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Welcome to another edition of For What it’s Worth, where bargain titles are examined to see if they really are worth your bottom dollar.
With the release of Nintendo's highly anticipated Super Mario Galaxy 2, I figured I would declare this to be the Month of Mario here on For What it's Worth. This entire month is dedicated to various Mario games.
The entire month is not only dedicated to Mario games which have become bargain titles (not many of those around actually), but to Mario titles that also take the portly plumber out of his usual comfort zone of platforming in the Mushroom Kingdom as well as though that go unsung and titles that change the way the game is played.
Tonight I figured I would start things off with a little game which some consider to be an NES classic, while others consider it to not be part of the Mario cannon and an insult to the franchise. Tonight we take a look at Super Mario Bros. 2 and its Game Boy Advanced remake.
Now I know some of you might be thinking why I would spend a month reviewing Mario bargain titles but not start out with games that predate the original Super Mario Bros. like lets say Donkey Kong or Wrecking Crew.
Lets start with Donkey Kong (you can think of these as honorable mentions):
It is an awesome game but you don't need me to tell you how awesome it is because with this being one of the godfathers of gaming, it has been played by just about everyone. Besides, even tough it is well worth the five dollar purchase on the Virtual Console, you can find it for free on just about any flash game site. Both of these things make a review kind of redundant.
Now if you want a great Donkey Kong experience that doesn't get as much exposure, I would tell you to go with Donkey Kong Jr.
Not only does it offer up a slight change in gameplay elements, with Kong Jr. swinging from vine to vine, instead of Mario jumping from platform to platform but it also takes Mario, who is gaming's most recognizable hero and makes him the villain. This is definitely a worth while purchase on the Virtual Console.
I can't really remember too much about this game but from what I can remember it is basically Mario and Luigi (wearing purple for some reason) as construction workers. The game is a puzzle platformer where the objective is to smash and blow stuff up. I don't really remember too much other than it not being overly spectacular. Check out Screwattack's review of it. I would have done a review myself but I don't own a Wii and I don't really want to do a review based solely on memories from 10-15 years ago.
We now return you to our originally scheduled programming:
With those items out of the way (it's too bad that I didn't get to review them, although I guess I kind of did just now), we can get on with the main review. Ah, Super Mario Bros. 2. What found memories I have playing you. I know that The Lost Levels is the real Super Mario Bros. 2, but you will always be Mario 2 to me.
Wait a minute. Hold the phone. Pause the game for a second. Did I just say that this isn't actually Mario 2? Yes I did didn't I. Well I could get into this controversy but Guru Larry can explain this much better than I can. So check out his explanation.
What do I think about this whole thing? Well even if this wasn't actually a Mario game but rather a clone of Doki Doki Panic, the audiences outside of Japan did get a new game out of it, so I guess it wasn't too much of a bad thing from that perspective, although I think it was a shame that Westerners didn't get to play the game as its creators intended. As far as Lost Levels is concerned, western gamers did get to play it eventually, so I guess all should be well on that front.
But enough of all this background info. Is Doki Doki, er ah, Mario 2 as good as I remember it to be?
Story: Mario and friends are enjoying a fine picnic in the Mushroom Kingdom, when suddenly a mysterious door appears. Mario opens it and he and his mushroom crew fall into the strange Subcon world, where they must dethrone the evil tyrant Wart. It’s a pretty good yarn for an earlier NES title, it's one of the more creative Mario plots and it actually has a pretty decent twist at the end. And it is nice to see Mario and company go up against enemies other than Bowser and his Koopa Troopas.
