KDM Local - SNES MINI Review - Retro Gaming Appeal

KDM Local - SNES MINI Review - Retro Gaming Appeal
July 29th, 2018, Kev Martin, 0 Comments

KDM Local – Super Nintendo Entertainment System (SNES) Mini

console review and my thoughts on the continuous rise of retro gaming....

Available in store now

We are seeing a trend in the gaming industry, reboot after reboot and remaster after remaster. It's a cash cow that shows no signs of abating. It's a great time to be a gamer, with so many marquee titles coming almost every month, an entire plethora announced at the recent E3 expo in Los Angeles and if you add to that the production-line of reboots and remasters you should never be short of a game to tickle your fancy. (And hey, we haven't even mentioned the surge of independent studios and releases flooding mobile, pc and play stores, too!).

So, amongst all that, just how does retro gaming hold such high esteem and still command a place in people's clustered gaming schedule? Just how can something like the Super Nintendo Entertainment System Mini (SNES Mini) command a price-tag of £75 with so much more out there trying to tempt our “buck” their way? How can it fit in amongst all the latest awesome conceptions? Games of staggering creation, diversity, splendour that are pushing the technological and creative boundaries to the extreme. The answer is quite simple. Nostalgia sells. Article over. The end....

Ohhh, if only it were that simple. Perhaps it would be prudent for me to delve just a little deeper. Explore how the gaming scene has evolved over the last three decades and how, despite remasters and reboots of games only one generation old, on top of the churning and regurgitating of certain franchises, retro gaming is still such a big thing and, if anything, growing.

Now perhaps it would be wise at this point to attempt to pin-point exactly what is included in the term “retro” within the gaming world. Many observers use the cut-off between the 2d sprite graphical focus of home gaming of your Mega Drives or SNES, to entering the mid 90s, a decisive turning point towards 3d polygon graphics. The famed “5th generation era”. I for one like the juxtaposition of this transition analogy mainly because, of course, it was probably the planned partnership between Nintendo, who aligned with Sony to start production of their CD based system dubbed the “SNES-CD” (or the a tentative working name we all know and love the “Play Station”) that kicked this sudden evolution in gaming forward.

Once that partnership went sour and the decision was taken by Sony to progress alone, they scrapped any debate about “cart” or “cd”, removed the needless space and the Sony PlayStation was born! The 4th generation of consoles still sold solidly going into the '90s, but come 1996, 1 year after the release of the Sony PlayStation, the market changed, in my view, forever. When the critically claimed N64, an advanced 3d creation, eventually released by Nintendo in late '96 early '97 the nature of gaming seemed to have changed. This date is literally the exact period in gaming where the first instances of the term “retro gaming” came to the fore.

I quite like this point in gaming to draw a squiggly line in the chalk, that, for me, was the birth of “modern” gaming. Indeed, in 2001, when the 5th generation era of gaming began to draw to a close we entered the 6th generation and we saw the Dreamcast, Playstation 2, GameCube and welcomed to the fore the mighty Microsoft with their Xbox console. This, to some, could seem like an equally natural point where “modern” gaming became relevant and everything before then becomes retro. But, in truth, this debate could rumble on and one man's retro is another man's amiga. As, of course, there are a certain section of gamers that would scoff at me calling a Playstation “retro”!

But for me, and for the purposes of this article if nothing more, we'll go with the notion that the PlayStation and Nintendo 64, rather than be left in No Man's Land, edge more towards retro and the PlayStation 2 and Microsoft Xbox depiction of modern gaming puts them the other side of my chalk line.

So we take our Tardis and zoom back to the modern day, 2018, with the PlayStation 5 and Xbox Two in concept and probably alpha production, and soon to be with us. Perhaps we might see Google enter the console market (if rumours are to be believed), but we are certainly in the midst of a great change beginning to occur, the calm before the storm, physical gaming facing a battle to remain in its current form as we edge over to a stream or cloud based gaming experience, maybe in the future we'll refer to this as the “post retro” era? And modern will earn a new meaning? That's an article for another day, for sure.

