NES Remix 1 and 2 appeared a few months ago on the Wii U as two separate titles, pitting you against various NES games to complete assorted tasks. The games were fun, and had us doing things that we’d either done ourselves hundreds of times before, or doing stuff we’d never thought of doing (or stuff we couldn’t ever do with the original games). Now the game’s gone portable, and a collection from both Remix games are available for the 3DS. Let’s see how the 8-bit retro nostalgia holds up.
Ultimate NES Remix takes excerpts from a collection of Nintendo-developed NES games such as Super Mario Bros., Donkey Kong, and Kirby, and gives you short challenges to complete within each game. There are between 10 and 25 challenges per game, as well as a series of challenges that mix things up a little, called Remixes. Each of the 250+ challenges (which are mostly quite short–you’ll spend less than a minute playing each challenge) has a time in which you should complete it, and these times determine how many stars you earn for the challenge. So, for example, in one of the Donkey Kong remix challenges, you play as Link from The Legend of Zelda. Link cannot jump. Suddenly, you have an entirely different, and much harder beast to battle in getting to the top of Donkey Kong’s girders to rescue Pauline. The faster you get there, the better your time. Or in one of the Super Mario Bros. remixes, the platforms blink in and out, meaning you have to rely on memory to complete the challenge in time. Other challenges have you exploiting secrets in the games to gain the best times–for example, one of the Legend of Zelda challenges require that you know where the entrance to a secret dungeon is.
Nevertheless, the fun isn’t simply in getting 3 stars (or even 3 rainbow stars) in every challenge (and lordy, can that be hard on some of the tougher challenges!); the fun is in getting your name to the top of the leaderboards. At its heart, Ultimate NES Remix is a highly competitive game that’s better played on a 3DS that’s connected to the internet. It’s disappointing, then, that there are really only two leaderboards to choose from: friends, and locals. One of the best features is the fact that your run through a challenge is recorded and uploaded to the boards. For example, in one Zelda challenge, I was clocking in just over four minutes, but the top of the leaderboard was sitting just past 24 seconds. To be able to at least equal that kind of score, it helps to see what they did (hidden dungeon I just mentioned!) The fun is then in trying to find better ways of doing things.
There are two other modes aside from the Remix challenges: World Championship Remix and Speed Mario Bros. The former mode has you collecting coins in Super Mario Bros. and Super Mario Bros. 3, and then defeating a round of Dr. Mario. Your completion time is then posted to the leaderboard. Arguably, a better way of doing this would be a daily or weekly challenge across three different challenges. This would help bring players back to the mode and increase replayability, but that’s just my take. The second mode, Speed Mario Bros., is the same as regular Super Mario Bros. with double the speed. It’s harder, obviously, and even completing the first level is suddenly a bigger task than you’d imagine. Once again, best times are posted to a leaderboard.
Ultimate NES Remix contains short sections of 16 of the games from both the original NES Remix games, instead of the full complement of 28 games. In this way, it’s closer to being a “Best of NES Remix” than an “ultimate” version, which you’d imagine would contain the full lot. In theory, Ultimate NES Remix is wonderful, but given the amount of content in the Wii U version, it’s a bit disappointing that a game with “Ultimate” in its name doesn’t feature everything from the originals. Still, for retro challenges on the go, you can’t do better than this game, especially when each challenge is so short. However, despite their length, you’ll probably spend a lot of time just trying to get a nice, high score and be immortalized on the leaderboards (until someone tops you). If you already have the Wii U versions, though, then you’d best give this one a miss.
Final Score: 7 8-bit prawns out of 10
Platform: Nintendo 3DS
Release Date: 7 October 2014
Age Rating: 3+