torstai 12. elokuuta 2010

REVIEW - Super Mario Bros. 3 (1988)

Genre(s): Platform
Released: 1988
Available on: NES, Virtual Console
Developer(s): Nintendo
Publisher(s): Nintendo
Players: 1-2

Just mere weeks after North America had finally got its hands on its own version of Super Mario Bros. 2, Japanese gamers were already all over Super Mario Bros. 3, which was released a year later in the States, and a year after that, in Europe. The global phenomenon the first international sequel to the 1985 multi-million seller created was kept alive by these gaps between releases, and today, no-one seems to have forgotten that phenomenon - it still lives. Super Mario Bros. 3 took the NES to its very limits and placed the Mario standards onto a track they would never swerve from again. It might not be the very best Mario game, but might well be the most important one.

Through land, sea and air... and an incredible sewage system

The Mushroom Kingdom is in shambles. Bowser has retaliated, gathered up his dark armies and defiled the seven regions of the kingdom by stealing the regents' magic wands and turning the world leaders into simple animals. To further exclamate his dark rule, he has granted his children, the seven Koopalings, possession of these magic wands, and kidnapped Princess Toadstool once again. Sounds like another task for everyone's favourite plumbers.

Good heavens! The king's been replaced by
that mutt from Duck Hunt!
Graphically, the game is one of the most awesome and varied games on the old wormbox we students of the old school know as the NES. The designers used interesting, inventive techniques to make the game seem multi-dimensional - more than anything ever seen before on the system - and the animation is top notch. The graphical performance fully supports the unique level design, and the excellent frame rate makes even the most daring ideas come alive seamlessly. There's a lot of different music here as opposed to the first two games, which featured only a few different tunes to go with each type of terrain or situation. Each of the eight regions have their own theme songs, and the background themes vary even between similar stages. A few of the themes are heavily remixed versions of tunes from Super Mario Bros., but most of them are brand new. There are a few really irritating ones (such as the "rush" music in the automatically side-scrolling stages), but for the most part, I think Mr. Kondo did an excellent job with the soundtrack - I hope he got a fair vacation after completing it.

The world maps looked amazing back in the day.
Instead of making a few minor changes to the gameplay scheme, the designers went all the way and beyond, and made a game lightyears ahead of its predecessors. It really feels like the game was made at least ten years after Super Mario Bros., the leap forward is so magnificently impressive. First of all, let's start with the design of the different regions, or lands, or worlds, whichever you prefer. There are seven of them in the Mushroom Kingdom - Grass, Desert, Water, Giant, Cloud, Ice and Pipe Land, in that order. Beyond them all, lies Bowser's Dark Land. Each one of these regions has an overhead world map for the player to explore. The amount of stages in each one varies, and there are lots of different stuff right there between the stages: mushroom huts, small enemy forts, and of course, the region's royal castle; you see it, you name it. Most of the stages in the game are marked with a numbered icon, while some are marked by a small, sometimes animated avatar depicting the theme of the stage, for example quicksand or a pyramid. Usually, the first stage in a region is a "tester", you know, a "how does it feel?" sort of stage, which features some recurring event and environment related themes from the whole region, but it's quite easy and short in length. As you progress, the stages become way more difficult, and as for the general progress in the game, the forts become harder and more complexed upon the conquering and destruction of each. Every region in the game is very detailed to match its theme all the time. For example, in Giant Land (my favourite), most of the standard enemies are dilated, giant versions of themselves and the environment is HUGE, and Pipe Land (which I usually refer to as HELL) is full of mazes consisting of enormous amount of pipes. Once again, the level design is awesome and unparalleled on the NES.

So, let's talk about the other locations on the map. Minigames are represented by the mushroom huts, a large stationary spade icon and a moving one with the letter N on it - whatever it means, I have no idea. In the mushroom huts, some of which are hidden and require certain criteria to be met in certain stages, you are given 1-3 choices of which treasure chest to open. Whatever you find in there, you get to keep it. That's right, you have the privilege of an item menu for reserved items, which you can use any time on the world map. If you're having some trouble with some random stage, you can up the ante by using any item in your inventory. More about that in a jiffy. The stationary spade icon stands for a game of slots. Your goal is to line up a picture of a mushroom, Starman or Fire Flower. Each of these three figures represents a certain amount of lives. Mushroom is worth two, Fire Flower three and Starman five extra lives. This rule is also valid for the cards you get in the end of each stage - for example, if you finish three consecutive stages and acquire three consecutive Starman cards, you'll earn five extra lives. The game is very generous with 1-Ups, and it should be, because it gets extremely tough towards the end. The spade with the N on it represents a memory quiz, in which you're supposed to flip cards and find as many pairs as you can before and if you fail. You'll always gain the item depicted in the correct pairing of cards. You're given two chances in this one.

