keskiviikko 18. elokuuta 2010

REVIEW - Super Mario Advance (2001)

Genre(s): Platform
Released: 2001
Available on: GBA
Developer(s): Nintendo
Publisher(s): Nintendo
Players: 1-2

In 2001, Nintendo launched Game Boy Advance. Even while it had many awesome, exclusive titles, this 32-bit handheld wonder was mainly a platform for the recreation of many 8- and 16-bit classics. Arguably, the most essential enhanced series to be released on the Game Boy Advance was the series of Final Fantasy games all the way from the first game to Final Fantasy VI, but of course, the best-selling "Advance" line of games involved Nintendo's very own Mario. The first Super Mario Advance game was released in Japan as a launch title in March 2001, and since it hadn't been too long since the release of Super Mario Bros. Deluxe on the previous generation's Game Boy Color, the recreation began from the Mario game which the Japanese players find the most obscure title in the whole official franchise: Super Mario Bros. 2.

Another rebellion in dreamland 

Charles Martinet :
Mario / Luigi / Toad / Wart / Clawgrip / Triclyde / Mouser
Jen Taylor : Princess Peach

In a strange dream, Mario is summoned to save the land of Subcon from the rule of an evil, froggy tyrant calling himself King Wart. Mario explains his dream to his brother Luigi, Princess Peach and Toad, who all agree to join Mario in his endeavor to free the people of the dreamland.

The game does look extremely nice and it's perfectly clear Nintendo wanted to demonstrate the graphical possibilities and capabilities of their new handheld right away, and rub off any suspicions of just another update to the original Game Boy. They even went as far as to change the enemy design radically, and alter the environments a little, still without ruining any of the original ways of gameplay or progress. The game looks fun, to sum it up with just one single word.

Remember these? Imagine a high-pitched
"YAH!!!" with every single lift.
However, the game doesn't sound fun at all. As far as the music goes, worry not. The original music in Super Mario Bros. 2 has been heavily remixed, but not altered, with one single exception being the boss theme. It starts out slow and blasts into its classic motion once you come face to face with the boss, be it Birdo or one of the main bosses. The thing that really tears me up about the sound is that for some reason, Nintendo squeezed in voiceover samples. Now it would be OK if Mario blurted out a casual "MAMMA MIA!" whenever he dies, but it was simply not enough when they made this game. Every time you pluck a vegetable, gather a coin, a cherry, every time you do just about anything, each character yells out something extremely annoying in an even more annoying voice. Remember the original game's many sequences in which you have to dig ridiculous amounts of dirt to get to the bottom of a room? Well, they're back... with sound. Luigi and Toad are the worst. That's probably why the MVP coronation in the end revealed I had beaten only two stages each with these two loudmouths.

Why don't you come with me, little Toad -
on a magic carpet ride?
The game looks the same, but it isn't the same. Let's start with the character selection screen. This time, each character is given three ratings, indicating their strength, speed and jumping distance. Princess Peach - yeah, now she's officially Peach instead of Toadstool - comes off as a really poor character according to the ratings, even though she's one of the most practical characters to use in the game. I think the ratings are really quite pointless, and those who have played the game before know each character's strengths and weaknesses by heart.

The very first room in the game will snap some jaws. It's basically the same, but first of all, there's a large HUD on the top of the screen. Besides health, it indicates the number of the stage, high scores, lives, and there's space for five special coins, which have been there in some form ever since the Yoshi Coins in Super Mario World. Your character starts out in a normal state instead of a Super version of himself/herself, and the first Shyguy is like four times his normal size. These giant enemies can be thrown around just like any other ones to garner in health in the form of hearts. Health is provided in much larger amounts than before, and occasionally the maximum increases from the original game's maximum of four to five. Hearts do not just fly around anymore, you can get them by using this mentioned method, by executing multiple hit combos with anything you can throw at enemies, or by plucking out super vegetables, hidden among the normal ones. These super vegetables have been added to your aid in some boss fights, as well.

The game is updated to the standard of percentage-based completion. Adding to the percentage is of course a simple walkthrough, preferrably without the use of warp zones, finding all five Advance Coins in each stage, and conquering the Yoshi Challenge, which is unlocked after the first playthrough; it prompts you to play the game again and go on the hunt for two Yoshi eggs hidden in each stage. So yeah, there is definitely replay value, but...

