A lot of things can be said about Nintendo, whether you think they’re brilliant game designers who deserve every bit of acclaim they garner or marketing geniuses so skilled at manipulation that they could talk a million gamers into buying a title about folding laundry. Neither side of the argument, however, would be able to deny that they don’t take every opportunity possible to milk their classic games for cash. The Mario series, in particular, seems especially overused in this regard. Games such as the original Super Mario Bros. have been re-released countless times, appearing on everything from NES multicarts to digital downloads on the Wii’s Virtual Console service. It’s not surprising that Super Mario Bros. and its NES era Mario siblings have been trotted out again for Super Mario All-Stars, a Wii reissue of the Super Nintendo cartridge containing four Mario titles, but the fact that all of these games have been seen time and time again makes it a difficult sell for some gamers.
Any complaints that could be directed at the Wii version of Super Mario All-Stars probably wouldn’t revolve around the title’s gameplay. Save for some minor control lag, which is especially apparent in Super Mario Bros. 2, each game included in this collection is perfectly replicated. Jumping through Super Mario Bros. 1, 2, and 3, as well as the less often seen Lost Levels, it’s easy to see why these games have been in circulation for so long. They’re fun to play, difficult enough that, even after playing them dozens of times, they still provide a challenge, and it certainly doesn’t hurt the games that there’s a strong sense of nostalgia attached to them. The controls do provide unnecessary frustration at inopportune times, as anyone in the same room when I try to make Princess Toadstool dig through sand temples can attest to, but as a whole, playing these games for the hundredth time works relatively well.
In regards to sound and graphics, it’s a little more difficult to lavish praise upon the Wii release of Super Mario All-Stars. It’s a direct port of the Super Nintendo release of the title, so the graphics and sound are presented in all of their 16-bit glory, which I sort of like. I’ve played enough compilations of older games that it’s easy to appreciate the fact that the graphics and sound in these games have held up very well, looking detailed and colorful as catchy and memorable music plays along with the platform jumping, Koopa stomping, and countless Game Over screens. However, from a company like Nintendo, that can certainly afford the extra work, it’s a little disappointing that there isn’t at least an option to play with updated graphics or even new recordings of the soundtrack. I’m not sure that I would have used them if they were there, but sometimes, it’s nice to know that an updated version of the game is present.
No matter what your thoughts are on the gameplay, graphics, and sound in Super Mario All-Stars are, however, it is difficult to deny that this can easily be regarded as a collector’s item. If a game is packaged in a giant shiny box with a soundtrack album and book of design documents, it adds some amount of value to the game. In the case of Super Mario All-Stars, it is nice to have these things, and as someone who actually stomached drinking apple flavored soda just because Yoshi was on the can in first grade, I thought they were an excellent addition. The fact that the CD is comprised half of sound effects and that the book is the size of an RPG’s instruction book, however, might seem unimpressive to a lot of gamers, particularly if they don’t really care about things like seeing the first game’s levels drawn out on graph paper.
When it comes down to it, if you’re a gamer that’s planning to buy Super Mario All-Stars, there’s probably no way this review will convince you not to go out and get it. Sure, all of these games are available at a lower cost on the Wii’s Virtual Console, and it isn’t like you can’t find them on any other Nintendo machines that you might own. For those of us who quite literally played our Super Nintendo versions of this game to death, though, this is a very cool release, providing a near-perfect port of the cartridge from the start-up screen to the save files to the gameplay, with some pack-in material that doesn’t do anything to hurt the title’s value. It is also a nice package for families who have Wii’s that aren’t online, particularly if the majority of titles included are new to them. Super Mario All-Stars is undeniably a shameless attempt to make money from old games on Nintendo’s part, but it is an enjoyable and fun shot at gamers’ wallets that’s held up well in the 25 years since the debut of Super Mario Bros.