Celebrating Mario's 35th anniversary with an absolute bang is Super Mario 3D All-Stars - a collection that compiles together Super Mario 64, Sunshine, and Galaxy. This collection was the absolute highlight for me during the surprise anniversary stream, and I couldn't wait to revisit these classics on modern hardware with improved visuals and handheld capabilities.
Firstly, before talking over the titles individually, I thought I would touch on some of the additions (and omissions) from the package as a whole. By far the best thing that the collection offers, besides improvements to each game, is a music player where you can listen to individual tracks from all three soundtracks. This is something that I adored about Super Smash Bros. Ultimate and I like it here too, as it enabled me to sample the mesmerising music from these games without having to resort to YouTube and wading through the many ads there.
Besides this, however, the 3D All-Stars collection provides little incentive for those who already own the games to make a second purchase. The Rare Replay Collection is one that instantly springs to mind in terms of its value, as it offers players exclusive content such as interviews with developers and behind-the-scenes footage for completing certain in-game objectives. Super Mario 3D All-Stars is missing alluring features like these and its physical edition doesn't provide any additional bonuses like the 25th-anniversary of All-Stars did on the Wii.
Super Mario 64
Super Mario 64, the first offering in the package, pretty much single-handedly laid the groundwork for the collectathon genre, and whilst I do feel other tiles have come along and subsequently provided better takes, its influence in 3D gaming is undeniable. It was a risky endeavour from the start as the developers worked to reinvent everything that we knew about Mario up until this pivotal point. Collecting Power Stars here replaced reaching the flag pole at the end of the stage, levels were much less linear, and Mario was provided with a completely different moveset to complement his first venture into this exciting new dimension.
Mario 64 filled me with such childlike joy when playing, whether I was pulling Mario's chubby cheeks on the title screen or exploring in search of one more Power Star. Moments such as hurling the baby penguin into the abyss in Cool, Cool Mountain, and unleashing the menacing-looking Unagi the eel in Jolly Roger Bay instantly stand out as being memorable. I personally didn't play this until many years later, but I can see why it became the obsession of many when it launched on the N64 in the late 1990s.
There are many well-crafted stages here too from Tick Tock Clock, which sees you navigate across the gears of a fully-functioning clock to Tiny, Huge Land, which plays on Mario's previous ability to transform in size when sustaining damage or grabbing a mushroom. What's great is that there's so much freedom when it comes to stages, as you pretty much pick and choose what Power Stars you want to earn to progress. Don't like the stage you just unlocked? Well, that's okay, you can just go back and explore a previous one.
Despite being hailed as a classic platformer, Mario 64 does, however, have its flaws. The camera here cannot be moved around fluidly and often it never feels like you have a full view of the jump that you are trying to precisely make. The boss fights are also disappointing, as the same encounter with Bowser is just copied and pasted three times over. This is a shame considering the creativity poured into all other aspects, but it stands out in the collection as Sunshine and Galaxy contain some of the series' best boss encounters.
The version included within the 3D All-Stars collection does include some minor improvements. Firstly, we can now play the title in handheld mode without having to resort to the DS and its painful omission of an analog stick. The title is now in 720p so things do look a little cleaner, but disappointingly, the aspect ratio has not been adjusted to 16:9. Due to this, black bars are displayed on the edges of the screen in both modes and it stands out like a sore thumb when compared to both Sunshine and Galaxy, which support widescreen.
Super Mario Sunshine
Super Mario Sunshine is perhaps the most divisive title within the package, but I actually really admire some of the risks that the developers took here. Nintendo had a winning formula on its hands with 64 and didn't play it safe when it came to a sequel on the GameCube. Sure, not all of its bold ideas were for the best (the voice acting and the frequent inclusion of cutscenes, for example, just felt odd to me), but when it comes to core Mario titles, there are few that stand out as being as uniquely different.
