Super Mario All Stars 25th Anniversary Edition Impressions

20 Jan

Nintendo are celebrating the 25th anniversary of their most famous character in style, with a special edition of both the Wii and DS already on store shelves, and now ‘Super Mario All Stars: 25th Anniversary Edition’ available. Being a sucker for all things Nintendo, I picked up a copy, to go with my 25th anniversary Wii. How could I go wrong, it’s four of my (and everyone’s) favourite games, in a collector’s edition box with a CD and a book. Sounds like a really nice package.
To be blunt, it’s a tremendous disappointment. I knew it probably would be by the time I ordered it, but went ahead anyway, as I’m sure a huge amount of Nintendo fans will. It is a very pretty box, vaguely reminiscent of an NES box, which is a nice touch, and it’ll look good on a shelf, but chances are it’s going to remain there, gathering dust. The problem is that the contents are negligible, there’s nothing to get excited about, even for the hardcore collector. It’s hard to justify paying the €30 price tag for something so lacklustre, and it’s disappointing to see Nintendo miss an opportunity to really offer something special to the fans who’ve followed them over the years.

The biggest issue is the dearth of new content, there is absolutely nothing new about the game. When this was originally announced I was expecting the NES games re-released with the graphics of New Super Mario Bros. What this is though, is the SNES edition of All Stars on a disc. That’s it. It’s not even the version that includes Super Mario World. Without a graphical update, and with games that can be bought for less on Nintendo’s similarly disenchanting Virtual Console, why bother to repackage them at all? The target market for this, I can only assume, is older fans of Nintendo, the younger audience have Galaxy and New Super Mario to keep them amused, but the older players who might want this probably have a copy of All Stars on the SNES already, or the NES cartridges. It would have been so easy to make the package something really great, one disc could easily hold Super Mario World and Mario 64 as well as the NES games, maybe even Sunshine too, which would have made for a more complete Mario collection. Even if Donkey Kong had been thrown in that would have been something to be happy about.

The booklet chronicles, very briefly, the history of Super Mario, and is actually quite nice, but severely lacking in content. It’s basically the size of a game manual, and fits in a game case the same way. It only serves to perplex that the Mario timeline is covered completely, yet only four games made the package. I can obviously see why the Wii Mario games aren’t there, but at least the games up to Mario 64 should be. There is some interesting artwork, and contributions from Shigeru Miyamoto, Koji Kondo and Takashi Tezuka, but they only have a sentence per game, and it would have been great to read more of their thoughts on the development of each title. A DVD featuring them and some additional discussion, or even a short documentary would have been even better. The book is nice enough, I suppose, and seeing pictures of level design blueprints and some watercolour versions of concept art is interesting, but it could have been so much more.

The last part of the package is a 20 track soundtrack CD, and this is where it gets really poor for me. There has been so much great music over the years in the Mario games, so many recognisable themes, but only 10 make it to the CD. That’s one from each game in the Mario canon, other than 2, if you’re counting. That really is a miserable effort on Nintendo’s part, especially with how easy it would have been to add a few more tracks. There isn’t even some profit to be made off what’s left out, as there would be with the games. Instead of more music there are 10 additional tracks of Mario sounds, including such classics as the coin sound, 1-up sound and Game Over music. Order now and we’ll throw in a free hotplate. Please allow… Sorry, lost track of things for a second, that’s how amazed I am by the absolutely bizarre soundtrack. I’ll give it some credit, the music is memorable, and it’s fun to put it on shuffle and hear songs punctuated by the sounds of the classic games, but that’s not really the point here.

In sum, it’s a fairly poor effort by Nintendo to commemorate the anniversary of one of popular cultures most enduring icons, amounting to little more than a shameless cash-in. Nintendo’s marketing department really do know the appeal of the plumber in red and blue, and this is pure profit for them. I’m not going to let it dispel the magic of Mario of course, once the game itself goes on all is forgiven, very little tops the NES Mario games, but I would be loathe to recommend this to anyone, no matter how big a Nintendo fan they may be. If it had been packed in with the red anniversary Wii then it would have been a great extra, but the two never should have been sold separately, there’s far too little here to justify the price, and long-time Nintendo fans deserve a lot better than this.

As an aside, there is one part of the package I adored, the photo on the cover of the soundtrack case (see below). It’s just an NES, with a copy of Super Mario Bros. running on screen in the background, out of focus, but its stark simplicity is a wonderful reminder of an era of simple, elegant and innocent games, far from the realistic depictions of violence and war we see today. It encapsulates everything great about classic games like Mario, and is by some distance the best thing about Mario All Stars 25th Anniversary Edition.

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