Super Mario Advance was a fairly disappointing launch game for the Game Boy Advance back in 2001. I remember picking the system up with the game, along with F Zero Maximum Velocity, and it didn’t take long to find boredom with the vegetable plucking adventure. I’d take my Advance and F Zero to the local park at six in the morning and really feel the speed by playing whilst on a swing. A little sad, and also a little surprising that the system didn’t fall out of my hands and shatter by the park’s wooden pig. I clearly had an iron grip on my new hardware. With Super Mario Advance however, I’d just play it here and there, usually before bed. It helped me sleep.
Now Super Mario Advance isn’t a bad game, it’s just a bad launch game. Super Mario Bros 2 was and still is the weakest link in the Super Mario platforming series, taking everything we know and love about the series and stuffing it into a wood chipper. The fact that the game is basically a re-skin of the Japanese exclusive NES platformer ‘Yume Kojo: Doki Doki Panic’ might explain away that one.
You see, in Japan there is a different Super Mario Bros. 2, one which is basically Super Mario Bros.: Go Fuck Yourself Edition. Each level intends to hurt, belittle and screw over the player, making it a challenge only suitable for the most hardened Mario player (or one with the ability to save state). If you aren’t breaking blocks in your sleep, you probably aren’t ready. Which of course prompted Nintendo to think of something else for Western audiences. Hence the remade Mario-fied edition of Doki Doki Panic, replacing Arabian Nights characters with our favourite red clothed plumber. And friends.
The game doesn’t have the speed, the jumping challenges nor the feel of pretty much every other Mario platformer, which is to be expected from something which didn’t even start out as a Mario game. Instead you pluck vegetables, shells and bombs from the ground, throw them at enemies, and hunt out keys to open locked doors, avoiding terrifying flying masks in the process. Because of the combat focus and the key hunting, the game feels a lot less pure, a lot less frantic, than that Mario we all know and love. Why is the world so empty, Mario? Have you shoes worn out from all that Goomba stomping in the past, Mario? Why must you walk through flat plains, Mario? Why can’t you fix me, Mario?
The four characters Mario, Luigi, Toad and Peach all have different statistics allowing for preferences regarding play style, though it doesn’t really change the fact that the game simply doesn’t feel all that Mario. Luigi may be able to jump higher than the rest, Toad may be able to charge forward at the speed of regular Super Mario Mario, and Peach may be able to float, but it doesn’t matter all that much when each area is packed full of enemies, so you simply end up picking and chucking to each door. It’s not a bad game, but it’s a bad Mario game. There is a difference.
So this is the Mario which was remade to launch with the Game Boy Advance, and they did the best they could. Characters have voice samples, giant enemies are in place for wow purposes and it even has extra content for those looking to stretch it out till something snaps. Red coins add a reason to explore the levels, though the Yoshi eggs available post game are a little on the cheap side, asking players to chuck potions to create doors in hope that they will lead to the hard-boiled goodies. It’s trial and error for the most part, the worst kind of game design.
And now for the other half of the game, Mario Bros.. This half of the game is a remake of the arcade Mario Bros. before the brothers became super, and it transforms a clunky game with bad physics into something just a little bit wonderful.
The objective is to flip over all the enemies by hitting the platforms underneath them by head butting them from below. Once flipped, the player must quickly manoeuvre Mario so he can give them a firm booting before they get up, faster and madder than before. It’s a simple single screen concept, but one which works well thanks to the tight controls and frantic pace. It’s a shame the multiplayer mode is blocked from the Wii U re-release as it times the fun by two, by three, by four, players permitting, and brings back memories of the past when me and my friend worked through the arcade madness whenever we had the chance…
Like at my friend’s cousin’s twenty-first birthday party. That was a real Mario memory.
It was a fancy dress party and we decided to go as the Mario brothers, of course. He got to be Mario, whilst I dressed a Luigi, and despite the limited resources to make a truly great costume, I think they turned out pretty well. We decided the party would be pretty boring, with adults doing adult things like drinking, sitting and talking, so we brought our shiny new Game Boy Advance systems along. Mario Bros. would see us through what would be a fairly long night. Mario can see you through a lot of things, from days in bed from with the flu, to days in bed with a broken heart.
And so we played the game on the stairs, watching the fancy dressed party goers stumbling up, each hour the stumbling become more erratic. I remember his cousin went as Eminem, the other costumes were a blur. For as an eleven year old, my eyes were burned with a far stronger image than if someone was dressed as Superman or not.
We were called in to sit around the table as the main even was about to be underway, so we reluctantly powered down are Game Boy’s and prepared to deal with a more adult situation. He’d probably just give a speech and blow out a birthday cake we thought. Our fingers were already tapping the table, eager for it all to be over with so we could carry on murdering turtles for coins.
We didn’t think a woman would walk up to Eminem, tear off all her clothes, then proceed to squirt cream over every area that not even a 12a in 2016 would show, before asking Eminem to remove the cream she herself had just applied to herself. She even took a journey around the room to see if anyone else wanted a taste. I think she was dressed as Britney Spears, it was too hard to tell as the outfit was shedded as quick as a snake’s peeling skin.
Though I don’t think anybody else expected more than just a speech either, and we were booted back out and onto the stairs. It was too late though, our eyes had seen it all, our minds now engraved with more than just Super Mario and Pokemon cards. The only thing we could do was to carry on playing the game, but it was no longer the same, and when the naked lady ran out into the stairs as her exit, she looked at us before shrugging us off and walking away. ‘Oh, it’s just the Mario brothers.’
And yes, it was just the Mario brothers, sitting on the stairs with their Mario games.
The point of the story? Everyone knows Mario, so don’t launch your system with a remake of his weakest game. It’s a disservice to everyone.
That’s probably the point I’m trying to make.