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RELEASE DATE (NA): December 18, 2013 GENRE: Compilation
// review by SoyBomb

NESquik-ly done.

Maybe I'm an unapologetic cynic and realist, but NES Remix isn't the golden showcase of nostalgic love that critics are proclaiming it to be.

So here's what NES Remix is in a nutshell: a collection of very short mini-games and challenges based on classic Nintendo titles of lore. Each NES game gets a series of challenges that are more or less just things you would have done in a regular game. Each challenge is around a minute in length (often less, sometimes more, but a minute's time is a good average) and varies to suit the game's content. Just think WarioWare, but with less creativity in the mini-game design.

Here's NES Remix's first problem: the actual game selection is ghastly. 16 NES games eventually make themselves available. They're all from Nintendo's early video gaming years, and it definitely shows. Some are natural choices for a collection like this, such as Super Mario Bros. and The Legend of Zelda, choices that most players would be happy to play again. But who REALLY wants to relive the horrors of Balloon Fight, Ice Climbers, or Clu Clu Land? Even the old Mario Bros. (not the Super version), which has been subsequently included as a free bonus in numerous other Mario games because Nintendo knows nobody really wants to ever pay money for this again, has numerous challenges available here. After playing some of these so-called "classics", I've come to realize just how appalling it is to play some of them.

Can we all agree that playing Ice Climber's about as fun as digging a well with a piece of string? ...Okay, maybe it's not quite as bad as Balloon Fight, which controls like a slippery tuna in a drunken stupor. Can we just all agree that Balloon Fight is the worst thing ever? ...Okay, even Balloon Fight isn't half as bad as Clu Clu Land, a game that has stood the test of time about as well as that carton of milk in my fridge from university days that turned black. Black and crusty, which is how my insides felt after playing a round of Clu Clu Land.

There's a reason why none of these are a surviving franchise or why there is no sequel to Ice Climber or Clu Clu Land: these games are absolutely horrid to play. Simply compare the physics of Ice Climber to that of Super Mario Bros. — no comparison at all — and you'll see why this is a relatively loathsome game in terms of controls alone. On a positive note, I've gained a much stronger bond with Excitebike. On a negative note, I've gained a much stronger bond with Golf as well, and I wish I hadn't. The only way to truly manage those challenges is to understand the nature of golf, a sport that I really can't connect with easily. What's a "golf"?

Better hope those old-school reflexes are still intact.

Once you earn a certain number of stars, other stages are unlocked. First are the Remix stages, which basically take something you would normally do in a specific NES game and give it a little twist. This brings me to NES Remix's second problem: the "remix" part of it isn't that impressive. Often, that "twist" is simply adding a visual filter that makes looking at the game more irritating, rather than challenging (though, to be fair, completing a game while irritated is a challenge unto itself). Some remixes involve doing a task backward, such as completing a lap of Excitebike in the opposite direction. It's sad, however, that all they did was flip the screen horizontally; even the text is so obviously backward, it's somewhat pathetic. I'm happy that certain remixes actually have thought put into them, such as plopping Link into a game of Donkey Kong. Link can't jump, so there's added difficulty there.

Unlocked later are the "Bonus" stages, which are a hearty (or not hearty) blend of even more remixed stages, as well as takes on some additional classic NES games, such as... oh. Yes. Yay. I sure wanted to play me some Donkey Kong 3. Or Tennis. Or Baseball. NES games that haven't aged well, and probably were already frail and wrinkly a couple of years after their actual release dates. They're playable, but I'd rather not. The final Bonus challenge is particularly brutal, requiring not one, not two, not three, but a whopping 44 feats to be undertaken in a row. Yikes, Nintendo. Are you TRYING to give me heart failure? (That goes against their new "Quality of Life" mantra, by the way.)

If anything, NES Remix reminds us that Nintendo's history hasn't always been blue skies and fireflies. In fact, their early NES library was filled with just that: filler. Games like Clu Clu Land, Pinball, and Golf may have been mildly intriguing, but they weren't system sellers because they were, well, lousy. NES Remix is a neat nostalgic concept in theory, but in practice, it comes across as a rather shallow experience marred by outdated game choices by today's standards (and possibly even by the standards at the time) and lackluster "remixing" by Nintendo. They could have done much, much better in giving their "classics" a fresh coat of paint. Then again, you can only paint a wall so much before you realize half the room is now just a giant block of paint and you have no place for your designer ottoman.

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