Nintendo remasters three Super Mario games in one collection but how well do Super Mario 64, Sunshine, and Galaxy stand up today?
We’ve always been great believers in review scores. There is an issue with people not reading the text and just looking at the score, but we’re not convinced that type of person would pay any more attention without a number at the bottom. We also don’t like the fact that it tends to be the more nuanced reviewers that don’t give a score, which risks unbalancing aggregator sites like Metacritic. A review score is the most succinct summary of a review possible and that has value – not to mention it’s all part of the fun of writing reviews, from our perspective.
All that said we have to admit that the 10/10 score we’re giving Super Mario 3D All-Stars does not come close to telling the full story. And yet we don’t know what else we could’ve given this remaster compilation. Super Mario Galaxy is one of the best games ever made and it holds up even better than we expected. And yet Super Mario 3D All-Stars itself is a cheaply made cash grab that feels like it’s been thrown together during Shigeru Miyamoto’s lunch hour.
Before we get into that dichotomy, we should clarify exactly what Super Mario 3D All-Stars is. It’s a collection of three remasters: Super Mario 64 (a N64 game from 1997), Super Mario Sunshine (a GameCube game from 2002), and Super Mario Galaxy (a Wii game from 2007). Apart from increasing the resolution and tailoring the controls to the Switch there are very few changes to any of the games and absolutely no extra content or options apart from separate access to the soundtracks. The remasters are perfectly competent from a technical point of view but they’re also completely bare bones.
Although it’s tempting to assume that this lack of extra features is because of the pandemic that doesn’t seem plausible as the game is the centrepiece of a massive cross-media celebration of the 35th anniversary of Super Mario Bros., something that includes everything from new clothing ranges to tie-in Kinder eggs. That wasn’t organised in a couple of months from someone’s bedroom and considering news of Super Mario 3D All-Stars first leaked out in March it’s clear it’s been planned for a very long time.
And yet here we are and there’s almost nothing else to say about the collection itself, except to ask why Nintendo plans to stop selling it at the end of March, in apparent emulation of the Disney Vault concept. The front end is just a simple menu and there are no display or control options of any kind for any of the games. Although the most glaring omissions is that Super Mario Galaxy 2 is also not included, so while this is called 3D All-Stars it certainly doesn’t contain all the 3D stars of the Super Mario series. What it does contain though is these three games….
Super Mario 64 3D All-Stars remaster review
The incredible thing about the core Super Mario series is that with only a few exceptions almost all the games have, at one time or another, been considered the best video games ever made. Super Mario Bros. 1 and 3, and Super Mario World, certainly were and so too was N64 launch game Super Mario 64.
But the accolades don’t end there, as a strong argument can be made that Mario 64 is the single most important video game ever created. As one of the very first console games to feature 3D movement in a full 3D environment it invented almost from scratch all the modern conventions for 3D visuals, controls, and non-linear gameplay.
Whole books could be written on the design decisions and influence of Super Mario 64 but the most pertinent question here is whether it’s still any fun to play today, especially as many people probably haven’t played or even seen it for decades. The answer to that question, with one predictable caveat, is a resounding yes.
Although we hesitate to call it open world, because of the small size, the structure of the game is entirely non-linear, with Princess Peach’s castle acting as a hub from which you can access a range of other worlds that can be anything from a typical lava level or slippy-slidey ice world to the wonderfully imaginative Wet-Dry World and Tiny-Huge Island, which transform and change depending on how you interact with them.
The primary goal of the game is to collect stars, which give you access to more and more worlds. A typical mission will give you a cryptic description, such as ‘Bully the Bullies’ and leave you to work out what to do within the level. The lack of hand-holding is not so extreme that modern gamers will be put off though and not being told exactly what to do encourages you to explore and experiment with Mario’s abilities.
Considering when the game was made the variety of moves, from punches and kicks to triple jumps and cartwheels is hugely impressive. This was a revelation on the game’s original release but even today it’s still fun simply running around and jumping, which cuts to the heart of Mario’s intrinsic appeal.
The one problem, as we’re sure you’ve guessed, is that the camera was far from perfect the first time round and seems even less so now. It’s not nearly as aggravating as we were expecting though and while it can frequently clip through objects, or refuse to move when you want it to, you quickly learn to compensate.
No-one’s going to argue that Super Mario 64 is still the best game ever made but it is definitely still a very good one and in terms of historical importance almost without equal.
Super Mario Sunshine 3D All-Stars remaster review
The GameCube was a peculiar console in many ways, not least because its most celebrated first party games were all less famous franchises, such as Metroid, F-Zero, Paper Mario, and the nascent Super Smash Bros. Both Mario Sunshine and Zelda: The Wind Waker suffered from seemingly being rushed, with weak third acts that saw promising beginnings peter out into repetitive fetch quests.
In the case of Mario Sunshine it was the increasing reliance on collecting endless blue coins, instead of the more involved missions of earlier in the adventure, but even ignoring that the game is nowhere near as much fun as it should be. The template is essentially the same as Mario 64, except this time the hub is a tropical resort and all the individual worlds are also island-themed – losing the greater sense of variety from Mario 64.
The biggest problem with Mario Sunshine though, at least returning to it now, is just how sloppy and imprecise the controls seem when compared to both the other games. Sunshine’s big gimmick is that you have a water jetpack that is used to clean off graffiti and fight gunk-covered bad guys. But it’s also meant to be an opportunity to save you from falling off a platform.
