The SNES Classic is a lot of fun

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Sorry for the delay in getting this written and posted. BestBuy successfully had my SNES Classic in my mailbox on the morning of launch day. The crew of usual suspects came over Friday night and most of Saturday and we put the SNES Classic through its paces. We all grew up with the Super Nintendo and still break it out to this day for the occasional weekend BBQ and New Years marathon. Everyone came away pleased and impressed with the package Nintendo has put together.

I’ll prefix this by saying I’m generally a “real hardware” snob. I like tinkering with hardware and typically nitpick the authenticity of emulation. My usual SNES setup is an RGB-modded Super Famicom Jr plugged into an XRGB-Mini with the official Nintendo RGB cable. This coupled with an SD2SNES (for patches) delivers a lot of very authentic HD entertainment provided the TV is low enough latency. It’s a lot of gear to carry around and setup. The SNES Classic is definitely not 100% authentic. There are times it lags when original hardware didn’t, times original hardware lags when the SNES Classic doesn’t, and in general it lags “differently”. I also saw what I’m fairly sure was frame skipping ta couple times in some games, but others are perfectly fluid. It’s no bsnes/higan but generally speaking it’s more than good enough. Latency and input lag are better than emulation on similarly powerful hardware, Nintendo has done a great job here (similarly with the NES Classic). As with all these solutions, you need an HDTV with very low latency or some of these games will be frustration. Sub 35ms end to end is a must, sub 20 is better. The SNES Classic is easy to carry around, it’s plug and play. Games are ready and waiting for you with save states. The interface is fun and snappy. It’s a lot of fun and honestly it’s good enough accuracy.

With that out of the way it’s not like the SNES Classic brings anything new to the table. A pile of cartridges, a copier full of ROMs or a Pi loaded with an emulator and the full SNES collection all provide the same game library. Part of the magic of the SNES Classic is that it’s (generally) a very high quality curated library of games, really only missing a few of the top tier must play titles on the SNES. It’s enough that there is something for everyone without overchoice and they’re all fairly solid. A few titles like Ghouls and Ghosts and Contra haven’t aged perfectly. Younger gamers (and older gamers with crappy reflexes like me) may find them a bit frustrating today. There are manual scans in the menus, including the awesome EarthBound players guide. The menu and overall presentation of the whole experience is very streamlined and it works fantastic for social gaming. Even with an existing large SNES library and great way to play the games, we still enjoyed rediscovering them with the SNES Classic. It’s a fresh and fun experience and will likely power game night for several weekeneds to come.

Final Fantasy III (6), Zelda, Super Mario RPG and Earthbound all have a lot of single-player (or group play) meat. Ditto for Castlevania and Metroid. Excellent choices for playing alone or swapping the controller through a large group of people. Reading online I know that everyone would have liked to see Chrono Trigger but I suspect licensing would have been a bit trickier. (Frankly I’m surprised by Final Fantasy being there already) I might have liked to see another couple genuine two-player games. Street Fighter and Mario Kart are excellent for quick sessions and Secret of Mana works really well for longer plays, but another couple would have been fun. Most of our time was split between 2-player Secret of Mana, Street Fighter, Mario Kart and a pass-the-controller playthrough of EarthBound. Genuinely a lot of fun.

As with the NES Classic, the official controllers are good but suffer from short cables. Extensions are available. We bought a pair of HORI wireless Fighting Commanders. One of which was DOA and wouldn’t pair up, had to swap it immediately. With two working HORI controllers things worked ok. They did have a bit of input lag, and occasionally would actually ignore input entirely. We tried swapping batteries but it was probably an issue with 2.4ghz interference. A bit of a bummer as otherwise they were very comfortable for longer sessions due to contours not present on real SNES controllers. They’re probably the only real let down with the whole setup, which is definitely a worse experience than I’m used to with HORI products. A reset button on the joysticks would have been really nice too.

I can’t talk about the SNES Classic without talking about supply problems. They will be sold out for quite some time. Supply is nowhere near as bad as the NES Classic though. Stores had a lot on launch day and Nintendo seems to promise restocks. Unfortunately restocks seem to be unpredictable and finding them online is tough as people bot and squat inventory to scalp for the holidays. Good luck to anyone trying to get one. They’ll be a lot of fun at a holiday party, and great gifts for anyone who spent their childhood/teen years with the SNES.

SNES Classic