Friday, November 9, 2007

The highs and lows of Mario's game career

Gee, who didn't see this coming? A Mario article? Right before a major Mario game is released? Blasphemous!

Mario's been climbing ladders, slaying baddies and getting the girl for more than 20 years now. Most of his adventures are hits, while others fall short. Tonight, I'm going to separate the good from the bad.

The Highs

Super Mario 64 was one of the first 3D games I ever played, and it's likely the best as well. The level design was brilliant, and the number of mission was astounding. Even more, the controls were perfect, allowing gaming to take it's first true steps into the 3D realm. The analog stick and C buttons manipulated Mario and the camera perfectly, in a way yet unrivaled to this day.

There were 15 mains stages with 6 missions each, as well as several hidden missions and bonus levels. This resulted in an incredibly long and game, but it never went stale. Even having to replay several sections of the same level over and over never got old, and even the smallest stages felt absolutely gigantic due to the insane amount of content crammed into them.

Super Mario 64 has been called the Nintendo 64's best game, Mario's best game, and even the best game of all time. No argument here.

Super Mario World was packaged with the Super Nintendo Entertainment System as a way of demonstrating the console's abilities, and Nintendo couldn't have picked a better title. Super Mario World was both dramatically different from the first three games, as well as exactly the same. All the original run and jump gameplay was present, along with new features such as Yoshi riding, the Cape Feather and the spin jump.

Super Mario World featured 72 levels in total, several of which have secret exits. These secret exits lead to shortcuts, power-ups, and even entirely new areas. Just getting to the last stage and defeating Bowser wasn't enough to complete this game!

Super Mario World set out to show of just what the Super Nintendo could do, and it did so beautifully. Definitely deserves a spot on any gamer's shelf.

Super Mario Bros. 3 was the last major Mario game released for the Nintendo Entertainment System, and the old 8-bit console sure went out on a high note. In addition to keeping all the great gameplay from it's predecessors, Super Mario Bros. 3 also added several more aspects like an overworld map, the Tanooki suit and an item inventory.

Super Mario Bros. 3 sported eight different worlds, each with a large selection of levels. There were also sometimes Hammer Bros. roaming the overworld, and running into them triggered a mini-level, pitting Mario against one or two Hammer Bros. The newly introduced feather and Tanooki power-ups enabled Mario to take to the skies and fly for a short time, often revealing hidden areas and treasures.

Super Mario Bros. 3 gave the Nintendo Entertainment System a great send-off, and this classic is still as addictive as ever to this day.

Honorable mentions: Super Mario Bros. 1, New Super Mario Bros., Donkey Kong

The Lows

The Gamecube's launch marked a first in Nintendo history, as it didn't share a release date with a major Mario game. When Super Mario Sunshine did finally come along, the majority of gamers were left unpleased.

In addition to the familiar 3D platforming of Super Mario 64, Sunshine introduced the Flash Liquidizer Ultra Dousing Device, or F.L.U.D.D. Held like a backpack, F.L.U.D.D was used to spray away grime and enemies among Isle Delfino. It also functioned as a water-powered jetpack. Needless to say, this is an incredible departure from normal Mario gameplay.

Personally, I liked Super Mario Sunshine. But, I didn't feel the same way as I did when I played Super Mario 64 or Super Mario Bros. 3. It was too different to be a Mario game. While a decent title, it's still considered a low-point of Mario's career.

Super Mario Bros. 2 was released in Japan in 1986. It featured all of the same gameplay from the original game, as well as the same art and graphical style. The Super Mario Bros. 2 released in North America, however, was entirely different.

Instead of the "too difficult" Super Mario Bros. 2, the rest of the world instead received a Mario-skinned port of Doki Doki Panic. In place of Fire Flowers, Goombas and Bowser were Turnips, Snifits and Wart. Also, Mario could no longer defeat enemies by merely jumping on them. He had to resort to picking up objects or other monsters and hurling them at his foes. And instead of being restricted to playing as only the portly plumber, players now were able to choose between Mario, Luigi, Princess Toadstool and Toad at the beginning of each stage. Each character acted somewhat differently, varying in ways such as jump height, speed and strength.

Again, like Super Mario Sunshine, this was just far too weird to be taken as a quality Mario title. I'm up for innovation and all, but Super Mario Bros. 2 was just too much of a change for me. Not a fan at all.

Mario's been on many adventures throughout the years, but no game character is immune to bad game design. Thankfully the highs far outweigh the lows, or else we'd have plenty of angry fanboys on our hands. Super Mario Galaxy is looking to be another great title to add to the pudgy Italian's resume next week. Here's to many more great Mario games!

The Duck Has Spoken.


Anonymous said...

I agree with everything except the part about mario64 being the best 64 game. that honor goes Banjo Kazooie.

Anonymous said...

the brilliant SMB2 is a low? come on, there are way worse games. what about mario party 9999?

PsychoDuck said...

Well, Anonymous #2, I preferred to stick to the main Mario platformer games. If we were talking all Mario games ever made, I'd have to sift through over a hundred different titles!

And while you think SMB2 is great, I didn't like it that much. That's just me :)

And Anonymous #1, I never really played very much Banjo Kazooie. Maybe if Rare can work things out I'll try it out on the VC one day...

The Duck Has Spoken.

used cisco said...

SMB2 was my favorite so far. Its all a matter of taste. It certainly wasn't a low. I'll admit I was lukewarm about Sunshine, but its still a great game. 92 on metacritic is quite impressive, up there with the best. Personally I was not a big fan of SMB3. I know I know, sacreledge. Its just that it hit right at an age where I was losing interest in gaming. By the time I started get back into gaming is when SMB64 came out. I never even played SMB World until I got it on the VC a few months ago. Not impressed there either. Though I did love Yoshi's Island that I got on my GBA. Anyway yeah, lots of great games, to call any of them a low point is a disservice, its purely personal opinion at this point.

James said...

I admit to not being a huge fan of mario in general (although I like playing the games a lot, I just don't keep up with them any more)

BUT super mario brothers 2 is definitely one of my favourite platform games and, by extension, definitely one of my favourite mario games, even if (as you rightly say) it doesn't fit at all comfortably into the canon.