Everything old is old again in Mario's silver anniversary package.
Would you believe that the original Super Mario Bros. release is a quarter of a century old? Yes, in 1985, Nintendo released Super Mario Bros. for the Famicom (as the NES was known in Japan). While technically not his first game (that honor goes to Donkey Kong in the arcades), it was the game that defined the franchise and made it one of Nintendo's most prestigious series ever. The company has been celebrating the milestone in 2010 with new Wii and DS bundles, special events around the world, and the re-release of Super Mario All-Stars in a special limited edition package that sparkles in presentation, but lacks substance.
Super Mario All-Stars was originally released for the Super Nintendo in 1993. It featured four of Mario's NES titles with updated graphics and a save option. These games were Super Mario Bros., Super Mario Bros. 2, Super Mario Bros. 3, and Super Mario Bros: The Lost Levels, which was released in North America for the first time in the package.
Super Mario Bros. was a groundbreaking title that defined accessible gameplay while never sacrificing challenge. You control Mario through eight worlds, battling Bowser and his minions at the end of each one in hopes of rescuing Princess Peach. Despite how simple it was, almost everything about the game is now a staple of the gaming industry, becoming synonymous with the Nintendo brand.
Both Super Mario Bros. 2 and The Lost Levels share an interesting story behind their existence. The Lost Levels was in actuality the real sequel to Super Mario Bros., and was released in Japan in 1986. When it came time to release the game in North America Nintendo decided that the game would be too hard for American players, so instead they took a game called Doki Doki Panic and changed the sprites so it would feature the Mario characters, while the core gameplay remained the same.
The Lost Levels plays identically to Super Mario Bros., but it is a far more challenging game thanks to new additions like the poison mushroom, clever level design and enemy placement. The Lost Levels also has the option of playing as Luigi, who plays differently from Mario in that he can jump higher, but he has a hard time stopping, which affects the completion of a level significantly.
Super Mario Bros. 2, or Super Mario Bros. USA as it would be known in Japan, tells the story of how Mario and friends entered a world of dreams called the Subcon, and had to save its inhabitants from the clutches of King Wart. When compared to the original Super Mario Bros., the difference in gameplay was like night and day. Rather than stomping on enemies to defeat them, you have to jump on top of them, grab them and toss them onto other enemies. In addition, this was one of the first times you could play as Mario's other friends, Peach and Toad, along with Luigi. Each character played differently, and at times, success depended on which character you selected. Mario is the all-around character, Luigi can jump the highest, Toad is the strongest and Peach is the weakest but can float after jumping. Although it was drastically different from the other early Mario games, Super Mario Bros. 2 was the predecessor to many ideas that would become part of the Mario franchise, such as Peach's abilities and characters such as Birdo and the Shy Guys.
Super Mario Bros. 3 is undeniably one of the most beloved games in the series. For many, it is the true sequel to the first game, as it took the concept behind classic Mario gameplay and expanded upon it in terms of features. Super Mario Bros. 3 would be the first Mario game to use power-ups in the form of costumes. The magic leaf turns Mario into Raccoon Mario, which allows him to temporarily fly and discover new levels. Other costumes, such as the frog suit and the Tanooki suit, were also introduced, and they were a very fun mechanic that would be later used in many later Mario games. The level design is also spectacular, featuring far more varied levels than the two previous games. Such was the impact of this game that the movie “The Wizard” featured it as a way to hype the release.
All four games retain the same, classic gameplay while featuring new, 16-bit graphics and an updated soundtrack. The graphics are indeed a step above the original NES incarnations, adding details such as the night sky in Super Mario Bros., and the foregrounds and backgrounds in the other Mario titles. Ultimately, what matters is the gameplay, and Super Mario All-Stars respects that legacy. You can also save your progress, a feature not available in the original games, which is greatly appreciated.
So, what about the Wii version? This re-release is basically the original ROM pressed onto a disc. What I mean is that this is the exact same game you played in 1993. so despite what the package says this is just a simple re-release. If you play this game on a widescreen TV, it will automatically be formatted to a 4:3 display, something that might upset the owners of these TVs. In terms of control, you can use the Wii Remote on its side to play it like an NES controller, along with the Classic Controller or GameCube controller.
That's not to say that some thought didn't go into the package. As I detailed in a blog post, the game comes in a beautiful package that includes a soundtrack CD featuring ten Mario songs from each game he's been in as well as classic sound effects, and a booklet that details the creation of each game according to its creators. It is indeed a nice package that adds some value to the title, but it might not be enough to convince you to play this game again.
Speaking of which, that's the other problem with this title. Since its release in 1993, Nintendo has re-released the All-Stars version of these titles on the Game Boy Advance. Not to mention that the original NES titles can be downloaded on the Wii's Virtual Console. So if you owned these titles and played them immensely, then this re-release will not be as appealing. Finally, there was a version of All-Stars that included Super Mario World, and it’s disappointing that it wasn't the version included in this package.
So in the end, the value of the game lies in whether you want to invest once more in these classic Mario titles. The special features are minimal, and the game is exactly as you remember it from 1993, which in turn were very close to how you remembered them during the NES days. These may be some of the greatest games ever made, but this package isn't worth double dipping for again.