suspend points saved along with an icon indicating whether the game supports standard saving and finally the number of players supported, handy to know considering the SNES Classic Mini actually comes with two controllers in the box.
You can create a suspend point during play at any point simply by hitting the reset button, this takes you back to the menu where you can opt to “deposit” the current state of the game into one of the four slots available. New to the SNES Classic Mini is the ability to rewind time from a suspend point, the time you can “rollback” from the suspend point is variable depending on the game being played but is typically around a minute or so. This is a welcome addition and can definitely help in those games that have a reputation for being difficult, like Super Ghouls and Ghosts or those without frequent save points.
The SNES Classic Mini also allows you to customise how the games will look, giving you a variety of frames to surround the gameplay ranging from colour-changing 80s neon grids to the rather sophisticated wooden surround with speakers. These act to keep the game screen at the correct aspect ratio whilst also adding a bit of personality.
Alongside these frames you can also decide whether to utilise a CRT filter which is an attempt to simulate era-appropriate TVs, blurring the image and adding a subtle scanline effect. It softens the image a bit too much and the scanlines are too subtle to bring out the detail which is a shame and this is nowhere near as good as the CRT filter options we’ve seen in Sonic Mania for example. You can also choose between a more natural 4:3 ratio presentation (which is free of the crawling visible on the NES Classic Mini) or a pixel perfect option which uses square pixels giving a sharper looking image but can lead to some odd-looking results, like a more oval Kirby instead of his more natural rotund self.
The system itself only outputs at 720p60 but all the games included are their North American releases so all run at 60Hz unlike the European eShop versions of most of the titles. Whilst only supporting 720p is disappointing, it does allow for the system to provide a nicely scaled image, the SNES originally output at 256x224 which allows for a three times bump with room to spare for the frames.
The twenty one game lineup is exemplary, every one of the games is from the top-tier of the system’s library but like any curated list there will always be something missing you’d like to see included. Having Earthbound, Super Mario RPG and Final Fantasy III (actually Final Fantasy VI, it was the third title to see a North American release) in an official physical capacity in Europe is a nice bonus as these were never originally released here and the big selling point of having the final mastered release version of the shelved Star Fox 2 included is almost worth the asking price alone for fans of that series.
Curious omissions that stick out are Pilotwings and Chrono Trigger both significant “classic” titles for the system. There are entire genres that aren’t represented too, no brawlers like Final Fight and no SHMUPs like Super Aleste do feel like obvious glaring exclusions. Their absence doesn’t detract from the quality of the titles that are here however. Especially if you enjoy RPGs or Platformers, the likes of Super Castlevania IV, Secret of Mana and Super Mario World are genuine classics and still hold up well today.
The emulation itself is of a high standard, featuring many games that used extra hardware including three SuperFX chip titles that have never appeared on Nintendo’s Virtual Console before, Star Fox, its sequel and Yoshi’s Island. It’s not perfect however, with the latter having the most obvious visual discrepancy, touching a Fuzzy (first seen in the stage “Touch Fuzzy, Get Dizzy!”) should cause a visual effect distorting the background but here it causes the background to disappear briefly whilst performing the effect which looks a bit odd, not game-breaking but worthy of note.
So is the SNES Classic Mini worth it? It has a few things that go in its favour as while most of the titles are available on Nintendo’s Virtual Console platform, as stated earlier the SNES Classic Mini versions are all the original North American 60Hz releases unlike the slower un-optimised European 50Hz releases of many titles. Purely as a value proposition, buying those releases via the Virtual Console service (not counting the four that aren’t available) comes to just shy of £90 making the SNES Classic Mini a great value way of legally owning copies of these games.
There is also something to be said about the nostalgia value of the package, the adorably cute hardware immediately puts a smile on your face, the click of the power button and the feel of the actual controllers adds a huge amount of authenticity and charm to the whole thing. The user interface is clean and functional while the Super Game Boy-like frames and little Nintendo touches, like how Star Fox 2 gets unwrapped after you play the original and how Mario and Luigi fiddle with the settings as they activate the system’s demo mode if left awhile on the menu add a lot to the experience.
As an officially sanctioned way of travelling down memory lane it’s a well put together piece of hardware that works exactly as you expect. The included selection of titles is excellent and there is very little to complain about outside of some niggly emulation issues and the lack of an AC adapter. They’ve improved on elements that were slightly lacking on the NES Classic Mini which should be acknowledged, bundling in two controllers with longer cables along with improving the 4:3 mode is especially welcome.
Nintendo Classic Mini: Super Nintendo Entertainment System Review
A tiny SNES that plays 21 classic games including some new to Europe and the infamously shelved Star Fox 2 is exactly what you’d expect it to be. Nintendo may trade a lot on their nostalgia but it’s easy to see why. A fantastic way for oldies to revisit their youth or for the youth to see what all the fuss was about.