In what could be the most unsurprising surprise on 2017, Nintendo casually set the Internet on fire yesterday by announcing that the SNES Classic will be coming out this September. While this thing is guaranteed to be a huge hit for Nintendo (people have been clamoring for something like this ever since the NES Classic launched last year), there’s more than a hint of apprehension from this news, as the NES Classic’s limited stock and abrupt end to production left a bad taste in the mouths of a lot of people. Will Nintendo correct their past mistakes and deliver an enjoyable experience that people will actually get to experience?
After diving in to the information we have thus far…well, let’s just say I’m not terribly confident about it.
While I correctly predicted thirteen of the twenty-one games that eventually made it onto the system, that number becomes less impressive when you consider I originally offered forty possible predictions. There were misses on both ends of the spectrum: Earthbound and Yoshi’s Island were obvious choices that I should have seen coming, but the omission of Chrono Trigger and both Donkey Kong Country sequels feels like a glaring oversight. Still, the heavy hitters are all here (Mario World, Mario Kart, Zelda, the original DKC), and the inclusion of several large RPGs ensures that you’ll get a lot of quality playing time out of this system, even though it has fewer overall games than its predecessor.
I’m not terribly hyped about the inclusion of Star Fox 2 because a) I’ve never been a huge fan of the franchise, and b) I’d never even heard of the game before now. Still, it’s a nice exclusive that gives people an added incentive to pick this device up despite already owning some of the games.
Nintendo seems to have struck a nice balance here, keeping what worked from the NES Classic (the cute aesthetic of the mini form factor) and fixing what didn’t (there are two controllers included, and their cords are actually a decent length this time!). Still, there’s a lot we don’t know about the system: How’s the emulation quality? Do the controllers plug in via USB, or do they use the ports on the front of the system? Is there a Virtual Console-like portal that could potentially expand the game lineup? Nintendo’s track record with such things is pretty good, however, so I’m inclined to give them the benefit of the doubt here.
Where Nintendo does not get the benefit of the doubt, however, is in their supply management: The NES Classic was in woefully short supply throughout its lifecycle, and the sudden unexpected end to production didn’t sit well with a lot of people. To its credit, Nintendo is trying to get out in front of this issue and temper expectations early, saying that yes, there will be more SNES Classics available, but no, there’s no guarantee that they’ll be around beyond 2017. Still, it’s a little disheartening to think that history will likely repeat itself here: The devices will be impossible to find on store shelves, scalpers will drive after-market prices to obscene levels, and the device will be discontinued just as quickly as it was announced. The Big N’s got a lot to prove in this area, and I’m not convinced that they’ll actually pull it off.
Overall, it looks like the SNES Classic will be a great thing to get yours hands on (perhaps even greater than the NES Classic), but it’ll also be really hard to get your hands on. (It also begs the question “Is Nintendo holding back the Switch’s Virtual Console to sell more SNES Classics?”) In other words, I fully expect a repeat of the NES Classic situation, so if you’re looking to try out some of these classic games, you’d better plan to pick up this device sooner rather than later.