NES Remix 2 review: better sampling

By Steve Watts, Apr 21, 2014 10:00am PDT

NES Remix was an unexpected surprise that showed the playful side of Nintendo's long legacy. I was more enamored with the concept than the execution, however, thanks largely to such a sub-par game selection. NES Remix 2 makes great strides by directly addressing that problem, even while other issues persist.

I really can't say enough about the wisdom of the games Nintendo chose to represent here. Aside from third-party classics like Castlevania or Mega Man, this is the library I think about when I fondly remember the NES heyday. If Nintendo hadn't used the original Super Mario Bros, Donkey Kong, and Legend of Zelda in the first NES Remix, putting those in NES Remix 2 would have made a perfect encapsulation of the era. As it stands, Remix 2 is almost perfect as an NES digest. The venerated status of most of its games makes weaker entries like Wario's Woods or Ice Hockey stick out like a sore thumb.

And in terms of the games themselves, it does feel like a digest. While some of the easier challenges still feel like simplistic tutorials, more often the stages on the whole tell an abbreviated story of the game. Playing through the Kid Icarus challenges is like an abridged version of the full experience, with all of the most iconic moments highlighted. That doesn't capitalize on them as well as this concept could have, but it's nice, shortened way to re-experience the nostalgia of these classics.

The Remix challenges should be where the game shines, and on occasion it does find clever and creative ways to put a new spin on the old classics. More often the challenges err towards the side of dull or easy. I was certainly happy to find fewer that were outright frustrating than in the first compilation, but humdrum challenges like collecting Mario's coins as Link just didn't surprise and delight me like I'd hoped.

The wealth of three Super Mario games can also feel like a detriment in the remixes, since they control so similarly to each other. Controlling Peach through an airship stage of Super Mario 3 feels a little unusual, but not so out-of-place that it takes advantage of the "remix" idea. At one point the famous World 1-1 was recreated with Mario 3's style, and it took me a moment to even realize what the twist was.

I remain confused by the criteria behind doling out stars and rainbows for completing challenges, which makes the difficulty feel inconsistent. Sometimes I'd finish a challenge with almost no room for improvement and fail to get a rainbow. Other times I'd have died or taken too long and gotten one anyway. It's hard to know what to expect from the challenge when it varies so wildly, and neither Remix game has been particularly clear about the criteria.

Still, depending on your level of expertise, you can blaze through most of the challenges and earn stars within 5-6 hours, just like the first. NES Remix 2 adds a bit more content with Super Luigi Bros, a backwards remake of the first Mario game, and a revamped Championship Mode if you also own the first. Both of these are welcome diversions that are enjoyable for a little while, but neither held my interest past a couple of tries.

For all its flaws and joys, the feeling I had most while playing NES Remix 2 was that it's too soon. The first was a surprise, but this one is coming only five months later. Such quick iteration wouldn't matter if both felt complete by themselves, but the first was a few gems with mostly weak entries, and this one is the inverse. The sequel is definitely stronger than the original, but the improvements are incremental, and I can't help but wonder what a strong game we might have had if Nintendo had combined the best parts of both. [7]


This review is based upon Wii U review code provided by the publisher. NES Remix 2 will be available on the Nintendo eShop on April 25. The game is rated E.

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