Shortly before the end of 2013 Nintendo suddenly surprised us — during a Nintendo Direct, it announced and then immediately released NES Remix, a very unusual but, we thought, very fun collection of small challenges based on various games from Nintendo's NES catalogue. A few months later and, in a different Nintendo Direct, Nintendo announced NES Remix 2, which unfortunately was not also immediately available. It's here now, however — has the wait been worth it?
If you've played the previous game, you should know what to expect here. There are a number of challenges based on classic NES titles, which you can play in practically any order you want, ranging from simple tasks to clearing entire levels. While you can just take your time with these, the real goal is to try and figure out the fastest way to clear each challenge. Depending on your clear time you'll receive a number of stars which will unlock further challenges. Clear times can also be posted on Miiverse to start some friendly competitions, and completed challenges also earn you "Bits", which will unlock 8-bit stamps for use on the NES Remix 2 Miiverse community to accompany these posts.
A frequent complaint about the first NES Remix was that, although it included challenges based on all-time greats like Super Mario Bros. and The Legend of Zelda, there were also a few less exciting inclusions such as Clu Clu Land and Pinball. A number of games also did not have their own set of challenges, relegated to only appearing in one or two in the final "Bonus" category.
NES Remix 2 goes a long way to fix this. While it has four less games overall — twelve compared to the first game's sixteen — the higher quality of the game selection is undeniable; as before, you'll start out with just a few games, but as you clear unlocked challenges the selection will become bigger. When all is said and done, you'll have access to challenges for Super Mario Bros. 2, Super Mario Bros.: The Lost Levels, Super Mario Bros. 3, Kirby's Adventure, Dr. Mario, Kid Icarus, Zelda II: The Adventure of Link, Punch-Out!!, Metroid, Wario's Woods and NES Open Tournament Golf. Also included is Ice Hockey, but it falls victim to the same curse as most of the sports games last time, not getting its own challenge set and only appearing in a few challenges in another category.
Just like last time, each game's challenges start out simple and get progressively harder, with some actually being multi-part tasks that require you to finish two or three different goals rather than just the one. In Punch-Out!!, for example, it starts off as simple as dodging and landing one hit on Glass Joe, but a later challenge has you taking down Don Flamenco, King Hippo and Bald Bull all in a row.
Once again of note is the "Remix" category of challenges, which features stages based on various games and gives them some interesting twists. While there are the usual ones, such as stages in which Mario or Kirby cannot stop running forward automatically, it seems that the handful of "crossover" challenges in the last game were a hit, because there are a lot more of them this time around — one particularly amusing example is Princess Peach from Super Mario Bros. 2 having to defeat Bowser in Super Mario Bros. 3 so she can, err, rescue herself!
While NES Remix 2 as a whole includes fewer games and fewer challenges (about 30 less), there are some new features that up the replay value considerably this time around. One of these is the ability to save and share replays of your best times — if you just can't figure out how to get those triple rainbow stars on a particular challenge, you can watch another player's replay and discover the best strategy. Or if your own execution is flawless and you think it's unbeatable, you can share it and gloat!
But most likely the bigger new feature is the included full game, Super Luigi Bros. Based on a particular challenge from the last game, this is basically a fully mirrored version of the original Super Mario Bros. in which you play as Luigi. This means that not only do you move from right to left, but you've also got the usual Luigi features, like a high jump and slightly more slippery movement. While these might seem like simple changes, we were thrown off frequently and had to restart a number of times before managing to clear the game.
For veterans of the first game who have a save of it on their Wii U, there's also a neat little extra challenge to select on the main mode, entitled Championship Mode. Heavily based on the Nintendo World Championships competitions, which gave birth to one of the most valuable NES cartridges in existence, in this challenge you get a time limit in which you must collect 50 and 25 coins in Super Mario Bros. and Super Mario Bros. 3, respectively, after which your remaining time allows you to play Dr. Mario. Once the time's up you'll get a total score, and if it's good enough it will appear on an online leaderboard. It's quite cool of Nintendo to acknowledge this gaming rarity, and the fact there's a leaderboard is just icing on the cake.
Like before, there's not too much to say about the graphics and music. The graphics and sound in most games are exactly the same as in the original releases; all of the other themes, while still catchy, are just slight remixes of the ones from the first NES Remix. One neat feature that won't come into play until near the end is that there are a few bonus challenges featuring remixed music from their respective games this time around — perfect late treats for those that stick with it.
NES Remix 2 mostly plays it safe, with a new set of games and challenges and a few small, yet welcome, additions such as a replay feature. While the game selection this time is undoubtedly stronger, there are fewer games and challenges overall, and we just couldn't help but shake the feeling that the challenges were easier this time around, as we got rainbow stars on almost every single challenge on our first try. Luckily, however, Super Luigi Bros. and Championship Mode (if you own the first game) help fill these gaps, providing yet another enjoyable package of rapid-fire retro goodness.