The NES Classic Edition hit the 2016 holiday season like a Mack truck. The hard-to-find reimagining of the 1980s console created long lines at Best Buy and astronomical asking prices on eBay.
With rabid fans and huge success, the release of the Super Nintendo Classic Edition was inevitable. The device is another trip down memory lane, but Nintendo improves on this iteration. Learning from the last time around, the company now includes a second controller. The number of games is lower at 21, but it's headlined by a lost gem -- "Star Fox 2."
This sequel was originally scheduled to launch on the SNES, but Nintendo mothballed it at the last minute. Finally, fans have a chance to play the title, and they'll be shocked by the experience.
"Star Fox 2" feels both retro and new at the same time. It's a project that feels dated on the SNES Classic, but despite the visuals, it contains radical design elements that would be controversial if it were released in 1996. With the sequel, Nintendo removes any sense of linearity from the game.
Players are free to fly around and battle Andross, who has returned and sent his minions to attack Corneria. Players choose two heroes from among six pilots and battle across the Lylat System. To my teenage self, the ability to fly anywhere on "Star Fox 2" would have been mind-blowing, but at the same time, it would be tempered by the fact that the fights in the game are short.
Surprisingly enough, players can beat "Star Fox 2" in 30 minutes. Instead of building a long epic game like the original, Nintendo flattened out the level design and built it with replay value in mind.
Star Fox and company will have to protect Corneria by shooting down missiles, fending off the Star Wolf mercenaries, freeing two planets, taking down two carriers and destroying the mirage dragon. The interesting thing is that the elements of the adventure change each time players fire up the campaign or change the difficulty level. The planets that need liberation will be new, and the scenarios will be different
To experience the whole game, players would need multiple play-throughs. That may not be a new idea now, but it would have been revolutionary in the nineties. That strange feeling of simultaneously being impressed and underwhelmed is woven everywhere in the game. For example, the Arwing's transformation to a bipedal mech would be slick for 1996, but the gameplay itself seems pedestrian in 2017.
This schizophrenic way of viewing "Star Fox 2" makes it one of the most surreal gaming experiences out there. It's like being in a state of persistent deja vu. The game is exudes a retro "Hotline Miami" vibe, but at the same time, players realize that it is retro. It's the unusual game that oozes nostalgia while also offering something new.
"Star Fox 2" alone would have made the SNES Classic worth picking up, but the other titles, including "Super Metroid" and "A Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past," give it more than enough value. The fact that players can save the games at any moment and even rewind it if there are difficult levels is even more valuable.
The SNES Classic is a refinement of childhood, one that lets a generation relive its past and opens up a window to 1990s gaming to a younger set of gamers.
ON THE HARDWOOD: According to my "NBA 2K18" simulation, the Golden State Warriors are going to repeat as NBA Champions. That shouldn't surprise anyone, but what if you could change what's seemingly inevitable.
That's what "NBA 2K18" is for. It lets players live the dream of being part of the association, and alter the history of a beloved franchise. Is your team a perennial cellar dweller? No worries. Players can create a player who can alter the team's trajectory. Has your team run into an unbelievable run of draft success? Fans can continue it by taking over the team in a the MyGM mode.
What's different about "NBA 2K18" is the path in how players arrive at building a dominant franchise. In past iterations, the path to success follows a similar flow. Players' avatars go from high school to college before being drafted by the pros.
In this year's career mode, the protagonist comes in as a rookie free agent named DJ. The character has returned to basketball after spending time in the music business and gets his foot in the door by playing in a streetball tournament. From there, MyCareer follows the role-playing game trajectory as DJ goes from bench player to star.
Along the way, they'll sign endorsement deals and live the life of an NBA player. Visual Concepts tweaks this year's game to make it friendly to all forms of play by unifying the street ball modes and melding it into the campaign. Now, fans can take their avatar online and play with others, earn in-game credits and use those to power their character.
Of course, they can also do the same thing in the solo mode. Thankfully, the team does a better job at making the process less of a grind while giving players the opportunity to sharpen their skills.
A new addition is the MyGM: The Next Chapter mode, which tries to bring the magic of MyCareer over to the team game. Instead of controlling a single player, MyGM puts gamers in charge of a franchise in a story-driven narrative. From there, it's similar to the normal mode, but there are story elements scattered through.
Despite the new addition, this mode isn't flesh out enough. The lack of voice acting makes the mode feel slapped on, but it's an intriguing idea, one that should be explored more.
Super Nintendo Classic Edition
Three and a half stars
Two and a half stars
Platform: Xbox One, PlayStation 4, Nintendo Switch, Xbox 360, PlayStation 3, PC
Rating: Everyone 10 and up ___
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