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Super NES: Nintendo Classic Mini Edition Hardware Review

Hugely popular with gamers in its time, the Super NES Classic Mini Edition is a boxed gem for retro enthusiasts. Featuring 21 games in one console, the hardware is easily portable and is great for cooperative play. Yet while you can take a game out of the ’90s, you can’t expect to harbour that same loving patience you did as a kid. From framerate dips and nightmare-inducing visuals to clunky effects, the Super NES Classic will test your mettle. But it’s still damn good.        

Serving as an introduction to early ’90s pixel platforming for Generation Z and a welcome blast from the past for others, the Super NES (SNES) Classic Mini Edition comes with 21 games, including the unreleased Star Fox 2. With a nice variety between first and third party titles, there’s a game that will play to almost everybody’s strength. From action shooters and racing to RPG and platformer, the Super NES Mini can guarantee a household many hours of retro fun.

Detailed in our preview, the Super NES Mini comes packed with two 5ft wired controllers, a HDMI and USB cable and an AC Adapter, if you live in the US. Depending on where you’re located, the Super NES Mini will mimic the appearance of the original localised edition; the classic grey and RBYG button colours for Europe and the classic grey and purple design for the US. The artificial cartridge slot and eject button is delightful, reminding you of the days when blowing dust from the cartridge slots was real magic, Clarissa really did explain it all, aliens never stuck to ceilings and your Tamagotchi’s next feed was more important than school.

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Switching back to the present and the Super NES Mini has some swanky new features. Choose from three different display settings; CRT Filter, 4:3 and Pixel Perfect, as well as add one of 12 different coloured frames to feature on the TV while playing a game. While in the Options menu, you’ll find two demo choices – My Game Play and Classic – and a screen burn-in reduction feature which can be toggled on or off. Opting for the My Game Play demo will act as a screensaver for the Super NES Mini and play between 40 seconds to a couple of minutes of your last few attempts on any of the 21 games. 16-bit Mario and Luigi also make an appearance, choosing the demos for you. A neat Nintendo-like feature that makes all the difference to the static home menu screen.

Those familiar with the NES Mini Classic Edition or the Virtual Console will be pleased to hear that save states are back. Players will get four save files for each title on the system, with the ability to lock, unlock and delete save files too. But arguably the best feature on the Super NES Mini is the ability to unwind platform titles such as Super Mario World, Mega Man X and Super Ghouls ‘N Ghosts by up to 45 seconds and RPG titles like Final Fantasy III and Earthbound by up to a few minutes. Watch your entire play-through or skip to the moment you made that fatal error and jump back into the game seconds before you make the move. While the feature is superb for major errors, it’s still quite time consuming. You’ll have to reset the system, create a suspension point and resume play before you can forget your blunder ever happened. Rewinding in-game would make life that much sweeter.

Within the home menu, players can push the select button to sort games alphabetically, by cooperative play, recently played, times played and by release date or publisher. While it’s nice to have choice, filtering through the games is no hardship. And, according to Nintendo, you can also access all the original manuals for the 21 games in their digitised formats too. Unfortunately we can’t access it yet, but it’s another cool feature nevertheless.

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Running at 60Hz and using the North American software for all titles, the Super NES Mini performs at varying degrees of playability. After sampling each one of the games on the system, there’s a general consensus that the faster-paced titles such as F-Zero, Super Mario Kart, Star Fox and Star Fox 2 all suffer from visual bouts of inaccuracy. From the nightmarish colour scheme of F-Zero, that designers would recoil at the sight of, to the poor target aiming and pixel blocks of doom in Star Fox, their enjoyment is sullied by their aesthetics. They aren’t unplayable by any means, but a 40-inch TV (despite being reduced to a better display ratio) makes mincemeat out of them.

Fortunately, there are games that have aged incredibly well. Super Mario World, Super Mario World 2: Yoshi’s Island, The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past, Kirby’s Dream Course and Mega Man X are amongst the most beautiful 16-bit games to grace the Super NES Mini. Save from a few framerate dips when swarms of enemies are on the screen in Mega Man X and hidden areas are revealed in Yoshi’s Island, each of the aforementioned games play superbly. With responsive controls and the ability to clearly see the advancement of enemies on screen, they are beautifully crisp and smooth to the touch, never requiring a heavy hand. Even Street Fighter II looks and feels great in cooperative play, especially in comparison to Super Punch-Out!! which leaves very little to be desired.

With so many games to play, there is one which may just seal the deal for many fans and collectors. Star Fox 2 requires level one clearance from Star Fox in order to unlock. But once unlocked, the arcade-style mission shooter feels at home on the Super NES Mini. With six playable characters from the usual crew, you’ll be able to choose two pilots to defend Corneria and destroy missiles and enemy planets in the Lylat system.

