Nintendo announces the Super NES Classic Edition

June 27th, 2017

Yesterday, Nintendo announced the Super NES Classic Edition, a miniature version of their popular 16-bit console with 21 built-in games, and the successor to last year’s popular NES Classic Edition.

Due to its overwhelming popularity, the NES Classic Edition was notoriously difficult to find when it was released last holiday season, and Nintendo infamously stopped producing them before they ever became widely available. Nintendo has promised to produce “significantly more units” this time around, though they’re being characteristically cagey about what exactly that means and whether they will continue to manufacture the SNES Classic past the end of the calendar year (the NES Classic stopped production the April following its release).

Super NES Classic Edition

For those who could get their hands on one, the NES classic lived up to the hype, though there were a few criticisms, chiefly the short length of the controller cables. The cables for the SNES Classic’s controllers will be two feet longer than those of its predecessor, which is a distinct improvement, though still on the short side. As with the NES Classic, I’m sure there will be many third-party solutions, including wireless controllers and extension cables. And unlike the NES Classic, the SNES Classic comes with two controllers packed in the box.

The NES Classic’s controllers were newly-manufactured replicas of the original NES controller, but they used a different connector—the same one used to connect accessories like the Nunchuck to the Wii Remote for their more recent Wii console. The Wii Classic Controller and Classic Controller Pro were even compatible with the NES Classic Edition. Interestingly, the SNES Classic is also “compatible with the Classic Controller and Classic Controller Pro accessories,” though images of the mini console itself show what look like the old SNES controller ports. It may be that those are just for show (like the cartridge slot, which is non-functional since the games are all built-in), and the controllers plug in elsewhere on the console, like on the back or side. On the NES Classic Edition, the new controller ports replaced the originals with the same physical placement on the miniaturized console.

The SNES Classic includes fewer games than the NES Classic did—21 instead of 30–but the actual lineup is absolutely stellar:

  • Contra III: The Alien Wars
  • Donkey Kong Country
  • Earthbound
  • Final Fantasy III
  • F-Zero
  • Kirby Super Star
  • Kirby’s Dream Course
  • The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past
  • Mega Man X
  • Secret of Mana
  • Star Fox
  • Star Fox 2
  • Street Fighter II Turbo
  • Super Castlevania IV
  • Super Ghouls ‘n Ghosts
  • Super Mario Kart
  • Super Mario RPG: Legend of the Seven Stars
  • Super Mario World
  • Super Metroid
  • Super Punch-Out!!
  • Yoshi’s Island

That’s 14 Nintendo games and seven third-party titles. There are four that I haven’t personally played (Final Fantasy III, Star Fox 2, and the Kirby games), but of the remaining 17, every one of them is very good, and I’d easily put eight to ten of them in the “all-time greats” category. The most notable title is Star Fox 2, which was famously shelved and never released. While an incomplete version of the game was leaked online years ago, it will make its official debut on the SNES Classic.

I’d like to share a few random observations about the game lineup, especially those that are part of a series:

Only the first of the three SNES Donkey Kong Country games is being included. That’s probably the right one to include if you’re only going to include one, but the omission of DKC2, regarged by many as superior to the original, is a real bummer. It would have been nice to have the whole 16-bit trilogy.

Earthbound is a personal favorite. It’s a quirky, humourous role-playing game set in the modern day but released at a time when RPGs were heavily associated with medieval-type settings. It’s the second game of a series known in Japan as Mother. Interestingly, the first Mother game, for the NES/Famicom, was completely translated into English and localized under the tile Earth Bound, but never released. That English translation leaked onto the Internet years ago, but it never saw an official release until Nintendo released it on the Wii U Virtual Console as Earthbound Beginnings. Given the inclusion of the previously-unreleased Star Fox 2 here, I’m not starting to wish that the NES Classic Edition had included Earthbound Beginnings. Oh, well—the SNES Earthbound is actually a much better game, anyway. One interesting thing to note is that the Virtual Console version of Earthbound had some of its flashy graphical effects toned down compared to the original—I wonder if that change will carry over to the SNES Classic version?

