Wednesday, July 12, 2017

SNES Classic Edition

Nintendo has finally announced the long rumored SNES Classic Edition.
When Nintendo released the NES Classic Edition back in November 2016, people immediately began speculating about a SNES Classic Edition. Despite the good and bad about the NES Classic Edition, it only made sense. So many fans want an official way to play old SNES games, and this seems to be the solution. After just a few months, Nintendo has confirmed that the SNES will be revived in the form of the SNES Classic Edition.

The Good

In many ways, Nintendo seems to have learned from the mistakes they made with the NES Classic Edition.
First and foremost, Nintendo has elected to include a second controller with the SNES Classic Edition. One of the biggest appeals of video games in the NES and SNES eras were the local multiplayer. People didn’t play at their respective homes, connected via the internet. They went to each other’s houses, and they played on the same console and screen. When the NES Classic Edition didn’t ship with a second controller, people were baffled. Sure, these games do stand alone just fine, but most people were probably more excited about playing together than they were and playing independently. The SNES Classic Edition seems to have fixed this issue, and will allow people to play games together from the get-go.
Another great move with the SNES Classic Edition is the inclusion of Star Fox 2. The first Star Fox game is widely considered a classic, and the fact that people can play the sequel that was never released is amazing. For the most die-hard Star Fox fans, this probably justifies the $80 sticker price alone. For others who were already planning on purchasing the SNES Classic Edition, it seals the deal even further. In my mind, this is probably the best idea that Nintendo has had in a very long time.
Beyond the second controller and Star Fox 2, the SNES Classic Edition does feature some really good games. The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past is one of my personal favorites, and I’m so glad to see it in the list of games. Super Metroid is where the Metroid series really hit its stride, and is just an amazing exploration game. All of the Super Mario games on the SNES are included. The JRPG fans should be pleased with EarthBound, Final Fantasy III, and Super Mario RPG. Most genres have at least a game or two on the SNES Classic Edition, so fans of any style of game should have something they enjoy available.
Though we won’t know until the SNES Classic Edition is released, I do hope that Nintendo addresses the issues around release and marketing of the NES Classic Edition. For one, supply should be made to keep up with demand. With the insane scalping prices that people were selling the NES Classic Edition for, Nintendo could’ve made a ton more money by producing enough systems to stock shelves. Plus, they discontinued the NES Classic Edition not even a year after it was released. Give people enough time to discover and purchase the SNES Classic Edition, maybe discontinuing it after sales have declined to a certain level. If Nintendo fixes these issues, I think the SNES Classic Edition will perform significantly better than its predecessor.

The Bad

Much like the the NES Classic Edition, probably the biggest problem with the SNES Classic Edition is the deficit of games. Don’t get me wrong, there are some really good ones on there. However, the issue, more than what it does have, is what it doesn’t have.
If you look at SNES games ordered by most downloaded on a popular ROM site, one would expect the most popular games to be included on the SNES Classic Edition. The number one most downloaded SNES game is Chrono Trigger, a great JRPG, and it is… not on the SNES Classic. Right. Well Final Fantasy III is next, another fantastic game from the same genre, and it is fortunately present.
After Final Fantasy III, the list falls apart. TMNT IV: Turtles in Time, probably my favorite brawler game, isn’t available. Killer Instinct, as well as all of the Mortal Kombat games that were on SNES, are all missing. Aladdin, one of the only video games based on a movie that had any sort of success, has been left off. Doom and Super Bomberman are also excluded. Final Fantasy III and Secret of Mana are literally the only 2 of the top 15 most downloaded games that are on the SNES Classic Edition out of the box. That seems like a massive oversight to me.
I understand that a lot of these games were probably excluded because of licensing issues. Many of them were released across multiple platforms, and Nintendo probably couldn’t acquire rights to put them on the SNES Classic edition, at least not for a price they could reasonably pay. That’s fine, but if you’re unable to include so many of the most popular games on the platform, should you even bother making it?

The Ugly

The price of the SNES Classic Edition is still a point of contention. Even if Nintendo addresses supply issues, the device retails for $80. That’s for the device, 21 games, and 2 controllers. In contrast to the NES Classic, you’re getting another controller, but you’re getting 9 fewer games, almost a third of the full game list, for $20 more. Where the NES Classic Edition was $60 for 30 games, yielding a cost of $2 per game, the SNES bumps that ratio closer to $4 per game. Without any capability to load other games onto the device (at least not officially), buyers are stuck with that investment. If you’re genuinely interested in every game on the list, it isn’t a terrible deal, especially with everything ready for plug and play. However, if there are some you don’t care for, they may as well be written out of the equation. For every game you don’t plan on playing, the price per game effectively goes up.
Speaking of loading other games, the SNES Classic Edition is still an emulator at its core. There are occasionally errors in running games, and they ultimately run no different than a ROM would run on any emulation software. These games are officially purchased from Nintendo, as opposed to the legal uncertainty of ROM sharing sites, but it doesn’t change the truth about the hardware. Some people are going to be alright with this, but others are going to wonder why they shouldn’t just download the games on their own for free.
Perhaps you can justify the cost based on the hardware. After all, the SNES Classic Edition does run all of the games as soon as you plug it up. For simplicity, it’s nice, but $80 puts the device more in range of the Raspberry Pi and peripherals. Instead of just 21 SNES games, the RasPi can run games from several different platforms, and holds as many games as you can load on the card. Why settle for the original Donkey Kong Country, when you can have the entire trilogy? Load up Killer Instinct and all the Mortal Kombat games, and you’ve covered basically an entire genre that the SNES Classic Edition didn’t touch. Outside of the legal issues around ROM and emulator acquisition, the RasPi is a clearly more capable platform.
“But Star Fox 2,” you might be screaming like a giddy school girl. And yes, I’ll give it to you, that does sound like the only way to experience Star Fox 2 at the moment. However, I will be tremendously surprised if Star Fox 2 never becomes available in ROM form outside the SNES Classic Edition. People cracked the NES Classic Edition to load games onto it, it’s only a matter of time before they crack the SNES Classic Edition to pull the one exclusive game off of it. This might even happen before the SNES Classic Edition is released, but it is inevitable. Nintendo may pursue pirates with relentless diligence, and slap ROM hosting sites with cease and desist orders. There may be no easy way to find a copy of the Star Fox 2 ROM, but there will be sources that share it around.

The SNES Classic Edition is going to sell well. Provided Nintendo generates enough supply, it could be a huge success. People love a simple way to experience the nostalgia of SNES games. However, as much as Nintendo seems to have fixed many of the problems with the NES Classic Edition, the SNES Classic Edition could still have its share of issues. The price and game selection aren’t perfect, and a number of the most critically acclaimed SNES games are unavailable. I’m curious about the SNES Classic Edition, but I’m not yet convinced enough to actually make the purchase. For me, the Raspberry Pi still seems like the preferable option.

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