By Eric Chetkauskas / July 1st, 2014
|Release Date||December 18, 2013|
|Age Rating||E for Everyone|
Growing up with the NES gives one a certain appreciation for the older games that many younger folks just don’t understand. While they may scoff at the simplicity of the gameplay mechanics, the crude 8-bit sprite art or the often hardware-induced difficulty, this is how we learned to play games, and what we came to expect from them. Attempts to revisit these classics, either through the Virtual Console or by reconnecting the original system, are met with a bit of a problem. That being, the more you’ve played these games, the better you are at them. They may have been tough to start with, but then you beat them few times. In order to recapture your original experience, players have resorted to self-imposed restrictions, such as speedruns, 3-heart runs and no warping, with some going as far as hacking the games to create all-new adventures. Now, an official solution to the problem has arrived in the form of NES Remix.
NES Remix is one of those games that’s really tough to review. It is a compilation of sorts, featuring stages from many different classic NES games. The game presents you with challenges — some speed-related, others skill-related — that you must complete in order to clear the level. There are also different “Remix” stages, which take a stage from one of these games and add a twist, making the level you’re (probably) intimately familiar with extra challenging. Each game and each type of challenge really deserves to be reviewed on its own.
And that’s pretty much what I have to do to give you the full idea of what this game is like. While playing through the stages on Super Mario Bros., The Legend of Zelda and, one of my longtime favorites, Pinball were all fun, there were some games included here that made NES Remix just downright frustrating. Never before had I played games the likes of Wrecking Crew, Balloon Fight and Clu Clu Land, so learning those games and trying to fight my way through their more difficult challenges was less than pleasant.
The first stage available to you is a challenge from World 1-1 from Super Mario Bros. You start off as invincible Mario, and are required to defeat 15 enemies. Sounds easy enough, just run through everything. After doing that, I got my score: two stars out of three. The stars you earn are related to how fast you beat the stage, so I went back to see if I could do it faster. I tweaked my route, timed my jumps better and I earned three stars. It’s possible to go one next step and earn three rainbow-colored stars. I wasn’t sure it was possible to go faster in that level, but after trying over and over again, I finally got my rainbow stars. This is pretty much the entire game in a nutshell; beat a stage as fast as you can, find out you can do it faster and then keep trying until you succeed.
For most stages, this wasn’t a problem. In fact, it was a ton of fun. Super Mario Bros. challenges require you to defeat a certain number of enemies, collect power ups and get to the flagpole as fast as possible, sometimes with Mario auto-running so you only need to time your jumps. The Legend of Zelda challenges have you defeating monsters, collecting items and even go through a makeshift boss gauntlet. The goals of the Pinball stages had you reaching a certain score, or triggering some in-game event. In the Donkey Kong stages, you need to complete the screen or jump over or destroy obstacles. Ice Climber stages had you reaching certain heights on the mountain, breaking blocks and getting to or completing the bonus stage. Similar goals are in place for stages for just about every game.
However, every game was not as fun to play as the classics. While I remember having a lot of fun with Ice Climber as a kid, the controls are just as atrocious as they were on an actual NES, making it obnoxiously difficult to jump onto platforms. The sheer unfamiliarity with Wrecking Crew and Balloon Fight made those challenges extra tough. Clu Clu Land is another frustrating one, as not only are the controls a bit off, but the game’s not particularly fun in general. Fortunately, NES Remix includes instructional videos for each game that is featured to help those who may not already know how to play.
The Remix stages are an entirely different story, however. You may find the most frustrating stages be for some of your favorite games. The twists added to the challenges range from cool — such as playing a stage that was mirrored, or the graphics changing from full-NES color to a monochrome Gameboy palette — to challenging — like playing as Link in Donkey Kong (remember, Link can’t jump) — to downright difficult — invisible platforms or storm clouds obscuring the location of the green in Golf. Sometimes they’ll be a chain of smaller, more simpler tasks, such as getting an item.
A lot of the challenge isn’t so much completing the level, but doing so fast enough to earn at least the three full stars, if not rainbow stars. And getting max stars is a requirement. Stages for the individual games are available upon completing the previous stage, but the Remix stages are unlocked only when a certain number of stars is collected. This makes skipping the games you don’t want to play impossible.
One feature I really liked is its connectivity to Miiverse. Next to each stage, you can see Miiverse posts from other players. Some of them commented on the difficulty of the level, others bragged about high scores or ask for or offered tips on how to get a better time. It was really neat seeing whether others had the same opinions I did. Plus, the poster’s high score was visible so you see how you compared.
The graphics and sound add to the feeling of nostalgia you get when playing. The stages all have the same 8-bit sprites and music that the original games had, with the exception of some of the remix stages which change things up. There are Mario levels at sunset, there’s a Pinball stage with a lava pit, stages where everything is black and white and stages which look like a Game Boy display. The music playing at stage selection screen is just a simple harmless background melody, similar to what you hear in the eShop or Mii Plaza.
The way NES Remix is set up makes it a perfect game to just pick up and play if you don’t have a ton of time. It took me a few weeks to finally unlock the last stage, but that was with sporadic playing. The ragequits were frequent, but the challenge was alluring enough to keep me coming back. The ability to play using only the GamePad screen was a welcome feature that made it easier to play in short bursts, as if playing a handheld game. It was definitely worth the $14.99 I spent on it. Trying to give NES Remix a rating is like trying to rate Zelda mini-games as a whole. Some are fun, while others should be avoided at all costs. I had the same reaction when playing this. Overall, it was a ton of fun; it scratched the retro itch and provided a good challenge, but there were times I wish certain stages just didn’t exist.
Review Copy provided by reviewer