It's probably fair to say that NES games have welcomed a new generation of fans in recent years. Since the launch of the Virtual Console service on Wii in 2006, many famous NES games have gained new fans, and a few hidden gems have received more recognition than ever before. The expansion of the Virtual Console service to Wii U and Nintendo 3DS, and the inclusion of NES games on both systems, means every Nintendo fan can try their hand at some historic titles however they please. There's one small issue, though: some of these games might be fun, but they just loop over and over. For these, and for some of the system's timeless classics, this is where NES Remix comes into the picture.
NES Remix is a collection of sixteen classic NES games, though instead of playing through the games themselves, you're faced with a number of different challenges to complete which will make you think differently about how to approach them. Each game has a number of different stages to complete, some of which focus on one challenge and some of which feature a number of challenges within. For example, one stage in The Legend of Zelda focuses on having you collect rupees to buy an item, while another asks you to collect a key from three different sets of enemies without taking damage. Other stages involve important parts of certain games, such as saving Donkey Kong in Donkey Kong Jr. or finishing a race in Excitebike.
When you beat a stage, you'll receive a rating of up to three stars depending on how well you performed in that stage. The faster your time, the more stars you'll receive, and if you're really quick you'll earn three rainbow stars. You get a certain number of tries per stage, though you can just restart from the main menu if you use them all through failing, which makes them a bit redundant. You'll also receive bits when you beat a stage, which count towards your bit total for unlocking special stamps to use in Miiverse posts. There are 100 stamps in total, with one stamp unlocked after every 500 bits collected; bits are gained for clearing a stage under certain conditions, such as clearing with no tries used, clearing for the first time, and so on. You might also boot up NES Remix to find a certain NES game is offering double bits, making collecting them much easier.
The first time you play the game, you'll start with just a select few NES games to play, with the others becoming available as you gradually collect more stars. Some of the shorter entries, or those that loop, have fewer stages than the others; for example, Pinball has six stages to play, while Super Mario Bros. has a total of 25 to choose from. This is mainly because, in games like Super Mario Bros., there are a generally wider variety of challenges to be had, such as getting a certain number of 1-Ups or defeating a certain number of enemies whilst invincible. With games like Excitebike, you start off slow with challenges like holding a wheelie before making your way up to partaking in races, beating times, knocking over other racers, and so on.
One of the highlights of NES Remix is the inclusion of the titular Remix stages. These are completely new takes on the featured NES games: the challenges set are only possible because of how they've been set up within each stage. One of the early Remix stages, based on a level from Donkey Kong, features very little light, which makes it more difficult to see where barrels are coming from, while another features a night race in Excitebike. Prior knowledge of the original games is helpful, which is why it can be a very good idea to tackle its normal stages before heading for any Remix stages that may be based on it. Purely by dint of being different, the Remix stages can be quite challenging, though they're all a great deal of fun. However, we do wonder what we did to make Nintendo hate us so much that it would create a Donkey Kong stage with Link - who can't jump over barrels - as the playable character.
NES Remix is very much a completionist's dream, but that doesn't mean it can't be enjoyed by others as well. Anyone who enjoys challenges such as these will surely enjoy NES Remix, particularly as it can quite easily pass as a pick-up-and-play title with no obligation to play more than a few stages at a time. There's nothing forcing you to try for three rainbow stars, either, although getting more stars will unlock more Remix stages for you to try your hand at. For those who enjoy the challenge of completing games, NES Remix is there to be completed, and it's challenging enough to make completion a very satisfactory milestone.
Visually, NES Remix likes to keep it simple, and the user interface is simple enough that it can't possibly be anything less than ideal. Its soundtrack is also kept to a minimum, since little else is needed here, though the classic NES tunes are as nice to hear as always. The game also allows you to choose between a number of control methods: initially, you were limited to using the Wii U GamePad to control the game, but the latest software update introduces the ability to play using a Wii Remote (or Wii Remote Plus), a Wii U Pro Controller, or a Classic Controller Pro (or Classic Controller). It's safe to say that - as with any NES games you may have downloaded on Wii or Wii U from the Virtual Console - the Wii Remote held on its side is by far the most comfortable controller to use here.
In terms of the sixteen NES games included in NES Remix, the selection is certainly quite varied as no two games are really the same, save for slight similarities in a couple of the arcade games. Mario and Donkey Kong are the only two duplicated series, and even then Mario Bros. and Super Mario Bros. are two very different games. It might have been nice to see a couple of other classics, like Kid Icarus or Kirby's Adventure, but we're clutching at straws with that one as there's nothing offensive about the final selection at all.
As we noted at the beginning of this piece, NES games have welcomed a new generation of fans since the launch of the Virtual Console in 2006, and sixteen of them in particular are about to gain a fair few more with the release of NES Remix, a challenging and hugely enjoyable reimagining of the purposes of these classic games. Who knows - maybe taking part in these challenges will spur you on to play or finish the games for the very first time. With satisfying amounts of competitiveness and smart Miiverse integration, it'll be difficult to tear yourself away from this one. Now, then... Who's up for SNES Remix next?