Instead of the much-repeated Bowser-captures-the-princess plot, we instead see Mario jetting out on his summer vacation to Isle Delfino. Before Mario can even enjoy a refreshing mojito besides the pool, he is framed for a crime that he did not commit and forced to spend his time in the sun mopping up graffiti. The entire adventure takes place within this tropical paradise and this adds a completely different style to the Mushroom Kingdom. Each locale evokes a vibrant summer feeling and there's a surprising amount of variety on display from amusement parks to sandy beaches and hot springs villages.
F.L.U.D.D (Mario's water pack device) was, of course, another game-altering mechanic that Sunshine implemented, and I feel this is one aspect that really split the fanbase down the middle. What I liked is that F.L.U.D.D gave Sunshine more of a combat focus and enabled more creative ways to take down bosses inside of jumping on their heads or throwing them.
One of the battles that stands out is against a very angry Wiggler. Here you have to shoot streams of water at flowers in the ground so they expand and flip the Wiggler on its back.
Traversal and platforming were also expanded upon with the device, as it could be used to propel Mario and launch him to greater heights by firing streams of water at the ground.
So what did the collection change about Sunshine? Well, a fair amount actually. Firstly, Sunshine is handheld for the first time here and things do function really well when playing in this mode on the Switch. The aspect ratio has been bumped up to 16:9 to make full use of modern displays and the visuals are in stunning 1080p for the very first time. GameCube titles have a tendency to look blurry and lack clarity when plugged into my TV, but the visuals in this iteration of Sunshine looked pristine and managed to hide its age well.
Super Mario Galaxy
Last, but certainly not least, is Super Mario Galaxy, which is my personal favourite title within the collection. It is that good that I wish that it could be wiped from my memory Men in Black- style just so that I can relive the joy of playing it through for the first time. Galaxy is the best offering here for how creative it is: your perspective twists and turns as you explore across strange new distant galaxies. It somehow makes motion controls feel natural, and the orchestral score is a first for the series and is a complete blessing to your eardrums.
There are so many memorable galaxies here that offer throwbacks to the franchise: one is modelled after Luigi's Mansion and another after Whomp's Fortress in Super Mario 64. The new power-ups are great too and allow Mario to explore the world in new ways unlike previous power-ups, which just allow him to take more damage or use different attacks. The Boo Mushroom can transform Mario into everybody's favourite ghost and helps him to pass through certain walls and even spook his brother Luigi. The Bee Mushroom is great too; besides turning Mario into an adorably cute bee, it also enables him to gain the power of temporary flight, which helps to layer on top of his usual platforming abilities.
Something I worried about ahead of release was how well the heavy focus on the Wii remote would be able to transfer over to the Nintendo Switch. Using the Wii remote for scooping up Star Bits and partaking in certain mini-games was a core component and I can gladly say that this has been adapted well to the Switch. In docked mode, you can move your joy-cons or a pro controller around in a similar fashion to the Wii remote or, in handheld mode, you can simply tap on the screen for the same effect. Tapping the screen doesn't provide the same fluid motion as using a joy-con, but I still found it to be a responsive gesture.
Galaxy on the Switch is upscaled to 1080p and looks absolutely gorgeous - if I hadn't seen it previously I wouldn't have guessed that it was a 13-year-old game. Something that I wish that the collection did, however, was provide an alternative to the segments where motion controls are mandatory. Some galaxies that have you partake in activities like rolling on the top of an oversized golf ball or riding on the back of a manta ray push these controls on you and this feels rather alien and archaic when playing in 2020.
Super Mario 3D All-Stars is unmissable in the sense that it compiles together three of Mario's greatest 3D adventures into one package, but I can't help but feel like more could have been added to make it more tempting for long-time fans who have played the trio of games extensively. These games all pushed the boundaries of the platforming genre in their own way and remain fun to play despite each one being released several console generations ago. Still, it would have been nice to have some extra goodies like concept artwork or behind-the-scenes footage to really seal the deal.
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