THE PLOT Mario is on a journey to save Princess Peach.
RATED E for Everyone
DETAILS $59.99; Nintendo Switch
BOTTOM LINE Few new wrinkles in this update.
Super Mario 3D All-Stars tells a story. On the surface, it's all about Nintendo's famous mascot rescuing Princess Peach from Bowser's clutches. He does this in Super Mario 64, Super Mario Sunshine and Super Mario Galaxy. It's a well-worn plot that never changes, though the journey does.
Now the games have been updated for Nintendo Switch and packaged as Super Mario 3D All-Stars. Unfortunately, the company didn't do much to massively improve it. The adventure retains its standard definition aspect ratio with a frame rate capped at 30 frames per second that makes it move decently. The textures and models still look primitive compared to subsequent titles. Looking back, it's a good first attempt.
Nintendo took concepts from the well-received Super Mario 64 and tried to expand them in Super Mario Sunshine. It's a game that's afflicted by the thought that bigger would be better, but that didn't turn out to be right. The black sheep of the franchise was plagued by excess. The developers went wild with ideas, throwing in a partner for Mario called FLUDD, short for Flash Liquidizer Ultra Dousing Device, and a slew of detailed worlds.
Sunshine has plenty of flaws but they were necessary mistakes as Nintendo figured out what worked and what didn't in the adventure. By pushing the boundaries, the developers learned valuable lessons when it came to camera work and the need for simplicity. They also came across platforming ideas such as "secret" levels that inspired the stages in the next chapter.
Super Mario Galaxy shows how Nintendo learned from the weaknesses and strengths of past games. The developers moved the camera back and relied on abstract shapes in their level design. It's the polar opposite of Sunshine, which tried to re-create a concrete tropical paradise with Isle Delfino and mold the gameplay to that.
As the name implies, Galaxy takes place in space and focuses on unusual worlds. Many of the stages are oblong asteroids or miniature planets where the gravity is localized around the sphere. Mario circles around it sometimes moving upside-down or walking on walls. The game even has a FLUDD-like component with the ability to shoot Star Bits at foes, but this time around, players fire by pointing and clicking via the Joy-Con controller or by tapping the Switch's touch screen.
It's a more efficient and elegant way to bring an added dimension to gameplay, and it works hand in hand with the inventiveness of the level design. Players will come across lakes that look like bowls of water hovering in midair. Islands will be floating in space. It's like playing through a Salvador Dali painting at times.
As a collection, Super Mario 3D All-Stars tells the story of the franchise evolution but it's a shame Nintendo didn't do more to improve the games so that they retain their character but put their best foot forward.