Graphics & Design: This is one very bright, colorful and unique NES title. The characters and backgrounds are rather kooky and whimsical looking. In fact the entire game just has this wonderfully cartoony and light-hearted vibe. The backgrounds are detailed very well and each of the main characters and enemies are uniquely designed. Even the vegetable weapons have their own special details, i.e. faces. You can tell that Miyamoto and his developing team put a lot of effort into this, whether it was intended to be a Mario title or not. The Super Mario Advanced Version uses the same 16-bit version found on the Super Mario All-Stars SNES cartridge, the look of the game is given a bit of an update and from that view point, it does look a bit better and sharper. The colors are brighter, the backgrounds are more detailed and the character models have improved animations and appearances. But it doesn’t have the same retro feel and charm of the original 8-bit version.
Sound: There are only a hand full of songs in the entire game but they are 8-bit classics and range from up beat to slightly more intense to match the theme of each level and boss battle. The Super Mario Advanced version uses a collection of 16-bit re-mixes of the classic tunes. The newer music is fine and sets the tone of the game the same way the classic music does but it doesn’t have the same charm. Another auditory difference in this version is the addition of voice acting. Mario, Luigi and the bosses (especially Birdo and Wart) actually sound pretty good but the horrid voice work for Toad and Princess Peach will get on your nerves after their first word.
Gameplay: This is the first title in the Super Mario series to deviate from the traditional norm as far as gameplay is concerned. Gone are the ? blocks (also blocks in general) and fire flowers. You can’t even kill enemies by jumping on them, which is Mario’s trademark attack. Instead power ups, gold coins and vegetables which are used to throw at enemies are pulled out of the ground, which is actually kind of cool. You can also pick up enemies and throw them at other enemies, which is another neat idea. Other gameplay differences are the ways in which you regenerate your health and gain the invincibility star. Unlike the other Mario games, instead of growing with the help of a mushroom, this game has a life bar you can replenish with hearts. Hearts appear after you have taken out a certain amount of enemies and if you happen to find a mushroom, you can use it to add an extra hit to your life bar. The invincibility star can be acquired after collecting five of the cherries that are scattered through out each level. Power ups are harder to come by here than they are in other Mario games but it adds to the challenge. Another important element that separates Mario 2 from the rest (at least until Super Mario 64 DS) is the ability to play as four different characters, with their own special abilities. Mario is the average character, with evenly proportioned stats. Luigi is the character with the highest jump but he is a bit of a spaz, which makes him harder to control. Peach has the ability to fly for a short period and Toad is faster than the rest but he has the shortest jump. Sadly with these extra characters, there is no multi-player. For some reason they decided to make it solely a single player experience. The Super Mario Advanced version is pretty much the exact same experience except for the fact that power ups and extra lives are much easier to come across, thus making the game easier.
Extra Features: On the original NES and Wii Virtual Console versions there are no extra features. But the Super Mario Advanced version has a re-vamped version of the original Mario Bros. arcade (all of the Mario GBA games have this), as well as a Egg Hunt mode which is basically playing the game all over again but this time you can collect a couple of Yoshi eggs hidden in each level.
Replay Value: It’s a solid classic, which offers about a couple of hours worth of play. Even with the shorter length it has a lasting appeal, which will keep you coming back for more.
Over Value: Retail price- Super Mario Advanced Version $10-$15 (depends where you look)
Wii Virtual Console Version 500 Wii Points/$5
What it’s Worth- $20 (both versions)
Personally I feel this game gets a lot of heat for not being the real Super Mario Bros. 2 or for being too hard or not being a “real” Mario game or for not even being a good game. In my opinion this isn’t fair. It may be Doki Doki Panic with Mario’s grill slapped on it but it is still a very unique, creative and fun game. As far as the question of which is better, the Virtual Console or the GBA version is concerned, I’ll have to go with the Virtual Console. Why? Because to me at least, you can't beat the old retro charm of 8-Bit games and the challenge and affordable factors do help. The GBA version is also solid but improved graphics and re-mixed music aren’t enough to improve an already stellar package. Besides, the fact that it is cluttered with power ups only holds the player’s hand, making the game much easier than it should be.
Until next time: Happy Hunting.
Next on the docket, A Double review of Super Mario Land 2 and Mario Clash