Previously exclusive to the Wii U, Nintendo is soon bringing their retro-compilation NES Remix series to the Nintendo 3DS in the form of Ultimate NES Remix, a “best of” compilation of games and challenges from both the original NES Remix and its sequel. I got to go hands-on with this title at a recent press event, and here are the impressions I came away with.
Let’s get this out of the way right now: If you’ve played NES Remix and NES Remix 2, enjoyed them, and seen all of what they have to offer, there’s pretty much no reason for you to even think about purchasing Ultimate NES Remix, unless you really (and I mean really) just can’t get enough of these games. There’s almost no new content on offer, and the single new extra that is there (a sped-up version of the original Super Mario Bros. called “Speed Mario Bros.”) is hardly worth a full-price purchase.
That said, if you don’t have a Wii U and have thus never played the NES Remix games, Ultimate NES Remix is probably worth a look despite how pared-down this version is in terms of content and features. The idea behind this series is that you’re given a smattering of classic (and some not-so-classic) NES titles such as Super Mario Bros., Balloon Fight, Metroid, Kirby’s Adventure, Punch-Out!!, Kid Icarus, and Super Mario Bros. 3 and challenged to complete a couple hundred bite-sized challenges spread across them. These challenges can range from the truly brief and simple – such as stomping on a single Goomba in the original Super Mario Bros. – to slightly more complex affairs that often serve as quick tours through these older games’ key moments, such as dueling with Meta Knight in Kirby’s Adventure and escaping from Planet Zebes after defeating Mother Brain in the original Metroid. You’re also given a one- to three-star rank on each challenge depending on how fast you can complete it, and the more stars you earn, the more challenges and additional games you unlock.
This is a great way for younger gamers (or older gamers for whom these games were too hard back in the day) to be exposed to these retro titles’ key moments, but the real attraction here is the “Remix” challenges from whom the series gets its name. These special challenges switch up and – wait for it – remix the included games in ways you might not expect and are sure to make long-time gamers smile. For example, one Remix challenge coats a Super Mario Bros. level in a layer of ice, causing Mario to slide forward nonstop until you either die or reach the goal, and another challenges you to defeat Whispy Woods in Kirby’s Adventure while three giant Boos from Super Mario Bros. 3 slowly stalk Kirby whenever he has his back turned to them. Yet another creative Remix challenge replaces Mario with Link in the original Donkey Kong… and because Link is unable to jump, Donkey Kong’s barrels are suddenly a whole new kind of dangerous.
Both NES Remix games (especially the first one) were notorious for being very liberal with their usage of the term “classic,” including games that weren’t very good when they were released and have aged incredibly poorly by today’s standards, such as Golf, Clu Clu Land, Wario’s Woods, and Urban Champion. The good news is – and this is pretty much the only thing Ultimate NES Remix has over its console-based forebears – these “why are you making me suffer” games have pretty much been entirely eliminated from the lineup, leaving Ultimate NES Remix with an ideal, “best of” roster of 16 titles:
- Balloon Fight
- Donkey Kong
- Donkey Kong Jr.
- Dr. Mario
- Kid Icarus
- Kirby’s Adventure
- Mario Bros.
- Super Mario Bros.
- Super Mario Bros.: The Lost Levels (the original Japanese version of Super Mario Bros. 2)
- Super Mario Bros. 2
- Super Mario Bros. 3
- The Legend of Zelda
- Zelda II: The Adventure of Link
This is a mostly great lineup of classic games, which is why those new to this series would do well to check out Ultimate NES Remix. From what I played, nothing has been lost mechanically in the transition to the 3DS; everything looks, sounds, and controls pretty much like you’d expect it to.
Unfortunately, this appears to have been a fairly quick-and-dirty port job, as Nintendo has not gone the extra mile to really make this game shine and feel like it belongs on the 3DS. A steep downgrade in resolution is to be expected coming from the Wii U to the 3DS, but Ultimate NES Remix doesn’t even make any use of the 3DS’s stereoscopic 3D effects to compensate – not even the game’s title screen or menus have any 3D elements! This is a seriously missed opportunity, as retro games tend to really pop in 3D. Furthermore, gone is the excellent Miiverse integration seen in both console titles (and, along with it, the ability to unlock retro-themed Miiverse stamps), having been replaced by what appear to be incredibly barebones online leaderboards with only two filtering options: regional and friends, with a worldwide option nowhere in sight. Finally, “Super Luigi Bros.” – the fairly interesting, right-to-left/reverse version of Super Mario Bros. included in NES Remix 2 – has also been inexplicably cut, replaced by the far less interesting “Speed Mario Bros.,” which does have its own leaderboards but is literally the original game… only sped up. At least NES Remix 2‘s Championship Mode, which challenges players to earn as many points as they can in a timed session of three games, is still there.
So I walked away rather unimpressed by my time with Ultimate NES Remix, but only because it’s the most content- and feature-light iteration of a series I’ve played to death on the Wii U. If you only own a 3DS and have thus never played any version of NES Remix, this “lite” version of the game seems to be all Nintendo is willing to offer for now, and based on what I played, I’d say that’s enough; it offers the bare minimum of what makes these games good on Wii U and nothing more. But I wish they’d taken the time to really make this game shine on the 3DS, and there’s pretty much nothing to see here for NES Remix veterans.
Ultimate NES Remix will be released for the Nintendo 3DS both in stores and on the Nintendo eShop on December 5th and will cost $30.