Review – The Good and the Bad of Super Mario All Stars 25th Anniversary Edition

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Super Mario All StarsSuper Mario All Stars

image: Nintendo of America

There seems to be an odd split in the gamer community regarding the newly released Super Mario All-Stars 25th Anniversary Edition. On the one hand you have the Nintendo faithful intent on celebrating (and in some cases hording) the limited edition product with its bundled art book and soundtrack collection CD. On the other there are the staunch critics disappointed by the glaring lack of polish applied to both this bonus content and the game itself.

The simple truth is they’re both right.

Celebrating 25 years of Nintendo’s iconic mascot is a huge deal. Mario’s position in gaming culture as well as the greater pop culture has long been cemented thanks to two and a half decades of amazing titles (and sometimes less noteworthy tie-ins). Sadly this collection only pays token tribute to the character behind the rise of contemporary gaming.

Super Mario All-Stars 25th Anniversary Edition comes packaged in a smart red and gold box that touts the set’s content. I’m tempted to say that such amenities look good on paper, but it’s much more honest to say they look great. The packaging itself truly tugs at those nostalgic heartstrings with its unique throwback design. Upon breaking the seal, however, you may find yourself rather underwhelmed.

The included 32-page primer on Mario’s history is less a keepsake than a glorified pamphlet. You get the requisite time line and a dash of anecdotal quotes concerning series benchmarks as well as a few classic source sketches, but it simply doesn’t feel big enough, with regard to both content and physical size, to properly pay tribute to the character in question. The same can be said of the soundtrack CD which limits itself to ten level themes, ten classic sound effects and a bit shy of a half-hour of play time overall. Given the power of Mario’s musical legacy, this too is disappointing.

The game disc itself is also a tad underwhelming. An unadorned port of the original Super Mario All-Stars title, it’s simply little more than a ROM rip of the SNES game enabled for sideways Wii-mote play. The included games – Super Mario Bros., Super Mario Bros.: The Lost Levels (the original Japanese sequel), the domestic flavor of Super Mario Bros. 2 and NES high-water mark Super Mario Bros. 3 – still play exquisitely well all these years later, but while the convenience of having them all on a single disc is a nice touch I still have some minor gripes.

Super Mario All-Stars screen shotSuper Mario All-Stars screen shot

image: Nintendo of America

As this is really just the Super Nintendo collection revisited, each of the included games feature the marginally updated graphics of that age. This means that the blocky sprites of the original outing have been eliminated in favor of a more cartoony representation. This makes sense, of course, as each of these titles is available in all their 8-bit glory via the Virtual Console. Still, I, like many other old schoolers, prefer the original hits by the original artists. Moreover, the modern DVD format easily affords additional space for added selections like Super Mario World or Yoshi’s Island, but Nintendo instead elected to take the easy way out and offer the core content un-supplemented.

The problem with this collection is that it hits many of the series high points without providing very much in the way of additional bang for your buck. That being said, as the entry price for this particular trip in the Wayback Machine is a mere $30 American, it’s hard to get too bent out of shape about the lack of depth in the Super Mario All-Stars 25th Anniversary Edition. Sure, the disc itself is simply a Wii-playable repackaging of the Super Nintendo All-Stars release and the art book and CD are enjoyable if trifling additions, but there’s still something to be said for the staying power of these antiquated platformers, gussied up for current gen play or otherwise. Plus, this thing will look positively smashing on your media shelf!

WIRED: a nice collection of classic Mario titles compiled on a single disc, pack-in bonus book and CD, handsome overall packaging, low price point

TIRED: really nothing more than a port of SNES classic Super Mario All-Stars, book and CD are likewise light on content, standard aspect ratio gaming looks kind of sad on your big-screen LCD

Review materials provided by: Nintendo of America

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