Can you believe that it’s been thirty five years since the first Mario game was released? There’s a certain comfort in knowing that future generations of players will be able to play new Mario games for many more years to come. It’s even more reassuring that Nintendo regularly releases ports of older games to give players of all ages the opportunity to play them on its latest hardware, as is the case with the Super Mario 3D All-Stars collection.
Let’s start by getting the elephant in the room out of the way. A compilation consisting of 3D Mario titles without handheld efforts, like Super Mario 3D Land, or the massive Nintendo Wii U Super Mario 3D World seems reasonable. However, the exclusion of the older Nintendo Wii Super Mario Galaxy 2 title is a confusing move and one that could only be explained by Nintendo being unwilling to put it in effort to adapt some of the features/abilities that made use of the Nintendo Wii remote and Nunchuck. It’s a reason that makes sense given the fact that Super Mario Galaxy had already been ported to the Nvidia Shield Android device in China with some modifications.
The good news is that the three titles included in the collection have been ported without any major issues in sight. It makes sense given that Super Mario 64 has been added to pretty much every modern Nintendo system (even as a Nintendo DS launch title) for years and the Nintendo Wii U saw the release of both Super Mario Galaxy games.
Super Mario Galaxy is easily the highlight of the collection and a title that still holds up after all these years. It’s astounding to revisit what is easily the most creative Mario title in terms of how it uses physics. It really does make the most of its space setting and it pays off by giving players some truly mind blowing set pieces based on the laws of gravity.
It’s nice to play Super Mario Galaxy again to pay closer attention to sensible design ideas implemented to ensure that players still follow a certain play style whilst under the illusion of choice. It’s necessary to collect a certain number of stars to eventually make it to the end boss, but it’s done in a manner that stops it from feeling like a chore. Some might concentrate on earlier levels and easier challenges to overcome, whilst others might be feeling more adventurous and want to explore everything that Super Mario Galaxy has to offer.
Unfortunately, the controls don’t feel as reliable as those used for the Nintendo Wii/Wii U releases and it shows. Any instances where it was necessary to make use of the Nintendo Wii Remote pointer and sensor bar don’t seem as reliable or efficient and it becomes more obvious when playing harder levels. There’s even a button used to reset the on-screen pointer icon that serves more as a constant reminder of the far more reliable Nintendo Wii Remote.
Super Mario Galaxy is also the title that is most negatively affected whilst playing it in handheld mode. Playing Super Mario Galaxy in handheld mode with the Joy-Con controllers attached is not very intuitive. Having to use the touch screen to use functions associated with the Nintendo Wii Remote pointer or the Joy-Con motion feature and a button for spinning action can be tricky. For example, it’s easier to shake the Joy-Con controller to make use of the spinning ability. At least playing it in tabletop mode still comes with the issues mentioned regarding the lack of a Nintendo Wii Remote and sensor bar, but the game does look better on a smaller screen.
As a main Super Mario title, there is no doubt that the unusual Super Mario Sunshine has its fair share of fans and haters. At least the lack of any motion controls means that it’s more similar to the GameCube version. Albeit a weird entry compared to other titles, it’s not difficult to learn to like it. Perhaps Super Mario Sunshine’s biggest weak point is that it feels a bit constrictive in terms of how to go about completing it. Even Super Mario 64 offers more freedom with regards to how players collect stars to make progress.
Not that Super Mario 64 is without flaws and it suffers from pairing it with other 3D Mario entries. It highlights its shortcomings that have not aged particularly well, such as the temperamental camera. It is also bizarre how there is no option for playing Super Mario 64 in full screen, when this was possible on the Virtual Console port by changing some settings in the Nintendo Wii/Wii U. Still, there’s no doubt that it’s one of the most important Mario titles. If not the most important given how it started a new golden era for the plumber and Nintendo with the rise of 3D gaming.
It’s strange how Nintendo didn’t just offer the option to buy each game separately as well, since it had done it before. It would have made it easier for players to just play one or more of the three titles without having to get the collection. It’s not as if there are any real incentives to get the collection besides the inclusion of the soundtrack for each of the games. It’s unusual that a collection, released by a company known for taking such good care of its franchises, to celebrate such an important anniversary didn’t include more extra content like never before seen artwork or some short interviews with the developers.
Super Mario Galaxy has aged like a fine wine, but one that is occasionally inconvenienced by controls that can feel odd for those who played the Nintendo Wii/Wii U version and that make it harder than necessary to get some of the stars. In fact, the HD makeover given to all three titles is definitely a good reason for playing them. Surely, one or more of the games will bring back fond memories for some and create new ones for anyone lucky enough to experience them for the first time. It’s just slightly disappointing that the games won’t feel the same as their originals and the lack of any proper extra content makes for a no frills collection.