Platform: Wii U
I love the idea behind NES Remix. Nintendo often comes under fire for just repackaging age-old games, but the truth is that they're often willing to subvert and tinker with familiar gameplay, and their latest minigame collection a key case in point. It cheekily crunched classic 8 bit gaming moments into addictive bite-sized time attack challenges, letting us enjoy our favourite titles from yesteryear in exciting new ways, and often blending games together with hilarious results. A nostalgia trip, highlights reel and zany WarioWare-esque funhouse all rolled into one.
Unfortunately the original NES Remix fell short, mainly because its sub-par collection of games (Clu Clu Land? Really?) didn't lend themselves particularly well to a pick-up-and-play experience. It felt like Nintendo were holding their big guns back for a sequel.
Turns out that they were, because NES Remix 2 is an improvement in every respect. Boasting a superb library of games from Metroid and Kid Icarus to Punch-Out! and Super Mario Bros 3, wild 'remixed' stages and even a pleasingly tricky extra game for £8.99, this really is a retronaut's dream package.
The premise remains the same. Classic levels and stages from legendary NES games have all been emulated perfectly, including (but by no means limited to) Doctor Mario's pill-rotating viral puzzles, leaping across airships in Super Mario 3, grabbing weeds out of the ground in Super Mario 2, facing off against Metroid's Ridley and going though the entire Punch-Out! campaign. It's a rip-roaring tour through gaming greats capable of putting the same smile on your face as they did all those years ago. However, instead of just presenting these classic as simple ports, NES Remix 2 cuts them up into hundreds of small, hectic and crazy timed challenges, encouraging you to complete a range of objectives in the shortest possible time.
Perhaps you'll have to collect 164 coins under the cosh of a tight time limit and advancing screen boundary wearing a Tanooki Suit. Maybe you'll need to defeat Birdo against the clock, face off in Kirby's quick-draw minigame or chain together ridiculous reactions in Wario's Woods. Often you'll need to fulfil specific objectives, such as swallowing eggs, punching King Hippo in specific places or using familiar mechanics in ways you'd never previously considered. With so many short and crazy challenges to accomplish, fans of WarioWare will be in their element.
Like the original, each selection of minigames introduces you to the basics with slick, quick and effective tutorials (perfect if you're a little rusty, I certainly was), then massively ups the ante over the course of each successive challenge.
It's riotously varied, fun-packed and ruthlessly addictive stuff, thanks mainly to the cynical addition of star ratings, replays and unlocks that factor into a thriving MiiVerse community; inspiring friendly competition and the drive to beat your mates' par times. You always feel like you're progressing, always unlocking new stages and always improving. Imagine Angry Birds, only with diverse and exciting curated challenges ripped out of our favourite childhood games. Angry Birdo?
The 'Remix' stages go the extra mile by blending games together. Fighting Whispy Woods from Kirby's Adventure is a piece of cake... but what happens when an army of Boos starts advancing from the side of the screen? Can you navigate a Super Mario Bros. 2 course when the colour palette's swapped with the subspace silhouette? Pull Octoroks out of the ground as SMB2's Toad? Or marshal an trio of clone Marios, only one of whom is actually real? There's more variety - and plain more - of these inventive set pieces in NES Remix 2 compared to the original.
In fairness, you'll discover a couple of weak links in the library. Mario's Open Golf is as boring as it ever was (sorry, but it really hasn't aged well), while Kirby's Adventure can prove immensely frustrating due to its floaty and imprecise handling. At least the changing objectives keep things fresh. I can't criticise the graphics - these are 8-bit games after all - but should point out that some games can look slightly washed-out and grainy on a big screen... yet look surprisingly crisp and vibrant on the GamePad's screen. Perfect for off-TV play, methinks.
And just in case that isn't enough, NES Remix 2 also offers a full game to sink your teeth into, courtesy of Super Luigi Bros. It's a pixel-by-pixel remake of the original Super Mario... except flipped from left to right and starring Luigi instead of Mario; who twitches, bucks and slides like a thoroughbred who's yet to be broken in. This might sound derivative, but in practice it feels like a completely new game requiring unique muscle memory and a different approach, making it a thrill for die-hard fans and newcomers alike.
It's often tempting for us reviewers to get sidetracked by what a game could be, or what we'd like it to be, rather than what it actually is. NES Remix 2 is a prime example. Personally, I feel that its bite-sized gameplay is a better fit for the 3DS than a home console, or preferably a cross-buy title with transferable save files. Indeed, if Nintendo ever decided to roll up their trousers and wade into the murky mud of the mobile space, this series would be the perfect starting point.
The idea of exploring Ninty's back catalogue in new and exciting ways could also lend itself to a full-priced game, with us able to delve through years of history, perhaps hopping between a 3D world on the television and an 8-Bit universe on the GamePad screen. I hope that Nintendo take the concept to its illogical conclusion.
I also daresay that some will moan about the fact that the full games aren't included (not to mention multiplayer), but I just can't agree. NES Remix 2 is what it is: a fun, addictive, challenging and imaginative nostalgia trip that's priced appropriately, and lets old-school fans enjoy their favourite games from a totally new perspective.
- Numerous varied, zany and fun challenges built on legendary source material
- Addictive unlocks, competition and MiiVerse integration
- Super Luigi Bros. is surprisingly intense
- Excellent value at £8.99
- Bite-sized format would work better on 3DS
- Graphics can look murky on an HDTV - use the GamePad screen!
- Mario's Open Golf has not aged gracefully
The Short Version: NES Remix 2 crafts addictive and wacky challenges out of a dozen legendary games, trading on nostalgia yet letting us enjoy classic Nintendo moments in totally new ways. Its fantastic library, anarchic level design, spirit of competition and surprisingly subversive bonus game provides great value for money - and never once cracks our rose-tinted specs.
Now hurry up and bring us the SNES Remix, dammit!
NB: If you own the original NES Remix, you'll unlock an extra challenge mode. Nothing fancy, but a nice touch regardless.