Almost a year ago, the Wii U received some excellent download titles in the form of NES Remix and NES Remix 2, each taking a set of classic (and not so classic) NES games and making short challenges based on sections from each game, or in some cases creating entirely original scenarios.
Curiously, the producer of the two games had previously said that the titles would've been harder or impossible to make on 3DS, so seeing Ultimate NES Remix on the system now is a little odd. While the Wii U will be getting a North American retail release with everything from both download titles on one disc, this 3DS game is more of a "best of" collection, only featuring the most popular games and cutting out all of the sports games along with some others. Naturally, this means you can expect a lot of Mario, Zelda and Donkey Kong, with these three franchises alone making up over half of the total included games, while 12 of the previously featured games did not make the cut.
In case you were unable to pick up any of the previous NES Remix releases thus far, the premise is quite simple. The game contains a couple of hundred short challenges based on various situations from a number of classic NES titles, and your job is to accomplish the displayed task as fast as possible. For the Super Mario Bros. challenges, for example, they range from simply collecting coins, to climbing hidden vines, all the way to defeating Bowser.
Most of the challenges do not just consist of a single task — you'll usually jump to a different scene afterward and be given a different assignment. One nice Super Mario Bros. example essentially has you playing through the most important parts of a full game playthrough, such as finding warp zones or making it through sections of the final world. There's also a different one that requires you to beat the first seven Bowsers in the game with fireballs to reveal a certain secret fans of the game will surely know.
Initially, the only set of challenges you'll be able to play fall under the game's namesake, the "Remix" category. In these stages you'll find scenarios that are completely impossible to encounter in the original games, which can range from fairly mild variations, such as Mario having infinite star power, to pretty crazy examples, like a castle stage where giant fireballs will rise up from the bottom of the screen. One of the highlights is still a remixed Donkey Kong challenge where you play as Link instead of Mario; as Link can't jump, just like in his own games, DK's barrels are suddenly a whole lot deadlier.
As you complete challenges, you'll be graded depending on how fast you cleared them with up to three stars. These aren't just for show, because collecting stars will actually unlock additional games and Remix challenges, so you should always try to shoot for all three. If you're particularly fast these stars will also become rainbow-coloured, which will unlock a fairly interesting reward if you manage to get every single one in the game.
While the original NES Remix had some very strict time requirements for stars, NES Remix 2 is much more lenient. Those looking for a challenge might be disappointed to find out that in Ultimate NES Remix the developers went back and made the requirements for the challenges from the first game much milder, as well, meaning that once you've got a game's mechanics down you'll generally be able to earn the rainbow stars in a single attempt. While some might welcome this change, this does significantly cut down the game's replayability, which is a bit of a shame.
That's not where the changes end, however. While the Wii U games had some pretty great Miiverse integration, featuring unlockable stamps and prominently displaying messages from others, the 3DS version has absolutely none of this. We're assuming this is because of system limitations, but it was a fun aspect of the original titles and it's disappointing to see them completely missing in action. What did survive the transition are replays, which can now be viewed from the new leaderboard each game has. These leaderboards, however, are a little bit of a half-hearted effort, as the only two display options are "Regional" and "Friends" — there's no way to see what times people around the entire globe are getting, which is arguably the most important leaderboard to have.
If you want a break from the game's main challenges, there are also two alternate modes on offer. The first, Nintendo World Championships Remix, is exactly the same as it was in NES Remix 2. You will get three challenges in a row — collect 50 coins in Super Mario Bros., collect 25 coins in Super Mario Bros. 3 and, finally, simply play Dr. Mario. Naturally, the strategy is to clear the first two as fast as possible, before racking up as many points in Dr. Mario before the time runs out; your score will then be posted to a leaderboard, just like the game's normal challenges.
Those familiar with NES Remix 2 might think that the other alternate mode is Super Luigi Bros., a mirrored version of Super Mario Bros. starring Luigi, but for reasons unknown this didn't make the cut. Instead, there's the completely new Speed Mario Bros., which is decidedly less interesting — it's exactly the same as the original game, just running twice as fast. It works fine as a bonus game, but not — in our view — as well as the Luigi-based alternative.
While Ultimate NES Remix is technically a sound game, it comes across as a rather modest, slightly lazy port. You're only getting about two thirds of the original content from the original Wii U eShop releases, and what was arguably one of the most fun instances of Miiverse integration is completely absent. If you don't see yourself getting a Wii U in the near future and desperately want to see what the fuss is all about, this is still a good investment, but otherwise it's probably best to just pick up the original titles or wait for the combo pack.