If it's crap ... We'll tell you
Ahh, Mario All Stars... just saying the title brings back so many memories since this was the first Mario game(s) I played. In fact, it was part of the Super Nintendo bundle my brother purchased many moons ago and replaced our then-dying Atari 2600. So you can imagine my delight when I got the new SNES recently and discovered that the old game still worked. It provided a perfect time to give a modern view on one of the console's most popular titles. So, how does it hold up?
Well, to start with the important bits, this was a "remastering" of four original NES Mario games, two of which had never been released outside of Japan. Nintendo provided new graphics, improved audio, and save functions to each of them, but kept the standard feel of the series intact. Kind of like seeing a classic movie on Blu Ray... it looks vastly better but is still the movie you remember. The titles included are Super Mario Brothers, The Lost Levels (like the first game but with new and more difficult levels), and Super Mario Brothers 2 and 3. It was a clever move by the company, as these games were still hugely popular with the old fans, and also allowed newer gamers to try them out. Almost like the modern HD Collections we see now on the Playstation 3, it is an almost failure-proof move if applied correctly.
And this certainly has been, each game looks dazzling from every perspective. Super Mario 1 and The Lost Levels don't show their age at all, very surprising for what was an NES launch title. Even the new generation of Mario gamers will feel right at home with these as the structure is just what you would expect. You travel through levels collecting coins, defeating enemies, in the attempt to save the Princess at each castle from Bowser. The pastel - style backgrounds are wonderful, and the control system is immediately intuitive. The height and distance to each jump is very easy to judge, and even the levels have a nice blend of variety to them to keep you going. The difficulty curve does spike at World 8 as the game throws pretty much everything including the kitchen sink in your way, but also provides some of the best visuals the game has to provide. It is as simple as the Mario series gets in terms of platforming, but remains lots of fun to relive.
The Lost Levels is pretty much the same although you see new combinations of locations and enemies. The essence here is that you are now on a heightened difficulty setting, and even today it is a real challenge. You are forced to learn the routine of each level, and even with the save function you will have a hard time progressing through each world. For hardcore fans this is the Mario game they will want to play, but for me.... I think I'll leisurely try it from time to time. I no longer have the SNES reflexes my 6 year old self once had. But defeating (two??) Bowsers in the end is all the more satifsying after the hard graft you went through to achieve it, so from that perspective, it is still highly recommended.
Super Mario Brothers 2 is an.... odd creation to say the least, it deviated from the original recipe so much you'd struggle to guess is wasn't just a third party game. But nope, this was the real deal in Japan, and despite first the appearances and assumptions you might make it is quite fun. You no longer have a time counter to worry about, instead the game lets you go free and explore the levels in your own time. Many of the enemies were completely new (being added into future titles like Yoshi's Island) and rather than Mushrooms making you stronger, you collect them to increase your heath bar. The locations kind of keep with the original, but are much more diverse and bizarre. Another new addition was that you could play as one of four characters, each with their own perks and disadvantages. As a way to pass a rainy afternoon, you will have fun with this, but it is very short in length sadly. I think more fun is had just messing about with the enemies in the levels rather than completing them, which if that is what you look for, this is your go-to game.
And finally we come to Super Mario Brothers 3, and I'm just going to say this here... this for me is the definitive Mario game. This was the one that brought together every element you wanted in a platformer from vast worlds to traverse, fantastic settings, a wide choice of items to use, and a sense of atmosphere that made you feel you were part of a story. Sure, you are still just saving the Princess (she really needs a Tazer or something to fend off Bowser and the Koopas) but the worlds feel more.... connected somehow. From underwater to above the clouds, imposing battleships in the sky to dark caves, it's all here.
And so are the items, which brought in the ability to fly with the Tanooki Suit, along with many other abilities like the Hammer Suit. Some are rather useless but as a whole you feel better prepared for the later Worlds when things get much more challenging. The controls are extremely sharp too, some of the best I've seen in a Mario game. In a sense it is made "simpler" as you can perform larger jumps with less effort, but it helps the levels progress a lot more smoothly. There's a huge variety of enemies to encounter and even puzzle levels to un-ravel. The ending is relatively easy compared to the other ones in World 8, but the battle with Bowser is great.
I've discussed this one the most as it is the largest in scale and complexity. This is the one you will find yourself playing time and time again. It feels easier than when I played it as a kid, but still has so much of that lovely charm and entertainment to it. It is a hard game to flaw at all and was the springboard for the series to go far beyond its humble origins.
And there you are, the All Stars Collection is just such a great tribute to those four games that cemented Mario into the minds of every single gamer, and with good reason. The improvements were enough to bring them up to the quality of the SNES, while retaining the originality and charm they posessed, it is a perfect representation of how a remastering is done. And even today, almost 20 years on, the joy they deliver is still there in bucket loads. Mario has come a long way since then, but these still provide the blueprints for the present game development and probably will for many more years to come. Rather than getting lost in a sea of nostalgia, I have grown to appreciate them even more on a technical, and visual basis. I can safely say that is the next Mario games on the Wii-U are as enjoyable as these were, I would buy one in a heartbeat. (once my bank balance improves that is)
If you are in the same position financially, get a copy of this, and you'll enjoy many happy days of gaming. ;)
Thanks for reading! ^__^