Don't come any closer or daddy gets it.
...First of all, the game is glitchy. I'll give you two examples of nearly plucking my eyes out, two occasions which I do not remember ever facing in the original game. First, I was in World 4-1. There are more bottles in this game, and some of them are just there for show, there's nothing waiting for you on the other side. I don't know what the hell's the point in cluttering these up. Anyway, there's the spot in which you have to cross a spiked floor by using Shyguy's cannon carriage. Well, I got rid of the Shyguy, the carriage went its own way, and I entered the door that appeared once I smashed a bottle next to the floor. Once I got out, the carriage was gone. There was no way for me to advance but to deliberately die and try again. Then, there are the keys. The guardians of the keys were some of the most persistent, irritating enemies ever, before someone figured out the obvious thing that just throwing the key around on your way to the door it's meant to open keeps them away. Well, that is still the natural and perfectly functional thing to do... if you know where NOT to throw the key around. It can, irreversibly, get stuck between tiles, or some other spot from which you just can't pick it up. If there's a door nearby, entering and exiting helps you to get the key out from wherever it is, but you'll have to go pick it up from its original location again.

PEACH. I guess Nintendo got tired of
people calling her "Frogshit".
...Secondly, I know the audiovisuals were meant to juice up this game. What I said about the voiceover samples - scratch it, they're much worse than I could ever explain. I simply can't understand why Nintendo did this to adults, who would sincerely like to play the game and enjoy doing it. I can't imagine even kids finding the samples appealing and/or amusing. As you old-school players know, Super Mario Bros. 2 is a moderately tricky platformer. Well, some aesthetic changes especially in the sheer size of the enemies but less than minimal removal of challenging, even frustrating elements of the original game makes Super Mario Advance even worse. It gets pretty hectic and frustrating, believe me. The sound doesn't help one bit, on the absolute contrary. Going back to the sound just this once more, why in the hell did they give Birdo the ability to speak? I breathed easier when I knew she was just a dumb reptile... not a dumb reptile shouting out Nintendo-style threats like "That's as far as you go!" or "I'm gonna finish you off!".

The flame boss from the original - can't remember his name - has been replaced with Robirdo, a robotic and much more efficient version of Birdo. Also, the minigame between stages has been altered a little, now you can set a multiplier and bet on your lives to get more extras with each win.

Mario Bros. Classic is quite fun, even
in single-player mode.
All versions of the game also include an enhanced remake of Mario Bros., dubbed Mario Bros. Classic. Yeah, they added the voiceovers here too, but luckily Mario and Luigi don't say much in this particular game. Actually, this game is very good, the most entertaining version of the original arcade game I've played thus far. The controls are quite smooth compared to earlier versions, and I like the way the developers made minor tweaks to make it feel more like a genuine Mario game by today's standards, by adding in familiar backgrounds and Koji Kondo's vintage musical pieces. They somehow managed to do that to the main game at hand, here, too, again maintaining the original game's magic... to some extent, at least.

Like I said, Super Mario Advance can get quite frustrating, but for the most part, disregarding the annoying sound and few glitches for now, it provides the same fun challenge the original did, and in this case of challenge, some of that famous "then some". The Yoshi Challenge is interesting - even if it could easily be unlocked from the very beginning of the game in my opinion. Top that off with the dare of collecting all Advance Coins in each stage, and you've got yourself a ball, I guess. As for me, I think I'll stick with the original.

After having played three different versions of this game, I must say Game Boy Advance's take is the weakest one. Some fiiiiiine changes, that's for sure, and a little more challenge never hurt anyone, but it just doesn't feel the same, and I simply think Nintendo went a bit too far in pressing on the audiovisual capabilities of the Advance. Seriously, Baby Mario's occasional crying in Yoshi's Island was nothing compared to the constant, extremely annoying voice samples chiming from the tiny speakers of the Advance every single active second. It's hard to concentrate on the game, and it gets so damn hectic from time to time in itself that its every flaw, including the sound, is amplified by each failure.

Graphics : 9.0
Sound : 6.5
Playability : 8.1
Challenge : 8.9
Overall : 8.1


GameRankings: 82.15%

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