Because of the way the controls work though, you almost never ending up using it that way and instead the game unwittingly encourages a very slow and cautious approach, which on top of the sub-par controls sucks all the energy out of the experience.
This is underlined by the fact that the void levels are by far the most entertaining part of the game. These are much more abstract stages where you’re not allowed to use the jetpack and although they’re very hard they’re far more entertaining than any of the standard levels.
The only significant change to the game on the Switch is that there’s now a widescreen option (there still isn’t for Mario 64, for some reason) but not even that seems quite right, with cut scenes in particular looking faintly distorted after being blown up in resolution. The frame rate also doesn’t seem to have changed from the original 30fps, which is a real shame as it feels like even less than that.
The smoothness of control and movement in the other two games is largely absent in Mario Sunshine and while they’re both a joy to play, in Mario Sunshine we rarely felt anything other than mild irritation and frustration.
Super Mario Galaxy 3D All-Stars remaster review
The failure of the GameCube was enough that Nintendo realised they could not continue in the console business without a major shake-up, which they provided in spades with the Wii. Best known for casual friendly games like Wii Sports the format’s most successful Mario game was 2D title New Super Mario Bros. Wii, which sold a staggering 30 million copies worldwide. By comparison Super Mario Galaxy sold less than 13 million, but while the 2D game was a bland and unambitious rehash Galaxy was, and still is, an absolute revelation.
Coming from Mario Sunshine, playing Mario Galaxy feels like a quantum leap forward, even though only five years and a relatively small increase in hardware performance separates them. Whereas every jump in Mario Sunshine feels like a leap of faith in Mario Galaxy the movement and controls are so crisp you can almost taste the salt and vinegar.
And this is all while you’re running around a tiny planetoid, where the gravity is constantly changing and, by all rights, you should be utterly confused about how to move forward let along jump accurately upon a goomba’s head. Whereas the patented Nintendo magic may have faded in Mario 64, and arguably was never present in Sunshine, in Galaxy it has never seemed so luminous and powerful.
The game seems morally opposed to letting you go a moment without something entertaining happening or introducing some new idea or quirk to the gameplay or level design. There are some ideas here, such as the stage that assembles itself around you as you walk or where you’re rolling around on top of a ball, that other developers would make the basis of an entire game and yet here they’re throwaway ideas that are lucky to come back once, let alone twice.
For a 13-year-old game created on what was at the time already outdated hardware Super Mario Galaxy is an absolute visual delight, with epically scaled boss battles and some wonderfully vibrant colours and lighting. The whole game looks fantastic and sounds even better, with what is unquestionably one of the best video game soundtracks of all time.
As with Mario 64 though there was always one commonly accepted flaw in Galaxy and that’s the use of motion controls. Those that resented them originally will be glad to know you can now just press the ‘Y’ button to spin, rather than having to shake the controller, although the fact that there’s always a cursor onscreen, to shoot and/or collect star bits remains a distraction.
You can make it disappear by aiming the cursor off-screen (achieved on a Controller Pro by angling it up or down) but we’d still prefer it just switched itself off if not used for a second or two – which is exactly what happens in handheld mode, where you instead have to tap the screen. For that reason at least it may well be the preferred way to play – that or have someone join in as player two and get them to control the cursor, which is a fun and useful thing for a less experienced friend to do as you play.
Super Mario Galaxy is a delight from beginning to end and rather than having aged at all it’s even better than we remembered and still outshines the otherwise excellent Super Mario Odyssey.
Why Super Mario Galaxy 2 isn’t included here we don’t know, as an ongoing argument exists as to which is better out of the two and this would have been the perfect way to settle the issue. The sequel was originally planned merely as an expansion, before the project grew out of control, but we’ve always considered it slightly superior, given its even greater level of variety, better power-ups (including Yoshi), no sappy story, a generally harder difficulty level, and the chance to play as Luigi.
We’d hate to think the reason Nintendo didn’t include it is because of Throwback Galaxy, which recreates Whomp’s Fortress from Super Mario 64 with modern graphics and is what many would’ve liked to have seen from a full remake – rather than the simple remaster presented here. Remasters are all we’ve got though and it’s certainly true that you’d want the games to be preserved in their original form, no matter what else is done to them.
Super Mario 3D All-Stars is not a very good compilation but two of the three games it contains are exceptional, one more from a historical perspective, the other from every angle imaginable. These are games that everyone owes it to themselves to play, and if the medium for doing so is this rather underwhelming collection that’s still far better than nothing at all.
Super Mario 3D All-Stars review summary
In Short: A lazy, incomplete, cynically marketed remaster collection… that just happens to include one of the best games ever made – and one of the most historically important.
Pros: Super Mario Galaxy is incredible on every level and has hardly aged a day. Super Mario 64 has but it’s still fun to play now and fascinating from a historical perspective.
Cons: Super Mario Sunshine was always the weakest link in the Super Mario 3D family and it feels even less impressive now. Bare bones collection offers no additional features or options.
Formats: Nintendo Switch
Developer: Nintendo EPD
Release Date: 18th September 2020 – 31st March 2021
Age Rating: 7
Email [email protected], leave a comment below, and follow us on Twitter.
Follow Metro Gaming on Twitter and email us at [email protected]
For more stories like this, check our Gaming page.
Source: Read Full Article