The SNES Classic came out a few days ago and I had to get one. Here are a few notes on this 16-bit time machine.

SNES Classic

Even the box is designed like the original box.

The Console

The console itself is a scaled down version of the original european SNES, it must be about 1/8th of the original size. It looks great since proportions have been kept. It has a fake cartridge port and eject button, as no cartridges are needed. The controller ports are also fake, they are a flap hiding the real controller ports.

The build quality is ok but I'm not a big fan of the plastic they used, it's a grainy plastic whereas the plastic on the original console has a smooth texture. It unfortunately makes it feel a bit cheap.

SNES Classic Console

The SNES classic is small!

No power adapter is included in the box, so you'll have to add your own or hook it to another device's USB port. In my case, I'm using the service USB port on the back of my TV, it appears to supply enough power to the small console. Any standard USB port should be good enough to power it.

The hardware is an off-the-shelf system-on-a-chip (Allwinner R16) with a 4-core ARM CPU that runs Linux and software emulators, including special chips emulation that is required for certain games, like the Super FX.

The Controllers

Two controllers are included and they look almost identical to the original ones with the exception of the connectors, smaller cord length with 140 cm instead of the 230 mm, and some minor details like the shoulder button letters that are not painted.

SNES Classic Controller

The controller is almost exactly the same as the original.

The buttons feel very similar, but maybe the D-Pad is a bit firmer. Like the main unit, the plastic used on the controller feels less smooth than the plastic used on the original controllers.

Display

The great thing about the SNES Classic is you can hook it to an modern HDMI TV without the quality degradation that happens while upscaling an analog source.

SNES Classic Display Modes

The available display modes.

The console let's you choose between three display modes: CRT, 4:3 and Pixel Perfect:

  • CRT - Emulates old TVs by showing a filter that looks like CRT scan lines, but the image is a bit blurry.

  • 4:3 - Stretches the image horizontally like old TVs, without scan lines or evident blurriness, maintaining the original aspect ratio, but they managed to keep the image crisp and without artifacts while scrolling. It looks like they're using additional pixels to smooth the motion to avoid visual glitches. Clever.

  • Pixel Perfect - Doesn't have any filter, stretching or additional graphic tricks and uses square pixels. But because old TVs didn't display square pixels, the resulting image is not shown at the originally intended aspect ratio, it's almost a square which distorts the games a bit.

I prefer the 4:3 mode.

The SNES Classic output resolution is 720p, which is optimal (with 3x3 pixels) since the typical resolution of SNES games is 224p or 240p.

Games

The included games for the european version are Super Mario World, Yoshi's Island, Super Mario Kart, Super Mario RPG, The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past, Donkey Kong Country, Star Fox, Super Metroid, F-Zero, Mega Man X, Kirby Super Star, Contra III, Final Fantasy VI, Secret of Mana, Super Ghouls 'n Ghosts, Earthbound, Kirby's Dream Course, Street Fighter II Turbo, Super Castelvania IV, Super Punch-Out and the never released Star Fox 2.

SNES Classic Games

The game selection screen.

Overall, it's a nice game selection but I would have liked Chrono Trigger, Donkey Kong Country 2 and 3, Super Mario All-Stars, Killer Instinct and Earthworm Jim to name a few.

There are ways to hack it and add your favorite missing games to the Super Nintendo Classic.

I have the european version of the SNES Classic, but it appears the games are US versions that run at 60 Hz, instead of the 50 Hz of european PAL games. This choice was made to avoid unwanted visual glitches in modern TVs that usually run at 60 Hz, but that means you can't have exactly the same game you had on your original european console.

Software

The software is nice, with a simple user interface that does its job. It's mostly a game selection menu with a cool Nintendo style music. Not much else to say there.

I like that you are able to suspend and resume games without relying on each game's save system.

Another cool feature is replay - if you die, you can rewind the game a few seconds to fix your mistake. This is done by getting up and pressing the reset button on the console. I guess making you get up to press the button is Nintendo's way of punishing you for cheating a bit! This feature will make some of the very difficult games easier to finish.

The game emulation appears to be really good and no obvious lag is discernable.

Final Thoughts

The SNES Classic is something I'd wished for a long time, a way to get my favorite old games on a newer TV without decreased quality. It's not perfect and I would have liked a bit more attention to the build/material quality and longer cords, but for 90 euros it packs great value, especially if you've had one before. You won't be disappointed. Nostalgia is such a great seller.