So, for no better reason than “Mar.10” resembling Mario’s name, March 10th is widely regarded as being “Mario Day”, a day to celebrate Nintendo’s portly plumber, an overalls-wearing mascot who literally changed the videogame industry forever and shaped the home console market of the nineties.
Released: 27 January 2014
Originally Released: 10 May 1999
Original Developer: Nintendo R&D4
Also Available For: Game Boy Color
After his debut in Donkey Kong (Nintendo R&D2/Ikegami Tsushinki, 1983) and graduating to his own arcade title alongside his brother, Luigi, Shigeru Miyamoto’s Mario took the world by storm with Super Mario Bros. The game was extremely popular, selling over 40 million copies and was pivotal to Nintendo saving the videogames industry from destitution. The game is also no stranger to being ported to other systems; it was a 16-bit makeover for Super Mario All-Stars (Nintendo EAD, 1993) and re-released on the Nintendo Wii to commemorate its twenty-fifth anniversary but, before that, though, Super Mario Bros. was ported to the Game Boy Color in this version of the game. Although Super Mario Bros. Deluxe suffered from a smaller screen size due to its new portable format, the game featured a few new features, such as additional animated elements, challenge modes, compatibility with the Game Boy Printer, and bonus levels, all of which saw it ranked as one of the greatest Game Boy games of all time and it was highly praised for its additional features. The game later made it onto the Nintendo 3DS Virtual Library, and gamers were even able to receive a free copy by registering their Nintendo Network ID, which further bolstered the game with the 3DS save state features and finally gave me my best opportunity to play through this classic title after years of struggling with Mario’s classic 2D efforts.
The Mushroom Kingdom has been invaded by Bowser, King of the Koopas, and this wacky army, the Koopa Troopas. After transforming the citizens into inanimate objects and kidnapping Princess Toadstool, Mario and Luigi set out to liberate the Mushroom Kingdom and rescue the princess from his clutches!
As an updated port of perhaps gaming’s most famous 2D, sidescrolling platformer,Super Mario Bros. Deluxe looks, sounds, and plays exactly the same as Super Mario Bros. except you have reduced visibility due to the screen size and the scrolling is a little janky at times. This basically means that the left side of the screen catches up to you pretty fast, which can be an issue as you can’t freely backtrack in the level (or “World”) so it can cause you to plummet to your death if you’re not careful, and it’s not always immediately clear what dangers or goodies are above or below you, meaning you need to use the directional pad to shunt the screen up and down for a better look but, otherwise, the controls and presentation are exactly what you’d expect from Nintendo’s breakout title. You’re played into the overalls or Mario (or Luigi, if you press the Select button prior to entering a World), who can run by holding B or Y and jump by pressing A. Mario will cain extra height and distance if you hold down the jump button and jump from a run, and jumping on enemies is his primary way of dispatching them. While Mario’s physics are pretty tight and responsive, he can be slippery and awkward at times, especially when bouncing off springs, but Luigi is even worse since he has far less traction and a less manageable, higher jump.
As ever, your goal is to move from the left side of the screen to the right and reach a goal flag within a time limit; this timer is pretty generous and it’s only on later Worlds where the game throws repeating paths at you that it can get a bit tricky reaching the end in time. Mario hops about, bouncing off enemies and hitting blocks to progress, but also has to clear longer gaps with the aid of a spring or moving, weighted, or temporary platforms or smaller ones by running over them. Throughout the Mushroom Kingdom, you’ll find a number of pipes; some of these can be entered to reach secret areas, usually full of Coins, and provide you with a shortcut, but you can also go out of bounds sometimes and find a Warp Zone to skip ahead to a later World. For the most part, you’ll be exploring the block-and-gap-landed Mushroom Kingdom, with only a few different obstacles (either “stairs” or blocks, more gaps, or long stretches of land with enemies to bump off) distinguishing them, but you’ll also venture into underground areas somewhat reminiscent of caves (which tend to be a bit more claustrophobic had have more elevator platforms) and also underwater a couple of times. Here, you’re completely defenceless without a Fire Flower or Super Star and must rapidly tap A to swim ahead; you don’t need to worry about air, which is helpful, but there does seem to be sections where you’re pulled down towards the bottom of the screen (and your death). Although there’s a score counter in the game, it’s more for bragging rights than anything else and doesn’t seem to award you extra lives, though these are awarded for consecutively defeating enemies. Furthermore, while there are no mid-World checkpoints, you can save and end your game at any time from the pause menu and you’re given three save files to play with, and the game keeps track of your lives and completion progress on the new (albeit limited) overworld screen.
