torstai 12. elokuuta 2010

REVIEW - Super Mario Bros. 2 (1988)

Genre(s): Platform
Released: 1988
Available on: NES, Virtual Console
Developer(s): Nintendo
Publisher(s): Nintendo
Players: 1

Shigeru Miyamoto began designing Super Mario Bros. 2 right after work on the first game was completed, and the second game was finished by 1986. However, American testers rejected the game due to its incredible difficulty and uncanny likeness to its predecessor. The domestic release of the game was therefore indefinitely canned, but North America and Europe were still demanding for a proper sequel to keep the cash flowing. Nintendo responded with something completely unpredictable and remade an unrelated Famicom Disk System platformer named Yume Kojo: Doki Doki Panic, replacing the characters and some minor elements with those related to the Mario franchise. This crossover product indeed became Super Mario Bros. 2 as we non-Japanese know it. Although it's generally referred to as a black sheep of the family, Super Mario Bros. 2 was a critical and commercial success in its time and it's considered to be another defining moment in the history of Mario games.

Rebellion in dreamland

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 Toadstool and Toad, who all agree to join Mario in his endeavor to free the people of the dreamland.

Throwing all kinds of shit at enemies is the
primary method of progress.
First of all, Super Mario Bros. 2 looks a little thick and rough around the edges, but actually quite good for an '88 NES game. The character sprites have undergone some major overhauls for the better, and the overall animation totally works. There are not a lot of difference on the musical department, it's pretty much the same formula as in the previous game - there's an Overworld theme, an Underworld theme, and two different kinds of boss music. The theme song of the game is a heavily modified version of the previous game's underwater theme, but it's recognizable and makes the game feel a little bit more like a Mario game from the very beginning.

So, why doesn't Super Mario Bros. 2 necessarily come off as a Mario game? It differs so much from the first one I'm not really sure where I should begin. So, let's just start with what happens right after you're done with the title screen. You are given a choice to play as one of four characters: Mario, Luigi, Toad or Princess Toadstool. Mario is an all-around guy with medium abilities, while the other three all have some sort of specialty. So yes, finally you'll get a good reason to play as Luigi. Mario's little brother jumps higher than anyone else, and his jumps have incredible hangtime. Combine this ability with the new superjump ability (common to all characters, used by crouching for a few seconds and then jumping normally), and you don't need to bust your ass when you're working your way up a vertical cavern, which are a-plenty in the game. Toad picks up stuff quicker than anyone else, and carrying stuff doesn't affect his natural physical abilities in any way. Princess Toadstool might be the best overall character to use, as she can use her dress to glide through the air for a few seconds. You can beat any stage using any character, but after the first playthrough, you might enjoy trying some character-specific methods out.

Luigi vs. Mouser - the game's first main boss -
and a minor graphical glitch.
So you're in the first stage, playing the game for the very first time, and see the first enemy. You jump on it, and... poof? Nope. You're standing on the enemy as it moves. What you need to do is pick the enemy up with the B button, after which you can do anything you like with the helpless bastard. You can just throw them away like yesterday's paper or use them as projectile weapons against other enemies. As you go forward, you will also see roots sticking out of the ground. If you pluck those, you will find other things to throw, such as vegetables, fruit, bombs... whatever useful there might be. Always be cautious and take a brief moment to look what you just picked up. You will occasionally come across 1-Ups and bottles filled with strange liquid. Breaking the bottle on the ground reveals a door to an alternative reality, and if it the bottle broken in the correct spot, you will be given a few seconds to pick up a special mushroom which will increase your health meter by one point for the duration of the stage you're in. Very useful. There are two of these mushrooms in each level; one is usually a quite obvious find, while the other one is hidden better. You will gain coins by picking up roots in the "otherworld", and these coins will be of use to you after you've completed the stage. Generally, quite a lot of different stuff can be picked up along the way. Keys to locked doors become quite an essential part of the game very quickly.

