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Hands on: SNES Classic Mini review

August 22, 2017 10:05 AM
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Hands on: SNES Classic Mini review

The next step in Nintendo’s history tour

Have any questions about the new console? We'll be hosting a live Q&A later today, so come along if you'd like to ask us about the SNES Classic Mini, or just discuss your favorite games.

The NES Mini was one of 2016’s most pleasant surprises. The miniature console, which contained 30 games from Nintendo’s first console, quickly sold out worldwide before eventually being discontinued by Nintendo well before its prime.

The SNES Mini (or, to use its full name, the Super Nintendo Entertainment System: Nintendo Classic Mini) is, on the face of it, an almost identical product to its predecessor, save for the fact that it’s based on the SNES rather than the NES.

But the truth is that Nintendo has made subtle refinements to improve on what made the NES Mini such a great little machine. The interface sees the addition of a rewind function in addition to the previous machine’s save states, and the controller cables are now significantly longer, meaning you don’t need to keep the machine on a coffee table almost under your nose.

These improvements come with a small price rise over the new console's predecessor. The SNES Mini will retail for $80 (£79.99/ AU$ 119.95) when it launches on September 29, 2017.

Read on for our first impressions of the new console, and be sure to check back for our full review when we’ve had a chance to really put it through its paces.

The look of your SNES Classic will vary depending on whether you’re in the US or the UK/Australia. Ours is the latter version, which means it features a mostly grey design with a controller sporting red, yellow, blue and green face buttons.

We’re not going to wade into the 20-year argument about which version of the console is the better looking one, but suffice to say the UK/Australia version looks better, and anyone who thinks otherwise is just plain wrong. Sorry*.

The console itself is very similar in design to the NES Mini. The box itself is light, but four foot pads mean it doesn’t slip around, and feels nice and solid when placed in front of your TV.

On the top of the machine are the same power and reset buttons found on the NES Mini. The power control is a sliding switch this time around, and there’s also a fake button labelled ‘Eject’. Unsurprisingly, considering the console’s lack of cartridges, it doesn’t do much.

So far, so NES Mini, which is to say it’s a machine designed with all the love and respect in the world for its source material.

Round the front of the machine, however, things take a turn for the worse, with a fake pair of controller ports which need to be removed to reveal the real deal behind them.

It’s a minor point, sure, but having this fake front means the console looks a little disheveled when you’re using it – it's awkwardly pulled down by the controller lead, and the whole console just doesn’t look as well put together as its older brother.

Thankfully, with the controller, Nintendo appears to have made the single biggest improvement over the NES Mini.

When the first retro console came out in 2016 it was universally criticized for having a ridiculously short controller cable that was just 30 inches long.

Thankfully the length of the cable on the SNES Mini controller has been upped to a much more respectable 56 inches. In our home it’s still not quite long enough to reach all the way to our couch, but it’s much better than having to hover right in front of the television.

The controller itself feels great, and has that Nintendo quality that’s always missing from third-party gamepads.

Thanks to its connector, you should also be able to plug it into a WiiMote and use it to play SNES games on the Wii or Wii U’s virtual console, should you want to play any games that aren’t included on the SNES Mini itself.

Boot up the SNES Mini and you’re greeted with the same fantastic retro-styled user interface as the NES Mini.

Scrolling left and right allows you to choose from your list of games, which can be sorted by name, number of players, how recently they were played, release date, or publisher.

Booting into each game reveals Nintendo’s same perfect emulation of its classic games. By default the games are emulated with a slight smoothing filter applied, to take the rough edges off the pixels that would have been smoothed out by CRT televisions of old, but you can also run them with ‘pixel perfect’ emulation if you choose, or else apply a slightly heavy-handed CRT filter for some real scanline goodness.

Although playing these games with the SNES Mini’s controller feels like as authentic an experience as you’re likely to get, as with the NES Mini, Nintendo has allowed for a couple of modern conveniences.

Making a return are save states, which you’re prompted to use whenever you jump out of a game (a process that still, annoyingly, requires you to press the Reset button on the console itself). You can save up to four states, which should be more than enough for most people.

New to the SNES Mini, however, is the ability to rewind save states by up to 45 seconds. You do this by selecting a save state and hitting the 'X' button, and you can then scroll back through your gameplay to pick a moment to retake control. Potentially this will end up making games much easier to complete (since you’ll effectively be able to 'undo' every death), but if it allows a new generation to enjoy the SNES’s library then we’re all for it.

With a library of just 20 games Nintendo is inevitably going to leave a few people disappointed (cough, Chrono Trigger fans, cough), but for our money we think the SNES Mini does a good job of covering the breadth of titles released for the console.

You’ll have to wait for our full review for a complete rundown of the console’s games, but going by what we’ve played the list is promising, covering most of the classics that went on to become Nintendo’s biggest franchises.

You’ve got console pack-in Super Mario World, The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past, the original kart racer Mario Kart, and Super Punch-Out!

Then there’s the game commonly thought of as being the best 2D RPG of all time, Final Fantasy III (known as Final Fantasy VI in Japan), Super Metroid, and classic fighter Street Fighter II Turbo: Hyper Fighting.

Almost every single one of these games is a classic that in its own way went on to define the modern gaming landscape.

Of course, the single most notable game included on the console is Star Fox 2, a game that until now has never actually been released. It was originally in development in the 1990s as a sequel to the original game, but it was cancelled close to release due to Nintendo shifting its focus towards the Nintendo 64 console.

Regardless of how well the game holds up, its inclusion is a big win for gaming history fans, who’ll get to experience this relic for the first time.

With an impressive library of games that covers all of the console’s classics, and two controllers included as standard (with lengthier leads to boot), the SNES Mini looks like it has the potential to be every bit the fantastic nostalgia trip the NES Mini was last year.

We’ll have to dive deeper into each of the console’s games to deliver a comprehensive verdict on how well the emulation has been handled, but first impressions suggest they’ve been handled well, and are augmented with enough modern conveniences that most people should be able to get through them.

Stay tuned to TechRadar for our full review once we’ve spent some more time with the console.


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