Graphics and Sound:
Super Mario Bros. Deluxe appears to be an exact recreation of the original title, so it’s Super Mario Bros. as you know and love it and in all its 8-bit glory, though there are a few graphical additions to the water and lava to make them more lively. This means, of course, that animation frames are low, and the presentation is quite basic, but the game is still a colourful and pretty ambitious title, with Mario and Luigi’s sprites being the obvious standout. Sure, they have no idle animations, but they can grow and shrink and change colour from power-ups, do a little slide/turnaround pose when you quickly change direction, perform a breaststroke underwater, and have a little death animation when you stupidly run into an oncoming Koopa shell. Enemies receive even less animation but remain memorable simply because they’re so quirky and weird; mean little mushrooms, hammer tossing turtles, and pouting fish fill the screen, with all of them popping out from the backgrounds thanks to their unique colour palettes, and there’s never a question of not being able to see where you’re going or what you’re doing (as long as it’s not too high up or below you).
The game also seems to pop a little more and run a little smoother, potentially because of the better hardware, and all the classic Super Mario Bros. tunes are here to settle in your ear for the rest of the day. There’s no many, granted, with only a handful of different tunes playing in the game’s different areas, but they’re all chirpy and catchy and help keep everything very whimsical. Sadly, there’s really not much variety in the Worlds; the Mushroom Kingdom stages sometimes have more pipes or blocks or platforms, or slightly different hills or even mushroom platforms at some point, but the closest they get to actually looking any different are the rare occasions when they receive a minor palette swap to simulate night or have brick castle walls in the background. The underwater levels are very visually appealing with their bubbles and seaweed, but are few and far between, same as the underground sections, but the game does impress with its end of World melody and jingle (a little flagpole raises and fireworks go off when you clear Worlds) and in the lava-filled stone castles you must conquer to clear each World. There’s no in-game story offered at all, but a Toad will tell you that the princess is in another castle at the end of every World and there’s fun little animations of the castle crumbling on the new overworld screens, so that’s a nice touch.
Enemies and Bosses:
Naturally, all the enemies you’ve come to know and love from Super Mario titles appear and made their debut in this title. The first enemy you’ll come across are the Goomas (pretty unthreatening sentient mushrooms that wander about and can be flattened with your jump) and the Koopa Troopas. These come in two colours (red and green) and a flying variant that can either catch you off-guard in mid-air or act as a temporary jump boost. When you defeat a Koopa Troopa, you can hit their shell to send it flying into other enemies for a score and life bonus but be careful as it’s just as likely to ricochet back at you. You can do the same to the Buzzy Beetles, but these guys are smaller, harder to hit, and are immune to your fireballs. Also of great annoyance are the piranha plants to pop out from pipes, usually when you least expect it, the squid-like Bloopers (who erratically swim about underwater), and Cheap Cheaps (who often dive up out of the water as you run over bridges).
By far the worst regular enemies you’ll encounter, though, are Lakitu and the Hammer Bros. Lakitu hovers overhead (just out of reach) and drops Spinys across the stage , though you can take both of these out if you have a Fire Flower. The Hammer Bros usually attack in twos and from higher ground, tossing hammers in a tight arc that can be tough to jump over and even tougher to land with your jump as the window where they’re vulnerable is incredibly small. As for bosses, there’s technically only one in the entire game but you must battle him eight times and each time you have to endure a lava-filled obstacle course and/or pick the correct path to reach him, and this is, of course, Bowser. While seven of the eight Bowsers are actually his minions in disguise, each one attacks just like the real thing; perched over a bridge, Bowser moves back and forth, hops up and down, and spits fireballs at you. Some castles include a moving platform overhead for you to use to get behind him, and the fights become tougher as the amount of projectiles he spits increases, he adds a load of hammers to his arsenal, and Lava Bubbles will pop up from the magma below. However, the strategy to defeating Bowser remains the same every time: either blast at him repeatedly with a Fire Flower until he’s done in, or hop over him (or pass through him after taking a hit) and jump on the axe to remove the bridge beneath him and send him to the lava below.
