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Super NES Classic Review: The Greatest Generation

Every year around Thanksgiving, my dad would sit me down for a serious talk. "Name one big present you want this year," he'd say, "and don't ask anyone else for it."

My parents divorced when I was five years old. That was sad, but it paid dividends on Christmas. Between waking up early to open gifts at Mom's house, heading over the river and through the woods (just down the street, really) to visit my Gramma Shirley and Grandpa Bob for gifts and food, and Dad picking us up after lunchtime for Present-palooza round three at my Mamaw and Papaw's, I made out like the proverbial bandit.

The downside—for adults—was that until my dad instituted his golden rule, I ended up with more than a few duplicate Ninja Turtles action figures and game "tapes." That meant one parent or another would have to brave the crowds bright and early on December 26th to return the spare while I roamed the video game aisle at Toys R Us, deliberating over which new game I'd bring home.

Narrowing down my excessive wish list from hundreds of prospects down to one ironclad guarantee was no easy task, with one exception. On Christmas morning of 1994, my dad and step-mom sat back and watched, beaming, as I opened a Super Nintendo Entertainment System.

Super NES. Super Nintendo. SNES. Call it what you want. I call it one of the greatest game platforms of all time.

That's not just nostalgia talking. Feast your eyes on the 20 retro games baked into the Super NES Classic. You may not like all of them, but objectively, there's not a dud to be found. (The mini console marks the grand arrival of Star Fox 2, a new-old game in the awkward position of being a Super Nintendo title released in 2017. Time will determine its standing.) That's the crazy thing. They could have doubled or tripled the SNES mini's offerings and still would have just scratched the surface.

I passed on the NES Classic the first time around. The NES was my first console, a clunky gray box I purchased all on my own by saving up chore money over nine long months, carefully and methodically counting it before I went to bed every night. I watched the uproar over stock shortages and scalpers come and go without a second thought. Whimsy aside, many of the games on the NES Classic haven't aged well. That's not the case with the games on the Super NES Classic.

Super Mario World remains the greatest 2D Mario platformer ever, which makes it the greatest 2D platformer ever.

Street Fighter 2 Turbo is the best 16-bit home version of the best iteration of Street Fighter 2. (Don't talk to me about Super Street Fighter 2, included in place of SF2T on the Super Famicom Classic across the pond. Super's speed reverted to the painfully slow movement of Champion Edition, and the new voices were dumb. These are facts.)

Donkey Kong Country, while never groundbreaking in terms of gameplay design, checks all the right boxes and deserves its spot for being the pretty face that allowed the SNES to continue turning heads at the dawn of stiff competition from 32-bit consoles.

Final Fantasy 3, actually FF6, is still widely considered the cream of the franchise's crop.

For many vocal fans of their respective series, Super Metroid and Zelda: A Link to the Past have yet to be topped.

Remember F-Zero? Nintendo does—the first one, anyway.

Super Punch-Out!! is better than (Mike Tyson's) Punch-Out!!. It's faster, more colorful, more layered. More. So much more it deserves double the exclamation points.

There are some disappointing omissions. Donkey Kong Country 2: Diddy's Kong Quest is an exponentially better game than its predecessor, although I can't argue with the reasoning behind including the original. Depending on who you ask, Square has yet to make a game that tops the characters, story, and battle system of Chrono Trigger. Beat-em-ups and shoot-em-ups are absent—bafflingly so, when one remembers that the likes of TMNT IV: Turtles in Time and Super R-Type, so simple but so satisfying, were a cornerstone of consoles and arcade games (many of which were ported to consoles) in the 16-bit era.

The Super NES Classic itself is functional. It fits in the palm of your hand. Hitting Reset lets you save up to four states per game. The controller is almost an exact replica of the original dog-bone beauty. Almost. The surface is coarser. It's not uncomfortable, but if you've spent as much time with the SNES controller as I have, you'll notice the difference.

Hardware is a secondary concern. Yes, you can play these games on Nintendo's many Virtual Consoles and via other, less scrupulous means; and yes, there are some rather large and unsightly holes in the tapestry of retro excellence woven by its catalog. Those quibbles aside, the Super NES Classic is a wonderful, itty-bitty time capsule that will transport you back to a simpler time when game design ruled all and game systems weren't saddled with achievements and notifications and share buttons and system updates.

No fuss. All game.

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