The Hammer Brothers pacing back and forth on the map are sort of minibosses. The purpose of these simple fights is to defeat the Hammer Bros. to gain an item for your inventory. Usually it's a rare, extremely useful item, that's why even some of the brothers are well hidden. The enemy forts also have their own miniboss, a spiked turtle named Bam-Bam, who kind of reminds me of Bowser/King Koopa from the first game - the changes between the many battles against him are minimal. Each time you reach a region's castle and see its monarch in a less flattering shape, you're taken to an automatically side-scrolling stage which is set on an airship. After dealing with the many dangers up there, you'll meet the real boss of the region, one of Bowser's Koopalings. Their methods of offense don't change a lot, but each one of them looks unique and has certain abilities which possibly make the fights tougher. After collecting the magic wand from your defeated foe, you're taken back to the castle, thanked by the regent and his shroomy servant, and given a letter in which Princess Toadstool grants you a pointless tip on gameplay and a rare item. Uh... think it's time to talk about the items already?

The Goomba's Shoe ain't exactly a dancing
shoe, but it is useful.
He can slide down slopes now, carry Koopa Troopa shells and launch them at enemies, but Mario's most important and impressive new ability is introduced by the game's cover art - he can fly and glide with the help of a new item called the Super Leaf. It gives Mario a light tail which he can wag to fly. It can be also used as a short-range whip on the ground. There's also another item that serves the same purposes, but also enables Mario to make himself invincible for a few seconds, the Tanooki Suit. One more rare item related to flying, the P-Wing, enables you to fly over an entire stage. That's right, you don't have to do anything but mash the A button for the duration of the stage; your flight power will remain full all the time, unless you happen to crash on something for some odd reason. It's pretty much impossible, since you'll very likely be flying off-screen for the whole time. A Magic Cloud enables you to skip a normal stage completely, but if you die in the next one, you're taken back behind the skipped stage on the map, and naturally you won't be able to use the cloud again. A Frog Suit makes swimming a whole lot easier, but on the ground you're slow and helpless as long as you have it on. A Hammer Suit makes Mario a part-time Hammer Brother, while an unrelated Hammer can be used to smash boulders around the map and open passages into hidden or locked areas on the map. Goomba's Shoe is an odd item. Whenever you happen to acquire one of these, you get into the giant boot and you're able to jump on any enemies, including Spinies, as well as spiked floors. It's a bit awkward to control and an extremely rare find, but a great item in all of its weirdness. Last, but definitely not least, we have the cheater's favourite - the Magic Harp, which works as the key to the universal warp zone. If you want to beat the game as quickly as possible, by playing through no more than 2-3 regions, keep an eye out for these extremely well hidden items. There are three in all.

The standard variety of items is still at Mario's disposal, and there are not really too much changes to his basic actions and features. The health system is quite similar to the one in our version of Super Mario Bros. 2. If you utilize a third upgrade such as a Fire Flower or a Super Leaf, Mario is first reverted back to Super Mario upon hitting something. After that, he can take two more hits, so all danger does not spell out instant death this time around. The game would be downright impossible to beat if it did. The gameplay is nearly perfect, but some stages are admittedly way too hectic and even badly designed. Both the Ice Land and the Pipe Land are to me, personally, something that should've never seen the light of day. I'm disgusted of ice in platformers, and Pipe Land's mazes are a little bit TOO ambitious for the gameplay's benefit.

Difficulty level’s the same as ever. Since every retro gamer out there knows the game inside out, they can do this the easy way or the hard way - really, really hard way - and absolutely feel better after trying the latter method and finally succeeding. No save feature in the original version; kind of baffling since the game is very lengthy, but on the other hand, it's very generous with extra lives.

Super Mario Bros. 3 was an ultimate, definitive change in the series, and still an entertaining, absolutely remarkable platformer, after all these years. Although it has been surpassed by a few games in the franchise, it stands as arguably the best overall game on the Nintendo Entertainment System.

Graphics : 9.2
Sound : 8.9
Playability : 9.0
Challenge : 9.2
Overall : 9.2


Nintendo Power ranks Super Mario Bros. 3 #6 on their list of the Top 200 Nintendo Games of All Time.

In 1989, several months prior to the North American release, gameplay footage was used as teaser material in an American feature film named The Wizard. The movie is a family friendly adaptation of The Who’s Tommy, co-produced by Nintendo.

Super Mario Bros. 3 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 fourth Super Mario Advance title on the Game Boy Advance; it was released in 2003.

The game spawned its very own animated TV series called The Adventures of Super Mario Bros. 3, upon the official birth of a cultural phenomenon dubbed the Mario Mania.

All versions of the game include a remade version of the original Mario Bros. arcade game as a minigame, playable in multiplayer mode only.

This is the first game in which the primary antagonist of the series is called Bowser. Previously he was known as King Koopa.

Bowser's Koopalings are named after the design team in the Japanese version of the game. In other versions, they're named after famous musicians and TV personalities: Ludwig von Beethoven, Roy Orbison, Lemmy Kilmister, Wendy O. Williams, Iggy Pop, Larry King and Morton Downey Jr.

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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