(Review archived from February 28, 2015)
Ya know it’s funny; pretty much every time I fire up Super Mario Bros. it’s the original NES version, and I always forget about this updated release of the game. And that’s a shame really because I have no qualms declaring this to be the definitive version of the game (I do realize that this is the second game in a row that I’ve declared to be a ‘definitive version’, but hey the shoe fits, so I’m going to wear it. And you should wear it too, because this game rules). So yeah, there’s not a lot to say about Super Mario Bros. that hasn’t been said 100 times before. This is retro gaming 101, ground zero for a new era of side scrolling platformers. If you’ve not played this game, or if you’ve not checked out this particular version of the game, get out there and do it.
I’ll mention a few things about the All Stars version of the game that I had forgotten and was charmed to rediscover. First and foremost the graphical facelift the game received is stunning, and of the same quality as Super Mario World on the SNES (I think a lot of the sprite art was lifted whole cloth from SMW), including parallax scrolling between foreground and background artwork. I hadn’t exactly forgotten that part, but it was nice to be reminded again just how great this game looks. Secondly, there are nice little ‘title cards’ between levels which show the level number, number of lives remaining, and cool little pictures of the level showing you what sort of terrain and enemies to expect. But the best part that I really had forgotten, is that there’s a different set of animations for Toad at the end of each world (the part where you discover that the princess is in another castle). It really adds some icing on the cake when you complete each world, instead of being treated to the same taunt with the same graphics each and every time.
I don’t think it’s just me, but the All Stars version is also a fair bit easier than the original NES release as well. Among other things, you’re initially given 5 lives instead of 3, and furthermore you receive an additional life for each fully completed world. Given this, it seems a bit counterintuitive then that the controls in All Stars SMB are a bit more drifty and loose than in the original release. It certainly doesn’t hurt the gameplay, but it is noticeable at times. Lastly the animations for Mario can make it a bit harder to line up jumps. In the 8-bit version, Mario would always come to rest with his legs and torso facing the screen. This made it easy to line up certain jumps where you needed to start with ‘just one toe on the ledge’ so to speak (here I’m thinking specifically of level 8-2, as well as most of the flagpole jumps). In All Stars, Mario comes to rest facing forward relative to the screen, so we see Mario’s legs and torso from the side rather than from the front. As a result, trying to get ‘just one toe on the ledge’ doesn’t really work quite the same. Even still, the game is more forgiving than the 8-bit version, so this is rarely, if ever, an issue.
All told, this is an updated version of a classic game which has itself gone on to become a classic. So what we have here is a classic2. Drop what you’re doing, and go play it. You can thank me later. Whether it’s for the first time or the thousandth time, this is time well spent.