Like many of the devoted faithful, I and many others woke up bright and early the morning of the 29th to line up at Toys 'R Us to get a chance at buying a vaunted SNES Classic. My roommates and I piled into my roommate's beleagured old Volvo, and arrived at 8AM sharp, finding a line that was already stretching back to the entrance of the adjoining Baby's R Us. It was a chill fall morning, and I offered multiple times to leave my spot in line to run to the Wawa a block away for some coffee and donuts. Everyone else was good, apparently. In front of us, a fashionably dressed mother attempted to explain to her equally well-dressed children why she was "buying a toy for herself". It vaguely dawned on me as to whether or not those kids would even comprehend the games on the SNES Classic as even being video games as they knew them. If those games were relatively primitive and obtuse to me growing up in the early 2000s, I can only imagine how incomprehensibly primitive they must look to fresh modern audiences. Or perhaps not so primitive, given the massive revival in sidescrollers and 8-bit gaming. Who's to say? Behind us, a rather grizzled scalper in a ratty sports coat and faded Pokémon tee. We'll call him Al, totally not after the villain from Toy Story 2. Al moaned loudly about Target's "bullsh*t" policy of only allowing one console per customer, and droned on about his console collection-2 of every console from the NES onwards in the box, the entire TurboGrafix 16 library, and was currently on the hunt for a "third" Model 1 Sega CD. When I asked how much of those he used, he seemed rather puzzled. "I just emulate them", he said, cocking his head to the side. Quite a character.
As the hour went on, more and more people began to show. Rare sightings of the elusive inhabitantis cellarium were made. Young and old queued up in a line that reached almost to the Wawa a block away. It was hard to tell if the young kids were dragging their parents along, or their parents were dragging their kids along. Attire ranged from stained graphic tees to Louis Vuitton, and there was a trio cosplaying as the Mario Bros. and Princess Peach. Finally the manager of the store walked out, congratulated all who showed, and quietly began handing out tickets to purchasers before admitting them into the store. Just as it seemed there was enough to go around, a twenty-something in a black S550 and matching suit hurried into the back of the line, only to be greeted with a glum look on the manager's face. He walked off silently, tail between his legs, and everyone began to sort into the store. I probably wasn't the only one holding their breath, anticipating a storm.
As someone who hadn't set foot in a Toys 'R Us in a good decade and a half, there was a weird feeling of nostalgia mixed with a feeling of being out of place. Fidget spinners, drones, and My Little Pony merch sat alongside the Rubik's Cubes, RC cars, and Pokémon cards, bringing back some nostalgia and relief that nostalgia is still being made. My reminiscence was short lived, however, as the line moved forward at record speed. My roommate almost snatched the holy object out of the cashier's hands, and it was back to the dorms in a flash.
No time was wasted setting the diminutive console up. I really can't emphasize how tiny this thing is-it's exactly the size of an NES cartridge and weighs about as much. My roommate immediately booted up Super Metroid, and marveled at the quality of the graphics and sound. I got about 30 minutes of gameplay in myself, playing through Corneria in Star Fox in order to unlock Star Fox 2. Overall, it's mostly similar to the ROM that has been available over the internet since the late '90s. The dialogue and font are perhaps the biggest changes (similar to the footage shown at CES 1995, before the game was officially canned), and I'm sure someone will weep for the loss of "Expert Mode" on the main menu. Lock-on targetting seems to be missing, making space battles a bit more of a hassle. To this day, it remains my favorite title in the series, and continues to fascinate and entertain every time.
The graphics scale nicely to modern HD sets, and a pseudo-CRT filter is provided for those that desire a more retro experience. Definitely better than plugging an original Super Nintendo via composite, but the scanline filter seemed a bit strong compared to the original equipment on an actual CRT. The sound is a perhaps a bit more crisp than the original hardware, but it still has the rich warmth and deep bass that we know and love. Super Mario World is airy and pleasant, Super Metroid envelopes you in dark, skin-crawling synths, and Star Fox carries a lot of punch and images fantastically. Frame-rates are at least as good as the original games, perhaps a bit smoother with the benefits of modern tech. Overall, it's definitely on par with a good emulator or the Virtual Console platform, and whether or not it's worth buying is entirely up to you. For what it is, you're getting an officially licensed Nintendo product with a good $800 worth of games and no aging equipment to worry about. That's 10x the Classic's MSRP, and roughly 4x what the ballsiest scalpers are demanding online. Sadly, Nintendo's limited it to just one product run of course, so the average consumer looking to relive their childhood or get into retrogaming will probably have to look elsewhere. All in all, nice piece of kit if you can get it.