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SNES Classic Mini Review: Nintendo's ultimate nostalgic gaming machine

5

The Good

  • Tiny and light
  • Great games
  • Starfox 2
  • Nostalgia central

The Bad

  • Non-expandable
  • Awkward front flap

We’ve hit peak nostalgic gaming with Nintendo’s SNES Classic Mini, a compact replica of the original console which boasts 21 pre-installed games - including one that’s very special indeed. Our full SNES Classic Mini review covers the hardware, interface and the games themselves, complete with our setup video.

If you were gaming hard in the early nineties, chances are you owned or had a close mate who owned Nintendo’s SNES console. This 16-bit box offered up some of the greatest games of all time and now you can replay them all over again thanks to the Classic Mini edition, launching here in the UK in the next few days.

The SNES Classic Mini is the natural successor to last year’s NES model, offering pretty much the same setup and features. So once again we have a tiny, super-light version of the bulky old box, which comes bundled with two wired controllers and a heap of preloaded titles (21 in total).

Thankfully some of our gripes with the NES Classic Mini have been sorted out for this SNES version, although the biggest issue - one of availability - could still prove a problem here in the UK. Only time will tell on that front. Regardless, we’ve been glued to our TV ever since this mini machine arrived and here’s why you should seriously consider taking the time to track this dinky gaming console down.

SNES Classic Mini Review: Design

As with the NES Classic Mini, this SNES version is a lovingly crafted, scaled-down recreation of the original device. All of the fine detailing is present, except in a size that’s small enough to comfortably fit inside a bag or coat pocket. This thing is incredibly light too, making it pleasingly portable. Just the ticket for taking it ‘round to a mate’s house for an all-night gaming session.

Up top you’ll find the power button, which is a flick switch, as well as a reset button which quits you out of games. The SNES Classic Mini also rocks a cartridge slot and eject button, although these are just for show. This console is far too small to take actual gaming cartridges, hence the games come pre-loaded.

If you want a modern console that plays actual SNES cartridges, as well as ROMs, check out the Retro Freak instead.

Around back, you’ll find a micro USB port for supplying power and an HDMI slot, to hook up to your TV. Nintendo hasn’t bundled a power adapter in the box sadly, a typical trick these days. Instead you just get the micro USB cable, although you do at least get an HDMI-to-HDMI cable for hooking up to your telly.

Finally, around the front of the console is the pull-out flap, which conceals the two controller ports.

That flap seems completely unnecessary to us. We can see how Nintendo wanted to keep the original design of the SNES intact, an effect which would have been slightly lost with the redesigned controller ports on show. However, when your controllers are plugged in, the flap just kind of dangles loose. Maybe a pull-down tray would have worked better, to retain that classic look with no dangly bits to speak of.

Either way, it’s a minor quibble at best and we’re still big fans of the look and feel of this new Classic Mini edition. Especially as one of the major issues with the original NES remake, namely the comically short controller cables, has been kind-of sort-of fixed. More on that later.

What works?

This super-portable console replica will bring joy to any nostalgic gamers, while you can also easily carry it to a friend’s house for an all-night gaming session.

What doesn’t?

That front flap looks a bit strange dangling down. Minor quibble, but there you have it.

SNES Classic Mini Review: Controllers

A pair of SNES controllers are bundled with the Classic Mini console, which means you can get stuck into multiplayer titles right out of the box.

We’re very happy with the look and feel of these joypads. They sport the exact same design as the original controllers, although they seem a little smaller and lighter; perhaps that’s just our now faint memories however, not to mention the fact that we were in our teens when we last grasped the real things.

Button layout is of course identical, so you can access all of the features of the included games. You get the four coloured action buttons, start, select and two shoulder buttons, ready to bust out those killer combos in Street Fighter. So far it seems like the pads are plenty durable, able to withstand some serious hammering and abuse. We’ll continue to test and update this review if we notice any issues, of course.