F-Zero is a fun game, and I’m glad it’s included (it was actually the first SNES game I owned, aside from the pack-in Super Mario World), but the lack of a two-player mode has always been a real shame. It’s a fast-paced, futuristic racing game, the perfect candidate for a head-to-head competetive mode (which was naturally included in the game’s sequels). It was an early SNES game, so I suspect that there may have been technical limitations that prevented it (or maybe they were just rushing to get it out at the console’s launch), but it’s going to stand out as one of the few things in the whole package that hasn’t aged well.

Megaman X is a pretty good choice to represent the Megaman franchise. I’d love for some of the other SNES Megaman games to have been included as well, but it’s a third-party title and Capcom has actually been actively mining the Megaman archives lately, with the SNES game Megaman 7 being reissued in the upcoming Megaman Legacy Collection 2 compilation. Megaman X was the first game of the “X” spinoff series. The first three games in that series were all released on the SNES, so X2 and X3 would have been welcome inclusions, but maybe the X series will get its own compilation on modern consoles if Legacy Collection 2 sells well (which I suspect it will). I can’t fault Capcom for keeping most of the titles in one of their most popular series in-house.

Secret of Mana is another good one, and one of the few games to take advantage of the two included controllers with a two-player simultanous mode. Actually, the original game supported up to three players using a multitap, a feature I presume will be lost in this version. Secret of Mana is actually the second in the long-running Seiken Densetsu series, the first of which appeared on the Game Boy and was released as Final Fantasy Adventure in the US. But the series’ third game was also for the SNES (actually the Super Famicom, its Japanese equivalent), and never saw an official English-language release. I suppose it would have been too much to hope for a new English translation, especially given the lack of a Western release for the Nintendo Switch’s Seiken Densetsu Collection, which includes all three games.

Secret of Mana artwork by Hiro Isono

There were five different incarnations of the seminal fighting game Street Fighter II released in arcades back in the day (plus more recent updates like Hyper Street Fighter II, Super Street Fighter II Turbo HD Remix, and the just-released Ultra Street Fighter II for the Switch). Three of those five (Street Fighter II, Street Fighter II Turbo, and Super Street Fighter II found their way on to the Super NES, and I think it’s interesting that the SNES Classic includes the second of those three. I don’t necessarily think that’s a bad choice, though I think it’s fair to say that Super Street Fighter II was an upgrade in most respects. The SNES ports were not arcade-perfect, but they were very good. Of course, today it’s trivial to emulate arcade games of this vintage more-or-less perfectly, so while Street Fighter II Turbo’s inclusion here is a fun throwback, the console port is obviously not the idea way for modern players to experience it. Also, I cannot imagine trying to play Street Fighter with a handheld controller, anyway. Actually, I can imagine it, because I played it that way back then, and it wasn’t very fun. Investing in a nice, solid arcade stick is critical for getting the most out of this sort of game. But obviously this was never going to be the ideal platform for die-hard fighting game fans, and Street Fighter II Turbo is still a good choice for it’s important place in SNES history

Yoshi’s Island is an important inclusion. Not only is the game itself an absolute masterpiece, the pinnacle of 2D platforming, this will be the first-ever reissue of the original version. The game was ported to the Game Boy Advance, but with a number of concessions to the less-powerful hardware, particularly the graphical effects which leveraged Nintendo’s “Super FX” chip in the original SNES version. It’s this inferior port that was the basis of subsequent re-releases on the 3DS and Wii U Virtual Consoles.

All in all, there’s little to complain about in this lineup of great, classic games. Of course there are going to be some omissions. Chrono Trigger in particular seems to be on everyone’s “they should have included…” list, and rightly so. But given the limitations Nintendo surely faced in licensing third-party games, you’d be hard pressed to come up with a better list of 21 games that could have been included.

Assuming you can get your hands on one, the SNES Classic Edition is something to look forward to. Nintendo is releasing it on September 29 for $79.99.

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