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Super Mario 3D All Stars Confirmed to be Emulation

Nintendo Switch

This morning, what everyone expects to happen has occurred. The pending release of Super Mario 3D All Stars has been spoiled by a possible retailer leak, leading to the game’s code being leaked online. By digging into the files of the leaked build of the game, some very interesting elements have been uncovered.

The versions of the game being shipped in Super Mario 3D All Stars are not complete remasters, and will not use a more reliable rendering method to avoid control latency. This is because the games being ported are just repacks, in essence, of the original ISOs of the games included. This was revealed by multiple sources, who uncovered that each of the games is running on an emulator for the relevant system.

That poses a major problem for gamers expecting something more than just a basic re-release of these classic games. Here’s how Nintendo branded the bundle:

Super Mario 3D All-Stars is an upcoming compilation of 3D platformers for the Nintendo Switch. It commemorates the 35th anniversary of Nintendo’s Super Mario franchise and features high-definition ports of Super Mario 64, Super Mario Sunshine, and Super Mario Galaxy.

For those not in the know, let’s talk about what that means. For one thing, that means Nintendo is not putting the work to redo all of the original textures, sounds and other files of the games, but rather repackaging the original game files and wrapping them in an emulation layer that just upscales the visuals for the Switch. In short, you’re just getting the same games with higher resolution, but the base files remain the same resolution as the original textures, shaders and other visual elements. This could lead to some very troublesome issues with visuals being stretched or rendered Improperly. It could also mean that the emulation introduces some latency issues with controller inputs.

The emulation is at least made internally by Nintendo, so maybe they won’t have as many issues. But, it still casts a shadow over the release for gamers hoping for something more than this.

This is stuff that emulation communities have dealt with for years. The Dolphin emulator that handles GameCube and Wii games with a surprising amount of features and accuracy. And that’s all on the back of volunteer coders and artists who have put the time into reverse engineering games and hardware to make them work in emulation. Being that the emulation of Mario 64 is just a 720 upscale, it’s not too surprising that the emulator was used. Many suspected that the emulation was happening when this collection was first revealed, it has now just been confirmed.

The assets that replace the stock textures and other items are patched in via LUA, which makes sense, and the emulator does this on the fly. It’s possible this could also introduce issues, although unlikely. Although that’s seemingly only true for Super Mario 64, the only game of the three which uses this method.

Now let’s talk about Mario Sunshine. The usage of the Vulkan API will be able to offer some decent performance, although the usage of NVIDIA’s proprietary API was possible, it’s likely that it was just Nintendo’s choice to go with Vulkan. Mario Sunshine won’t be using that aforementioned on-the-fly asset loading, but should offer the same speed with decent visual quality.

This isn’t the first time a re-release of classic consoles or games has run into this trap. Sony released the PS1 mini-console some time ago, and gamers quickly uncovered that it was just a basic emulator in a simple shell. Similar shortcuts were found with the NES Classic from Nintendo.

Is it bad to use the emulation? No, not really, it makes sense to take the cheapest option in this instance. Porting probably took too much time and money to do fully, so emulation was much easier to handle. It’s just a question of how the games actually run.

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