Super Mario All-Stars 25th Anniversary Review

   06/12/2010 at 21:32       Richard Horne       4 COMMENTS. - Score 2/5
 - Super Mario All-Stars, Nintendo, Wii, Super Nintendo, Super Mario Brothers

The budget release of Super Mario All-Stars 25th Anniversary Edition should be a fantastic celebration of the genius that is Nintendo. One that manages to strike home just how long Nintendo has been playing this particular game. A game it founded long before those upstarts at Microsoft and Sony started chiming in with their so-called hardcore consoles.

But then just as you’re preparing to bask in that warm, fuzzy, nostalgic glow, it simultaneously shows itself up to be a lazy slap-dash smack in the face for those of us who have stuck with this much-loved developer and publisher through thick and thin. From the highs - the NES and SNES eras where you didn’t play games, you played Nintendo. Through to the lows – the depressingly empty and flat latter years of the N64 and GameCube.

The package contains, in addition to a celebratory booklet and audio CD, ports of: the original and best Super Mario Brothers. The unusual and alternative Super Mario Bros. 2. The sublime Super Mario Bros. 3. And finally, Super Mario Bros.: The Lost Levels – the ridiculously difficult, never-officially-released-in-the-West original sequel to the first game. All wonderful, majestic, essential and defining video games, that with the exception of The Lost Levels are games I have completed more times than I care to remember. Games that even now, some 15-20 years after first playing, I can still remember the individual levels and theme-tunes for. Games that, in the case of Super Mario Bros. 3, have their maps permanently engrained into my conscience. Games whose secrets I’ll take to the grave and whose memories live on long after I packed their dusty faded consoles away in the loft.

All of which means that snapping up this Anniversary Edition should be a no-brainer right? Well while in principal it sounds like a brilliant release that’s guaranteed to leave you shedding a nostalgic tear come Christmas Day – even if like me you’re in your early 30s, unfortunately, the reality is not quite so rosy and full of sparkly fireworks in the bright blue sky.

First of all the game is an exact port of the SNES release from way back in 1993. And I’m not using the term port loosely here. It is the original game re-packaged - an exact facsimile. A copy to the extent that Nintendo hasn’t even bothered to update the in-game instruction graphics. Which means that instead of seeing a representation of the Wii Remote, Classic or GameCube controller – all viable control options - people new to the franchise will instead be lost trying to work out where exactly the X and Y buttons are and why the A and B buttons are green and red respectively.

And while the Wii saw Nintendo dragged kicking and screaming into the 21st century thanks to its widescreen support and component input, there’s been no such visual update applied to All-Stars, meaning it’s instead awkwardly shoe-horned into the middle of your HDTV with huge borders and chunky pixels aplenty. And for those of you that cared enough to import the American cartridge back in the day, you’ll be disappointed to hear that Nintendo has even gone so far as to accurately emulate the inferior 50Hz PAL release of the title.

But what’s even more galling is what’s missing from this celebration. How can the 25th Anniversary Edition of the world’s most famous gaming icon claim to be so without the imperious Super Mario World or Yoshi’s Island? And while there’ll inevitably be those of you that claim Nintendo should have even gone one further and included Super Mario 64 and Super Mario Sunshine, I could have forgiven Nintendo for that oversight had it at least been consistent in delivering all of the classic 2D games in the series.

And the fact that Nintendo didn’t even see fit to apply the same level of spit and polish that it so lovingly painted over its most recent re-invention of the 2D Platformer with New Super Mario Bros, leaves a bitter taste in my mouth that’s actually blackened my mood. This could have been a genuine celebration, the ultimate thank you to all those of us that bought Super Mario Bros. first on the NES,  then on the SNES, then on the GameBoy Advance and then all over again on the Wii’s virtual console. Hell I’d have paid full price for NSMB-updated versions of these classic titles. What's particularly damning is that there's an unofficial hacked version of Super Mario Bros. 3 done entirely using the New Super Mario Bros engine by an ardent fan of the series. If he can do it, why can't Nintendo with all of its resources and the actual original code and assets do it? This is most definitely an opportunity missed.

In fact I actually consider this to be an insult from Nintendo and one for which it'll rightly be accused of complacency. Its success with the Wii is going to its head and it thinks it can cynically re-release the same games time and again. In fact the only positive thing I can say at this juncture is that it's only the original games' quality that ultimately shines through and redeems this package. If you've never played any of these titles then this is undoubtedly an ideal opportunity to pick them up at a bargain price. But if like me, you've been stung once, twice, thrice before, then save your money and download an emulator. You call this a celebration? I call this a cynical cash-in.

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