Ultimate Nintendo Remix might be the most important video game of the century.
On a surface level, that seems like a given anyway. This game contains arguably all the best Nintendo produced games from the Nintendo Entertainment System. While Pac-Man may have pioneered mascots 2-D running or Adventure started slaying duckagons for keys, it was Mario and Link that popularized genres that are still healthy thirty years later. And even Nintendo’s misses, like Ice Climber or Clu Clu Land, contain lessons on what not to do in a video game, like anything involving imprecise jumping, or whatever the hell Clu Clu Land was about (hey, I don’t see anyone clamoring for DK King of Swing 2). In short, Nintendo’s 80’s reign over the gaming market set the stage for decades to come, so inevitably a collection featuring all of those games was going to make an impact.
But Ultimate Nintendo Remix is not some mere compilation of games you’ve already played (alright, “mere” compilations are some of my favorite games); no, Ultimate Nintendo Remix is the Nintendo’s greatest hits run through the WarioWare wringer and condensed into teeny ten second challenges. You can’t play “all” of Super Mario Bros, but you can play its first level after “learning” all the component pieces (like jumping, running, or mushroom acquisition) in concise, seconds-long “mini” stages. Each featured game, from Mario Bros. (the turtle based one [… and crabs]) to Wario’s Woods (ah, the days when Nintendo had no idea what to do with Wario), is sliced and diced into bits and pieces, and, if you can master those pieces, you can master the entire game.
Thus, Ultimate Nintendo Remix reveals more about game design than any course or manual ever could.
To return to Super Mario Bros. as the example du jour: SMB features Mario, a man that can walk, run, and jump. Mushrooms make Mario bigger, and fire flowers allow Mario to throw fireballs. There are a variety of enemies and obstacles in the world of SMB, and they must be avoided or defeated to progress. That’s… about it. On paper, that’s the entire game. In practice, though, there are hours of eclectic gameplay across eight different worlds all because those component pieces are properly rearranged and remixed to lead to all new challenges. Here’s a goomba. Here are two goombas together. Here are some pipes to leap around. Now we’ve got pipes with a hole between, and you’ll be dead if you miss your target. And just when you think you’ve got all this down, here are the Hammer Bros. to ruin your day. Everything splendidly assembles into a complete game, but all you’re really dealing with is a collection of toys spilling out of one basic toy box.
And that’s all a video game ever is. It’s a collection of skills that you learn in the early stages (whether they be literal tutorials or gradual difficulty ramps) applied to challenges that increase in both complexity and difficulty. Whether you’re playing Donkey Kong or Skyrim, it’s all the same: short challenges seamlessly pooled into one complex whole.
Video games are gestalts.
This is something that we’ve been subconsciously reinforcing in the gaming world for years. Even within UNR, the Kirby’s Adventure challenges are the most complex challenges on the collection, and it’s no coincidence that that game was also the final Nintendo 2-D action platformer on the NES. There’s a big difference between fighting Fry Guy in SMB2 (lift blocks, throw blocks) and Sun ‘n Moon in Kirby’s Adventure (inhale objects… now shoot ‘em back… or swallow to gain a new power? How do you effectively use that power? Can you inhale two stars at once for extra firepower?), and that’s a big factor in why we still see very similar Kirby games today, while Mario has evolved well past the “proto” age of his pre-tanuki days. This complexity evolution continued into other games and genres, and each new “gaming trend” was merely a title finding a new way to solder on a new piece. Final Fantasy 7 added beautiful (for the time) cinematics and a complex story (as far as we could tell) to the typical JRPG template, and it lead to a generation of imitators. Grand Theft Auto 3 added a fully functioning (mostly) world between general level-to-level gameplay and forever changed the definition of “sandbox”. And the kicker is that all of these innovations were considered ground breaking and revolutionary at their release… and all they’ve ever been were slight upgrades over what had came before. All we’ve ever wanted from the future is the same basic movements applied to ever more intricate scenarios , and we’ve lauded every game that ever delivered the goods.
