Nintendo’s Super NES Classic Edition Is Nostalgia, Revisited

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Here’s a taste of what Caroline and I experienced playing the Super NES Classic Edition.

Installing the System

The console is easy to set up: Just plug it into a TV via the included HDMI cable.

After that, I had a blast exploring the dungeons of Hyrule in “The Legend of Zelda” and tossing TNT barrels in “Donkey Kong Country.” In fact, I played so long, a creeping ache lead to worries about the onset of the dreaded “Nintendo thumb.”

But as fun as the retro games are, Nintendo did little to update the gameplay for modern audiences. The Super NES Classic has no internet connection, so there is no way to compete online with friends. (The console does come with a pair of controllers, allowing for two-player mode at home.)

And in a time of wireless technology that allows controllers to be used in any spot in a room, the Super NES Classic controllers are wired and plug into the console, which limits a player’s mobility and leaves a mess of cables draped over the floor. The cables are longer than those of the NES Classic, but they are still only about five feet long. I had to place the console on a chair in the middle of the room to play from the comfort of my couch.

Another limitation: The Super NES Classic has no slot for game cartridges, so if you hung on to your old Super NES games in the hopes of using them again, you are out of luck. They will not work on this system.

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Nintendo does offer games from past consoles for download for the Wii U through its Virtual Console service and, starting Wednesday, arcade games for the Switch through its Arcade Archives service.

Standout Features

But the Super NES Classic does have a few new and nifty features.

One is called Rewind, which lets players back up a minute or so in a game to restart difficult challenges. And each game has four “suspend” points, allowing players to save a game midlevel — unlike in the original system, which forced you to rush to finish a level because your mother was calling you to dinner.

A feature called Frame also allows players to pick a border around games to fit today’s wider-screen TVs. The console also offers three display choices: the original 4:3 aspect ratio of the games, a CRT filter that replicates the same blurry look of cathode-ray tube TVs, and a Pixel Perfect mode that makes the games look crisp and clean.

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Caroline’s Experience

It’s hard to imagine that today’s youth would want to play 16-bit games on an outmoded system when they are accustomed to ergonomic controllers, powerful processors, surround-sound audio and high-definition screens. And the simple, side-scrolling gameplay of the past is no match for the interactive worlds created by augmented and virtual reality games.

So the real draw of the Super NES Classic is nostalgia. That’s a theory I tested with Caroline.

Over the hour we played with the console together, she was drawn to the characters she recognized (Mario, yes; Samus Aran of “Super Metroid,” not so much). She wanted to play “Super Mario World,” which she loved once she learned how to make Mario ride Yoshi.

But for a child used to touch controls on mobile devices, other games were harder. Maneuvering Luigi around the track in “Super Mario Kart” proved to be too difficult, and she put the controller down after the first race and switched back to “Minecraft” on her Kindle.

“I couldn’t see what I was doing,” she said of the fast and furious racing game. “Minecraft is simpler.”

Bottom Line

The target for the Super NES Classic Edition is adults who grew up with the original console, which is still a big audience. Learning a lesson after many outraged fans who sought the NES Classic last year were left empty-handed, Nintendo said it would increase inventory of the Super NES Classic this year. It also said that the NES Classic would return to retail shelves next year.

The games of the Super NES Classic still stand the test of time as some of Nintendo’s finest. But they feel trapped in the amber of an outdated console.

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