The Nintendo SNES Classic has now been officially announced, with the plug ‘n’ play console set to feature 21 classic games taken from the library of Nintendo’s 16-bit console. Priced at $80 in the US and £80 in the UK, the SNES Classic immediately began trending worldwide after its announcement, with it set to experience a level of success that will likely surpass 2016’s elusive NES Classic.
But the NES Classic wasn’t without its detractors. Priced at $60 (at least initially, until scalpers began taking advantage of Nintendo’s stock shortages), it was pointed out by critics of the console that the 30 games on offer were each readily, illegally available online for free in ROM form, and that considering their age they didn’t necessarily justify the system’s price tag. Regardless of these naysayers, demand for the NES Classic was ridiculously high to the point where it almost immediately sold out, and collectors spent months trying to get their hands on the console as retailers struggled to get it back in stock. But these stock shortages have now led to increased scrutiny of its predecessor, with some asking: “Why even bother with the SNES Classic, when I can play all these games for free?”
ROMs are illegal. Yes, even though they allow you to play games that are many years old, they are still the intellectual property of their creators and as such using one is against the law. The lines get a little more blurry if you use a ROM of a game you already own a physical copy of, with it being argued that this action is covered under fair use, but if you’re using a ROM of a game that you don’t own, then expect to see Shigeru Miyamoto putting up a “Most Wanted” poster of your face in your local saloon.
However, much like music piracy, the general assumption that users won’t face any legal ramifications for downloading a ROM is what leads many to continue to do so. After all, for many downloading an emulator and then a few ROMs is considered easier than purchasing an old console from eBay and a few games, just as many would rather quickly torrent an album than purchase it from iTunes or Amazon. So why would anyone with the capacity to run an emulator, and who also wasn’t particularly concerned with the legalities of downloading ROMs, choose to buy a SNES Classic?
The difference between console and PC gaming
Those who turn their noses up at console gaming willfully miss the point of why it remains so popular: convenience. While I enjoy playing games on my PC, sometimes I don’t want to sit up at my desk in my office, and would much rather lounge on my sofa in order to play a game. Sure, the likes of Steam’s Big Picture mode allow games to more easily be played in the living room, but if your desktop sits a reasonable distance away from your TV then you’re looking at using a lot of wires in order to get it to work.
Consoles provide a method of playing video games from right out of the box, and the SNES Classic will provide the same experience for those who want to play classic SNES games. Yes, those users could hook up a controller to their desktop, download an emulator and dive into ROMs, but the ability to simply plug it into your TV and dive right in is what’s most attractive about this system.
Better than the NES Classic
The NES Classic didn’t exactly offer a lot of bang for your buck. Though many were impressed by its $60 price tag, considering it housed a line-up of 30 games that were each around 30 years old and already available on multiple other platforms, there were only a handful of games that still had any lasting appeal. That didn’t stop it from becoming hugely sought after, but it did little to dissuade those using ROMs of these games from continuing to do so.
I didn’t buy a NES Classic, but I’ve laid down my pre-order money for the SNES Classic and with good reason. While the NES is now notably outdated, SNES games still hold up to this day, and the bundle offered with the SNES Classic is emblematic of this. It boasts three of the greatest RPGs ever in the form of Secret of Mana, EarthBound and Final Fantasy 3, some of the most beloved entries in iconic Nintendo franchises such as The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past, Super Metroid and Super Mario World, along with the long-awaited debut of the previously unreleased Star Fox 2. It’s an impressive package, and though it’ll retail for $20 more than its predecessor, it offers far more value for money.
So while ROMs may present a free (but, again, illegal) alternative, the SNES Classic offers convenience, a selection of great games and a nifty collector’s item to boot. Though it remains to be seen whether stock shortages will yet again cause headaches for those looking to pick it up at launch, this is a console that is far more worthy of purchasing than the NES Classic, and — for me, at least — much more appealing than sitting in front of an emulator at my PC.