torstai 12. elokuuta 2010

REVIEW - Super Mario Bros. (1985)

Genre(s): Platform
Released: 1985
Available on: GBA, NES, Virtual Console
Developer(s): Nintendo
Publisher(s): Nintendo
Players: 1-2

In short, it's the best-selling video game of all time, which has been called the singled out most important platformer countless times. No one, probably not even creator Shigeru Miyamoto, could have believed that a chubby Italian plumber from New York City, originally just a spin-off of an arcade classic, would become the face of the video game business and an immortal icon among video game heroes. Donkey Kong and Mario Bros. might've been the first Mario games, but with Super Mario Bros., Nintendo redefined the character and created the Mario universe, often researched by even grad students, and which is still present in modern Mario games.

A story about two plumbers, mushrooms and princesses in other castles

Brothers Mario and Luigi, who are both plumbers, end up in Mushroom Kingdom, where they are recruited by anthropomorphic mushrooms to save the human Princess Toadstool from the evil King Koopa and his mischeavous army of misfit turtles. This is what it's about, even today: saving a princess from a gigantic, spiked reptile, who has had his name changed to the more credible Bowser along the way - and the same concept STILL works. Luckily the games themselves have changed more than a bit with each release. The same, familiar backstories, but the radical changes in gameplay each time are by far the secret of the success and glory of the Mario series.

One of the most memorable lines in all of
video game history.
In the audiovisual sense, the word "retro" equals to Pong or Space Invaders to a lot of people who were there to witness the big break in arcades, but in the history of home console gaming, Super Mario Bros. pretty much defines the word's ultimate meaning. You simply can't call this game ugly, or obsolete. Variations of the very same textures and graphical details are still used in the series, after the passing of many console generations. Pixelmania! The in-game music comprises of six tunes (plus the occasional fanfares and effects), composed by Koji Kondo, who still does the music for most Mario titles. That's right, six tunes, but those six tunes are all that you'll need. The game pretty much lives on the "Overworld Theme", which is surely the most known and recognizable video game tune of all time. The sound effects are vintage. The very original audiovisual atmosphere of the game is still so real and lively, that I don't personally understand why the game has been rehashed as many times as it has.

The very basic gameplay standards of a Mario game are in place, and this is pretty much where those standards were born. There are worlds which differ quite a lot from each other, but most of them follow a certain pattern. First, there's a standard Overworld stage, from which we progress to an Underworld stage via pipe, and from there, up to the skies, where there are more chasms and gaps than anywhere else. All of the worlds end in a large enemy fortress, where we clash with an enemy disguised as the king of Koopas, and this goes on until we meet the real McCoy face to face. Every now and then the joy of progress is spiced up with underwater stages and bays in which we have to dodge some hyperactive fish jumping out of water. A common thread between all the stages in the game is that we're having shitloads of fun all the time!

Hammers vs. my deadly fireballs of doom.
Mario starts out as a puny, totally irrelevant plumber who looks pretty much like a gerbil compared to many enemies. Luckily there are tons of bricks and these question mark blocks, which help quite a bit when it comes to beating the game. Some of the bricks, and all of the question mark blocks contain coins and important power-ups. Upon munching on a regular mushroom, Mario turns into the El Giganto or Incredible Hulk of video gaming, Super Mario - about three times his regular size. The Super status gives Mario an advantage over just about everything. Upon hitting an enemy or a dangerous obstacle, Mario turns back to normal, but the most practical thing is that you'll still have one hit point in your pocket and therefore, one more chance to beat the stage. There are a couple of even better power-ups. The Fire Flower, which only Super Mario can acquire, gives Mario the ability to shoot fireballs. Their movement depends on the environment, so their most effective use even requires slight strategy, and even they don't work on all enemies, neither does stomping on them - but it's always one of these methods that works. Like the Super status, the Fire Flower is also maintained until Mario comes in close contact with an enemy, and when he does, he turns back to normal without reverting back to Super first. If an enemy is above you on top of a row of bricks, you can still use the classic Mario Bros. method and knock the bricks from below, and stun and defeat the enemy that way. Back to the power-ups, we still have two to go: Starman makes Mario totally invincible for a short while, regardless of his basic status, and a green or dark brown mushroom offers up an extra life - as well as every 100th coin. There are many secret coin rooms in the game, accessible via pipes in most Overworld and Underworld stages.

