Is the SNES Mini good for retrogaming?

If you’re a “collector”, the SNES Mini is probably bad for the value of your collection, but for gamers everywhere, I can’t help but see it as a positive.

I’ve spent the best part of what gaming time I could muster playing with Nintendo’s excellent little Nintendo Classic Mini: Super Nintendo Entertainment system, which I’m just going to call the SNES Mini from hereon out, because who has time for a name that clunky?

This isn’t my review (which I’ve filed over here, for those that are curious), but more some opinion-musing on what the explosive popularity of “mini” consoles are leading to. We’ve seen competitors from Atari and Sega/ATGames already with relatively disappointing results, but a huge groundswell of interest in retro topics generally.

I was also somewhat prompted into thinking around this topic by Matt Sainsbury’s review of the SNES Mini over at Digitally Downloaded. Matt loves the games on the system but ends up annoyed at the lack of titles on the system itself, citing missed opportunities and the inability to add games to the system.

On the other hand, I love the SNES Mini, and consider it excellent value that’s not disappointing in that way. So which of us is right?

Actually, I suspect we both are. This is what criticism and review are actually about, folks, because different critics can approach a work from different viewpoints and angles. I genuinely think that the SNES Mini is excellent for retro and gaming, because it opens up classic titles to an entirely new audience, and I can’t fault the value proposition of 21 generally excellent titles for $119.95.

At the same time, Matt’s not wrong. There are missed opportunities and some truly baffling ommissions in the SNES Mini’s lineup (no Pilotwings/Super Soccer/Super Tennis first party, no Chrono Trigger, etc), and Matt’s written his own list of games he thinks should have made the cut.

I wrote my own version of much the same (although my choices differ slightly again, because critics can differ and still both be right) which you can read here.

It’s always going to be the way that we’d like more than we’re getting, but I don’t see it as quite as much of a fatal flaw as he does. And that’s cool and fine, because we can agree to differ. Likewise, he can’t quite get past the lack of ability to add games, and sure, that’d be nice, but I can see why it wasn’t done. It keeps unit costs down, it drops complexity in building an online store interface (something that Nintendo isn’t that great at anyway) and it’s less of a conduit for the pirate types.

We’re both ignoring the emulation elephant in the room here, by the way. If you’re really that ticked off that the SNES Mini only has 21 games on it, go build a RetroPie system or hack a Wii or just install the emulators on your PC, as folks have been doing for quite some time now.

Nowhere near as charming or legit as the SNES Mini, but it’s entirely doable with relatively little stress. As I’ve noted before, I very much enjoy playing original games on the original hardware, but the slightly daft prices some retro games now fetch, and the age of the hardware makes that a tricky proposition for some.

Which gets back to the issue of actually playing the games. There’s some classics on the SNES Mini, even if it’s not as many as some would like, but it’s also something of a training ground for retro expectations on what is my favourite retro console. The existence of the SNES Mini makes it much easier to convince folks to try other retro SNES titles if they visit, simply because it’s not a new experience for them.

If they liked Secret of Mana, they can try it properly in 3 player mode. If Donkey Kong Country entertained them, either of the sequels can be dropped into an actual SNES. If Starfox got them going, there are countless great shoot-em-ups to enjoy, and so on and so forth.

Sure, if your “collection” is one that you count in dollars, the existence of the SNES Mini probably isn’t great news, because anyone wanting to play Earthbound, Secret of Mana, FFVI/III and other harder to source titles can do so a litlte easier, presuming Nintendo keeps the SNES Mini stock flowing. But that indicates to me that you view your “collection” as an “investment”, and nobody ever said that investments were always guaranteed to go up.

I do have a collection of retro titles, but they’re not for speculating on. They’re for playing, and the SNES Mini makes it easier for me to both play them, and encourage others to investigate the breadth of excellent SNES titles that also exist. That’s a huge plus in my book.

Retro recollections are just random musings on retro subjects, usually whatever I’m playing at the moment.

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