Review: Super Mario 3D All-Stars for Nintendo Switch

Switch

Relive the joys of backwards somersaults, slip ‘n’ slide snow courses, paint spillages and intergalactic beauty with the Super Mario 3D All-Stars collection for the Nintendo Switch. With upgraded resolution visuals, improved controller functionality (with rumble) and handheld play, 3D All-Stars presents some of the best level design and 3D platformer thrills of its time.  So, whether you’re a Super Mario veteran or are playing any of the three titles for the first time, this iconic collection is not to be missed.   

For many fans of the famed Italian plumber, the first 3D adventure they had the opportunity to play may often be the best. For others, it may be the second or third. Yet, no matter which game is your favourite, there is always a deeper connection to one over the others – whether that is through nostalgia, level playability, or a certain time and place to evoke memories. For me, it’s Super Mario Galaxy, even though I played both Super Mario 64 (N64, Wii VC and DS remake) and Super Mario Sunshine beforehand. There was no question about it, the pull of gravity and the twinkle of Lumas was the classic calling card for someone who devoured science-fiction and fantasy books in their spare time. And now, as someone in their 30s, speaking to those who may never have experienced the highs and lows of F.L.U.D.D. in Super Mario Sunshine, the moment King Bob-Omb is thrown off the cliffside and reprimands the player to the highest degree in Super Mario 64, or unusual power-ups like the Bee or Boo Mushrooms in Super Mario Galaxy, you are in for a real treat.

In celebration of Super Mario Bros. 35th Anniversary, Super Mario 3D All-Stars marks the first 3D compilation of the following three games and their adjoining soundtracks: Super Mario 64 (1997, N64), Super Mario Sunshine (2002, GameCube) and Super Mario Galaxy (2007, Wii). The collection follows the same pattern as previous anniversary editions, namely Super Mario All-Stars, which released for the first time in 1993 on the SNES, followed by the Wii in 2010 for the 25th Anniversary, and now it’s available for free to Nintendo Switch Online members. Of course, in true Nintendo fashion, this superstar 3D collection is available for a limited time only (until 31st March) in both physical and digital editions, resulting in the game becoming the second best-selling videogame of 2020 according to Amazon US. While the physical edition is facing some worrying stock issues at retailers, alongside inflated prices due to scalpers, the digital edition is looking like the best go-to option for fans right now. Yet it’s still bizarre to think that with the launch of Super Mario 3D All-Stars, more than 20 Mario games will be playable on Nintendo Switch – that’s a lot of Mario!

After getting hands-on with the digital edition, we’re going to tackle this review in three stages, critically evaluating each of the game’s visuals, control scheme and handheld mode on the Nintendo Switch. So, without further ado, let’s a go

Super Mario 64

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From the outset, there are several visual differences in Super Mario 64. While it does not deliver widescreen mode and remains at a 4:3 aspect ratio, the game is now presented to players in HD quality with a resolution of 960 x 720 pixels in both docked and handheld modes. The Switch version also makes a few minor but noticeable differences, including a ‘Press +’ instead of ‘Start’ on the title selection screen and the removal of white lines to adjoin texture blocks (which were apparent in the Wii and Wii U virtual console versions). Alongside this, there are smoother HD textures on trees and useable objects, while walls and decking planks in some levels offer finer details, all due to the upscaled resolution. Perhaps the biggest change lies in the text cards and billboards littered as player hints throughout the game. These are now crystal clear to read and no longer bear the fuzzy appearance of years gone by.

In terms of overall playability, the camera reverts back to the original snap-to-grid formula, which can be slightly jarring in areas which offer less room to manoeuvre within. This is particularly evident when playing through the underwater levels, where the camera detracts from the game and offers little forgiveness to players when changing direction. And for those who haven’t experienced Super Mario 64, or who are returning after many years, the controls will feel cumbersome and heavy to handle. You’ll more than likely knock into walls, mistime jumps and easily skid off cliffs to begin with, but by your first encounter with Bowser, you’ll easily find your feet and get into the swing of things.

Super Mario 64 is best played with either the Joy-Con grip (N.B. you cannot play with a single joy-con) or the Pro Controller for additional comfort during long play sessions, however it offers great portability in its handheld mode. While there are no visual differences compared to docked, the 4:3 aspect ratio severely hampers its ease of play given the addition of black bars on either side. It’s such a shame a widescreen version couldn’t have been procured for this edition, since it would have been hugely beneficial for those playing in handheld, especially if on a Switch Lite. A missed trick, for sure.

Despite its shortcomings in handheld and a missed opportunity for a remastered version, Super Mario 64 offers first-timers some of the best original visuals to date on an official Nintendo console and delivers hours of fun as you race to collect the power stars from the greedy hands of Bowser and his minions. Overall, this game is best played in docked with a Pro Controller.  