It’s a small map, but one that you can feed many hours into, depending on how long you’re able to survive. It is, however, quite repetitive, with missions to shoot enemies first and ask questions later at the forefront. Although steering your aircraft feels horribly slow, it’s still satisfying to infiltrate the enemy base, collect secret medals and fend off space-age bosses. The arcade format, pick up and play style, works well for Star Fox 2 on the Super NES Mini, with much more comfort and control than its predecessor.

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As a cooperative system, the Super NES Mini is a real gem to play. Highlights include Kirby’s Dream Course to perfect your golf-like skills, Street Fighter II Turbo: Hyper Fighting for one-on-one action and Secret of Mana for fantasy adventure. But it’s a real shame that the Super NES Mini didn’t include an additional port for a third wired controller for three players in Secret of Mana. You wouldn’t make a pizza without the cheese and tomato, so why miss out the core ingredients to a wholesome Secret of Mana play-through? A missed opportunity, for sure.

The Super NES Mini, as to be expected, has its ups and downs. With its delightful appearance and menu design, the hardware comes out on top form. But the software takes a slight beating and can’t be fixed with rose-tinted glasses or the Clarendon Instagram filter. There’s no doubt about it though, the SNES still houses some of the best Nintendo games made, making for a solid purchase.


Disclaimer: A Super NES: Nintendo Classic Mini (PAL) Edition was sent to us before general release for preview and review purposes. 

26 thoughts on “Super NES: Nintendo Classic Mini Edition Hardware Review”

  1. Thank you for the informative review! I can’t wait to get it on Friday. I know they probably wanted to keep the controller as accurate as possible but I feel like a small button on the shoulder between ‘L’ and the cord would’ve been best for rewinding. “Even Street Fighter II looks and feels great in cooperative play, especially in comparison to Super Punch-Out!! which leaves very little to be desired.” I think that should be “a lot to be desired” if it’s a criticism.

    1. Thank you for reading. :) It’s actually an idiom that can used either way. I think British English speakers use it the way I have, while American English speakers use it the way you have. So both are correct. :)

        1. Perhaps I got it wrong then. :) Sorry! I’m on vacation in Canada and under strict instruction (from myself) not to work. I always thought “leaving very little to be desired” was a criticism, as in you can see all its flaws, whistles and bells etc, and it doesn’t look good. If it looks desirable, then it looks great. Hope that helps make sense of my thinking process and doesn’t have a detrimental impact on the review.

          1. Perhaps the term you were thinking of was ‘leaves much to be desired’. Thus “leaving very little to be desired” would suggest the subject matter has mostly met a satisfactory criteria and the user was not left wanting or desiring for much else.

            But then again, I can also see “leaving very little to be desired” as being a negative criticism, to mean ‘lacking the desired criteria’ or ‘lacking in desirable incentives’.

            Also, “whistles and bells” or ‘bells and whistles’ is generally a positive term, albeit depending on what those extras might be and how the viewer sees them.

            Anyway, if all this sounded like I was lecturing, then I apologize.

      1. I think you have muddled the phrase as I am English and have never heard it said that way before but it doesn’t really matter

  2. Considering that Super Mario RPG and Final Fantasy III (VI) are my top two RPGs, and Super Metroid one of my top games ever, I’m going to be really satisfied. Provided I get one of course.

  3. Eeyy!! You’re back! ,
    I said it before and I’ll say it again: Framedrops. Are. The. Worst! But it’s good to hear you liked it so much :) Secret of Mana 3-player would be “rå fett”! I think I forgot to feed my Tamagochi 19 years ago! I hope it isn’t too late!
    Excellent review as always, C. You haven’t lost you edge even though you’ve been on vacation ;P

      1. Aahh, sorry. My mistake. Don’t work too hard now! Take your time and relax :) But we appreciate your hard efforts and magnificent writings, and that you do sacrifice your precious time on a well deserved vacation. That’s why you’re my #1 reviewer; because you give it your all! You’re the best ^^

  4. I wish this had Mega Man VII instead of X. I was never a fan of the X series. I also would have preferred Chrono Trigger over Secret Of Mana. And I care nothing about F-Zero. But just the fact that it has Zelda: A Link To The Past, Star Fox 2, Super Mario RPG, Earthbound and several other great games make this a must have. Even for those who already own the originals.

    1. Star Fox 2 isn’t that great honestly. And IMO the early Mega Man X series was the peak of the Mega Man franchise. It’s when they started all the 3d shit and changed the tried and true formula is when the series went off rails.

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  6. “I always thought “leaving very little to be desired” was a criticism”
    HEY COLETTE, I always thought this meant the same thing as YOU thought it meant. And I’m American. Saying that something has “very little to be desired” means that there’s not much about it that’s any good. So I agree with you.

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