Collecting enough cherries summons a Starman, which will then flow freely across the screen until disappearing or until you catch it. The Starman is one of the only elements truly connecting the game to the rest of the franchise, and it serves the exact same purpose as in the first game. Dispatching enough enemies will summon a heart in the same fashion, and it is used to replenish one point of lost health.

Every world has its own boss, and nearly every stage pits your character against a miniboss, a pink reptile named Birdo, who shoots eggs as her (?) primary method of attack. Fighting Birdo on the first half of the game is very simple, you just have to grab the eggs and throw them back at her, collect the key item she leaves behind and proceed through the hawk statue's mouth to the next stage. Fireballs instead of eggs, different heights and strategies are added into the mix later, and from a certain stage onward, Birdo even occasionally appears as a regular enemy. The actual, bigger and more epic boss fights require more complexed strategies and a couple of them are surprisingly bitchy. After each stage, besides being able to choose a new character, you'll also have a chance to gain some extra lives in a slot game activated by and paid for with the coins you possibly accumulated in the last stage.

Toad is very proficient in carrying and
throwing items, which makes him the
most fatal mushroom in the world.
Despite being a very entertaining platformer, Super Mario Bros. 2 does feature some extremely annoying glitches. Occasionally, the attack controls and collision detection stop responding - meaning a clear hit sometimes isn't a hit at all, and there seem to be a lot of difficulties to launch items, especially while airborne. Luigi and Princess Toadstool might be the best overall characters to use for the whole duration of the game, but their airborne abilities make them hard to control in intense situations which require a lot of jumping, once these glitches rear. Some of the enemies in the game are just plain annoying, nothing else. The pots and vases standing in for pipes in this game sometimes contain useful power-ups or secret keys, but they are usually just completely pointless replicas of each other, and therefore a totally stupid idea come to life - there are way too many of them, and there ain't one vase you can't enter.

Everything's so... PINK!
In the sense of how challenging the game is, it's very similar to the first one. Just like the tricks of warping and "cheating" in the first game, everyone knows the ones in Super Mario Bros. 2 better than their own pockets. Once again, if the player decides to be honest to both himself and the game, (s)he'll be in for a few really painful hours. No save feature of any sort, don't even dream of one - the game has to be beaten during one single session - but the game does pay back with several checkpoints and the tween-stages minigame, in which you can get up to five extra lives each time, if you're lucky.

The game might be far from the Mario franchise as we know and cherish it when it comes to thematics and atmosphere, but Super Mario Bros. 2 is still an outstanding platformer, the kind of which are just not made anymore. Nintendo was very lucky with how this game ultimately turned out, and I do believe it played its own part in the birth of the famous Mario Mania of the early 90's.

Graphics : 8.4
Sound : 8.0
Playability : 8.3
Challenge : 8.8
Overall : 8.4


GameRankings: 80.00% (Virtual Console)

Nintendo Power ranks Super Mario Bros. 2 #45 on their list of the Top 200 Nintendo Games of All Time.

Since it’s based on an earlier, unrelated Japanese game, the international version of Super Mario Bros. 2 wasn’t released in Japan until 1992.

The differences between the original FDS game Yume Kojo: Doki Doki Panic and our version of Super Mario Bros. 2 are mostly audiovisual. Our game has better animation and mushrooms replace the original's large heart icons. In our game, the characters shrink when they're on their last legs, which is homage to the first game. Doki Doki Panic, however, does have a save feature which was impossible to be ported to the NES due to Famicom Disk System's larger memory capacity.

Super Mario Bros. 2 has been remade a few times for later-generation Nintendo systems. The first remake was released as part of Super Mario All-Stars for the SNES in 1993. The second remake was the first Super Mario Advance title on the Game Boy Advance; it was released in 2001.

One of the few Mario games to feature Princess Toadstool as a brunette instead of a blonde. Her hair colour was changed in the remade versions to match her usual portrayal.

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