Ultimate Nintendo Remix makes this subliminal truth of gaming superliminal, and, more importantly, it makes the experience fun. Yes, you could easily claim that UNR is just there to train a whole new crop of gamers on the joys of Moblin slaying and Metroid hunting, and, yes, it’s no surprise that every game in this collection may also be purchased in its entirety on the Virtual Console, but what’s really important is what Nintendo is teaching “the next generation”. Considering many of these games were… what’s the proper term here? I want to say “gated”? Like, remember World 7 in Mario Bros.? No, of course you don’t, because it took forever to get there (even with warps), and there was no reason to ever bother. And if you lost your measly three lives on 7-2, the odds of ever seeing 7-3 were pretty slim, what with an annoying continue system and, again, why would you even care about 7-3? But with Ultimate Nintendo Remix, every important part of Super Mario Bros is diced up and, more importantly, easily available through a simple vertical menu. Continues? What are those? When every challenge is ten seconds, you can’t lose much progress. UNR breaks down the barriers of old. It’s all killer, no filler.
Ultimately (heh), that’s why Ultimate Nintendo Remix is so important. Without even trying, it imparts an important lesson about how video games work, and it makes it fun every step of the way. Even with games like Balloon Fight (everything but endless is boring) and Golf (always boring) there are fun experiences to be had, and this trojan horse of a lesson plan sneaks into another brain.
Ultimate Nintendo Remix is the games of yesterday played on the consoles of today for the people that will make our games tomorrow.
And I think that’s pretty important.
FGC #133 Ultimate Nintendo Remix
- System: NES Remix 1 & 2 are for the WiiU, while Ultimate Nintendo Remix is for the 3DS. For the purpose of this article, I’m rolling all the games into one big clump, because I can’t be arsed to remember which compilation contains which games.
- Number of players: Two? That sound right? I’ve never actually played these games with someone else. There has to be some part of this thing that is 2P…
- Port o’ Call: As mentioned, the various versions feature different games. NES Remix 1 & 2 combine to contain every game ever “remixed”, but Ultimate for the 3DS does the kindness of sticking all the best into one cart. I suppose NES Remix 2 and Ultimate NES Remix are the best versions, because neither of those games feature Urban Champion at all.
- Remix: Like a lot of people, I admit that I was drawn into this franchise by the promise of “remixed” games, like the infamous trailer showing Link in the world of Donkey Kong. Even just the concept of Nintendo characters playing game-swap for a night makes me excited. That said, it seems like all the remixes in this game are fairly tame (the aforementioned Link in DK is just “Mario can’t jump”) or something that popped up in a later game anyway (oh boy, head to head Dr. Mario).
- Favorite Remix: That said, I can’t describe the joy of Samus Aran rolling around the Mushroom Kingdom Subterranea collecting coins. Something about reforming SMB bricks feels so… right.
- “Leave ‘em Wanting More” Featured Game: Why doesn’t Punch-Out!! have more challenges? I would buy an entire game that is just “Punch-Out Trainer”. Hell, I would pay double for something that taught me how to play Super Punch-Out!!…
- Did you know? The remix that makes Kid Icarus (NES) operate like Kid Icarus of Myths and Monsters (Gameboy) with its weird sideways scrolling… literally makes me ill. I can’t tell you why, but it makes me queasy every time. Just thinking about it… ugh…
- Would I play again? I’m kind of disappointed with myself for owning the physical version of the Ultimate NES Remix for 3DS, because it would be a lot more ideal as something I could fire up any time (as opposed to only when I’ve slotted it in). That said, the WiiU versions get a lot of play for their “just there” factor. Come to think of it, if Nintendo ever gets into cell phone gaming in earnest, this should be their first release.
What’s next? Random ROB has chosen… Batman: The Brave and the Bold: The Video Game. Get your cape on, old chum, it’s time to punch a gorilla! Please look forward to it!