Sneaky Nintendo. Launched on the Wii U eShop without warning, NES Remix is a retro gamer’s dream, but a handful of titles tarnish that nostalgic feeling.
At first glance, NES Remix might seem like a collection of NES games, but in truth it’s more like a combination of WarioWare and Retro Game Challenge — there are no fully playable games here. 16 classic Nintendo games act as source material for the game’s 204 carefully constructed challenges. From iconic titles like Donkey Kong, The Legend of Zelda, Super Mario Bros., and Mario Bros. Arcade, to generic Golf and Pinball, and lesser-known titles like Clu Clu Land and Wrecking Crew, you’ll complete bite-size objectives based around searching for a secret entrance in the Legend of Zelda on a timer, defeating Bowser with only fireballs in Super Mario Bros., or complete a track in Excitebike. All of these actions make sense in their original format, but Remix introduces a few new elements that livens things up.
The best of these challenges are “remixes” based on altered and mash-up versions of classic games. Slippery ice conditions are added to Super Mario Bros.; a vertically challenged Link replaces Jumpman in Donkey Kong; and you’ll race in the dark with only a small portion of the ground visible in Excitebike. But all the mixing can’t make titles likes Ice Climbers or Clu Clu Land tolerable to play. I’ve never played either before, and honestly, if I didn’t need to collect all the stars to unlock bonus stages, I would’ve avoided playing these games all together. The same can be said for Golf and Pinball.
Remix’s “micro game” presentation encourages you to improve, with instant restarts, infinite continues and on-screen guides. Levels range from a few seconds to a full minute or more, so they’re not all micro games per se. Each is outfitted with an Angry Bird style three-star rating (with a soft rainbow “four star”) to encourage you to improve your score. Completing challenges for a certain game will unlock a further level, with the difficultly ramping up as you progress. The game will most likely take you 10 hours or more to fully complete, and if you’re like me, you’ll want to collect every star available just for bragging rights and to appease the inner-completionist.
In a startling oversight, Remix features no multiplayer or leaderboards. While passing the GamePad back and forth allows you to place the blame on a friend during some of the multi-tired levels, a competitive mode would have been a natural fit. Plus, it would’ve been nice to see some of the best times other players around the world obtained on a particular challenge. That said, the ability to share tips, drawings, and comments on each challenge is included – and augmented by a selection of awesome, unlockable stamps inspired by 8-bit sprites.
NES Remix is a frenzied, chaotic, and fun retro experience. At it’s best, it’s a clever and challenging way to replay the classics without just retreading old grounds, but a rather steep $15 price tag for a handful of micro segmented retro titles is a bit steep – especially when only a handful are worth playing. The possibilities for future Remix entries are vast and hopefully developers like Sega and Capcom will be inspired to do the same for some of their classics.