The SNES Classic Edition is in stores now, and you know what? If you're patient and persistent, you stand a pretty good chance of netting one without having to offer up your first born to a scalper. Thing is, that's still $79.99 USD out of your pocket and into Nintendo's. Is it a fair exchange?
I've been playing the SNES Classic for the better part of a week. I'll break down what you get with the SNES Classic, what's missing, how it performs, and whether it's worth picking up.
What is the SNES Classic Edition?
The SNES Classic is a plug-and-play console with 21 games pre-installed. The games span a number of genres, from classic action titles (Super Mario World, Contra III, Super Metroid) to RPGs that are more niche, but still well-loved (Secret of Mana, Final Fantasy VI).
Nintendo released the SNES Classic as a logical follow-up to last year's NES Classic (which is coming back to stores). Besides offering 16-bit games over 8-bit games, the SNES Classic boasts a few improvements over the NES Classic.
What comes with the SNES Classic Edition?
Inside the SNES Classic box, you'll find:
- The console itself, which is packed with 21 games even though it's very small.
- Two SNES controllers that hook up via USB ports on the console's front (you can substitute Wii Pro Controllers or even NES Classic Edition controllers if you want).
- An HDMI cable.
- A power cable.
- A retro poster displaying some of the games you can play. The poster assures you you're playing with power. There are hook-up instructions on the back.
What's missing from the SNES Classic Edition?
Not a lot, but there are some noteworthy mentions:
- As with the NES Classic, you can't insert cartridges into the SNES Classic; the only moving parts are the "Power" and "Reset" buttons, the latter of which takes you back to the system's main menu.
- You can't download new games onto the SNES Classic Edition. Again, like the NES Classic, Nintendo built the SNES Classic as a closed system. That didn't stop people from hacking the NES Classic / Famicom Mini in ten seconds flat, and I've no doubt people will do the same with the SNES Classic to add more games to its menu. Heck, the system's not even a day old, and Star Fox 2 has already been extracted. Tampering with the hardware runs the risk of bricking it, so muck around at your own peril.
- A headphone jack. True, there wasn't one on the vanilla SNES, but the SNES Classic would seriously benefit. Final Fantasy VI's soundtrack should be poured directly into everyone's ears.
- A handful of notable games. The game lineup for the SNES Classic is incredible, but the addition of Chrono Trigger, Donkey Kong Country 2, and Actraiser would make it worthy of outright worship. I would've also loved to see Quintet's "lost" Soul Blazer action-RPG trilogy on there. Well, if wishes were Yoshis, beggars would ride.
How is the performance and emulation?
I can't break down hardware performance to a pixel-level like fair Master Parish, but I'm capable of telling good game emulation from sloppier efforts. With that in mind, the SNES Classic's emulation gets a thumbs-up. While I'm sure there are a few discrepancies here and there (in his review of the NES Classic edition, for example, Parish noticed some games have fewer flashing lights, no doubt to diminish the possibility of epileptic episodes), they're not noteworthy. And if I didn't notice any problems, Joe Walmart—the nostalgic impulse-buyer for whom the system is tailored for first and foremost—certainly won't.
You have your choice of pixel-perfect resolution, 4:3 resolution, and a CRT filter that places scanlines over the screen. The CRT filter is OK; the novelty wears off quickly. However, I appreciate the SNES Classic's choice of screen borders, a feature missing from the NES Classic. The images add a nice touch of atmosphere to your favorite games without getting in the way.
The SNES Classic's controllers feel like the genuine article, right down to the matte finish. The cord length is five feet long, a big improvement over the NES Classic's 2.5 feet, but still a bit on the short side. Frankly, I'm still pining for a controller-based main menu option, even though I admit it feels good to hit the SNES' reset button again. Ah, that springback. Just like childhood.
Note that the SNES' famous soft-reset trick—pressing L, R, Start, and Select on the controller—resets the SNES Classic's games to their individual title screens. Too bad doing so won't take you back to the main menu, though.
The Final Verdict!
For $79.99 USD, the SNES Classic Edition is a wonderful value. Its game selection is epic, though it still might benefit from a swap or two (I love you, Kirby, but would anyone object to seeing Chrono Trigger in place of Kirby's Dream Course?). As I pointed out elsewhere, the included line-up is still better than the NES Classic's line-up, which is nothing to sneeze at either.
I've thoroughly enjoyed my time with the SNES Classic, and I don't have a problem recommending it to life-long fans of the system or people who just want a strong shot of nostalgia to cap off a hard day. Its compact size and strong library of games makes it a great gift, too. Now let's hope Nintendo keeps them coming off the assembly line at a satisfactory pace.