Blare the air-horns and blast the raggaeton music because it’s time for the REEEEEEEEEEEMIIIIIIIIIIIX! The NES Remix to be precise, Nintendo’s latest cash in on the tumor of nostalgia that continues to eat away at the brain of anyone born in the eighties. It’s a mini-game compilation that has you playing all the NES classics we loved from the 8-bit era. The “remixes” in question are new twists, mechanics, and challenges that make you feel like you are on a particularly sadistic episode of Nick Arcade. And like Nick Arcade, NES Remix looks like a lot of fun, but feels kind of awkward and slapped together when you actually play it.
When we call NES Remix a mini-game compilation we have to emphasize how mini these games actually are. It has more in common with Wario Ware than it does Mario Party. Most of these games take only a couple seconds to play, with the longest clocking in at less than a minute. NES Remix is certainly trying to recreate the frantic pace of the Wario Ware series, especially considering some of Wario Ware’s most loved microgames are the ones based on 8-bit classics. The problem is, NES Remix never feels frantic. It feels slow and calculated, like a stroll down memory lane, and the fault primarily lies in the mini-games themselves.
Most of the mini-games are just simple variations on standard NES titles. For example, you may have to play an Excite Bike course without falling. You may have to reach the green in a certain number of strokes in Golf. You have a limited number of lives or time to clear a level in Super Mario Bros. These basic challenges eventually give way to more complicated challenges, like playing games with limited controls, navigating your way through invisible or darkened levels, or even fooling around with the basic mechanics of games themselves.
Every micro game comes off as cool and imaginative on its first playthrough. Being forced to speedrun a Super Mario Bros. stage because Mario won’t stop running does provide an interesting twist on the classic formula that casual gamers probably haven’t experienced before. Unfortunately, as you replay each game, you find that some of the ideas are more frustrating than imaginative. Playing with the camera zoomed in on your character or with the stage now invisible doesn’t really change the way the game is played. They just force you to rely on memorization and trial and error. It feels like many of these challenges are actually making you play the game less, and instead rely on luck and chance in order to succeed.
And that’s just the remix levels! The normal levels get repetitive incredibly quick. They all have you playing the same stages over and over again with different goals. There’s not a whole lot of difference between completing one or two laps on an Excite Bike track, and similarly, the levels of Super Mario Bros. don’t change whether your goal is getting to the flag, scoring points, or stomping on goombas. There are only 16 NES games represented in NES remix, but there are hundreds of mini-games to choose from. Basic math tells us that the game has to be repetitive just to flesh out its mini-game library.
Frankly, NES Remix just feels like it has wasted its potential in more areas than one. First of all, it is heavily weighted toward Mario, and while I like Super Mario Bros. as much as the next guy, Nintendo has plenty of hits it could have included instead.
Second of all, the “hits” that Nintendo did choose to include barely qualify as hits at all. Mario, Donkey Kong, and Zelda? Sure. Ice Climbers? Ok. Urban Champion? Maaaaaaaybe… but generic black box Tennis? Baseball? Golf? Heck, Pinball!? These aren’t the games people remember the NES for. Meanwhile, true classics like Metroid are completely missing, and no one has the rights to that series other than Nintendo, so what was keeping them from including it? Heck, even Wario Ware had Metroid themed microgames!
Third, the term “remix” is over inflated at best. One of the scenes from the trailer shows Link from the original Zelda playing through Donkey Kong level one. On the surface this seems cool, but in the actual game Link can’t use his sword, shield, bombs, boomerang, or anything else he is known for. Instead, the only difference Link has from Mario is that he can’t jump. It’s just another random control restriction painted a shade of Hyrule green.
Fourth, Nintendo didn’t include anything that takes advantage of the Wii U’s unique control scheme. There are no interesting implementations of the game pad or motion controls. Heck, the entire game could be played with a d-pad and two buttons… which makes sense because it’s an NES compilation, but come on! This is supposed to be a “remix”. Those “in the dark” stages would have been more interesting if you could look through the gamepad to see the stage layout.
Finally, NES Remix feels way too grindy. You actually have to unlock mini-games as you play. The early mini-games are insultingly easy and feel like busy work. The later mini-games are more interesting, but at that point you will have replayed the same levels in the same games enough that you can’t help but feel bored.
NES Remix is a game that you desperately want to like but just can’t. The NES was a great console with great games and the idea of playing them all with cool new mechanics and twists is a good one, but NES Remix falls far short of its potential. It feels rushed, which is appropriate since it released on the same day that it was announced! Frankly, you are much better off buying each of these games individually on the Wii U eShop, or better yet, playing indie games that remix old NES properties better like Super Mario Crossover.