Nearly everyone, their mother, and probably their dog has played Super Mario Bros., but never like it is in NES Remix, a new and intriguing title for the Nintendo Wii U eShop that takes the core elements of many of their old games from the Nintendo Entertainment System (called Famicom in Japan), and repackages them with all sorts of challenges. Now the question at hand: is this just a cheap exploitation of Nintendo nostalgia and already well-known games or is this something really worth the time to go and experience those old games in a whole new way? You may be happy to hear that it’s the latter; NES Remix is a humble exercise in creativity, nostalgia, and ingenuity, three of Nintendo’s strongest qualities as a video game developer.
The concept of NES Remix may still remain a bit ambiguous, so allow me to explain. It may sound a bit like a WarioWare title, with its series of small challenges, but it’s actually very different. You are allowed to choose between a large number of NES titles such as Mario Bros., The Legend of Zelda, Donkey Kong, Ice Climber, and even the more now-obscure titles like Clu Clu Land, Golf, and Balloon Fight. Each one of these games contains a set list of challenges that you may try your hand at, although a lot of them consist of just doing a very simple action from part of the gameplay, like “Enter the hidden dungeon” in Legend of Zelda, for example. In that sense, a good number of these challenges may be over in mere seconds. Since these games have remained perfectly intact, both everything you love, as well as what you probably hated, is all still there (fucking Ice Climber, you jump like a bitch). Some challenges are stupid easy, but many others are a serious challenge, especially in the Remix modes, which is where the whole heart and soul of this game lies.
The final stages of these game categories usually consist of you finishing a level of the game as quickly as you can once you’ve covered all the other components of the game in previous stages, almost like a big tutorial that tests your skills, teaching and challenging you with the basics. Fortunately, the majority of the stages do require some skill to pull off, especially if you strive for getting a three-star rank or, even better, the rainbow rank. One of my favorite stages is to touch a certain number of opponents with my rear tire in Excitebike, causing those 8-bit bastards to violently careen off the track. I know, I’m a monster. Call the cops, I don’t care.
Remix modes take these elements of the games and add various twists to the gameplay, ranging from the wacky to the disorienting to the downright brutal, and it’s a ton of fun. Beating a level of Donkey Kong using Link, who can’t jump, is an example of a remix with a hearty challenge, and what this game is all about. It gets those games you think you’re a pro at from playing for decades and changes them up in a fabulous ways to feel fresh all over again. I must admit, it’s pretty easy to want to get the best possible score or try to outdo other peoples’ scores that frequently appear next to the challenge with whatever little message or drawing they put. It amps up the competitiveness just a bit, which made me want to beat other people’s scores every now and then. Yeah, I’m talking to you, Jimmy. Yes, I hate you and your scores.
In terms of presentation, NES Remix isn’t all that ambitious, nor does it need to be. Although, I’m disappointed that you can’t change the background, sort of like customizing your own arcade cabinet, when a lot of games let you do that now, like Darkstalkers: Resurrection. As for the music, when you’re playing a challenge, you’ll be hearing the game’s original music, which sounds just as nice as it did years ago, if not better. Just as well, 8-bit visuals are untouched, aside from the HD treatment, which is always a treat. Other than that, there isn’t a whole lot more to NES Remix, which is just a mild shame. A split-screen multi-player function would have been nice, but it’s not needed, since it’s very easy to just hand the controller to someone else once you’ve completed or failed a challenge.
When you play NES Remix, you can just tell that the developers probably had a blast setting up the various scenarios to challenge gamers, both new and old. I’ve had a grand time booting up the game every now and then when I have some spare time just to squeeze in a couple of challenges and then going about my merry way. It’s one of those games that easily has you going “Wait, wait, just one more level, I’m feeling lucky this time.” Responsibilities are stupid. Naturally, running and jumping on virtual turtles is much higher on my list of priorities.
At a pricetag of $15, it’s easy to see how it can seem a bit steep for the overall concept, but the hundreds of levels makes the price that much more justifiable. Even if you don’t have huge marathon sessions, you can expect to be playing it constantly and frequently, even if just for little while. You can get a lot of mileage and fun out of NES Remix, and unlocking more and more games keeps it constantly growing more and more rewarding. At some point, the whole nostalgia aspect is dropped and it starts to feel like its own game. It’s old, but new. It’s retro, but fresh. It’s NES Remix, and there’s not much else like it.