So focus shifting back to the epoch of gaming we've conclusively (ha) defined as retro. Today we find the “modern” era awash with an odd yearning for old-school gaming (for the purposes of this article, we'll blanket emulation, ported or vintage retro gaming into one term: retro). We have, or are soon to have, the following PS1 Mini, Neo Geo Mini, Atari Mini, N64 Mini, Commandore C64 Mini, Mega Drive Mini, NES Mini, SNES Mini, Famicom Mini, the list is literally endless. These consoles are visually similar (for the most part) to the homage they are trying to pay to the original hardware, the controllers are the same, and they are loaded with scores of your favourite games in a “flash” style memory that maintains the original palettes and play-style (and famed difficulty).

They are quite fantastic, and from herein I'm going to switch focus to the SNES Mini particularly which we use and sell in store, and have had hour upon hour of fun playing. The benefits of these consoles are in large part due to the NAND (flash) memory, a very generous 512mb (which leaves room for *cough cough in the current climate* extra game ROMs to be added, if you know how), as well as the software used to emulate the original SNES and, more importantly, a lot of the add-on processors for specific titles are very nicely compiled. They are as close of an emulation to the original games as you can get. Game changing is near-instant by flicking the reset button and negating the tiled game selection screen showcasing original game packaging artwork and selecting the game of your choosing.

The catalogue of 21 games picked for the SNES Mini are some of the most iconic released, Super Mario World, Zelda: A Link to the Past, Super Metriod, Mega Man X, Kirby, Street Fighter and more and bring us right back to that key word used right at the start of this article “nostalgia”. It draws accurately on those child-hood memories, it gives a fun, easy to use and user friendly retro gaming experience that doesn't require vast sums of money invested in original hardware nor, more importantly, the finicky tuning of tvs or reliance on dated wiring prone to damage.

Ease of use has played a big part in welcoming a new generation of gamers into the “retro” scene, and in my opinion the success of the “Mini” retro craze in general. HDMI lead connections – a staple in near all tvs / monitors, and USB power, either directly off the TV, or a near-by USB device (or even a plug with USB connection). No longer do you need wires, a degree in tv operation, a stack of rare and often expensive carts, you have one, funky little device that you literally plug and play. Voilà, retro gaming with the same ease of use that came with decades of evolution in gaming.

I can't recommend these little beauties enough, be it the SNES, NES or Mega-Drive versions (that we have personally tested) as well as the exciting impending versions by Sony. It elongates the allure of these fantastic games, built at a time where hardware limitations meant intuitive programming created iconic games. Personally I find myself spending more and more time on my retro devices, or even the Retron5, as there is something about retro that I can't quite seem to find in the modern gaming landscape.

It would seem like I'm not alone in feeling this way, there is a swell of collectors but also aficionados of retro gaming.  Those who are learning to master and, in some cases break, retro games in the form of speed-running.  Hundreds of streamers, millions of YouTube views and scores of viewers on Twitch, these stars of the industry are looking to perfect, and then re-perfect, some of the best games ever created. A lead purveyor in this field would be one infestedRiche, a Swedish NES speed-runner who regularly partakes in social funded NES Marathons, as well as others who harbour a great deal of my social time (and Twitch Subscriptions and donations) such as Darbian, CoolKid, WesCopeland, MetriodMcFly, EndySwe, Wolfmerrick and many more. Click on the “Retro” tab on Twitch and you'll be awash with players playing and enjoy these retro games. Search YouTube for any of the retro games you love and they'll be Let's Play, Tutorials and Speed-Runs galore.

Nostalgia is a powerful thing, but it's not been the only thing to drive this Retro Resurgence of late, I feel like the ease of access to the hardware, as well as the overall scene being created. That for me has been a lead factor in the positive revival of such a brilliant and historic area of gaming. As well as some good old fashioned nostalgia, of course!

Check Games Done Quick for full coverage, charity sessions and enjoyable content, also check our Twitch as we delve more and more into retro gaming at KDMCollectables.

My thoughts - Kev of KDM