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Super Mario 64’s legendary sign is still blurry on Switch, here’s why

Sorry, folks, nothing to see here

The courtyard plaque in Super Mario 64. Image: Nintendo via GameExplain/YouTube

There’s lots to be excited about when it comes to Super Mario 3D All-Stars, Nintendo’s solid new collection of three classic platforming games for the Nintendo Switch. But outside the realm of gameplay, many fans wanted to know one specific thing about the re-release: Can we finally read the “L is real” sign in Super Mario 64?

Quick recap, if you’ve never heard of this urban legend. When the revolutionary Mario game was released in 1996, some players noticed that a plaque in the castle courtyard appeared to read “L is real.” Well, if you squinted hard enough. The sign was extremely blurry, but all the same, many took it as evidence that somewhere, somehow, Mario’s brother Luigi was hiding in the game.

In some ways, that conspiracy theory has since been validated a couple of times over. We know that, at one point, Nintendo genuinely did want to include the green plumber in Super Mario 64, as unfinished assets within the Gigaleak this year attested. And of course, the Nintendo DS version of the game already made Luigi a playable character many years back.

Still, the ultimate validation would be to know whether the sign said those fateful three words all along, right? But as a video from GameExplain attests, unfortunately, the plaque is still completely unreadable on the Switch. What gives?

It’s important to note that, despite some additions and improvements in the collection, Super Mario 3D All-Stars is not a remake or remaster. Things are upscaled, sure, but the Nintendo Switch version of Super Mario 64 is still working with assets that were created in the mid-’90s for a much lower resolution. If a graphical asset was unreadable before, then it will still be fuzzy at a bigger size — after all, the textures themselves haven’t changed.

As our review says, “Any single-color objects in the world — like Mario’s overalls, or a koopa’s green skin — still look great, as single-color textures scale up perfectly to higher resolutions.

“But much of Mario 64’s world consists of textures that aren’t just single colors. The grassy hillside outside of Peach’s castle and the surface of the water in Dire Dire Docks both look like they use textures that were created two and a half decades ago, for a system running at 320x240.”

Word on the street from Nintendo hackers is that the collection is entirely emulated, which might also account for the sign’s unreadable status. The pixels haven’t been updated; they’re being upscaled, for the most part.

All the same, folks looking at the sign still swear they can slightly make out finer details now — even if they can’t say for sure. L will continue to be real until proven otherwise, it seems.

The next level of puzzles.

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