One of the cooler selling points of the Nintendo Wii was the Virtual Console, which let publishers sell digital versions of classic games that gamers could download directly to the Wii. The actual execution left something to be desired. The early years contained a lot of great and exciting games, but in recent months, the VC well has practically dried up. An occasional release shows up here and there, and for various reasons, some of the best games on the available systems have never shown up. Perhaps that is partially why Super Mario All-Stars is such a disappointment. While the Virtual Console service is left with lackluster titles and infrequent updates, Nintendo has decided to release one of the most anticipated games on the service as an expensive disc release.
Super Mario All-Stars for the Super Nintendo was released in 1993, and Super Mario All-Stars 25th Anniversary Edition for the Wii is a straight port of that title. The collection spans the entire NES era of the Mario franchise and contains Super Mario Bros., Super Mario Bros. 2, Super Mario Bros. 3 and Super Mario Bros.: The Lost Levels. North America and Japan actually got different versions of Super Mario Bros. 2. The Japanese version was more akin to a straight sequel to the original game, while Western audiences got a completely new title. The Lost Levels is the Japanese version of Super Mario Bros. 2. It contains few new features, and it's a series of surprisingly hard extra levels designed for Mario players who have already mastered the original game. It's probably the weakest game in the collection, but it holds plenty of fun for Mario faithful.
It seems almost pointless to discuss the quality of these games. Anyone who's familiar with the Mario franchise knows that they're some of the best and most enjoyable platformers around. Each provides some of the most exciting and easy-to-pick-up gameplay on the market, and they are a wonderful way to introduce younger players to the world of gaming. The gameplay has aged phenomenally well, and whether you're jumping on Koopas in World 1-1, throwing turnips at Shyguys or finding the awesome Tanooki Suit in Super Mario Bros. 3, the games never stop providing hours of fun. While they may lack the amazing visuals and orchestrated soundtrack of recent Super Mario titles, the games are still a bunch of fun. They have an old-fashioned charm that makes them easily accessible to gamers of all ages.
Overall, the Super Mario All-Star versions of the games are almost unchanged, though the physics in Super Mario Bros. more closely resemble the later Super Mario Bros. 3 than they do the original. I only noticed because I switched back and forth between the Virtual Console and the disc versions, and the slight difference shouldn't be enough to sour the experience for anyone. I think the original NES version's physics feel more natural and enjoyable, and the jumps feel a little too floaty in the SNES version. Aside from that, a large number of the glitches from the original games have been fixed or removed, so don't expect any trips into the Minus World.
The graphics have improved, but it's arguable if that is to the game's benefit. They certainly look more "modern" (as modern as SNES sprites can look), but each of the original games had a charm that was all its own. Now they seem more homogenized. It doesn't look bad, but it slightly reduces the nostalgic impact. The collection also adds save features to games that didn't originally have them. This is a nice bonus, but it's blunted by the fact that the Virtual Console release also allows you to save and return to the game later. All of this doesn't change the fact that the collection contains four of the most enjoyable games ever made.
Despite all of that, Super Mario All-Stars 25th Anniversary Edition is a major disappointment. It's obviously not because the game are bad, but they're not remotely worth the price tag. The version of Super Mario All-Stars on the disc is indistinguishable from a Virtual Console release, but instead of paying a reasonable 800 Wii Points ($8 USD), you're asked to pay over $30. They didn't even bother to change the SNES controller icons on the various menus to something Wii-related. Each of the games on the disc, including the "Lost Levels," is already available on the Wii Shop, and if you purchased each one individually, the total cost would only come to about $20.
To make matters worse, the version of Super Mario All-Stars that is included on the disc isn't even the best one available. During the SNES days, Nintendo created a pack-in version that contained both Super Mario All-Stars and Super Mario World in one bundle. At very least, including the SNES classic would have made the game seem a little more worthwhile compared to its Virtual Console counterparts. Instead, if you're willing to go for slightly worse graphics, you can afford an extra game for the difference in the prices.
Super Mario All-Stars 25th Anniversary Edition comes with a second box full of extras, including a soundtrack and a small booklet with the history of Mario. Both are disappointing. The soundtrack contains one song from each game in the series, plus a small collection of sound effects. It's short for a CD, and it feels like something you'd get as a free pre-order bonus rather than something to add extra value to an already skimpy package. The "Super Mario History" booklet contains interviews with Shigeru Miyamoto, Takashi Tezuka and Koji Kondo about each of the major games in the Super Mario franchise, from the original Super Mario Bros. to the new Super Mario Galaxy 2. Each interviewee is allowed a single sentence to discuss each game, so it adds almost nothing to the experience. There are some vaguely interesting snippets among the one-liners, but that's about it. Each of the game pages is nothing but a picture of the box art, three small screenshots and a picture of the game. There are a few pieces of concept art scattered near the back of the book, but nothing is going to draw much excitement, even for die-hard Mario fans. There's also no mention of the many other Mario titles outside of the "main" games, such as Paper Mario or Mario Kart. For a booklet about the history of Mario, it sure ignores large chunks of it.
Super Mario All-Stars 25th Anniversary Edition is a rather poor offering to celebrate the plumber's 25th anniversary. Instead of an exciting compilation that celebrates the best aspects of the character's history, you get a Super Nintendo game on a DVD with no frills or extras. As if to add insult to injury, it isn't even the best available version of Super Mario All-Stars. The extras, including the soundtrack and history booklet, show as much lack of effort as the game itself. It's still a collection of excellent Super Mario titles, but the games are available in plenty of other ways, all of which are cheaper. The only real worthwhile audience for this game is Wii owners who can't or won't get online and would like the chance to play their old favorites again. Anyone else would be better off avoiding this game, as the extras certainly don't make up for the high price tag.
More articles about Super Mario All-Stars 25th Anniversary Edition