Nintendo's classics return yet again to celebrate Mario's 25th anniversary.Edit
Mario is 25 years old. How strange is that? For those of us who grew up with the character, the thought of the gaming industry's elder statesman turning a quarter of a century old is about as surreal as the thought of us turning (or just having turned) 30. As is appropriate, Nintendo is celebrating its flagship mascot's birthday with the Super Mario All-Stars Limited Edition game for the Wii, a repackaging of a Super Nintendo game with a few extra bells and whistles. Are these extras worth your money? That's a tough case to make on a number of levels. If you ever owned the original Super Mario All-Stars, you know exactly what you're getting here. This is a collection of the four NES-based Mario games, from Super Mario Bros. 1 to 3, plus the addition of "The Lost Levels," which was originally Super Mario Bros 2 in Japan. (Super Mario Bros 2 in the United States was actually a game called Doki Doki Panic with Mario characters used in place of the original heroes.) All of the games come in their SNES form, complete with revamped character designs and increased level of detail. Nintendo was almost too faithful with these ports, opting to not give the player any visual prompts for what Wii buttons to press to start games, and what existing on-screen directions there are feature SNES pads as the original release did. Nintendo was intent on throwing a party for its mascot, but certainly spared some expense. It would have also been nice to see Super Mario World included here, as that game was eventually bundled into the All-Stars package for a limited time in the States.
You no doubt know these games well, if not from their original NES versions then certainly from the Wii's Virtual Console. Collectively the Super Mario Bros games represent not only the birth of a critical genre but the industry as a whole. It is tough to imagine where video games would be without Super Mario Bros and the NES system it carried to new heights. And the quality of these games remains undiminished – they are classics in every sense of the word. Even Super Mario Bros 2, which added the odd mechanic of throwing vegetables at an unconventional set of enemies, is a fantastic game in its own right, even if it is the red-headed stepchild of the franchise. And, of course, you have Super Mario Bros 3, which is arguably one of the greatest video games of all time. The pedigree on display here is not in dispute – but the value of the games and their rerelease definitely is.
This limited edition package not only includes the re-release of Mario All-Stars, which is not available on the Wii's Virtual Console, but a soundtrack and booklet tracing the history of the Mario franchise. Both are welcome additions to the overall bundle, which will retail for $29.99, but aren't nearly as comprehensive as any true fan would like. The soundtrack features 20 music selections from Mario's entire legacy all the way up to Mario Galaxy, but that value quickly depletes when you realize half of the CD is simply sound effects, ranging from the sound of an acquired coin to the two second beat that plays when you enter a warp pipe. Granted, fans will be treated to 10 arrangements from some of Mario's greatest adventures, but that's simply not enough. The Mario franchise features some of the greatest music in video game history. Super Mario Galaxy alone features more than 20 excellent pieces of music. Here only one is available. It's disappointing and incomplete to say the least, though perhaps some casual or newer fans to the series won't notice.
The other major component to the limited edition release is a booklet that traces through Mario's 25 year history. Here again is a situation where the presented product is reasonable but by no means thorough. What about Mario's Game Boy adventures? What about Super Mario World 2? How about some acknowledgment of Mario's many, many appearances in other Nintendo games? The character's reach in the industry certainly goes beyond a dozen products. This book fails to demonstrate how influential Mario has been over the past 25 years, and it's a shame as this was the perfect place to do it.
Furthermore, while Nintendo gathered some of Mario's notable creators including Shigeru Miyamato for commentary, the remarks are limited to a sentence or two at best on the few games selected for a spotlight. Why not feature more thorough discussions? Why not have creators outside of Nintendo discuss Mario's effect on them? Some of the "Iwata Asks" columns Nintendo has featured on its website have been utterly fascinating. Why not reprint those? Again, the possibilities here were limitless and Nintendo chose to only put a small fraction of this on display. It would have been great to see a true celebration here. The fans certainly deserve it.
Four of the greatest games in history, presented in an upgraded format not available on the Virtual Console, at a bargain price… is that worth your money? All four of these games are already available for less cash, albeit in a more primitive graphical form. The soundtrack and historical booklet certainly aren’t worth it. And yet, if you’re new to the franchise or are getting this for someone who is a more casual video game fan, this might be all you need. Super Mario All-Stars for the Wii is a competent offering of four classics that never truly seeks to embrace the milestone it claims to support. If you really want to see the legacy of Mario on display, you’re probably better off replaying Super Mario Galaxy 2.