Mario 3D All-Stars "Minimum Effort"
Boycott-worthy, or just slightly disappointing?
Well, after years of waiting, bucket loads of leaks, and metric tons of speculation, Super Mario 3D All Stars has finally officially been announced by Nintendo, bringing Super Mario 64, Super Mario Sunshine, and Super Mario Galaxy to the Nintendo Switch.
I remember being absolutely thrilled while watching the majority of that Mario 35th Anniversary Direct, and for once I felt pretty sure that when I returned to the internet shortly after that I’d see a bunch of happy Nintendo fans celebrating right along with me.
Oh, how wrong I was.
A bottomless wall of complaints from all corners of the internet were denouncing the announcement. I spotted actual online petitions, calls for boycotts, and more than a few choice words all directed at Nintendo for daring to release those three games on a single cartridge for $60.
I was scratching my head a bit because it struck me as a pretty solid deal, all things considered. I tried to play some of Galaxy a few weeks ago on my Wii U and while it still looks pretty great, I couldn’t stop imagining how much better it would be if it were optimized for play on an HDTV. That alone is worth a decent price to me, but then adding Super Mario 64 and Sunshine to that bundle really solidifies it. I would absolutely be getting $60 worth of entertainment out of that package.
So why is everyone else so upset?
It’s Just Emulation
So, the game has already leaked online (because of course it has) and people have already dissected it and determined that these games are running on emulation. Naturally, there’s no shortage of people out there using this as some sort of “gotcha” moment to prove that Nintendo is lazy and nobody should buy this game.
This is absurd.
Something people are upset about is the fact that these aren’t remakes (which I'll touch on in a bit) so with the intent of this package seemingly being to let people play these three Mario games on their Nintendo Switch systems in a way that they feel is the best possible representation of the original-ish versions of these games, emulation makes sense. It’s not like they just grabbed some fan made emulator online and dumped the ROMs. They made these emulators themselves and added various touch ups to the games to make them seem more natural on Switch.
Super Mario Galaxy looks fantastic, so really we’re just looking at some button prompts being changed, traditional control styles being added, and probably some resolution stuff here and there. Super Mario Sunshine got a pretty significant visual upgrade in the form of it being presented in widescreen, but the basic geometry of the game wasn’t exactly problematic in the first place, so that’s plenty. Some textures, some fresh control options, and we’re good. Fixing some of the game’s clunky-ness would have been better, but whatever. Super Mario 64 though, is a bit of a different story.
Super Mario 64 got some nice texture upgrades and looks like it plays about as well as Super Mario 64 can play, but it’s still not in widescreen. I’m not entirely sure why this one didn't get the same treatment as Sunshine, but it didn’t. I’ll just have to live with the ol’ black borders.
Is this a bummer? Absolutely. Is this a deal breaker? Absolutely not, at least for me. It’s still Super Mario 64, and it’s still the great game I remember from the old days. Except now, it’s playable via the convenience of my Switch, which is probably my favorite platform to actually play games on.
Right now in my house, I can play Super Mario 64 on my CRT and original Nintendo 64, or the Wii U Virtual Console. Playing on the CRT is great, but I only have the original wired Nintendo 64 controller, and with small children running around, wireless is great. It's also only in my basement, so if I want to play it, that's where I need to be. Over on the Wii U Virtual Console, the game’s been cleaned up a bit so it looks pretty nice on my HDTV, but getting into the darn thing takes a frustrating amount of loading time. There seems to be an awful lot of input lag on that system too. I never noticed it before I did a recent playthrough of Ocarina of Time, but it’s there, at least on my TV.
Playing these games on the Switch is going to be great. Handheld mode or looking snazzy on my HDTV with a Pro controller in hand, I’m thrilled. They’re great games (Well, Sunshine’s…good?). I understand being miffed at the perceived lack of effort, but calling for an all-out boycott over this? Seems a bit dramatic. Yes, they could have done more, but I’m not sure how that detracts from the game’s inherent value.
It’s not a full remake
This complaint I get a lot more because I was around when the original All-Stars was released and well, the Super Mario All-Stars name carries a certain set of expectations with it. The original was this amazing unicorn of a game where Nintendo completely remade the 4 Mario NES games in 16-bit, plopped them all in one cartridge, and sold it for a reasonable price.
Super Mario 3D All-Stars is most certainly not that. I do believe they’re selling these three games at a reasonable price (which is a complicated thing in and of itself), but even with the modest upgrades to the visuals, these aren’t anywhere in the neighborhood of being remakes.
This confuses me a bit, because it’s not like they don’t have a perfectly functional 3D Mario engine out there. Odyssey was spectacular, and playing through its Mushroom Kingdom area was a beautiful dream come true.
With this being the case, why didn’t they opt for full remakes on all three? Granted, Galaxy would be tough to actually improve, but Sunshine could use a little sprucing up, and Super Mario 64, at least visually speaking, doesn't stack up quite as well as the others.
So why they didn’t recreate these games using Mario Odyssey as a baseline is beyond me. And where’s Super Mario Galaxy 2? They clearly have Wii emulation working just fine on Switch with Galaxy 1, so what’s the deal there?
