Super Mario 3D All-Stars Review
The announcement of the rumoured collection of 3D Mario games was finally confirmed in a Nintendo Direct for the 35th anniversary of Super Mario Bros. For much of 2020, it has been speculated that the 3D Mario games will be "remastered" for the Nintendo Switch for this special occasion.
Now that the cat is out of the bag, we are presented with Super Mario 3D All-Stars featuring Super Mario 64 from the N64, Super Mario Sunshine from the Nintendo GameCube, and Super Mario Galaxy from the Wii. All three games are heavy hitters and widely acclaimed by gamers. The naming pays homage to Super Mario All-Stars on the Super NES, which featured remastered versions of four NES Mario games.
Unfortunately, this time around there isn't really much of a remastering of any of these games in the collection. It's not like how Link's Awakening from the Game Boy was remade with a completely new graphics engine on the Nintendo Switch, by at the same time, keeping true to the original game. I found the lack of a true remastering to be a disappointment in terms of this package.
Super Mario 64 (See our original review)
Super Mario 64 still appears in the same familiar blocky style in a 4:3 letterbox presentation. There are some slight graphical improvements, such as a more sharp HUD (heads-up display showing the lives, stars and coins), the signs and messages feature a more clear font which helps improve the readability and presentation. The controls do feel a bit more responsive compared to the N64, where you can often feel a very slight lag while pressing a button or making a movement.
As this is Mario's first 3D adventure, we are constantly challenged by the camera, which is controlled by a friendly Lakitu, but thankfully he has improved his work in future games to make our lives much easier!
Even though Super Mario 64 was a technological marvel back in 1996, it's clear the 64-bit era graphics have aged quite a bit. It's nostalgic, yes, but this game deserved to have a true remastering.
The first 3D Mario game brings back quite a bit of simplicity as there are no gimmicks, Mario just relies on his basic moves: running, jumping, stomping, and punching. It's a bit refreshing in the sense that most future 3D Mario games have included companions. He's on his own here to rescue Princess Peach from Bowser, and as you spend more time there, you'll find Peach's Castle itself does feel very lonely as well.
Super Mario Sunshine (See our original review)
At first glance, Super Mario Sunshine got a bit of a facelift and the game now comes in widescreen 16:9 glory. The game textures have been sharpened up and everything just looks a lot better. Occasionally, there are some slight frame rate dips which can be annoying.
One challenge in the 3D All-Stars version of Super Mario Sunshine is that it can be a bit difficult to control F.L.U.D.D. as the Switch controllers do not have an analog R button. The workaround is to use the ZR and R buttons to control whether you spray water while moving or while standing.
Overall, I've always found Sunshine to be the most awkward 3D Mario game to play, and it remains so on the Switch version. Something just doesn't feel right about this adventure.
There are many factors which can irk the gamer, the strange controls with F.L.U.D.D. is definitely one of them, being unable to do a long jump is another, also Mario's controls seem very loose and slippery compared to other games.
And finally to combine the previous points, the secret areas which feature retro Mario music are one of the biggest nightmares. It's strange when so much of the game involves F.L.U.D.D. some of the hardest shines are the ones where you don't have him at all, and Mario's poor agility in this game makes it difficult to survive.
Super Mario Galaxy (See our original review)
One word can summarize how Super Mario Galaxy looks - wow! This game looks very sharp and vibrant with the official HD upscale treatment, the graphics look comparable to Super Mario Odyssey, which is very impressive. Over the years we have seen plenty of upscaled Wii games on emulators, which goes to show that the Wii hardware was a bottleneck for gaming performance. It was disappointing that the Wii U was not able to upscale Wii games into HD. Even though it is a 13 year old game, once upscaled on a modern console, it definitely does not feel "old" at all.
There are two major changes to the controls in the 3D All-Stars version of Super Mario Galaxy. It's now possible to press the "Y" button to do a Luma spin attack - a nice alternative to spinning your Joy-coy or Pro Controller. When we look back at the Wii remote, it really does look like the spin motions were more or less a gimmick when a button can do the job perfectly well. It's actually far easier to play by pressing the spin button as opposed to physically making the motion on the Wii.
The second change is that the on-screen star pointer is now controlled by "waggling" the controller, similar to what is done in Captain Toad: Treasure Tracker. Alternatively, if playing in portable mode, touching the screen moves the star pointer and allows shooting of star bits that way. The Nintendo Switch does not have a sensor bar like the Wii, so this is the best that can be done, however this adjustment is pretty seamless and easy to adapt to.
Another control oddity is that the camera movement is rather limited despite being mapped to the right control stick. On the Wii, the camera was controlled using the control pad which only had four directions, even though it's on an analog control stick now, the camera controls are still limited and don't give the true 360 degree view like it does in Super Mario Sunshine.
It's hard to truly rate this 3D Mario collection given that besides the addition of the soundtracks from the games, there's nothing new. Super Mario 64 and Super Mario Galaxy are both outstanding, Super Mario Sunshine can be really hit or miss. At the full price point, it's a little high for Super Mario 3D All-Stars, however it's decent value if you haven't any of these past titles. It's a little unfortunate that Super Mario Galaxy 2 was not included, given that the original and sequel were built on the same codebase, it wouldn't have been much more to port over as well.
All in all, Super Mario 3D All-Stars is a nice collection of past Mario hits, what you see is what you get, there are no bonuses for the Mario superfan, it's basically a no-frills package. The main benefit is to be able to play (or re-play) all three of these hit 3D Mario games with enhanced graphics on a single console.