Since their release in 1985, most of the launch titles for the Nintendo Entertainment System have been ported to six different consoles across multiple generations. While I am all for proper archiving of video games to keep every experience available over time, many of the “Black Box 18” titles don’t need to be ported so often. The effort spent on bringing early sports games like Baseball or Tennis to every single eShop could be used to make more interesting titles like Racket Attack or Bases Loaded available on more consoles.
To put this in perspective, EarthBound has been ported once after years of demand, while there are at least six different ways to play the clunky Urban Champion (including a 3D “upgrade” on the Virtual Console).
When Nintendo announced NES Remix, I was initially excited by the concept. I think this is a great way to give players an expurgated version of classic Nintendo games. Instead of dropping $5 to play an individual game, you can pay $15 to enjoy the highlights from 16 different titles. The challenge-based format makes for a great party game and even provides a taste of speed running (trimming down time of completion to a razor’s edge). I was even more stoked when I read that certain challenges would mix elements from different games, like playing a no-jump version of Donkey Kong as Link. But my excitement for this game waned once I saw the list of titles to be included.
Instead of choosing only the cream of the classic crop, Nintendo once again just dropped the overly ported launch titles in a pile for developer Indieszero to include. This means that playing NES Remix becomes a realization of how many games do not hold up over time. Most of the collection is disposable; games like Clu-Clu Land and Golf brought nothing interesting or new to the market in 1985, and this sentiment has only solidified over time.
Fortunately, NES Remix 2 came to the table with a near-perfect collection of games. With the sole exception of Wario’s Woods (a frustrating puzzle title that looks even worse when put beside Dr. Mario), every game included is a joy to play once again. Many of the challenges are progressive in nature, allowing players the opportunity to see every worthwhile boss and moment from games like Zelda II and Metroid. The remix stages are a nice balance between silly crossovers (help Toad defeat a screen of Kirby’s enemies) and interesting challenge runs (beating all of the Koopalings in a row for Super Mario Bros. 3).
Nintendo later released a blended version of the two titles to the 3DS called Ultimate NES Remix. This handheld port featured only the best games from the first two collections, which makes me wonder why this wasn’t the first and only iteration of NES Remix. It’s as if Nintendo feels a need to re-release all of the crumby NES launch titles to any new console before they can get to the good stuff; like I have to eat my vegetables and wait for Ice Climber to hit the eShop before I get to play Kirby’s Adventure and enjoy some ice cream.
After playing through the NES Remix duo, I feel like the first title is a reminder that the classic console had a massive amount of launch games, but only the core Nintendo franchises were worthwhile. Once I had unlocked and played through Donkey Kong, Super Mario Bros., and The Legend of Zelda, I considered NES Remix more or less completed. I wasn’t filled with warm fuzzies when playing snippets of Wrecking Crew. There was no new insight to be gleaned from the abysmal platforming in Ice Climber. I was simply frustrated that such an interesting presentation of old games was wasted on such throwaway titles.
In short, all I want is SNES Remix. Get to work, Nintendo.