The SNES Classic MIni controller cables are 140cm (55 inches) long, a definite improvement on the short-as-a-gnat’s-chuff NES efforts. I can just about sit on my sofa to play games with this device, as long as I lean forward and don’t jiggle the controller too vigorously. Definitely handy for those long sessions, where you’d otherwise be plonked right in front of your telly, much to the chagrin of your parents (if they happened to see what you were up to).

What works?

These authentically replicated joypads are comfortable to wield for many hours, not to mention great-looking.

What doesn’t?

We’re really glad to see longer cables this time around, although wireless joypads would have been better.

SNES Classic Mini Review: Interface and features

Boot up the SNES Classic Mini and you’ll find an interface that’s near identical to the NES version. All 21 games are neatly presented in a row, with lots of colour and classic 16-bit style music as you browse the selection. Complete with the original artwork, this menu system is a true delight for nostalgic fans.

From this main menu you can also change the visual output, with three options on offer. The 4:3 aspect ratio is the default selection, while you can also add a CRT filter, to give a true throwback experience. This mode essentially adds some horizontal lines, just as if you were viewing on a classic TV. Lastly, there’s a Pixel Perfect mode which is the actual visual output of the original games (before your telly stretched and rejiggered it).

You can also change the colour of the frame that’s displayed around the boxy playing screen, to fill up the rest of your widescreen telly. And Nintendo has added a screensaver-style feature to prevent screen burn.

Once you’ve started up a game, you can quit back to the main menu with a push of the SNES Classic Mini’s reset button. You can then choose to save your game state to one of four available slots, or even rewind your game session to step back in time up to twenty seconds or so, to correct a crucial error that brought your play session crashing to a devastating halt. This can mean the difference between glorious victory over a viciously tricky level, or smashing your controller into dust in extreme frustration, if your temperament is anything like ours.

What works?

The colourful interface, save game states and nifty rewind feature elevate the SNES Classic Mini far above your bog-standard emulator.

What doesn’t?

To be honest, as fun as the CRT mode is, why would you actually want to play these games with crappy visuals?

SNES Classic Mini Review: Games

As with the first Mini, Nintendo has pre-loaded this machine with a bunch of classic SNES titles, ready to keep you up all night. You get 21 games in total; check out our full run-down of the SNES Classic Mini games.

Although we’d have preferred the ability to download a massive selection of original games, purchasing them individually as you can on other Nintendo consoles, we can’t fault the selection on offer. All of the big franchises and fan favourites are represented here, including Mario, Donkey Kong, Zelda and Final Fantasy. You get a solid variety of genres too, from racing and action titles to RPGs and adventures. Only the puzzle category is completely unrepresented.

Each of these games is lovingly recreated, as you’d expect from any emulator. This includes all of the original settings, features and so on. And with the added bonus of the Classic Mini’s save states, you can capture your progress before those really tricky bits, to avoid replaying huge segments. It’s kind of like cheating, but screw it.

Most exciting of all is the inclusion of Starfox 2, a title which was never actually blessed with a global release. The reason for this was the proximity to the launch of Starfox 64, meaning the game was neatly tucked away into a closet at Nintendo HQ and forgotten about.

Until now. You can unlock Starfox 2 by completing the first stage in the original game, but is it actually any good?

Stay tuned for our in-depth Starfox 2 review to find out.

What works?

A great selection of classic games comes pre-installed on the SNES Classic Mini, including some of our all-time favourite titles and the never-before-seen Starfox 2.

What doesn’t?

It’s just a shame you can’t add new titles at a later date, especially as you don’t get any puzzle games. Plus, no Zombies Ate My Neighbours.

SNES Classic Mini Review: Unboxing, setup and hands-on video

Check out our full unboxing and hands-on review with the console in the video below.

SNES Classic Mini Review: Verdict

We quite enjoyed the Classic Mini version of the NES console, but this SNES model is the one we’ve really been waiting for. The titles on offer include some of our all-time favourites, back from the golden age of gaming, while issues such as the comical cable length have thankfully been re-examined.

The result is a lovable and highly portable emulation of a brilliant console, although we’d have still liked the option of adding more games.

You can pre-order the SNES Classic Mini right now.

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