For some it was the greatest video game console of all time, a 1990s treasure trove of legendary titles like Super Mario Kart, Super Metroid and Yoshi’s Island – and now, not altogether unpredictably, it’s back.
Nintendo has announced that it will launch the Mini Super Nintendo Entertainment System (or Mini SNES), a petite version of its 1990 machine, on 29 September.
Priced at £79 ($79), the device comes pre-installed with 21 classic titles. Alongside predictable entries such Super Mario World, Super Punch Out and the genre-defining role-playing games Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past and Secret of Mana, there is one surprise inclusion: the never before released Star Fox 2, sequel to the famed flight combat adventure, which was intended for launch in 1995 but abandoned when Nintendo switched focus to the impending N64 console.
Like the Mini NES, launched last year to considerable enthusiasm, the Mini SNES comes with an HDMI cable so that games can be played on a modern flatscreen display – but there is no online functionality so it won’t be possible to add to the games collection on offer. This time, the console comes with two controllers, rather than just one, so that nostalgic Mario Kart, Punch-Out and Street Fighter II Turbo: Hyper Fighting tournaments can begin immediately.
Interestingly, Nintendo is releasing the Mini SNES in the machine’s two alternative form factors: Japanese and European fans will get a miniature version of the original light grey design, while North American stores will stock the region’s more angular grey and purple machine – altered because Nintendo of America felt the Japanese design was too squat and rounded.
The Mini NES launched last autumn for £50 but sold out almost immediately. Perhaps occupied with preparing its Switch console for market, Nintendo did not step up manufacturing and the machine has become a collector’s item, often selling for hundreds of pounds on eBay.
Although the Mini NES was well-reviewed, there were criticisms that the built-in collection of games couldn’t be expanded with extra downloads. Others saw the product as a gimmick, as all the games can be found online and run via emulators on a PC or smartphone. However, the Mini NES offered smooth, accurate emulations, configured to run on modern TVs, with a variety of graphics modes, and in a nostalgic package. The smart addition of an unreleased game to the SNES line-up provides an extra incentive.
It’s likely the Mini SNES will be greeted with as much enthusiasm as its predecessor, if not more so – the original machine’s 16bit processor and huge colour palette allowed games of much greater complexity than the 1980s NES; titles like Secret of Mana, Contra III and Final Fantasy III (known as Final Fantasy VI in Japan) were at the absolute zenith of 2D game design.
It’s not clear yet if Nintendo will support the Mini SNES with a larger production run than its predecessor. However, it is perhaps telling that the company is yet to confirm whether the Switch will be getting a version of the Wii’s Virtual Console store, where players could download classic Nintendo titles.
The announcement follows the recent launch of the Sega Forever range of classic titles on smartphone and the surprise revelation that Atari is working on a new console. Nostalgia, it seems, is still as much of a draw as the latest technologies.
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