Super Mario All-Stars (Sample, Super Nintendo)
By 1993, Mario Mania was everywhere. Memorial Day Weekend that year marked the release of the much anticipated Super Mario Bros. movie starring Bob Hoskins and John Leguizamo as the brothers, and Dennis Hopper as the sex-crazed dinosaur mayor King Koopa. Every Nintendo player worth his or her salt made the trek to see the first game-to-movie adaptation in the history of cinema. It was a duty, a privilege for us. And even though I remember walking out of the theater as a child thinking that the whole thing was a confusing disaster, I still had a hole inside of me that could only be filled with a visit to the mall to pick up a few of the action figures, then a quick trip to 7-11 on the way home for a Yoshi Slurpee. Everything goes down better with a Slurpee.
Many years later, I located the late Dennis Hopper’s King Koopa jacket that he wore in the movie and immediately purchased it because I am insane. With enough effort, I can still smell the lingering tinge of hard liquor, and even harder regrets, embedded in the embroidery. I hope to someday get married in this thing.
1993 saw no less than nine Mario-themed releases, ranging from a puzzle game set in a bakery (Yoshi’s Cookie) to a first-person safari shooter that used a battery-sucking accessory called the Super Scope (Yoshi’s Safari) and edutainment software for pre-schoolers (Mario’s Early Years!). But Nintendo still didn’t think that was enough. A sequel to Super Mario World was still a couple of years away, so that summer, Nintendo set out to release a re-release remake of its famous plumber’s greatest hits, the classic Super Mario Bros. trilogy, along with the addition of the original never-before-released-in-the-U.S. Super Mario Bros. sequel dubbed The Lost Levels.
The compilation also had for the first time a “Battle Game” mode selectable on the title screen of Super Mario Bros. 3. This multiplayer mini-game is a re-imagining of the Mario Bros. arcade coin-op.
First released in Japan in late July as Super Mario Collection, the game arrived stateside a few weeks later, repackaged with a new name, Super Mario All-Stars. Rather than straight-up Nintendo Entertainment System ports, the titles feature updated 16-bit graphics and sound effects and an all-important save feature so that progress could be kept by pausing the game at any time.
I considered myself a purist back in those days, a gamer of the most refined taste. So settling down to my bean bag chair, fitted in my OshKosh B’gosh lounge wear and swirling a glass of chilled Ecto Cooler after a long day of hitting pine cones with a tennis racket in the backyard, I opened the latest Nintendo Power and read of the upcoming Super Mario All-Stars. “Remaking games that are already perfect? What a laugh, Teddy!” I said to my Teddy Ruxpin. “No, not a laugh, what a booore! A quite unpleasant boooooore! Now see here, Teddy. There will be none of that coming into this house! Not if I have anything to say about it! Fetch me my Michaelangelo slippers.”
I never did own Super Mario All-Stars. I looked down on the other kids who helped make the game a Million Seller Player’s Choice with pity for being so easily swayed by so-called “improved” sprites and the ability to create four separate save files.
Today, however, I can see the purpose and worth of remakes. They re-energize older games by bringing them to a newer audience in a slightly more accessible way. Underneath the veneer, a good remake retains the original’s fundamental gameplay, and Super Mario All-Stars does just that because some things are simply timeless. Stomping around in Kuribo’s shoes is simply timeless.
In June 2009, when a supposed prototype of Super Mario All-Stars appeared on eBay, I decided that it was high time for me to finally check this game out. The seller, Michael Thornton from Manchester, England, wrote that he had received the cartridge and a number of other similarly labelled prototypes, like Earthbound and Final Fantasy Mystic Quest, from a former English gaming reporter. The competition was fierce, and after the conversion rate of pounds to dollars, I wound up paying just a hair under $300 for Super Mario All-Stars.
As for differences, I knew what I was getting myself into with a cartridge clearly marked “FINAL,” but the foolish gambler in me still took a chance to see if this version might have a scrapped Birdo strip poker mini-game. It did not. The dumped binary is byte-for-byte the same as the released U.S. version.
That’s okay, Mario. I still love you.