I’ve touched an original SNES a grand total of one time in my entire life. It was in a video game bar I chanced upon during a trip to Osaka earlier this year, and I recall sharing my discovery with my fellow Twinfinite colleagues. The bar featured a ton of retro consoles that you can play games on, along with some modern ones like the PS4, PS3, and Wii U. I was told to make a beeline for the SNES, and that I was in for a treat. It was, according to my Twinfinite brethren, one of the greatest consoles to ever be released.
I got to the bar, played a few rounds of Super Mario Kart with a friend, got a slight headache from how painfully jagged the graphics looked (alcohol might have contributed to this as well), and decided to play some Dark Souls III on the nearby PS4 instead. Part of the reason why was because the odd Super Nintendo console just felt so foreign and difficult to use. I didn’t understand how the Reset button worked on the console, how I was supposed to change cartridges, didn’t get how the controls worked for certain games. It was such an uncomfortable experience, especially since I was experimenting with the SNES in a public setting where other (more Nintendo-savvy) people could watch you fumble around, that I felt more at home playing Dark Souls – a game that you can easily embarrass yourself in if you have no idea what you’re doing.
As someone who’s never grown up with a Nintendo console apart from a Game Boy I got for my sixth birthday, it can be pretty difficult to share in the hype and excitement that comes with the announcement of collector’s items like the NES and SNES Classic. There has to be something special about these consoles that would make everyone clamber in the early morning hours to secure a pre-order. While I missed the boat with last year’s NES Classic, I decided to see what all the fuss was about with the SNES Classic.
It’s been an interesting experience, to say the least. I spent all weekend messing around with the games on the SNES Classic. The two games alone which I got it for – Final Fantasy VI and Earthbound – have made the console worth every cent. Having played the subpar port of FFVI on the Vita, the SNES version felt snappier and smoother, though I still wished I could be playing Square’s best Final Fantasy game on a portable console instead. The Vita, the Switch, it doesn’t matter; just give me a proper port of FFVI with no loading issues on a portable, and I’ll be a happy camper.
Earthbound I had played on an old Macbook via an emulator program years ago, though I never completed it. And yet it was another one of those games that made it easy to see why people talked about it in such revered tones. Earthbound’s setting in an alternative modern America was something that was rarely seen in JRPGs, and that 2D sprite look is simply timeless. Titles like FFVI and Earthbound are still considered masterpieces even today, and even if some of their gameplay mechanics and systems might feel a little dated, it’s surprisingly easy to jump into them with a fresh pair of modern eyes and be completely sucked into their worlds.
While platformers and side-scrolling action games aren’t exactly my favorite genres to play, Super Metroid and Donkey Kong Country were pretty fun to romp through alongside a friend as well. In particular, Super Metroid’s presentation is impeccable. For a game that was limited by the technology on the SNES, being able to give off simultaneously eerie and cool futuristic vibes with nothing but chiptune music and unsettling disturbing 2D artwork is impressive.
And yet, there are games on the SNES Classic that feel impossible for me to ever get into. Street Fighter II is fun for a while if you’re playing with a friend, but with the leaps and bounds the fighting game genre has made over the years, it’s difficult to come into SFII expecting a similarly deep experience. Also, how could the devs put Dhalsim in the game in the state he was in and thought that was okay?
And there are games that you’ve heard so much about, like Star Fox, that just aren’t fun to play anymore. After slogging through the game’s first level and unlocking Star Fox II, and then jumping into that for a good while, I found myself reaching for the Reset button with no desire to play any more of it. Look, I’m sure Star Fox was amazing back in the day, but how anyone could even play with that horrendous frame rate is beyond me.
Then there are the in-between games like Super Mario RPG and Kirby Super Star that kinda hold up relatively well. I can see these titles being some of the hottest ones to ever hit the SNES decades ago, but today, they’re also the kind of games that you’d maybe play for a little while before leaving it forgotten in the background. Super Mario Kart is every bit as jaggy as I remember it from that bar in Osaka, and now that Mario Kart 8 Deluxe is a thing that exists (on the Switch, no less), I have no desire to play the SNES version again, ever.
After spending a substantial amount of time with the SNES Classic, it became clear why this little console is still so respected in video game history. Many of the games packed in with the Classic were essentially pioneer titles that helped to establish the parameters for various genres like the JRPG and platformer. With a library like that, of course, the console would go down in history as one of the most important in the industry.
The release of the SNES Classic is a smart business move on two fronts. It caters to the fan base that grew up with one of these Nintendo consoles in their house, and it’s such a lovely way of capitalizing on that nostalgia and giving players the chance to revisit their favorite titles from their childhood. On the other hand, it also caters to people like me, the ones who have heard so much about the epic games on this legendary console but never got to play it firsthand.
While some of us will never be able to experience the nostalgia that comes with the SNES Classic, the console allows us to play these games in an authentic manner – by plugging in a controller with a wire that’s way too short, and sitting on the floor, craning our necks up at the television screen like we’re back in the 90’s.