Tuesday, July 22, 2014

NES Remix & NES Remix 2 (Review)

This review was originally published on ZeldaChronicles (formerly known as ZeldaEurope) and got translated for this blog in 2021 by the same author.

Currently Nintendo has some offers in the eShop concerning NES Remix: if you own one of the games, the other will cost less (6,99€ instead of 9,99€) and there are several discounted NES games as well. This is a great incentive to finally take a look at this mini-game collection, with a focus on the Zelda NES classics, The Legend of Zelda and Zelda II - The Adventure of Link. Is it any fun or just a waste of money?

NES Remix got released at the end of last year, on December 18th, and NES Remix 2 on April 25th of this year. If you've never heard of these games before, then all you need to know is that these are two download titles for the Wii U, where you have master short challenges in different NES games against the clock. These challenges are usually short snippets from the games, where for example you have to defeat enemies or collect things.

In the following you'll find list of all games, which are used in NES Remix and NES Remix 2 for the mini-games.


NES Remix (388MB):

  • Balloon Fight
  • Baseball (Bonus)
  • Clu Clu Land
  • Donkey Kong
  • Donkey Kong Jr.
  • Donkey Kong 3 (Bonus)
  • Excitebike
  • Golf
  • Ice Climber
  • Mario Bros.
  • Pinball
  • Super Mario Bros.
  • Tennis (Bonus)
  • The Legend of Zelda
  • Urban Champion (Bonus)
  • Wrecking Crew


NES Remix 2 (100MB):

  • Dr. Mario
  • Ice Hockey (Bonus)
  • Kid Icarus
  • Kirby's Adventure
  • Metroid
  • NES Open Tournament Golf
  • Punch-Out!!
  • Super Mario Bros. - The Lost Levels
  • Super Mario Bros. 2
  • Super Mario Bros. 3
  • Wario's Woods
  • Zelda II: The Adventure of Link


It needs to be stressed that these games aren't included as a whole, but only in short excerpts. There is a link to the Nintendo eShop for each game, where you can download them for Virtual Console, in case you like them. In a way this is like a collection of short demos.

NES Remix 2 spans a smaller number of titles, but the more sophisticated ones. With Zelda II - The Adventure of Link, three Super Mario Bros. games, Kid Icarus, Metroid or Kirby's Adventure you get a lot more depth than with the more Arcade-like collection in the first NES Remix. In addition, NES Remix 2 also comes with two entirely remixed games, Super Luigi Bros. and Nintendo World Championships Remix, the latter only if you also own NES Remix.

Super Luigi Bros. is a modification of Super Mario Bros., where you play as Luigi, who jumps a little higher, but doesn't have as much traction. Also, all the levels are mirrored, so you're actually walking from the right to the left. Essentially, you're getting a whole new version of the NES classic here, which on its own already costs 4,99€ in the eShop, so this feels like a good deal.

Nintendo World Championships Remix is based on the American event with the same name from 1990, where you had to compete for highscores in three different games on a special cartridge. In this case you have to collect 50 coins in Super Mario Bros., then 25 coins in Super Mario Bros. 3 and finally score as many points as possible in Dr. Mario. While the games are different from the original, it's certainly a nice to have gimmick. But as already mentioned, this only gets unlocked, if you have both NES Remix games.

Sadly, there is no quick way of swapping between the titles. So, if you want to switch between playing challenges for Zelda II - The Adventure of Link and The Legend of Zelda, you have to leave the game and then start the other, which is a little inconvenient. It probably would have been better to have this as one big game.



So, how does the whole thing play? Every NES title gets a series of stages, where you have to master one or more short challenges. These challenges can be super trivial stuff, like "Take the item!", where some of it feels like a tutorial for the respective game. Later on the challenges get more complex and difficult, where you might have to finish whole levels or fight bosses.

Link in the forest has to defeat all the enemies without taking damage

In many cases you get a number of lives for this, where you can die or get hit with Mario, Link, Samus and co. a couple of times, until you've mastered the challenge. In some cases the time will run out before that, however, because many of the challenges have a very short time limit.

If you get a "Game Over", you are still able to jump back into the last challenge, but will only get one star. Each stage has a score of three stars, where two stars require you to beat it without a Game Over and for three stars under a certain time. If you're especially fast, you can also score three rainbow-colored stars.

The stars are used to unlock other games, as well as special Remix and Bonus levels. And this leads to the first problem: if you only want to play the stages for certain games, you might be out of luck and have to grind for stars to unlock them first. Zelda is actually a great example here, where as a Zelda fan you probably want to start with those stages. But in NES Remix you need 100 stars to unlock The Legend of Zelda and in NES Remix 2 it takes 110 more stars to get to Zelda II. And this can take a while...

So, whether you like it or not, you'll have to try the other games, of which some of them have aged quite poorly. For example the jumping in Ice Climbers or the arcade Mario Bros. (not to be confused with Super Mario Bros.) takes some getting used to, where it's easy to lose motivation. Another example would be Clu Clu Land, where it can be quite tough to get accustomed to its controls, even if they are simple on paper. And with many titles you get the feeling that the challenges are only fun, if you know and love the original game. It's just a lot of excerpts taken out of the context of the game.

