Nintendo recently hosted another of their fantastic Nintendo Directs. In it, they announced several games such as Hyrule Warriors, and NES Remix. Strangely enough, they released NES Remix later that day. While this may have not been a great idea from a sales perspective (no time to build up hype), it was a gift to gamers, who, more often then not, would rather get a game immediately than have to wait for it to be finished. As such, NES Remix functions as a sort of Christmas gift from Nintendo, albeit a $15 one. What is more interesting than the game itself is seeing Nintendo make unique uses of its older properties. It was something they started on the 3DS with 3D Classics, and NES Remix is a game that seems to follow that tradition of slightly tweaking older games in order to present them to a new audience. And, in this respect, NES Remix is a resounding success. Nintendo has managed to create a game that appeals to hardcore fans of these games, while providing almost an NES bootcamp for those unfamiliar with the old system.
NES Remix consists of a series of minigames pulled from 16 Nintendo classics. The games included are Super Mario Bros., Mario Bros., Donkey Kong, Donkey Kong Jr., Donkey Kong 3, Excite Bike, Balloon Fight, Ice Climbers, Legend of Zelda, Wrecking Crew, Urban Champion, Clu Clu Land, Baseball, Tennis, Pinball, and Golf. You do not get the full version of any of these games. Instead, you will get a variety of levels with challenges placed in them, such as beating levels before the time runs out, or killing enemies as fast as you can. The challenges mostly devolve into time trials. Only six of these games are available at the very beginning, and you must unlock the rest by scoring enough stars by doing well on the various challenges. Each challenge has three gold stars to earn by completing them quickly enough with a hidden rainbow effect for those who truly perfect the challenge.
The NES challenges are fun, and there are a lot of them, but the real meat of the game, for those of us who have played these games before, is the remix mode. The remix mode takes various games and changes them beyond what was possible on the NES. For example, one level has Link being used in Donkey Kong with the obvious handicap that he can’t jump, while another will have you controlling two Marios at once in Mario Bros in order to collect coins as fast as possible. Remixes are unlocked as you obtain more stars, and come with their own set of stars to earn, though these ones may take longer. The reason I say this is that many remix levels are very challenging, even for veterans. For those of you who are looking to buy the game only for the remix levels, rest assured: Nintendo didn’t skimp on the quantity of remix levels – there are over fifty of them.
As mentioned above, this game is a great introduction to many of these games. There is a brief tutorial on how to play each one that is available, if you so desire, upon unlocking the game, and the early challenges act more as an introduction to the core mechanics than any real hardship. This allows for newcomers to be able to grasp how the game works and get a feel of whether they like it or not far better than just being thrown in. I, for one, never understood the appeal of Excite Bike until after this game. I played it a couple of times, but never understood the mechanics or how there was any depth to it. Now, I see that there is definitely a good game in there. As such, NES Remix acts, in many ways, as the perfect introduction for gamers of all ages to the NES generation. There’s a lot of good here, and it’s presented in such a way that it eases gamers in instead of hitting them over the head with games often dubbed ‘Nintendo hard’.
For advanced gamers, the NES challenges rarely present much of a problem, and are more Wario Ware-like snippets. This wasn’t the intention, but it’s that kind of fun that experienced gamers are likely to get out of them at least until some of the later ones. This leaves the remixes as the primary challenge for experienced players, and this is often enough. I say this mostly because the NES challenges are charming and catnip for completionists, while the remixes are substantial. The biggest downside for experienced players, however, is the lack of online leaderboards. While there is some acknowledgement of other scores via the Miiverse, the lack of true leaderboards puts a bit of a hamper in truly competitive players’s groove.
The Miiverse connection with this game is unobtrusive, yet somehow omnipresent. Players are free to make Miiverse posts about each challenge, and one will be brought up, seemingly at random, when you hover over one. As usual, this often results in ‘lol-worthy’ pictures from fans who legitimately love gaming. As you earn stars, you’ll also be earning points, which are used to unlock stamps. Stamps can be used in the Miiverse to easily recreate an 8-bit character. For example, you don’t need to painstakingly redraw 8-bit Bowser, when you can just stamp him on a message. It’s a really clever reward system, and it’s already been used to great comedic effect by the community.
One of the biggest questions is whether this game is worth the full $15. I have to say that I would pretty much unequivocally recommend it, whether you’re new to classic gaming, or an NES veteran. The game, despite being a compilation of small minigames, is actually quite long, and it will take even the most experienced players at least 8-10 hours to clear the whole thing. With stars and rainbows left to get, this game can last quite a bit. At the same time, it’s a great game to play purely on the Gamepad while watching a movie on the television, or being otherwise occupied. While its lack of multiplayer may turn some gamers off, I never felt that any form of multiplayer would add to the experience with how the game is designed.
I really like this game on a personal level. Seeing classics like these retooled so long-time fans can get something new out of them 25+ years later is something really special. Being a gateway for new NES fans is just icing on the cake. This is the kind of intelligent game design Nintendo needs. They are sitting on a goldmine of classic games in the middle of the retro-rennaissance, and they’d be foolish not to capitalize on it. NES Remix is a step in the right direction, and I really hope that it does well enough to warrant a sequel – after all, there are plenty of great NES games that weren’t featured in this one, and the prospects of an SNES Remix has me salivating.
Score – 8.5
– Mistranslations for the Modern Gamer