For many people, ensuring that a SNES Mini - or Nintendo Classic Mini: Super Nintendo Entertainment System, to give the pint-sized console its ten-gallon title - ended up in their possession on launch day no doubt involved a considerable amount of time and effort, despite Nintendo’s promise that it would be shipped in far greater numbers than its predecessor, the NES Mini.
The SNES Mini is undeniably a cool piece of kit, perfectly scaling down its source material into a console that fits right in the palm of your hand.
Instead of restarting the console, hitting the reset button on the Mini allows you to save the game you’re currently playing at any point. It’s hardly ground-breaking stuff in this day and age, but incredibly useful when playing older games that lacked this type of feature. There’s even the ability to rewind a few seconds and undo your mistakes, a very welcome addition considering the challenging, life-limited nature of early ‘90s gaming.
We were also pleased to find that the classic design of the gamepad has stood the test of time, and is incredibly comfortable to hold and use; plus, there’s two included in the box, so you’re couch co-op ready from the start. These aren’t plugged into the original ports anymore, with the two new connectors hidden behind a plastic cover, but, much like on the 2DS XL, Nintendo have disappointingly gone with a cheap flexi-plastic instead of a proper hinge.
Around the back there are micro-USB and HDMI ports - in other words, everything you need to connect the console to a modern television. For some reason however, Nintendo only provide a USB power cable, not the actual plug adaptor; if your TV has a spare USB port, or there’s one on a nearby device, you’re all set, but otherwise you might face an additional small expense in getting up and running.
As for the games on offer, the mileage you get out of them really depends on their ability to tickle your nostalgia gland. For us, it’s easy to forgive the rough edges and simple gameplay mechanics of titles like Super Mario Kart and Donkey Kong Country when their menu music alone is enough to bring some of our happiest memories flooding back, but, on the flip-side, games such as Earthbound and Secret of Mana – two titles held in high regard by many – felt extremely underwhelming simply because they played no part in our formative gaming years.
Including everyone’s favourites was always going to be a difficult, if not impossible, task (we’re particularly sad not to see Turtles in Time, Super Bomberman or Super Smash TV included), but there’s undoubtedly enough variety here that you should be able to find something to keep you entertained. If you’re looking for recommendations, the excellent Star Fox (or Star Wing, to us Europeans) and The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past are two titles as enjoyable today as they were when they released so many years ago.
There are, of course, other ways to access these retro games. Emulators have been knocking about for years, allowing people to download and play thousands of classic titles across a variety of platforms for free, as opposed to the comparatively paltry 21 found on the paid SNES Mini. While this might sound damning, sheer novelty value, plug-and-play simplicity, the convenient rewind function and original controllers make the Mini a much more appealing way to play. Throw in classically Nintendo presentation, like the colourful home screen and its catchy, retro-styled background music, and the two experiences simply don’t compare.
Even the issue of playing in a 4:3 aspect ratio on modern, larger screens has been handled quite eloquently, with a range of coloured borders provided to brighten up the negative space, some of which merge surprisingly well with gameplay, especially in Star Fox 2 - a game that previously hadn’t seen release, so expect more from us on that front.
While it would have been nice to see more proper two-player games on offer, and not just the ‘take it in turns’ method used in Super Mario World, the SNES Mini is incredibly easy to recommend. Whether you’re a collector, an old-school gamer looking for a nostalgia trip, or a newbie looking to experience a portion of gaming history for the first time, if you can avoid the scalpers and pick one up for its RRP (£79.99), you’re getting a great little machine that lets you play some of Nintendo’s best titles easily and efficiently.