NES Remix was a peculiar concept when it was first introduced to the world late last year. Plucking classic titles from the heyday of the Nintendo Entertainment System (NES), the company playfully reinvented their iconic library with novel twists. Throwing unexpected challenges at players in quick succession, we took delight in seeing the distinctive lines between Nintendo’s output suddenly blur – whether that be in Link leaping over Donkey Kong’s barrels, or racking up a coin collection in the Mushroom Kingdom with Samus.
Having begun life on Wii U, producer Koichi Hayashida reasoned that the console had the extra oomph that they needed to create what they had envisioned. Although such choice had left Nintendo 3DS-only fans out in the cold, especially considering that the quickfire design seemed a more natural fit for portable play.
Fast forward, and our prayers have been answered in Ultimate NES Remix. This potpourri of Nintendo goodness draws from the assortment that populated NES Remix and its successive sequel, taking the best from both. While there have been numerous casualties thrown overboard – most noticeably Ice Climbers and sports titles such as Baseball, Tennis and Ice Hockey – those that remain amount to a far more enticing package.
What’s important to know is that while Ultimate NES Remix seemingly has less to work with, we’ve lost the weaker choices – with those that remain amounting to a far more robust experience for players to tackle. And, for added clarity, those that are housed on the 3DS Game Card are: Balloon Fight; Donkey Kong; Donkey Kong Jr.; Dr. Mario; Excitebike; Kid Icarus; Kirby’s Adventure; Mario Bros.; Metroid; Punch-Out!!; Super Mario Bros.; Super Mario Bros.: The Lost Levels; Super Mario Bros. 2; Super Mario Bros. 3; The Legend of Zelda; Zelda II: The Adventure of Link.
Each of these has anywhere between 7 – 23 challenge stages tied to them, with objectives ranging from collecting 1-Ups, swiftly neutralising enemies or reaching a level’s end goal. These are naturally dependent on whichever game they are inspired by, with some stages presenting multiple rounds for you to beat. Successfully conquering a stage will award you with a rating based on your completion time, and, new to Ultimate NES Remix, you can compare your efforts with friends and other players regionally and globally.
This somewhat inadvertently lets you sample each respective game and helps you get to grips with their mechanics, Nintendo eShop integration linking you through to their pages so that you can purchase them if you want to experience the full game.
There’s more fun to be had in the Remix and Bonus stages, which are reworked more heavily than the standard challenges that you will work through. Nothing can really beat playing as Link on stages usually bested by Mario, or witnessing Bullet Bills menacingly soaring through Dream Land as Kirby stares on. Unfortunately, as with the Wii U counterparts, these are fewer in number and require players to earn enough stars by completing standard stages before they can steadily be unlocked.
Championship Mode also makes a return, which sees you tackling challenges across Super Mario Bros., Dr. Mario and Super Mario Bros. 3 within a specified time limit, after which you are placed on a special Ranking board where you can again compare your times with others.
The most troubling aspect about Ultimate NES Remix is that the stages are exactly the same as those that appeared in NES Remix and its sequel. That means that there is minimal new content to lure in those that have already poured hours into the Wii U versions, making it a tough sell unless you have a desire to tackle the entire experience again on the go.
Aside from leaderboards, it is only Speed Mario Bros. that is entirely brand new. This is Super Mario Bros. in entirety, sped up by 100 percent. It’s as joyously ludicrous as it sounds in providing a new challenge to the old classic, and can really mess with your mental perception of it. You can spend plenty of time here, and the emulation is sufficient enough even if it appears stuttery in places.
In the visual department, the game looks better than ever before with the NES titles looking almost pixel perfect in comparison to the originals – as opposed to being stretched out to fit larger resolution displays. Chirpy NES sound effects remain, whereas the catchy menu music is still stuck in my brain.
Ultimate NES Remix is a great package that helps to introduce a bygone era of gaming to those that missed it. The stages are fun and inventively riff on their source material, but it remains very hard to recommend to those that have already waded through the content on Wii U. For those that haven’t and find that the idea appeals, then prepare yourselves for what is a wonderful concoction of NES classics and mind-boggling crossovers.