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Retro Respawn – Super Mario All-Stars

This week’s game is a pretty big one for me as it was the first game I ever owned on my Super Nintendo, which in turn was the first major console I ever owned. I’d played a bit on my father’s ZX Spectrum and my cousin’s Nintendo Entertainment System, but the SNES was in effect my first ever console, and Super Mario All-Stars was the game that not only came with it, but it essentially hooked me on video games forever more.

Released in time for Christmas 1993, Super Mario All-Stars was chosen to be a pack-in game with the SNES console itself, with the aim to get the console under the Christmas trees of people who hadn’t yet decided to hop on the Nintendo bus during the fourth generation. I was young at the time, but I had become aware of the game due to some zany, futuristic-styled adverts featuring the ever hilarious Rik Mayall (R.I.P).

But what is Super Mario All-Stars, I (hopefully) hear you ask? Well, it’s a compilation of the three Mario games released on the Nintendo Entertainment System in the West, along with the Japanese version of Super Mario Bros. 2, renamed as “The Lost Levels” for us. However, rather than just stick the four games on the cartridge and be done with it, Nintendo have actually gone to the trouble of sprucing them all up with (for the time) modern graphics and much better music.

If you’ve ever played Super Mario Bros., Super Mario Bros. 2 (Western version) and Super Mario Bros. 3 before, you’re not going to find anything different in the way the games play in this collection. However, having all three of them conveniently placed on the same cart is very handy, and the graphics really have been improved leaps and bounds over the NES versions. So in essence, you get the both of best worlds in that you get much nicer looking and sounding games, but the great, addictive gameplay that made the games so great in the first place is still intact.

I’ve gone on record saying that the original Super Mario Bros. game for the NES would be the only game I would ever give a 100% perfect score to, owing to how influential it was as well as how perfectly weighted its difficulty and gameplay are. So to see it look so great here really is a treat, and some of the music sounds utterly fantastic, so much so that it’s almost hard to go back and listen to the classic tracks again. Indeed, whenever I think of The Underground Theme, I always think of the Super Mario All-Stars version, it’s that seminal for me.

Super Mario Bros. 2 plays a bit better as well due to the parallax scrolling that the SNES can offer, making everything smoother. I must admit that I’ve never been a particularly huge fan of the Western version of SMB2, but I like it as a change of pace from the first game, and it probably looks the nicest of the three Western originals on the Super Mario All-Stars cart.

As for Super Mario Bros. 3, I’m not sure what I can say about it that hasn’t been said before. It looks great, its gameplay is delightfully varied, and it has some of the best power ups in the history of the series. Basically, it’s an absolute stone cold classic and deserves all the praise that gets heaped upon it. I’d be shocked if you’re reading this and haven’t played it, but on the off-chance that you haven’t, I couldn’t recommend picking up Super Mario All-Stars enough as it is probably the best way to play the game.

The Lost Levels never saw the light of day in the West originally due to Nintendo feeling it was too similar to the first game and also because of its ludicrous difficulty level. It certainly does present a hearty challenge, but that challenge is lessened somewhat by the fact that you can save your progress up to whichever level you die on. So rather than start, say, World 4 from the beginning each time, you can save your progress at World 4, Level 3 and keep chipping away at it until you finally manage to advance. I’ll be honest, without the possibility to save, I’d struggle to get to the latter stages of this one on just one credit.

Indeed, the save feature is there for all of the games on the cart, which means the days of leaving your console on overnight whilst you go to bed so that you can pick up where you left off the next morning are gone (yes, this is something we had to do back in the day when games didn’t have a save feature or password. Talk about first world problems, eh?).

I’m aware that I have a lot of nostalgic reasons to love Super Mario All-Stars due to it being the first game I had for one of my favourite consoles ever. In fact, I didn’t get another game for my SNES until the following Christmas, so I was actually able to make Super Mario All-Stars last me a whole year back in the day, which is a testament to how much I enjoyed playing it.

The game actually saw a re-release to the Nintendo Wii, and considering the fact it’s not especially difficult to find a second or third-hand Wii console for a reasonable price, you could do far worse than finding one and picking up a copy of Super Mario All-Stars for it. If you love the NES era Super Mario games, then you’ll find them lovingly recreated here with some delightful graphical improvements and some genuinely great remixed music. If you don’t own an NES but do have an SNES and want to experience the NES games, then Super Mario All-Stars is probably the most convenient and rewarding way to do it.

Thanks for reading and take care till next time!

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