Review: NES Remix for Wii U

Dive into Nintendo’s early home video gaming history and soak in the nostalgia.

If you’ve been playing for video games long enough, you’ve probably felt it: The Craving.

Certainly, there are great new games coming out all the time, but you still feel a longing for the games from days of yore– perhaps the stuff which got you into gaming in the first place, and you want to play them again. Fortunately, thanks to collections and services such as the Virtual Console, the joys of yesterday can be purchased comfortably from your living room sofa.

And yet, while you can play something old or something new, there’s that seldom-touched middle ground. You know the one, where you have a favorite classic that you’ve played to death, that you’ve conquered up, down, left, and right, but you want more– not from a sequel, nor a reboot or a remake or anything like that. Put simply, you want a new challenge from your old favorites.

Enter NES Remix

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NES Remix takes a variety of classic NES games– specifically, early releases such as Balloon Fight, Baseball, Clu Clu Land, Donkey Kong, Donkey Kong Jr., Donkey Kong 3, Excitebike, Golf, Ice Climber, Mario Bros., Pinball, Super Mario Bros., Tennis, The Legend of Zelda, Urban Champion, and Wrecking Crew— and places you where you need to be in each to perform a certain task that will complete your objective for the round. For instance, one Super Mario Bros. challenge puts you at the end of World 3-1, site of the famous 1-Up Koopa shell trick, and challenges you to get 10 of them in a row, while a task from The Legend of Zelda will task you with defeating all of the enemies on a screen without taking damage.

Generally speaking, the games are exactly as you remember them, from their blossoms to their warts (meaning that the jumping in Ice Climber is as unreliable as ever), and if you’re familiar with the games, you should be able to slip right into each title easily enough. The only issue I had was with the aforementioned 1-Up challenge– I’ve performed this trick countless times over the years, but for some reason, it just does not seem to work correctly for me here. I don’t seem to be alone, either, going by the Miiverse posts associated with that particular challenge. Why it seems to be an issue or whether it will ever be fixed, who can say?

Still, that seems to be the exception, rather than the rule. Beyond that, each title’s challenges take you through a sort of “arc” as well, covering many of the high points of each game, almost like a “best of” from each. The Legend of Zelda was a joy to experience, as it was like a world tour of the first game, hitting several familiar bosses and scenarios, from getting your first sword to plunging a silver arrow deep into Ganon’s formidable hide to rescue Princess Zelda.

Playing each game feels like coming home again, with some familiar tasks and with some new challenges as well. However, that’s only the beginning; it wouldn’t be much of a “remix” if you were only playing bits of games you’d already played, just as you remembered them, would it?

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Beyond retreading familiar territory and proving your mastery of it (those Balloon Fighters never stood a chance), the greater draw of NES Remix is the different series of remixed game challenges laid before you. Sure, you can get to the flagpole in World 1-3 of Super Mario Bros., but can you do it while giant-sized, unstompable Bullet Bills come at you throughout the stage? Or perhaps you’ve leaped over Bowser to achieve victory before, but can you best him when he’s too big to jump over?

Of course, there are challenges beyond just making things bigger. Can you reach the flagpole of 1-1 when the entire world is in silhouette? Can you reach the top of 25m in Donkey Kong as Link– who can’t jump? Can you defeat all your foes as the screen pans out into an almost insect-like compound vision of dozens of screens, all showing the same thing?

It’s a clever use of each game’s assets and various trickery to challenge the player, and it keeps you going as you strive to see what else the developers have managed to come up with to try and thwart you as you go further and further.

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Scoring in the game is much like many a mobile game, interestingly enough: Your goal is to try to earn three stars (with a rainbow flourish if you’re especially quick). You can still finish and progress after continuing, which will typically put you back on the challenge you were last on during some multi-task challenges, but doing so will guarantee that you’ll receive no more than one star. If you want all the glory, then you have to do it all in one go. With enough stars, more challenges open up, and eventually more series of classic NES title challenges will be unlocked as well.

In addition, playing through the game and performing well will earn you a pseudo-currency called “Bits.” While you don’t really spend these, you do acquire a new stamp out of 100 total for reaching certain amounts. The black-and-white line art replicate the pixel art from the many various games found throughout, and seem to come in a specific order, rather than be associated with the challenges you’re taking on. Just as in Super Mario 3D World, each stamp can be used to help decorate messages to be posted in the Miiverse– well, the NES Remix Miiverse, anyway. Unfortunately, as with Super Mario 3D World‘s version, you can’t post just anywhere with them.

Oh, and in case you were wondering: All of the games featured in NES Remix are available on the Wii U’s Virtual Console. To that end, Nintendo is more than happy to provide you with in-game access which allows you to purchase your favorite titles right from the Nintendo eShop.

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Simply put: NES Remix is a blast. It’s downsides are few, though noteworthy, as one must again lament the physics of Ice Climber (seriously, you’d think that as often as they’ve re-released it over the years, they’d try a version that feels more natural). In addition, while not strictly necessary, some sort of multiplayer mode might have been nice as well. I guess for that, we can do what we did with single-player games in the old days: Just pass the controller back and forth.

One other downside for some might be the selection. While I love the Black Box titles (Dear Nintendo: Kung Fu on Virtual Console, please) and can play Balloon Fight and Urban Champion all night long, some of these games might not scratch the itch for everyone.

For that, though, there is good news: Nintendo will be releasing NES Remix 2 on April 25th, and its lineup will consist of such classics of wider renown as Dr. Mario, Ice Hockey, Kid Icarus, Kirby’s Adventure, Mario Open Golf (aka NES Open Tournament Golf), Metroid, Punch-Out!!, Super Mario Bros.: The Lost Levels, Super Mario Bros. 2, Super Mario Bros. 3, Wario’s Woods, and Zelda II: The Adventure of Link. I’m salivating just thinking about it… well, except for The Lost Levels. The idea of challenges from that game are akin to nightmare fuel.

NES Remix 2 will also have a mode called “Super Luigi Bros.,” a version of Super Mario Bros. based on challenges from NES Remix in which you run through the game’s levels backwards and with Luigi’s higher jump and more slippery traction, as well as a “Championship Mode” which requires the first NES Remix to access. In this mode, scoring is based on the same system used in the 1990 Nintendo World Championships, even though Rad Racer and Tetris sadly seem to be unaccounted for.

If you’re a diehard Nintendo fan or just a gamer who appreciates how things were in the good ol’ days, then NES Remix is a game you simply must play.

NESRemixLogoIntro2NES Remix was released for the Wii U on December 18th, 2013 at a price of $14.99 in the Nintendo Wii U eShop. A review copy was provided by Nintendo of Canada.

It is also now available as one half of the NES Remix Pack at retail for $34.99.


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David Oxford

David Oxford is a freelance writer of many varied interests. If you're interested in hiring him, please drop him a line at david.oxford (at) nyteworks.net.