Anyway, Super Mario 64 is one of the most iconic games of all time, so while a remake would be spectacular, being able to play it in its original “splendor” but cleaned up is a pretty understandable choice. Nostalgia sells, after all, and I don’t mean that as an insult. There are plenty of people who grew up on Mario 64 who didn’t even know the Wii Virtual Console was a thing, and probably never touched a Wii U. That’s not an exaggeration. Ask anyone who worked in retail during the Wii era. In my experience, I would go so far as to say at least 60% of all Wii owners didn’t know they could access the Wii Shop Channel to play Super Mario 64.
For a very considerable number of people, this will be the first time they’ve been able to play these games since they came out, and having them displayed in a way that reflects what people probably remember them looking like is absolutely not a bad thing.
Galaxy doesn't really need a remake anyway. Just a little sprucing up would go a long way considering it looks great as is. Sunshine could use more of a structural remake than a visual one.
But that’s not All-Stars.
So, sure. I guess I can understand being upset that an All-Stars game doesn’t exactly live up to its legacy. I still don’t see being all that upset about the value proposition here though. It’s not like these games are difficult to look at as-is,and if you really wanted to try and get your hands on these games today, it’s going to get pretty pricey pretty quick.
The other guys did it for less
This argument I don’t particularly care for, but I do see the value in it. Yes, the Crash and Spyro collections are full-on remakes with beautiful new graphics, cleaned up mechanics, and a dazzling price tag of $40. So when you stack 3D All-Stars, a collection of lightly spruced up ROMs running in emulation, up next to that, no, it’s not quite as enticing an offer. Nintendo didn’t put nearly as much effort into this release as some of their competitors did.
But should those games really be setting Nintendo’s prices?
This is such a complicated argument because it’s easy to look at Nintendo's pricing decisions here, and honestly many of their pricing decisions over these past few generations, and think they’re just being greedy. There’s no question there’s better deals on other platforms, where the latest and greatest AAA titles can be bought mere weeks after launch for pennies on the dollar.
Take Donkey Kong Country: Tropical Freeze for example. That game launched on Wii U for $50. (Or was it $40? I don’t remember) Regardless, when it launched on Switch with minor upgrades, the price tag was bumped up to the full $60.
My gut reaction was to be angry about that because why the price hike? But the more I thought about it, it occurred to me that the only question that actually mattered was, is this game worth $60 to me?
Unfortunately, in that instance, no. It wasn’t. Though I have to say that if I didn’t already have the game on Wii U, and if I hadn’t already effectively played through the whole thing twice so I could 100% it, then heck yes. Tropical Freeze is absolutely a $60 game. The fact that it was released at a lower price point initially doesn't change that.
I’m not trying to come out and defend the billion dollar company here, but I do think it’s worth looking, especially now when there’s so much legitimately evil stuff happening at other game companies right now, into the option that Nintendo might not be out to get you. They might just be doing what they think will maximize profits and efficiency, and make their customers happy in the process.
For this All-Stars collection, the value proposition is really complicated depending on how you look at it. Do games inherently devalue just because they’re older? I would argue that doesn’t have to be the case. There’s certainly something to be said for finding the Crash collection in a bargain bin for $20 devaluing the property’s image. It makes it seem like a much more disposable product. I’m not necessarily sure that’s a bad thing though. Is Nintendo losing money because ARMS is still $60? Would they sell enough more copies of Sushi Striker to make up the price difference if they lowered it to $20? I honestly don’t know.
All I know for sure is that if I based all my purchasing decisions on weather or not there were better deals out there, I would probably miss out on a lot of good times. Is Nintendo stuff expensive? Yes. Is this All-Stars collection expensive? Yes. Is it worth the price of admission? I say yes, but that’s something everyone should be asking themselves.
The problem with focusing on these shortcomings is that they make it easy to lose sight of the actual goodness that’s going on here. Yes, it would have been WAY cooler if Nintendo had gone in and fully remade these games. Really made Sunshine feel like a more finished game, made 64 look like Odyssey, and well, leave Galaxy alone. It’s perfect. But that doesn’t mean there isn’t $60 worth of value here.
The assumption that this collection is nothing more than a lazy ROM dump is absurd. Clearly Nintendo’s vision for this product was to let people experience these games in their original forms in the best way possible. Unfortunately that doesn’t line up with the expectations that we all had. Some of that is Nintendo’s fault for calling it All-Stars, but some of it comes from hearing rumors and leaks for so long, claiming that this release was going to be something it’s not.
What could have been
More effort would have been amazing, and it will always sting a little when I eventually replay Super Mario Odyssey again and see Peach’s castle all done up in HD, but it is what it is, and what it is looks like a really good time. "Minimum effort" would have been exactly what people are accusing this port of being. "Minimum effort" was the All-Stars collection they released on Wii a few years back. This isn't that. It's not what it could have been, but it's not what it's being made out to be either. It's somewhere in between.
Now, if you want to talk about how it’s only going to be available for a limited time, or that it’s missing Galaxy 2, or that they should have included an upscaled version of Super Mario 64 DS, well those complaints have a lot more meat on them. (Except the Mario 64 DS one. I vastly prefer the original myself). The limited time thing in particular is especially scummy, at least in theory. Chances are it’s just this specific collection that's limited, and after that time they’ll be broken up and sold individually, which is still kind of crappy considering the opposite happened with Super Mario All-Stars, which instead got Super Mario World added to it (though that version was only ever sold as a pack-in, which puts it in the “limited time” category I suppose). But I digress.
In the meantime, why not try and see past what this collection isn’t, and focus instead on what it is: A great way to play 3 of the best 3D platformers ever made on modern hardware.
So, are you buying the collection, or is this a bridge too far?