Review – Super Mario 3D All-Stars
In a (not so) shocking turn of events, Nintendo announced a collection comprised of some of Mario’s most celebrated 3D platforming adventures in order to celebrate their mascot’s thirty-fifth anniversary. What was supposed to be the single easiest cash cow in gaming history, the chance of playing Super Mario 64, Super Mario Sunshine, and Super Mario Galaxy, on-the-go, quickly became a hot topic of discussion when Nintendo revealed its sixty dollar price tag. Not to mention the fact it will only be available for a limited time, both physically and digitally. We all want to love Super Mario 3D All-Stars for what it is and for what it offers, but is it worth the hefty price?
The three games included in Super Mario 3D All-Stars are absolute classics. Super Mario 64 is considered by many as one of the, if not the single most important 3D game of all time. Sunshine introduced lots of new features to the franchise, as well as being one of the most visually impressive games released for the GameCube. Finally, there’s Super Mario Galaxy. It seems like everyone and their mother is enamored with it. It was originally released for the Wii, it garnered more perfect scores than that nerdy kid back in in 3rd grade, and sold bagillions of copies. Each one of them have aged in different manners, and I’m going to talk about each entry individually.
First of all, Super Mario 64. The big boss. The godfather of them all. This is a game I’ve loved ever since I can remember, a game I know like the back of my hand. Collecting these one hundred twenty stars and visiting all of these worlds is still as magical as it was back in my childhood, but I have to admit one sad thing: this game has aged a lot. I’m not even talking in terms of visuals, but regarding its controls. The fact that wall jumping only works when the game feels like doing so and most importantly, the camera. It’s still the same camera as before, meaning that the right analog stick doesn’t let you freely move it around. It works as if the C-buttons still existed.
Why did this happen, you might be asking? Well, dear viewer, the answer is simple: Super Mario 3D All-Stars does not feature remasters. You are playing the originals in the flesh, with a very minute visual improvement here and there. Those are ROMs running on prebuilt emulators. Super Mario 64 is still running at 30fps at the very best, on a pathetic 4:3 aspect ratio. The amazing soundtrack hasn’t received any remastering whatsoever, meaning that it’s still compressed beyond belief. Disappointing, to say the least.
Back to the games. The second title in this compilation is Super Mario Sunshine, originally released for the GameCube in 2002. Sunshine is to Mario 64 what Banjo-Tooie is to Kazooie. It’s a larger, more complex, more challenging, and a more cynical sequel. From the fact that you’re being forced by the local authorities to clean up Isle Delfino to the fact that Bowser kidnapped Peach because his son needed an adopted mother, its tone is vastly different from the shiny-happy fantasy atmosphere featured in its predecessor.
I liked the introduction of FLUDD, allowing for Mario to perform even crazier acrobatics. I may not have liked the fact that the combat is also centered on using water sprays on enemies, but then again, combat has never been the main appeal of any Mario game whatsoever. The one thing I didn’t like about Sunshine back then, which I still don’t like nowadays, is its lack of environmental variety. While Super Mario 64 featured every single kind of level imaginable, Sunshine is excessively focused on a tropical resort theme, meaning that its levels are nowhere near as varied as the ones from its predecessor.
The only addition in this version of Sunshine is the inclusion of a 16:9 aspect ratio. It’s definitely not much. Thankfully, Super Mario Sunshine is the game that features the best graphics in this entire collection, in my opinion. It has aged surprisingly well, with impressive lighting and water effects. The soundtrack is still pretty good, while the inclusion of voice acting still feels unnecessary all these years later.
Super Mario Galaxy is the one I was looking forward to replaying the most. It’s not because I actually love this game or anything like that. In fact, and this may shock you, I never liked Super Mario Galaxy back in the day. Honestly, I used to think the game was massively overrated, not because of its return to a more linear level design, but because of these dreadful things called Wiimotes. With the exception of the phenomenal House of the Dead collection, I despised using the Wiimotes on pretty much any game released for that system, Mario Galaxy included. I disliked the usage of motion-based gimmicks as well as the lack of a stick dedicated solely to controlling the game’s camera.
The reason I was looking forward to replaying Super Mario Galaxy in this collection is the inclusion of a “new” control scheme. The reason for the quotation marks is simple: it might be new for us Westerners, but this control scheme, as well as a 1080p version of Super Mario Galaxy as a whole, had already been released in the past for the NVIDIA Shield console in China. This is basically a localized version of that game, which in itself was already running on an emulator.
