This is a bit of a difficult review.
The difficulty is because I can really only review it under the viewpoint of someone who grew up in the days of the NES. I was quite young but games like Baseball, Excitebike and the Legend of Zelda are all familiar to me. For someone younger than a 1985 birth they might have been the SNES generation or even the N64 generation. Heck maybe even later. For these players, this might be a completely foreign experience to them, and more importantly, this review would be foreign to them.
NES Remix is a one player game for the Nintendo Wii U, found in the eShop for $14.99. The idea of NES Remix, played only on the Wii U Gamepad is to play specific segments of various NES games. For example, clicking on the Donkey Kong Jr. game might take you directly to a game where you have to drop two pieces of fruit on enemies. Go into Super Mario Bros. and you will have to get 10 1-Up’s in a row. Depending on how long it takes you to beat the scenarios, you’ll receive between one and three stars before a new game pops up. Gain enough stars and you can unlock what is called “Remix” segments, which change up the gameplay in some way that wouldn’t have been possible on the original game. For example, Ice Climbers will bounce back and forth between NES and GameBoy graphics. An even wilder example is playing Donkey Kong with none other than Link from the Legend of Zelda, the difficulty being that Link doesn’t jump. The more stars you receive, the more remixes you can play, and eventually you can unlock more classic NES games. The game eventually opens up a Bonus mode which contains some NES classics like Tennis and Urban Champion.
NES Remix knows that not everyone played these games. Each game gives you a quick tutorial before you try out the segments. Even with this knowledge, some games are just rudimentary in design. The jump in Ice Climbers can be infuriating and not always responsive. Even when knowing what to do in Clu Clu Land the way it’s made is more difficult than it should have been. For a game like Pinball, you just wish Nintendo put a bit more effort in giving you some better control scheme options as it would be a lot more fun using the shoulder buttons instead of A for right bumper and right on the D pad for the left bumper. Thankfully the challenges are quick and easy to restart. No tutorial pops up on the individual challenges, it’s only something you can play before the challenge.
Not only do you receive stars when completing challenges but you also receive points which give you stamps you can use in the MiiVerse. It’s a nice little touch and gives you incentive to continue completing the challenges. However, the biggest incentive is just to get good at the games. As a veteran game player, the majority of these games were very easy for me to get into. From Wrecking Crew to Balloon Fight to Golf, I generally had fun with the games. The remixes add a whole extra level of depth to some games and for others it’s a simple challenge. I found the difficulty of the games would fluctuate depending on the game, which gave it a bit of charm. This might be a difficult set of games for some but not so much for others, hence my earlier warning. The warning was also because some might just see this as a bunch of cheap gimmicks instead of seeing them as games within themselves. Personally I found it not too difficult to breeze through the challenges but enjoyed them, with exception to the original Mario Bros., Clu Clu Land and the NES Remix of Link in Donkey Kong. As clever as it is, it’s extremely difficult.
It’s interesting for Nintendo to have released NES Remix. They still sell games like Balloon Fight for $5 in the eShop but you pretty much get the Balloon Fight experience through the NES remix. It’s almost a demo of all of these classic NES games. I’d love to see Nintendo releasing a version of this with all of the games included in their original form to play as well. I got a real itch to play some of these games after trying the challenges. Nintendo also gives you a very clever path to their eShop in the menu screen, riffing Legend of Zelda and the shop keep. Regarding the $14.99 price tag, it sounded steep at first but I easily burned a couple hours into it. It’s extremely addictive to rack up your stars, try to get more from earlier challenges, get your rainbow effect for a great time score and see what’s next you can unlock. My mind races to thinking what Nintendo will try next. Another NES remix featuring some classic third party IPs like Castlevania, Mega Man and Bionic Commando? Or maybe Nintendo jumps into the 16-Bit era and adds some classics like Pilotwings, Sim City and Kirby Superstar? The possibilities are vast.
NES Remix is a curious trip into the past, when Nintendo could release over a dozen games at launch all different with their own characters and controls. A reminder that back in the eighties, full videogame titles can now pass as just quick challenges today. If you cannot connect to the pixel roots of Nintendo, you might find this a weak collection of mini-challenges. If you’re hardwired into the nostalgia and can enjoy a quick fix (or maybe have experience playing modern mobile games, which is oddly what a lot of these old school games feel like) one after another, NES Remix is a delight to open the Wii U in 2014.
No review score? Call it a protest. I feel video game reviews in particular are broken. People today will sometimes look for a score before they read the review, a lot of times only caring about the score if it disappoints them. To make matters worse, game websites have a tendency to give any AAA major title a 9/10 or A review out of pressure. Even worse is that a lot of people who read reviews believe anything under a 7 or B is a worthless game. I might in the future go ahead and create my own grading system but for now, I feel my review says what you need to know.