Let’s just get this out of the way. Not that it’s news, since I already revealed my age when I listed my favourite game for each year of my life, but I was born in ’94, which makes me pretty much just plain too young to have experienced the culture of the SNES at the time. My childhood games were on the PlayStation and Game Boy Colour, and it wasn’t until years later that I became really aware of the contribution that the SNES made to gaming. I mean, I played Final Fantasy VII and was aware that there must have been a Final Fantasy VI, but I never had a computer (or, really the knowledge) to emulate its games until more recently. Over time, as someone who got immersed in gaming culture, it was impossible for me not to be at least tangentially aware that there were a lot of games on this, perhaps Nintendo’s most popular console, but I didn’t really know what there was, or which ones be worth seeking out.
The SNES Classic Mini, obviously, changed all that. Now I’ve got a tiny little box with over 20 games considered some of the greatest of all time: the aforementioned FFVI, Super Mario World, Super Metroid, Yoshi’s Island, Street Fighter II Turbo, Mega Man X… there are a lot, put it that way. And they are all games I’ve never actually played, at least not all the way through. Which is… kind of ludicrous, considering how much of my life I’ve spent playing games, and how many of those games were inspired in some way by the SNES era. Weirdly, the only SNES game I have completed isn’t on there, which I’m still kind of surprised by: Chrono Trigger deserves a place on the console, I’d have thought, but there are already a couple of lengthy RPGs filling that niche, so I can see why they’d go for variety. I’ve had a fair bit of a go at a few of them now, so let’s start taking a look at my experiences with the SNES Classic Mini! This may well become a series with a couple of instalments as I play through more games, and hopefully even get to completing some of them, but here’s what I’ve got so far!
The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past
GOSH DANG, SON. I was vaguely aware that ALttP is considered perhaps the best Zelda game of all time – perhaps even the best game of all time, full stop – but I don’t know that I could have expected how great I was going to feel about this game. My favourite Zeldas to date have been Majora’s Mask, Twilight Princess and The Wind Waker, but ALttP is just such a brilliant experience. It’s obviously retro at this point, but it feels accessible and even with only a second-hand knowledge of the landscape at the time (that is, I know about the gaming context that came before from having read about it, but I wasn’t there for it) I can see how it really did break new ground. It’s not without its confusing points, and I’m certainly coming to realise that my identity as a gamer has been defined by growing up with games that have accessible tutorials and walkthroughs readily available; I don’t mind having to experiment, I’m just not used to it.
The music’s also great, and it does a lot with the pixels it’s got to create a pretty neat art style. That’s kind of a theme with the games on this console, actually, in that none of them had much to work with visually but they all still managed to create effective visuals that have a lot of personality.
I’ve just beaten Agahnim and made it to the Dark World section, so I figure I’m probably a bit under halfway through the game. Watch this space.
Super Mario World
This one I’m doing two-player with my other half, who’s always played Mario games with me (usually on the Wii, though, so this is a bit different from previous experiences). It’s another fun game, and there’s a lot to really like about it: smart, cohesive level design, catchy-as-heck tunes, and localisation that’s somewhere between good enough to communicate the plot, such as it is, and bad enough to be kinda funny. (There’s a sweet little message after each castle about how another Yoshi is saved and the Koopaling boss is now vanquished, while Mario bombs their tower to the ground.) We’ve made heavy use of the SNES Classic’s nifty savestate feature, something that the original console didn’t have and something I guess the retro-rerelease has probably borrowed from emulation. For those not in the know, most games have some sort of save system built in, but emulators – digitally recreating a console within a computer so you can play games without having the original console – commonly also allow you to save at any time you like, even if the game doesn’t let you just save and reload whenever. It’s a useful way of effectively being able to return to the last point before you made a mistake, rinse and repeat, and it is probably cheating by some definitions, but it’s come in really handy for SMW. See, this is not an easy game for us, and if we weren’t able to save our progress each time we cleared a level, we’d get sent back several levels pretty regularly; when you get a game over, you’re sent back to the last ‘proper’ save point, which can be a few levels prior.
Anyway, we’re now about five worlds in, and I’d recommend Super Mario World to anyone who’s played a Mario game and enjoyed it. This is a good ‘un.
Okay, before I go any further with this, you have to go and watch this video of speedrunner zallard1 at ADGQ, playing both Super Punch-Out and its predecessor, Mike Tyson’s Punch-Out, at the same time on one controller sharing inputs. And beating them both in under half an hour. It’s just ridiculous.
Anyway, Super Punch-Out is one of those classic, arcade-style games that’s really rather difficult. It’s totally fair, which if anything makes it even more frustrating! Oddly, the thing it reminded me of the most is probably Dark Souls: the real skill in it is about learning each opponent’s patterns, when to dodge, when to exploit openings and when to just punch like heck. I can beat the Minor Circuit pretty consistently without taking a loss now (except when I mess up the timing on Bald Bull’s instakill charging punch), but I’ve stalled on Mr. Sandman, the final match of the Major Circuit. I’ll get him soon!
I have to say, although most fights have me gasping in frustration at my own incompetence, it is really satisfying when you get one of those sweet fights where it feels like you’re untouchable, and every one of your shot lands. The gameplay’s weighty and solid, with your actions feeling meaningful, and your opponents’ sprites are absolutely beautifully realised (the animations when they get hit are often hilarious).
Three games seems like a decent start, and these are the three I’ve played the most of, so that’s Part I! We’ll come back soon and find out what progress I’ve made, as well as which other games I’ve been having a great time with. Let me know which ones I should play next, and which are to be avoided!