Today, it's not uncommon to see remakes of classic games. Xbox Live, WiiWare, and Playstation Network are full of old games prettied up in High Definition, sometimes redone in 3D to take advantage of the new hardware. But back in 1993, complete remakes like these rarely happened.
I will probably never bother reviewing the original Mario Bros. trilogy for the original Nintendo Entertainment System (NES), as anyone visiting this site has likely already played the games to death and a review of those games would not be terribly interesting. They are all top notch. There, done. So Super Mario All-Stars offers a nice opportunity to review these classics, without boring you with what you already know.
Super Mario All-Stars consists of 4 classic NES games: Super Mario Bros. 1, 2, and 3, as well as the Japanese version of Super Mario Bros. 2, renamed "The Lost Levels" for it American debut. Each title has been rebuilt from the ground up, with remixed music and updated graphics taking advantage of the Super Nintendo's additional horsepower.
What Super Mario-All Stars does not do is mess around with the controls. Each title plays exactly the same as its NES counterpart, which is fantastic. The level layouts, enemy placement, and secrets are all in the same exact location as their NES counterparts. All of the secrets you remember from the original titles will be present, exactly where you remembered them. The original quirks have also been retained. In Super Mario Bros. 1 for example, Mario still has an awkward crouch when you press down, and still turns white when you get the fire flower. Most of the glitches from the original games have been fixed though.
The most obvious change when you fire up Super Mario All-Stars is the graphics. Every nook and cranny has been retooled to take advantage of the SNES's power. Two layers of parallax scrolling have also been adding to each game, giving a great illusion of depth and really brings these classics into the 16-bit generation. There is a lot more color than the originals, the NES being limited to 25 on screen colors at once, and it brings the Mario world to life. Overall, the game emulates the style from Super Mario World, and other Mario games of that era, without losing the feel of the classics.
While I'm sure the graphics don't push the hardware to the limit by any stretch, they are still pleasant to look at. The water levels, and the ship levels in Super Mario Bros. 3 even feature transparency effects.
The music retains the same sound as the original games, but has also been updated to take advantage of the sound hardware in the SNES. Listening to the opening track in Super Mario Bros. 1 really takes you back. All of the sound effects have been updated as well, mimicking Super Mario World. The underground levels offer a unique echo affect, really putting this remake over the top. Overall, it's a terrific update and definitely outclasses what is capable on the competing Genesis platform.
Game play wise, it's hard to top Mario. Twenty years later, Mario stills controls better than most modern games. The additional face buttons on the SNES controller's have just duplicate Mario’s main functions, 2 jump buttons and two speed buttons. Other than that, All-Stars retains the same feel of the originals.
Some new features have been added to make the games a bit easier. Four save slots have been added for each of the 4 games. This is excellent, especially for Super Mario Bros. 3, which is a pretty large game when you play it straight through. When I was a kid, I could spend hours playing these games, but time is a bit tighter these days, making Super Mario All Stars a good way to experience these classics.
If you have played through the original NES games, Super Mario All-Stars is a great excuse to play through them again. The updated graphics and music also offer a great excuse to not use warp tunnels and other cheats to make it through the game. You are going to want to see everything. If you've never played through the original NES games, Super Mario All-Stars is a good way to get acquainted with all 4 games at once.
Overall, Super Mario All-Stars is an excellent update to the classic games. While Nintendo updated the graphics and sound, they left the controls and level layouts alone. It was absolute blast playing through the games that got me into this hobby in the first place. The graphics are excellent, the sound is superb, and the game play is as fresh today as it was in the 80's. The fact that you get 4 games on one cartridge, complete with saving feature, makes this a no brainer. Easily the greatest compilation ever made. A must own.
Graphics 7/10 - Not ground breaking, but good
Sound 9/10 - The original melodies are back, only better
Game play 10/10 - The 8-bit Mario's are tough to beat
Overall 10/10 – 4 excellent platformers in one cart, ‘nough said