It looks like Nintendo will out-do itself with this year's retro console. The company's SNES Classic -- the pint-sized replica of the classic games system -- is just a month away, and we're starting to see hands-on previews trickle out.
While we already knew that the SNES Classic's game selection was phenomenal, the big news here is that Nintendo appears to have hit a home run in emulation and hardware build quality. The inherent downsides, critics say, are that it's just as likely to instantly sell out, as last year's NES Classic was, and that memories of 16-bit graphics don't stack up to the real thing.
In his hands-on preview, The Verge's Executive Editor Dieter Bohn emphasized how the SNES Classic's controller feels excellent, and explained how the emulator's Rewind feature will save gamers' [extra] lives.
"Then there’s the controllers, which are great. The D-pad, in particular, feels super nice — whereas on modern controllers it’s too often an afterthought. The SNES Classic also has slightly longer cables on its controllers (it ships with two) so you don’t have to buy an extender or sit so close to your TV."
"[Rewind] is so obvious and so helpful that I wish it was standard issue on all consoles, not just little retro consoles … you can suspend the game at any point and it will be saved there, ready for you to pick it right up again. Or you can rewatch up to a minute (depending on the game) of your gameplay before you hit suspend, then pick up the game from a moment before you saved."
"Having died many times in many of the games Nintendo is including, I will be taking advantage of [Rewind] — even though deep down I’ll know it’s cheating."
"I played Donkey Kong Country and marveled at the cognitive dissonance between what I remember (incredible graphics) and what I was looking at today (not incredible graphics)."
Kotaku Features Editor Chris Kohler championed the quality of the SNES Classic's game emulation, but pointed out how the faithful reproduction of the console and controller may mean repeatedly walking back and forth between your console.
"The emulation looks and feels perfect—I didn’t get to spend that much time with any individual game during my half hour of play, but I feel like if something were wrong with Secret of Mana I’d know pretty fast."
"So while the SNES Classic doesn’t have as many individual games as the NES Classic did, it’s arguable that its lineup has far more gameplay value—especially if you were more of a 16-bit kid than an 8-bit kid."
"But if you want to take advantage of the new 5-foot-long controller cables on the SNES Classic and keep it 5 feet away from you, you might get annoyed at the distance between you and Reset."
"But our worries about the SNES Classic were never about whether or not the product would actually be good or not—the question is, will you be able to buy one? At Target and not eBay?"
In his preview of the SNES Classic, IGN host and producer Brian Altano had nothing but praise for the console and concern for your odds of finding one.
"the SNES Classic comes with an impeccably strong roster of masterpieces. From Super Mario World to Contra III and Donkey Kong Country, there legitimately isn’t a weak game in the entire collection."
"Legends like A Link to the Past, Final Fantasy III and Earthbound will take you dozens of hours to complete in their entirety and all of them still hold up today. This is a fantastic collection of games and seeing them all together in one place will make you truly appreciate how special the Super Nintendo was."
"The SNES controller itself has been recreated perfectly. In the past we’ve seen third parties attempt versions of this classic game pad for a number of different platforms to varying degrees of success, but Nintendo absolutely nailed it here."
"the toughest thing about this Super Nintendo should be putting it down, not picking it up."
While most critics seemed to want to keep their review units for themselves, VentureBeat's Blair Hanley Frank is the outlier who doesn't seem to be enamored with the console.
"The system feels like a faithful — if miniaturized — re-creation of the retro console"
"Star Fox 2 is also a reminder of just how far games have come since the days of the SNES. Controller design has become more ergonomic, and the addition of analog sticks has made fine control of games like Star Fox easier."
"While the nostalgia of taking the system for a spin was nice, I found myself craving a more modern experience. The SNES Classic offers authenticity, but changes in the industry over the past quarter century have been — for all their faults — largely for the best."
In another mostly-positive preview, Polygon Senior Editor Colin Campbell praised the console and explained why it's completely OK that the machine is pricier than the NES Classic.
"It's easy to consider this mini-console as a nostalgia play, but these games, while crude by today's standards, are nonetheless enjoyable in their own right."
"These controllers felt a bit tighter to me, likely because all the SNES controllers I've touched in recent years have been well used, loose and wobbly, rather than straight out of a workshop or factory. It’s weird when something old is new again."
"The biggest hardware difference from the NES Classic is that the SNES Classic comes with two controllers, rather than just one. This adds a $20 price differential above the NES Classic, but I think it's going to prove worthwhile, with competitive games like Super Mario Kart and Street Fighter 2 on offer, as well as some co-op games."