Gaming History 101

Know Your Roots

Review: NES Remix

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Despite all the piracy and archival purposes of emulation, my personal favorite addition to the gaming landscape was the ROM hack.  ROMs are the name for the entire program contained on a game cartridge and so naturally a “ROM hack” is taking a game we all know and love and changing it.  Nintendo hasn’t really dabbled in this until now – sure, the 1994 World Championship cart and a few SNES competition carts exist, but they are rare and thus hugely expensive.  NES Remix takes 16 established early games from the legendary 8-bit system (listed at the bottom of this review) and runs you through a series of challenges to compete with yourself, your friends on the couch, or the world online.  While it’s mostly just a derivative of WarioWare, this has to be one of the most addictive games for someone who grew up playing the NES.

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From the first series of challenges you can tell that NES Remix is based on the hardest parts of games, most advanced tactics, and interestingly enough exploits and secrets.  You may be tasked with defeating a dragon in The Legend of Zeldaafter which you need to jump three barrels in the opening level of Donkey Kong, and finally racking up 10 1-ups at the end of level 3-1 in Super Mario Broswith the bouncing turtle trick.  That’s the thing about NES Remix, it really hearkens back to your childhood and acts as nostalgia in a simple 10 second package.  In addition, there are “remix” levels where the hacks really come out to play.  You may need to beat the first level of Donkey Kong as Link from Zelda or play a level of Mario Bros in shadows, all of which are odd but fun mix-and-matching that appreciate the core of ROM hacking.  At the same time this also means it’s going to be tough to justify if you didn’t grow up in this era.  The NES is old.  Like, almost 30 years “old”, and I’m curious how many of the millions of NES gamers have returned to the Wii U for a title like this.  In order to properly appreciate this you can’t be much younger than 30 or much older than 40, so it is quite the limited audience.  Countless times within these challenges my wife, who participated as well, would ask me how I knew where the 1-up mushroom was, where the vine was, how to beat Dodongo (Legend of Zelda reference), or how I knew the 3-1 trick I mentioned earlier.  My answer was simple and unforgiving: I grew up with it.

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What was playground legend, something straight out of The Wizard, or a super secret reveal in Nintendo Power is now the rule set for NES Remix, which puts any newcomer or even 16-bit era gamer at a severe disadvantage.  On that same note the lack of explanation to the tasks you’re being asked will often times throw you as well.  Along with the console, these games are old.  Most will recognize and know Donkey KongSuper Mario Bros., and The Legend of Zelda, but how many of those people know the secrets and inner workings of Ice Climber or Balloon Fight?  This makes it difficult to perform the task being asked of you, especially given that none of these games offer instruction manuals or pre-challenge environments with the original game.  There is a video that somewhat explains the tasks at hand – I’m sure Nintendo would also recommend you downloading each game that is conveniently available in one or multiple virtual console iterations – but it’s a basic overview for challenges that are high level.  Again, for me this was no big deal, I was soaking up any game I could get my hands on back in 1987 so I’m acutely familiar with these titles, but even my cousin of only five fewer years knew almost none of these games.  It’s makes for an obtuse combination that I still think best fits those that know the games.

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Therein lies the rub of how to properly review, recommend, and score this title.  While I admit this review is a bit more of a debate and conversation with the reader as to what fits best, I can’t possibly see how you can be all-encompassing with a game like NES Remix.  This title is early NES in a bottle that enjoys, appreciates, and challenges the gamers of those glory golden era titles when Nintendo ruled supreme and video games were no longer a passing fad.  Given my personal past I have no choice but to view this title through the eyes of a gamer who grew up with these games and spent endless hours trying to conquer each one.  For someone like me, NES Remix is a breath of fresh air that takes a handful of classics and allows me to replay them in bite sized challenges that I can’t seem to walk away from.  Not only are these the classic games, but the new (albeit bare bones) challenges allows me to re-visit the past without completing the same task from the last 29 years.  In short, I can’t put this game down, and once I’ve completed all 200 challenges (I’m somewhere in the upper 170s with all challenges unlocked), I’m going to go back to get 3 stars and possibly even try to beat my previous times for each.  While it’s not for everyone, and probably has a more niche audience than you would expect, NES Remix is one of those core games that retro enthusiasts need to download the moment they get a Wii U.

Final Score: 4 out of 5

Games in NES Remix:  Balloon Fight, Baseball, Clu Clu Land, Donkey Kong, Donkey Kong Jr., DonkeyKong 3, Excitebike, Golf, Ice Climber, Mario Bros, Pinball, Super Mario Bros, Tennis, The Legend of Zelda, Urban Champion, Wrecking Crew.

NES Remix was purchased on the Wii U eshop for $14.99 and the reviewer was not given a review code.  It has been played for approximately seven hours at the time of writing.  This title is only available on the Wii U and only digitally via eshop.

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