When Nintendo heaps it on with new game and hardware announcements, how great it is! But scratching beyond the surface of the Mario 35th anniversary riches they announced, there’s more than a few
grains mounds pillars of salt for gamers to digest.
Unless you’ve been living under a rock, or otherwise focusing on Sony and Microsoft duking it out in the battle of the next-generation pseudo PCs, you’ll have no doubt marvelled at all the Mario 35th anniversary announcements ten days ago. Although some of goodies may well have been delayed for the better part of six months, better late than never right? Now that the dust has settled a little, let’s have a look at what will be released on the Switch over the next few months. Additionally, we’ll cast a critical eye over some of harsh realities that those of us who revel in legit ways of playing retro games on modern platforms have to face. Beyond this, there’s also consequential impacts that these latest announcements have on game preservation and the desirability and accessibility of collecting retro styled products in general.
First, lets check out the goodies…and then we’ll look at the harsh and unfortunate impacts of Nintendo’s approach to this so-called 35th year ‘celebration’ of Super Mario Bros.
Super Mario 3D All-Stars
The rumours were true, and what a great set of the original 3D Mario games this is. For just over $63 on Amazon AU you can grab Super Mario 64 (Nintendo 64), Super Mario Sunshine (GameCube), and Super Mario Galaxy (Wii), all ready to play on the one cartridge (or download) in high definition. As a bonus, for your listening pleasure there’s 175 songs from the series to enjoy. On the surface it seems awesome, but looking a little deeper, all is not well with this release and reveals some unease with the direction Nintendo are heading.
What’s not to like? At the least, there’s a couple of things that should make retro gamers a little bit squirmy. At the forefront of concerns is the precedent that the game, somewhat inexplicably, will only be on available from September 18th 2020 until the end of March 2021. Sure, there’s seven months to acquire the three games for those who want a copy, and it doesn’t appear that it will be released in limited numbers. Still, that doesn’t seem to have stopped opportunistic sellers from already putting it on eBay for inflated prices (we’re not surprised, but there’ll be no links to the listings here!). Additionally, it could be argued that Nintendo haven’t exactly made a huge effort to remaster the games for modern technology. Super Mario 64 will run in both docked and handheld modes at 960 × 720 pixels (with no polygonal upgrades and minor texture improvements). With that noted, both Super Mario Sunshine and Super Mario Galaxy running in docked and handheld modes at 1920 × 1080 and 1280 × 720 pixels respectively. Barring any issues, these will no-doubt be the definitive versions of the GameCube and Wii titles, but given fans have already provided heavily upgraded unofficial ports of Super Mario 64, it’s a shame that this appears to have only been given minimal and incremental attention.
For the record, I’ll personally be grabbing it on release date because I’ve not finished either of the three titles before, and having the three classics on the Switch feels right. Still, there’s a few things ‘off’ with release, and more the roll of the dice Nintendo are testing the waters with…more about that below.
Super Mario All-Stars for Nintendo Switch Online
The SNES port of Super Mario All-Stars is already available now for subscribers of Nintendo Switch Online. You know what to expect; the first four NES Super Mario Bros games are classics, especially the outlier that is Super Mario Bros 2, and the ever-awesome Super Mario Bros 3. Go forth and get get your 2D action platforming game on!
Super Mario Bros Game & Watch
Here’s a lovely piece of retro-styled kit that if you haven’t pre-ordered you might have already missed out on. At least at a reasonable price (resellers, start your engines!). Launching on November 13th, the classic styled handheld contains Super Mario Bros, Super Mario Bros 2: The Lost Levels, and a Mario version of Ball. Additionally, there’s 35 different animations, watch faces, or whatever other Easter Eggs have been packed in. The few shots of the back of the device seem to be missing the flick out display stand (*insert sad face*), but USB-C charging is a neat feature. Nintendo are time-limiting this little handheld that could until March 31 2021, and it already seems increasingly difficult to pre-order. If you would’ve liked this somewhat limited yet cute device, one might rue the weekday of release and pre-orders due to, you know, full time work and stuff. Hmmmm…
Super Mario Bros 35
Taking its cues from the unofficial and short-lived 75 player Mario Royale, as well as gameplay mechanics borrowed liberally from Tetris 99, Super Mario Bros 35 is (unsurprisingly) a 35 player online version of Super Mario Bros. Adding a few gameplay twists like sending enemies you defeat to other players, this looks like it’ll be great fun (and one I’ll always lose) when it launches on October 1st. Unfortunately it will only be available until March 31st – can you spot the frustratingly limited-time based theme here?
