Mario turned 25 this year. So did I. And while Mario may not have necessarily run into the same maturity speed bumps as I did (from gangly clumsiness to fleeting interests in numerology and Chumbawamba), he, like all of us, has certainly changed throughout the years. Back in 1995, Nintendo thought the time was right to introduce Super Mario All-Stars, a collection of early Super Mario games that chronicled his evolution and made his classic titles available to younger players. Well, here we are, 2010, and the time is right—again: The '95 Super Nintendo compilation has been re-released for the Wii in a limited edition package.
Like the Super Nintendo version, this game is actually four games in one: Super Mario Bros. (which debuted on the original Nintendo Entertainment System in 1985), Super Mario Bros. 2 (NES, 1988), Super Mario Bros. 3 (NES, 1988), and Super Mario Bros: The Lost Levels (NES, 1986). They all appear as they did on the 1995 Super Nintendo game (brightly colored with smoother, retouched graphics). Otherwise, they're exactly the same. Be prepared for flashbacks of blowing old cartridges in your Slayer poster-lined basement. It's a lot of good, old-fashioned 2D sidescrolling.
For those not familiar with The Lost Levels, it's a Japan-exclusive game that is the true sequel to the original Super Mario adventure. However, since the difficulty level was so much higher, and because it was so similar to its predecessor, it was decided that it'd be an unsuccessful sell in markets outside of Japan. So, when it was bundled in the 1995 SNES package, it marked the first time many global players had ever even seen the game. And it's true: The game's a beast. There are way more—and more aggressive—enemies, poison mushrooms, trickier obstacles and longer levels. It's an outing that's definitely not meant for the casual player, but rather those players who mastered the original Super Mario Bros. They don't make 'em like this anymore, that's for sure. The challenge was considerably high in the '80s, and it's considerably high now.
But what makes the Wii edition a worthwhile purchase, especially if you already own the original All-Stars, or even the original NES game paks? It's bundled with a commemorative CD of 20 Super Mario tunes and sound effects, as well as a booklet filled with unreleased concept art and interviews with the high-bouncing, Italian-American plumber's creators. The booklet is kind of cool, though I wouldn't describe it as jam-packed with never-before-seen sketches or designs (in fact, it's anything but). The booklet and the CD are collectibles, but not much more than that.
Unless you're someone who likes to stock on Nintendo swag, or if you or someone you know has never been graced by early Super Mario games' greatness, this collection has little new to offer. It's an especially redundant installment if you already have the SNES copy, the original NES games, or if you'd prefer buying the individual games on the Wii's Virtual Console—for a lot cheaper.