The boss battles in the game are just about as anti-climactic as they can get. There are two methods to dispatch a fake Bowser (or King Koopa, if you prefer), and the same methods are used on the real thing - you can either spam him with fireballs until his real form takes a dive into the lava below, or just simply run past him and grab the latch holding up the bridge under his feet. As you progress in the game, the boss' attack pattern changes and hammers, fireballs and whatnot come into play. The basic idea, however, stays the same throughout. After most battles, a "Mushroom Retainer" (nowadays known as Toad) pops up and tells you how sorry he is about the fact that his princess is in another castle. In World 8-4 you'll finally hit pay dirt, and the game is over. Let's do it again, huh!?

The debut of an infamous chickenshit that
goes by the name of Lakitu.
People who played Super Mario Bros. as kids and other self respecting retro gamers, regardless of their age, know all the tricks to the game: the secret warp zones, other shortcuts, the location of the coin rooms and beanstalks leading up to bonus rooms up in the skies... hell, some might even remember the content of each question mark block and brick there is. Still, it's ridiculous to call the game exactly easy. Yeah, it's notably easier for a player that is enough of a pathetic punk to use every single shortcut - if you do that, the game won't last more than a few minutes if you don't mess up in World 8, which is really tough and required to hack through from stage 1 to 4 in every case. In my opinion, any player would do him- or herself a huge favour by completing the game from the beginning to the end with perfect honesty. It's more rewarding for sure. Every grown-up who calls the game a breeze is full of shit. The game was a lot easier to beat as a patient kid.

I must say that the aftertaste can't really be described as any less than "amazing". A bulk of gamers might think of the game today and snicker at its simplicity, then return to their overrated Super Mario Galaxy and soon realize that they really want a piece of that retro heaven. After all, "it'll only take a couple of minutes". After a couple of TENS of minutes, they find themselves hooked once again, cursing the same mistakes they made 25 years back, and they simply can't rest before beating the game. Super Mario Bros. is a good and relatively rare example of a timeless, early video game classic. Sure, the same formula has been repeated and enhanced just about a million times by its sequels and spin-offs, but the original item is still a pretty good game in itself, honestly.

Graphics : 8.0
Sound : 8.2
Playability : 8.8
Challenge : 8.6
Overall : 8.7


GameRankings: 80.20% (GBA), 83.00% (Virtual Console)

IGN has named Super Mario Bros. the best video game of all time on many occasions.

Nintendo Power ranks Super Mario Bros. #9 on their list of the Top 200 Nintendo Games of All Time.

It’s hard to believe since Super Mario Bros. the best-selling NES game in history, but in some countries the original cartridge is a collector’s item due to most of its sales coming from multi-game cartridges sold in NES bundles. The first and most common of these included Duck Hunt, which also introduced the Zapper peripheral. In the early 90’s, a new major bundle emerged and included Super Mario Bros., Tetris and Nintendo World Cup on the same cartridge. I’d like to mention once again that this cartridge was the first video game I ever owned.

The game was remade for the SNES as a part of Super Mario All-Stars in 1993. In addition, the game was remade for the Game Boy Color in 1999 as Super Mario Bros. Deluxe, and for the Nintendo DS in 2006 as New Super Mario Bros.. A Nintendo Wii version of the latter was released in 2009.

World 1-1 and parts of World 1-2 are featured in the 2008 Mario spin-off game Super Smash Bros. Brawl, for the Wii. They are portrayed as desert wasteland.

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