Review: Super Mario 3D All-Stars

 Celebrating 35 years of gaming's favourite red-hat wearing plumber!

Console: Nintendo Switch

Last month saw the release of Super Mario 3D All-Stars Nintendo's big Mario game meant to celebrate their mascots, and gaming's most well-known figure, 35th anniversary. The game's a collection of three of Mario's 3D outings, the revolutionary Super Mario 64, the odd-ball Super Mario Sunshine and the visual marvel Super Mario Galaxy. I got my copy in last week and have got a solid few hours in with each game and everything the collection has to offer. I've got a busy few weeks ahead of me sadly, for more details on that check out this month's State of the Blog, so I don't have that much time to start and finish any games at the moment let alone three of them. However, I have been asked what my thoughts are on the collection and as this game is a limited release (only available until March 2021 both physically and digitally) I wondered to myself if I there was a way to take a look at the collection within a reasonable time-frame but without having to play through each game in-depth.

Let's dive in.

 

What I settled one is what you're reading right now, a review on the collection itself rather than the games within it. Let's face it, Super Mario 64, Super Mario Sunshine and Super Mario Galaxy are all classic games that we all now are excellent experiences by now and if you like Mario you know what you're getting into. This review won't go in-depth on each game, I'll talk about them briefly, but will instead focus more on the collection as a whole. How do these games run? What are some of the improvements made? What are the extra goodies that are thrown in? Let's take a look at Super Mario 3D All-Stars and see how it holds up in these departments!

The first thing your attention is drawn towards when you boot up the game is the overall presentation. The game starts with a wonderful opening that shows of the animation that plays when Mario collects a star/shine transitioning in the game's logo. Neat. The subsequent menu is basic but effective. It shows each game down at the bottom, represented by their original boxes, with a random song from the soundtracks quietly playing in the background. When selecting each title, you get a short 'back of the box' description and when you boot a title up, you get a unique loading screen with a still from the game.

Again, it's all basic, but it looks good and the menu is easy to navigate. The music included with the collection, 117 tracks from across all three games, can be accessed by selecting each game's respective CD left from the games themselves. You can select per track or let them play automatically one later another. Can't loop the tracks though, so that's a bit of a shame. Finally, the Switch can be in sleep mode while the music plays, saving you a lot of battery power. All in all, a very good presentation and a good first impression.

A good look at Super Mario 3D All-Stars menu.

Let's get this out of the way early on, as I've seen quite a few fans complain about; all three games in this collection are emulated. This means that, instead of reworking the code of each game so that it would run on the Nintendo Switch natively, they are put into a program that emulates the hardware and software of the original platform. Emulation has a stigma to it in the gaming community and Super Mario 3D All-Stars has thus been criticized for its emulation but I don't really see the problem. I mean, 90% of the people playing this game don't care how it is that the game runs on the Switch as long as it runs well which all of the games do.

While none of the games might have gotten a thorough visual overhaul like many might have wanted, all of them have been optimized. They run as smooth as butter and on a higher resolution to boot. The visuals have been cleaned up and while Super Mario 64 still looks as blocky as ever, the picture is all much clearer, the details in Sunshine are better to distinguish and Galaxy looks like it could have come out in 2017 rather than 2007. Again, the visuals have not been reworked from the ground up but they have been noticeably improved and look much better as a result.

What has also been improved across all three games are the menus, HUD (Heads-up display) and fonts. I first noticed this myself when looking up some gameplay videos online from the original Super Mario 64 for comparison to the version here and saw that the on-screen icons for your lives, collected coins and stars. On the Nintendo 64, they were much smaller, were less clear and had some nasty black edges around them while here on the Switch all of this has been cleaned up. The HUD has been improved for all three games, with Sunshine even resizing and repositioning some elements to make them less cumbersome. The audio and cutscenes are cleaned up and improved as well and Galaxy even has new icons and graphs added when explaining the game's motion controls. Oh, and if you press the '-' button on the left joy-con you open up an extra menu which shows you the controls, amongst other things.

Super Mario 64 on the Nintendo 64 (l) and on the Nintendo Switch (r).

Speaking of the controls, I have some things to say when it comes to those. The big one is the motion controls of Super Mario Galaxy. In docked and tabletop mode these are replicated using the right Joy-cons internal gyroscope and Mario's spin dash has been remapped to the Y-button, an elegant solution which all work fine. It's the handheld mode where the problem lies. Collecting star-bits and other interactions that require the pointer are now put on the touch screen. This wouldn't have been a problem if you the rest of the controls hadn't been remapped across both joy-cons meaning that if you need to do something that requires the touch controls you don't have access to the full range of controls. Not only do you have to reposition your hands constantly but doing so requires sacrificing stuff like moving the camera, breaking up the flow of the gameplay.

Aside from this, I just found that the Wii controls, using the Wii Mote and Nunchuck, felt more natural to me. The Joy-con controls are not bad at all, they do the job better then I thought they would, but playing through the opening hour on both the Switch and Wii, the controls on the latter just felt better to me.

The final control nit-pick? Super Mario Sunshine was not compatible with a GameCube controller at launch. Even though the game is originally from the GameCube. Even though Nintendo has an official GameCube adapter and a re-issue of the GameCube controller currently on the market. Oh well, they did finally add it with an update a few months later, so better late then never I guess. Still find it weird though.

Conclusion

Super Mario 3D All-Stars is a stellar package of three of Mario's, and gaming, most memorable titles. It provides welcoming, if only small, updates to each title, giving them portability and makes them the definitive versions of these games to play. Add in 117 music tracks alongside a premium feeling presentation and I feel that you've got your value right there. Yes, Nintendo's decision to make the game available until March 2021 only, even the digitally, is very consumer unfriendly decision. This doesn't detract too much from the rest of the collection though and I think that Super Mario 3D All-Stars is worth picking up.

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