Not having to move the joycons around in order to perform a spin attack is a blessing, as you simply attack by using the Y button instead. You can still shake the Switch around if you want to, just like you could use optional motion controls in Super Mario Odyssey, but let’s be honest, it doesn’t improve the experience at all. If you’re playing the game in docked mode, you need to hold down specific triggers in order to access the Star Bit cursors. If you’re in portable mode however, you have to perform these functions with the Switch’s touchscreen. Not only that, but all menus can only be interacted using touch controls as well. It’s nowhere near as annoying as having to deal with the Wiimote’s lack of precision, but it still felt somewhat unnecessary. Nintendo gotta Nintendo.
I have to admit that I did enjoy playing Super Mario Galaxy on the Switch, unlike my previous experience on the Wii. That doesn’t mean I find it to be the absolute masterpiece everyone else thinks it is. I’m still lukewarm on how the gravity mechanics affect the game’s overall camera, for instance. I do prefer open-ended levels way more than linear “A to B” courses, but I have to laud this game for its level design, creativity, and above all, its fantastically orchestrated soundtrack.
Being an anniversary collection, you may be wondering if Super Mario 3D All-Stars features extra content besides the three games included in this package. It does, but it’s so bare bones that I don’t even know it’s worth considering “extra content”. You have access to each game’s soundtrack and you can listen to these songs even with the Switch’s screen turned off. That’s basically it. No documentaries, no interviews, no concept art. Hell, there aren’t save states and the main menu UI is the simplest and laziest I have ever seen from a retro collection like this.
With that, I need to ask this question: is this worth sixty dollars? The answer, sadly, is no. Sure, the games included in here are great, but there are only three of them. Nintendo didn’t even bother adding Super Mario Galaxy 2, probably because that game hadn’t been previously released on the NVIDIA Shield and that would have meant putting in effort in order to “port” it. Super Mario 64, for instance, was previously available on the Wii and Wii U’s virtual console for way less.
When you put Super Mario 3D All-Stars next to collections like Rare Replay, Samurai Shodown NeoGeo Collection, or any of Konami’s anniversary compilations, it makes it look even more incomplete as a result. It feels stark. It really tarnishes your overall perception of value. Especially when you remember that, for reasons beyond anyone’s comprehension, this is only available until March 2021, even on the Switch’s digital storefronts. The fact that Nintendo is the one behind these decisions makes things even more shocking. The first Super Mario All-Stars, released in 1993, was a groundbreaking collection that featured completely remade versions of Mario‘s NES games, all in one package. And now, we get this. What a disgrace.
Don’t get me wrong, I love the fact this collection exists. I love that I can play these classic Mario games on-the-go. They are still ridiculously fun. But I can’t help but feel annoyed with the lack of effort put into this collection. It just feels lazy. We are paying sixty dollars for emulated ROMs, available for a limited time only, with little to no quality of life improvements. This sets a very bad precedent for the future. If this was being sold for maybe thirty or forty bucks, without the stupid limited availability, this would have been a complete must-have, a stroke of genius. As it stands, however, Super Mario 3D All-Stars just feels like an act of greed and hubris from a company that once knew better.
Those games look identical to how they looked on their original releases, with the only difference being an upscale in resolution. Super Mario 64 didn’t even receive a new aspect ratio, while Super Mario Galaxy is still in a dire need of some anti-aliasing. The main menu UI is a joke.
Although revolutionary for the time, and still fun and intuitive, those controls have aged quite a lot. Super Mario Galaxy features a brand new control scheme, which is welcoming, although the mandatory touchscreen gimmicks on portable mode felt annoying.
Three of the best soundtracks of all time included in one package. Sadly, Super Mario 64‘s soundtrack did not receive any single audio improvements, therefore it still sounds excessively compressed. Super Mario Sunshine‘s voice acting still feels a bit unnecessary, to say the least.
The games themselves are fantastic, some of the best of all time, even if they have aged somewhat poorly for different reasons. The problem with this collection is its bare bones presentation, lack of improvements on its titles, and overall value. You’re paying full price for emulations, not remasters.
Final Verdict: 7.5
Super Mario 3D All-Stars is available now on Switch.
Reviewed on Switch.