Mario Kart Live: Home Circuit
There is nothing to complain about this. Nothing. Well, sure, at $150 a pop for the Mario and the same price for the Luigi set, there’s a steep price of entry for this augmented reality kart racer. The potential exists for continued add-ons, improvements, and household integration with this innovative game. Doubly so for those of us with canine and feline friends in their domicile. Bring this one on!
So, what’s the beef?
I’ll keep this relatively succinct. I remember the days of console and game launches in NTSC territories that stretched to months or even years before their PAL counterparts. I spent time playing imported hardware from Super Famicom, Panasonic 3DO, Atari Jaguar, and the original PlayStation long before their Australian releases (and even bought a few of them at inflated prices). I remember the waiting lists for the Nintendo 64, and months of the Wii being sold out. Were Nintendo holding back on units for sale or did they have trouble with production matching demand? This is not the issue now.
That was then. Let’s look at the state of play:
- Cartridge production (in the case of the Switch) is not a problem. I can walk into any store or look online and find a copy of every popular Switch game since the machine’s release.
- Demand is not a problem, especially for first party games. Apparently Super Mario Odyssey, The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild, and countless other games are still available. Everywhere. And they’re often still in the best-seller lists, which gives credence to these games’ longevity and quality.
- Nintendo first party games often remain at their original prices (rarely on sale). They’re all good games, and if they can still sell, all power to Nintendo for not shifting on the RRP of those incoming dollarydoos if they can still get them. Often for years.
- Switch availability is often tenuous. Okay Nintendo, we’ll give you that, you may have some supply chain issues. Or you’re just being careful with production and costs…for the last 25 years?
Let’s play it straight – choosing to pull supply of cartridges and digital copies of games is absolutely unnecessary from a production point of view. Nintendo’s financial year ends in March (see their 2020 report for example), so it could be argued that somewhat artificially maximising sales of the cartridge and digital releases of Super Mario 3D All-Stars before the end of the first quarter next year will help their bottom line. But unless there’s issues with physical production of Super Mario Bros Game & Watch there’s no reason beyond hype why this niche handheld is becoming the Nintendo Classic Mini: NES of 2020. Halting access to Super Mario Bros 35 is, quite simply, cynical beyond belief; there’s no logical reason to it. Unless…unless…
- Unless Nintendo has its next round of hardware and software announcements in April next year?
- Unless Nintendo plans to release this lot of games on new hardware? Incrementally, and charging gamers for the privelige?
- Unless Nintendo is using this new Game & Watch to test-market the demand and viability of more similar yet limited devices?
In 2020 it perhaps seems petty to be having a go at a fun video game company when they’re seemingly making a somewhat genuine effort to offer some cool things to old, grumbly, yet rose-tinted gamers. On the flip-side, are Nintendo tainting their somewhat inoffensive goodwill (where they’ll admittedly make some decent coin) with unnecessary and unwanted caveats? I’m leaning that way. Yet I said that I’m keen for these releases.
Are us retro gamers the problem by wanting goodies tainted by increasing corporate cynicism? I’m personally not sure that I’m willing to look at that mirror too closely.
Oh, I’m not the only one that thinks Nintendo have played the wrong hand this time. I’m pretty much going with my own thoughts, but seemingly echoing some earlier thoughts from Kotaku, GamingBolt, and NintendoLife.