- Format: Wii U
- Unleashed: Out Now
- Publisher: Nintendo
- Developer: Nintendo
- Players: 1
- Site: nesremix2.nintendo.com
NES Remix surprised everyone back in December: It was announced and released on the very same day, forgoing the promotional cycle that usually determines a game’s commercial success, and was far more well received than expected, achieving critical acclaim and relative commercial success. Not bad for a minigame collection.
NES Remix 2 is more of the same: A minigame collection built around twelve games from the Nintendo Entertainment System, the choice of which are pretty good. NES staples such as Zelda II, Kid Icarus, Metroid, and Kirby’s Adventure provide a lot of diversity, while Wario’s Woods brings a little obscurity to the fray. While including three Super Mario Bros. Games might seem like overkill, The Lost Levels, Super Mario Bros. 2, and Super Mario Bros. 3 are all mechanically very different which offer sufficiently varied challenges.
These games are all cut up into slices spanning between roughly five seconds to two minutes, each of them poised to entertain and challenge you against the nostalgia-laden backdrop. Players will start with simply plucking vegetables in Super Mario Bros. 2 or removing a virus in Dr. Mario, unlocking new stages until reaching the more challenging tasks: A series of death-defying jumps to collect coins in Super Mario Bros. 3, or pulling off very specific combos in the notoriously tricky later stages of Punch-Out.
This steady rise in difficulty gives the game a great sense of progression, though it unfortunately often boils down to playing the games in chunks. Super Mario Bros. 3 in particular falls prey to this, stages often split up into “Grab the power-up, use the power-up to take out x number of enemies, now use it to defeat the boss” as though it’s just a single level split into three. There are even a few games that begin with watching the title screen demo, and nearly all of the early stages are tutorials that don’t hide that fact at all.
The most interesting parts of the game are the Remix stages, particularly those that combine mechanics from different games to create more interesting and unique challenges. Toad is torn out of Super Mario Bros. 2 and thrown into a Kirby level, tasked with killing three enemies while armed only with his ability to pick up and throw objects. Players are given a few blocks to help with this, but there’s the added problem of the landscape of the level: One enemy is located on a platform Kirby would have to fly up to, an ability that Toad lacks. That’s just one example; the game is full of similarly simple yet ingenious problems that challenge players in an almost puzzle-like way.
There are also Remix stages that change or limit the games themselves to challenge the player’s ability to adapt. An early example is a Kirby’s Adventure stage that gives a seemingly simple task: Kill five enemies. The stage also removes the ability to move, forcing players to learn how to best manipulate Kirby’s fireball ability to navigate the stage, something that wouldn’t normally happen in the game. They’re rewarding challenges, forcing the player to not only overcome but utilise the handicap as efficiently as possible to beat the clock.
The game revolves around challenges, so naturally grants you a score of one to three stars for each level, even giving three rainbow stars for a perfect performance. While this is already enough for those who love the thrill of pushing themselves further, more stars means more rewards in the form of bonus stages and stamps, and even a rainbow border. A rainbow border!
The only glaring technical problem with NES Remix II is the development team’s refusal to make the games run better than the original versions. All of the limitations of the NES hardware are here such as the frustrating frame rate drops in Kirby’s Adventure. Combined with some very small amounts of input delay – likely due to hardware emulation – it leads to problems with basic mechanics. Lack of individual skill can be frustrating enough, so it’s quite infuriating to time a jump perfectly only for a frame to drop at the worst possible moment. Why the hardware of the Wii U – multiple times more powerful than the NES – wasn’t used to remove these is a real mystery.
The game also features a bonus, Super Luigi Bros., that is a lot less exciting than it sounds. It’s essentially the original Super Mario Bros. game flipped horizontally, the player running from right to left as Luigi instead of Mario. It adds nothing to the original game and isn’t really very exciting – there’s not many people who haven’t played the original a great number of times – but it is a bonus.
With its frantic pacing and tough challenges, NES Remix 2 is a joyride down memory lane rather than a simple trip. If you’re susceptible to bouts of nostalgia then NES Remix 2 is undoubtedly for you, and those who aren’t will take great joy in the inventive ideas and challenges of the Remix stages.