The Legend of Zelda (NES Remix)

Fans of the Zelda NES Classics on the other hand should be quite unchallenged by the "challenges" and get the three rainbow stars in all stages in no time. The first tasks for The Legend of Zelda already speak volumes:

  • Take the sword!
  • Defeat all the enemies! (some Octoroks)
  • Restore your life gauge! (at a Fairy pond)
  • Buy somethin' will ya!
  • Enter the dungeon!

Later on the challenges get a little bit more interesting, e.g. "Defeat all enemies without taking damage!", but for the most part you simply follow the key points of the game, where you collect the essential items, defeat all bosses and then finally save Zelda.

NES Remix also offers some more difficult levels for The Legend of Zelda, where you get challenges based on the 2nd Quest or have to defeat Manhandla with a single bomb. But sadly this isn't part of the game's actual list of stages, where instead those are hidden among the "Bonus Stages", for which you have to a majority of the stars to unlock them. Here it would have been better to unlock more difficult stages for the respective game, once you've cleared all its stages with three stars.

Zelda II - The Adventure of Link (NES Remix 2)

You would think that at least the stages for Zelda II - The Adventure of Link should offer some good challenges by default, but curiously they are even easier than the one for The Legend of Zelda. In many cases it's enough to quickly run right through the area and the bosses already got weakened so much that you can defeat them with a few hits. The mighty Thunderbird even dies after a single hit, turning one of the most difficult boss fights in the Zelda series into a joke.

It's all so simple that NES Remix 2 might even leave the wrong impression that Zelda II isn't so hard as they say after all. Maybe this was even intentional, so that some people might finally give this game a chance and purchase it on the Virtual Console, but for fans of the game the "challenges" are just utterly disappointing.

Defeat the Iron Knuckle!

There's also less to do for Zelda II overall. The first Zelda had 53 challenges in 17 stages (not including the bonus and remix stages), while Zelda II only gets 22 challenges in 10 stages, where this could have been more, especially since entire parts of the game got skipped.

In The Legend of Zelda every single Triforce Shard gets visited along with its boss, where you basically are playing a summary of the game. But the stages for Zelda II don't contain anything from Death Mountain, the Midoro Palace, or the Palace on the Sea. The boss fight against "Gooma" at least gets featured in the bonus stages, but again you have to laboriously unlock that by grinding for many stars in the other games. And there are just many interesting parts of the game, which would have been perfect for some mini-game challenge, but don't get any attention in NES Remix 2 at all... And that's a shame.

Controls and Presentation

You can use all possible controllers for these games, which next to the Wii U GamePad includes the Pro Controller, a Wii Remote or a Classic Controller. The GamePad simply mirrors what's on the TV, so you can use it as an alternate screen at any time. Initially NES Remix didn't support all controllers, but this got added via an update in January.

The NES games themselves all get emulated, much like on the Virtual Console, and therefore are only different in resolution from the originals. The emulation is so faithful that it even has the drops in the frame rate. For example, if you go into a room with lots of enemies in Metroid, the game will play as slowly as in the original. According to the developing studio, indieszero, this was entirely on purpose, where this is supposed to add to the challenge. But it probably would have been nicer if the games ran smoother at certain points.

The Remix

At least the eponymous "Remix Stages" offer some graphical novelty, where you get nicer backgrounds or shadow effects, which is reminiscent of the "3D Classics" on the Nintendo 3DS. These remixed levels are effectively the main attraction, because this is where the games truly get modified and mixed.

Lights may be turned off, things appear twice on the screen, or the visuals suddenly turn into that of the GameBoy, but the highlights are with all certainty the crossovers. Link from The Legend of Zelda may try to save Pauline in a level of Donkey Kong – without the ability to jump, of course. Or the Link from Zelda Ii - The Adventure of Link might have to fight his way through a Super Mario Bros. level.

Link fighting a Hammer Bro while followed by Boos

It's ideas like this which make the NES Remix games quite charming, but they certainly got the short end of the stick. There would have been a ton of potential for crazy ideas, as proven by fan games like Super Mario Crossover. And the entire idea of Super Luigi Bros. is based on a remix level from the first NES Remix with the same concept. This just shows how far Nintendo could have gone with this, but the focus of NES Remix sadly wasn't on the remix, but on the many, many demo stages...


It's hard to say who NES Remix and NES Remix 2 were made for. It's an interesting way to familiarize yourself with the NES era in a very playful way, but many of the titles simply haven't aged well and the short challenges might only be fun if you're familiar with the original games. Fans of the NES games on the other hand might be completely unchallenged by a majority of the stages and there was just not enough focus on the ingenious remix stages.

Despite all of this, it would be nice to get a GameBoy Remix or a SNES Remix in the future, where the corresponding titles could be a lot more appealing than the ones for NES...

The Good:

  • Playful insight into the NES era
  • Diverse highscore hunt
  • Very nice ideas for the remix stages
  • Support for all controllers
  • NES Remix 2 comes with Super Luigi Bros.

The Bad:

  • Many poorly aged games
  • Too easy challenges for the Zelda games
  • Too few challenges for Zelda II
  • Unlocking all levels for a game takes too long
  • Not enough remix
  • Feels more like a demo collection

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