Super Mario Sunshine

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Mario lands on the beautiful Isle Delfino for a tropical vacation with Princess Peach, Toadstool and the Toads, but instead he finds himself wrongly accused as the masterful graffiti artist who has ran amok, casting unsightly goop all over the island, stealing sunshine sprites. His only hope of clearing his name is by using Professor E. Gadd’s invention F.L.U.D.D. – a water pump, which can use several attachments, to help clear the island’s mess and restore the sunshine to its inhabitants.

Following the game’s opening story sequence, the visuals unfold beautifully with a gorgeous HD filter and an improved resolution, sitting pretty at 1920 x 1080 pixels in docked mode. For those in the PAL region, Sunshine on the GameCube only reached 480i (interlaced), rather than 480p (progressive) as was the case with the North American release. As such, Isle Delfino looks absolutely stunning with its touched-up aesthetics. Between Mario, the Delfino residents and enemies, their bold colours explode into life to represent the finer details of animation, while textures of ropes, buildings, water and more appear sharper with additional clarity. Plus, Sunshine also delivers an upgrade for those playing in handheld mode running at 1280 x 720 pixels, which is perfect for those using a Switch Lite.

While its visuals are top-notch, Sunshine unfortunately doesn’t offer the classic GameCube controller as a supported option for players, nor does it support play with a single (horizontal) joy-con. This limits players to using the Joy-Cons (separately or with the Grip) and a Pro Controller throughout the duration of docked play. While this is no hardship, it would have been a nice touch for fans of the original if GameCube controller compatibility had been supported. Generally speaking though, Sunshine controls superbly – in both docked and handheld – and after playing with cumbersome mechanics in Super Mario 64, it’s fantastic to see just how much Sunshine improves Mario’s movement precision after five years. For best playability, we suggest using a Pro Controller in docked mode.

Super Mario Galaxy

After Princess Peach is kidnapped by Bowser and launched into space, Mario boldly goes where no other plumber has been before in Super Mario Galaxy. Fortunately, he’s rescued by a travelling Luma who delivers him to ‘Mama’, also known as Rosalina, in the Comet Observatory. There he must collect the remaining Grand Stars and smaller Power Stars to restore the ship to its full power and rescue Princess Peach.

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As the most recent of the three games in Super Mario 3D All-Stars, Super Mario Galaxy is the least impacted in terms of visual improvement. For a 13-year-old game, it’s aged remarkably well and makes for a stunning 3D adventure in full-fledged HD with a resolution up to 1920 x 1080p in docked mode. Between the crisp colours of the deep blue to the finer textures and backgrounds, Super Mario Galaxy can easily stand proud amidst today’s Nintendo-published Switch titles, including Super Mario Odyssey. In handheld mode, similar to Sunshine, it reaches resolution highs of up to 1280 x 720p – and looks just as great.

Where Galaxy really shines, though, is in its flexibility of play. Players can choose from using the Pro Controller, the Joy-Con Grip, the Joy-Cons separately and a single Joy-Con (played horizontally in co-op mode only). Additionally, co-op mode can be played with a variety of controller options, such as a Pro Controller for player one, while player two holds Joy-Cons vertically or the single Joy-Con option as detailed above. Tabletop mode also enables players to utilise those options for co-op mode too.

Given the nature of Galaxy and its combined use of motion and pointer-based controls, using the Joy-Cons as separate remotes to mimic the Wii mote and Nunchuk is the best way to play. While it’s not as comfortable as the Joy-Con Grip or Pro Controller, the wide range of motion-based play makes for frustrating, albeit hilarious, movements of the controller. Galaxy does throw in a couple of curve balls, which are most notable in surfing minigames (such as in Loopdeeloop) and the motion-based star ball levels, first seen in Rolling Green Galaxy. As such, it’s best to switch to handheld play here since it enables players to achieve greater control to manoeuvre around the course.

Speaking of handheld, the use of touchscreen controls is perfect for Switch Lite owners. Between swiping your finger to collect star bits to holding it down to shoot them at enemies, the touchscreen controls deliver the epitome of precision. We switched into handheld mode to do a Speedy Comet run of Space Junk Galaxy, for example, and were suitably impressed with the touchscreen’s effortless functionality. Perhaps the game’s only downfall as a Switch port is that it requires players to adapt quickly to different modes of play depending on the nature of the level.

Overall, it’s safe to say that Super Mario 3D All-Stars is a compilation worth its weight in gold. Not only have the games stood the test of time, they remain some of the best 3D platformers of the late ‘90s to early 2000s in existence. Between its visual resolution upgrades to the sheer flexibility of ways to play, Super Mario 3D All-Stars is the triple threat of the Nintendo Switch games’ library – well, until 31st March.

9/10

A review copy of Super Mario 3D All-Stars was provided to My Nintendo News by Nintendo UK.

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