- Street Date:
- December 18th, 2013
- Reviewed by:
- Trevor Ruben
- Review Date:1
- January 8th, 2014
- Game Release Year:
- Wii U
- Nintendo EAD Tokyo
Announced and released on the same day, 'NES Remix' is a bit of filler content from Nintendo as we gear up for the Wii U's important 2014. Collecting classic NES titles and offering them up as bit-sized injections is certainly an appealing premise to the old-schooler in all of us. At the same time, the remixing aspects may alleviate some of the shock associated with playing decades old 8-bit games off of the Virtual Console. Remix or no, Nintendo is once again tugging on our nostalgia.
The Game Itself: Our Reviewer's Take
Nintendo knows nostalgia. Fans of Nintendo know it even better. Not in my recent memory can I conjure up a game so directly exploitative of its developer's own history than 'NES Remix,' and that's saying something for a company with such high value placed on 30-year-old franchises. Whatever it says about Nintendo, this latest surprise release does very little in the context of today's games, but it will take you back to the classics of its namesake in fleeting bits of minor enjoyment.
The structure of the game is this: stages represent a small collection of seconds-long bits of gameplay ripped directly out of NES Classics such as 'Super Mario Bros.,' 'The Legend of Zelda' or even the more obscure 'Wrecking Crew.' Sometimes those stages are only one little part, sometimes they're up to six. Within each challenge is a simple objective, communicated directly to the player with some text or an arrow pointing you forward, upon achieving which you move on to the next. An early 'Super Mario Bros.' stage has you simply jumping onto the flagpoles at the end of various levels. 'The Legend of Zelda' sometimes wants you to simply find an exit to a room. You'll rarely go over 20 seconds in any given challenge, or a minute and a half on a total stage. You're rated on a three-star scale dependent totally on completion time.
Initially these challenges feel like introductions for younger players to go back to the eShop and make an additional virtual console purchase. There's even a button in-game to jump directly to the marketplace hub. The cynic in all of us is going to say the same thing about that innocent little button, but moving on and further into the title reveals a fair bit of challenge. If you're endlessly drawn to these NES classics, you're bound to find at least a bit of enjoyment testing your skills against the strict star requirements. The final 'The Legend of Zelda' challenge is a wonderful trip through some of that games greater moments. It's like an adrenaline shot of pure 8-bit goodness, but it's over all too quick. It can seem like a tease that doesn't want to give away too much of the classic games taht are still up for sale.
Happily, the other half of the game's name doesn't go overlooked. Remix stages do exactly as advertised, taking those classic gems and implementing some sort of twist, which should throw off even the most hardened veterans. Massive Bullet Bills might invade a classic 'Super Mario Bros.' level or Link himself might be tasked with felling the titular villain in 'Donkey Kong.' Some of these remixes veered on the annoying, like an ever-panning camera obscuring your view in a couple of the games, challenging my attempt to play the game without glasses. But mostly these stages are the highlight of the game. You never knew simply turning off the lights in 'Excitebike' could be so, well, exciting.
But it feels like opening up a bag of Doritos and being reminded that the bag is only ever half full. At some point in these past few paragraphs, if you're so inclined, you might be thinking about the 'WarioWare' series. Don't. Unfortunately, those games are much, much more appealing. 'NES Remix' is content to offer up these challenges on their own, with the mobile-inspired star system set up as the primary means for continued play. The glaring omission here, and one that keeps this as little more than a tech demo for decades old titles, is an overarching structure of any sort tying one challenge to the next. In the 'WarioWare' series, for example, stacking the microgames against each other and gradually building up the pace turned an amalgamation into a unique experience. It had structure, actual structure, meant to heighten a cute starter of an idea.
There's nothing of the sort in 'NES Remix.' All you're doing is going for three stars, or even the coveted rainbow-stars rating, and unlocking stamps for Miiverse posts. That's it. This being Nintendo, there isn't even a set of sharable achievements. The one meaningful twist is the remix stages, where Nintendo's developers finally had some fun.
The Video: Sizing Up the Picture
As some of these NES titles represent the very backbone of visuals in games today, it's hard to overstate their importance, even outside of the mechanics that make them fun. And remix levels generally put a nice coat of paint on the classics, like placing up a shadow behind our favorite floating 'Balloon Fighter' or a gradient background here and there to appease the eyes. Particularly engaging is one remix level which reverted a 'Super Mario Bros.' scene to a more pixelated state as time went on, requiring you to collect coins to reshape the image. Still, very few remixes match that from a visual standpoint. And we've seen everything else too many times before.
The Audio: Rating the Sound
Far less interesting than the sometimes-augmented visuals are the never-augmented scores and sounds. If your phone often rings to the sound of Link opening a chest or Mario collecting a coin, you might find yourself in a haze of glorious ritual in the midst of gaining stars. The rest of us are stuck with an absurdly chirpy start-screen tune and a yearning for modern revelations in the Nintendo audio lore. I'd rather close my eyes to 'Super Mario 3D World's background noises.
If they weren't Nintendo classics, this might feel like a mobile game. It certainly doesn't last like a console game, or even some sub $10 title off of the 3DS eShop. Going for three stars only works when you're waiting in line at the DMV. More obscure titles, or more titles in general, creating a better sense of discovery, might've gone a way towards lengthening my engagement.
HD Bonus Content: Any Exclusive Goodies in There?
Off-TV play and Miiverse stamps are a definite plus.
'NES Remix' is a gateway drug. It's just enough to remind us of better times and better highs. But it's not enough for sustained enjoyment. Despite the sometimes engaging final challenges and remix levels, the majority of your time is spent achieving the most minor of goals for minor rewards. You might as well just buy the full games themselves and skip a marketing ploy when you see it.
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