Sunday, 16 August 2015

SNES Game review 84: Super Mario All-Stars

I didn’t own a NES on release for many reasons, but I did get to play on one now and then as my older brother’s friend owned one. At the time when the NES was about I was playing on a combination of 128K Spectrum and Atari 2600. I would put a game to load on the spectrum and play the Atari until it managed to load, this was largely because the spectrum games where better but Atari’s cartridges where more instantaneous. So when I got a megadrive and then a SNES it was amazing to have such an increase in quality alongside that instant ability to play. I had played the NES Mario games but I had never owned them. So when Super Mario All-Stars was announced it was an excellent chance to get four games in one go on one cartridge. I did later get myself a NES and begin collecting carts but that’s another story.

At the time I had played Super Mario brothers and Super Mario brothers 3 but I had as far as I can remember never played Mario 2, on top of that there was Super Mario Bros the lost levels which hadn’t been released in this country before. Amongst my friends that was the part of the package which attracted the most hype, the release of a never before released in the UK Mario game, a game which was supposed to be so hard it had been deemed beyond are abilities. By this point we had all beat the living heck out of Super Mario World the SNES launch title but we couldn’t get enough of it, we all tried to be the first one to unlock every level, the person to have the quickest time in a certain level, we would all find every way possible in which to push ourselves and to challenge our friends. So even before this game came out we were all positively itching to get our hands on this cart to prove our skills to be the first one to conquer it. I find it amusing that one of the key things that made us want this collection was the very reason we never got Lost Worlds in the first place, its brutal difficulty.

I am sure that most people have heard this story before and know that the Super Mario Bros 2 we got was a retrofitted version of a Japanese Famicom (NES) game called Doki Doki Panic. If I was to try and review and rate the Lost worlds on its own it would be a somewhat difficult thing to do. It is at points challenging to a brutal level, to a level where it is almost at times no longer fun. If it had been released now I think it would have been called the Dark Souls of the Mario universe. Also by modern standards this game is almost more of a level pack/piece of DLC than a new game. Even taking it on its own basis and reviewing it as a game for when it came out I think I would end up giving it a 7 out of 10 and saying if you love a challenge add a few points to the score and run and grab a copy, if you hate hard games knock a few off and run away. As it stands though as a piece of a bigger whole I think that it is simply amazing. You can start on the original Super Mario Brothers that most know and love, you can enjoy that grit your teeth on it and then if you feel that your skills have gotten so good you could beat anything then you have Lost Levels to get stuck in to.

Although Super Mario Bros wasn’t the first Mario Bros game it was the first one which held the basics we now consider a staple of the Mario series, scrolling levels, mushrooms and fire flowers, jumping on top of enemies to kill them and jumping on to the flag poles at the end of levels. The music in the game is unforgettable, the main theme is one of those songs which lives in the collective consciousness of most games around my ag, it was and still is a fabulous achievement as a game, some old games I pick up now days and they have not aged well, and while this title might look a little rough around the edges it still plays like an absolute champion, everything else falls by the wayside and it just flys on its pure playability. Everything you learn in the original Super Mario Bros game will see you through most Mario based games. The two games together Super Mario bros and the Lost Levels make the perfect one two punch combo and that’s before you remember that this only accounts for half of the games on this cartridge.

I think more or less everyone had played on Super Mario Bros 3 on a NES and had been amazed, I remember being shocked at what Nintendo managed to get out of the NES with the game, in fact ever since the release of Mario world the debate had raged which was better Mario 3 or Mario World. A port of Mario bros 3 on its own probably would have sold carts to people who had missed the NES and had only got on board the great starship Nintendo with the release of the Super Nintendo and yet it was here as a part of a collection of games. The game is incredibly fun, the introduction of a map screen letting you work out your way through the road would be a staple this title added to the franchise but the game was also the king of the power up. Before Mario had been able to have his fire flower and invincibility star but here he also had the racoon suit, the frog suit, the hammer bros suit, the tanooki suit the P wing. The introduction of the Koopa kids/generals also helped add character to the game. This game sat alongside Super Mario Bros helps to show the evolution of the series. I would argue that this game alone printed on a SNES cart would be worthy of a solid 8 minimum, there are many SNES titles that can’t even live up to part of this game and here it is in a collection.

Then there is Super Mario Bros 2 also known as Super Mario Bros USA. This is the game that Europe and America were given as Mario 2. Like lost levels playing this on my SNES was my first experience of this game. Super Mario Bros and Super Mario Bros 2 had been at times included with a NES so if you knew someone with a NES the odds were high that they would have at least one of these games, this was never to my knowledge the case with Mario Bros 2 so really only people who had gone out of their way to get it had it. All of my friends and people I know knew before the release of Super Mario All Stars that our version of Super Mario Bros 2 was the game Nintendo had blown us off with, the game they had faked for us because of their view of our joypad incompetence, it was viewed to some degree by us as an insult in cartridge form. I am sure others who had sampled it on the NES felt differently about it. From my point of view most of the people who had gotten Super Mario bros 2 in the UK on the NES had not known that it was a different game to the one in Japan, as far as they knew it was Just Mario 2. It was various magazines reporting on the upcoming All Stars Compilation which had explained the origins of the Lost Levels to us and guided us towards some of our feelings.

So what do I think of Super Mario Bros 2/ Mario USA? Well it took it virtually no time at all to grow on me. I started very much with an attitude of ‘’well I have paid for it might as well try it’’ to an attitude of I love this game. It had so much cool stuff going for it the choice of four different characters who all felt different, the fact that it’s the only game in the collection which doesn’t really feel the same, this made it a breath of fresh air. It was cool to have different enemies who were not in the other games and to have a boss who was not Bowser. Yeah it feels a bit weird how you don’t kill things by jumping on their head, all of the vegetable throwing and the sort of Arabian feel to it but I find all of these things eventually become strengths, it is the kooky fun cousin to the regular Mario games, in some ways it might feel less polished and refined than Mario 3 but it has its own style and sense of fun. I think if I had been a NES owner and I could have picked my own Mario bros 2 between this and the lost levels then this would have been the game I would have picked.

Placed together these 4 games make one of the most awesome SNES carts you can find. Super Mario Bros 1 and 3 provide some of the most playable platformers known to mankind, games which have aged like fine wine, Lost levels provides a huge challenge which will either drive you to madness of let the most diehard of players test their skills and Super Mario Bros 2 is the quirky fun different game which you can play when you fancy a change. I cannot recommend this cart highly enough. I would give it a perfect 10 out of 10. I cannot see how you could really do better than this. If you wanted to get this game online then you would be looking at around £15 which I feel is a very good price. I have seen boxed copies go for around £40 if you like to have your games like that. It was also released for the Wii which you can find for as little as £15 sometimes boxed complete if you’re lucky. Either way it’s a brilliant collection.

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