Power-Ups and Bonuses:
Coins are scattered all throughout the Mushroom Kingdom. Collecting these adds to your score tally and will net you an extra life once you get one-hundred of them, after which the counter resets to zero. Your Coin counter carries over between Worlds and you’ll often find bunches of them hidden away beneath pipes or along higher paths. You can also grab a 1-Up Mushroom for an extra life as well, or a Super Mushroom to grow bigger and become Super Mario/Luigi. This lets you take a hit without dying and allows you to smash certain blocks by hitting them from beneath, which can uncover secret routes. A Fire Flower lets you throw bouncing fireballs with the B button, which is great for taking out most enemies (and Bowser) from a safe distance, but you’ll revert to you basic, smaller form if you take a hit in either of these states. Finally, there’s the Super Star, which grants you a brief period of invincibility from all onscreen hazards except bottomless pits and lava pools; consecutively defeating enemies in this state will net you extra points and, eventually, an extra life.
One of the primary reasons I was actually able to finish the game this time around was due to the additional features offered by the Nintendo 3DS, most notably the save state feature, which lets you create a save point wherever you want so you can recover from mistakes much faster and easier, though the base game includes a number of additional features, too. Although you initially can’t backtrack to previous Worlds, you’ll be able to select which World to revisit on your save file after clearing the game. This also unlocks a new, far more challenging adventure, which you can play by selecting the star option when loading your save file. This replaces all Goombas with Buzzy Beetles, speeds up the enemy’s walking speed, reduces the size of elevator lifts, adds more fire bars, and removes the power-ups from the game. New Super Mario Bros. Deluxe also includes a ‘Challenge’ mode that sees you exploring the game’s Worlds once again, this time in search of Red Coins and Yoshi Eggs to unlock content in the game’s Toy Box.
Once you accumulate 100,000 points in the main game, you unlock ‘You VS. Boo’, a race against a Boo across rejigged Worlds hitting new blocks to clear the way so you can get ahead of the ghost, which can naturally pass through walls. Once you beat the Boo, it’ll get replaced by faster and faster different coloured variants to test your high score. When you earn 300,000 points in the main game, you’ll unlock Super Mario Bros. for Super Players (indicated by the Luigi face now on the main title screen), which is a remake of Super Mario Bros.: The Lost Levels (Nintendo EAD, 1986). This game gives you only one save slot and provides thirteen new, much tougher Worlds, a new item in the injury- (or death-) dealing Poison Mushroom, alongside palette swaps of enemies and a wind that makes jumping even trickier. You can also partake in a ‘VS Game’, which is a two-player challenge mode that’s exactly the same as ‘You VS Boo’ but pits you against another human player, a Toy Box that offers a variety of toys for you to unlock and use, and a Fortune Teller mini game that awards you extra lives on a new save file. Every time you defeat each of the eight castles, a Toad will be added to the Mystery Room which will show you animations or artwork to print out on the Game Boy Printer, you’ll receive medals for clearing the different game modes, and there’s even a calendar included if you want to keep track of the days of the week.
I’ve carried the shame of never having beaten Super Mario Bros. for most of my life; to be fair, I didn’t own any of Nintendo’s home consoles until the Nintendo 64 so I didn’t really play any Super Mario titles that weren’t on the Game Boy or played through emulators, and my attempt to play it on the Nintendo Wii was largely just me messing about rather than actually sitting down and trying to finish it. Knowing that the Nintendo 3DS Virtual Console wasn’t long for this world, I jumped at the chance to get Super Mario Bros. Deluxe while I could can give it a go and finally achieved that long-elusive goal of finishing this classic platformer, and I was mostly happy with the results. The game is fun, bright, and full of a steady challenge; while it can be too simple at some times and a little frustrating at others with its obstacle placement, it’s fun hopping about and using the skills you’ve mastered over the course of the game to dash past and jump around the later Worlds. While there’s not a lot of variety to the Worlds and the graphics are very basic, I can excuse that since it was an 8-bit title from the mid-eighties and it still holds up as an entertaining little adventure to keep you busy for a long afternoon. While it’s a shame that a version of Mario Bros. (Nintendo R&D1, 1983) included as well, I won’t hold that against it as the additional features added to this game, including mini games, The Lost Levels, and extra challenges, really make Super Mario Bros. Deluxe the definitive 8-bit version of Nintendo’s classic platformer.
Did you enjoy Super Mario Bros. Deluxe? What did you think to the additions made to the game and how do you feel it compares to the original videogame? Did you play Super Mario Bros. as a child and, if so, what are some of your memories of the game? Did you ever find all the Warp Zones and complete the new challenges introduced in this version of the game? Which of the classic Super Mario titles is your favourite? Are there any retro videogames you didn’t complete until later in like? Whatever your thoughts on Super Mario Bros. Deluxe, feel free to leave a comment below by signing up or drop your thoughts on my social media, and be sure to check back for more Mario content this March!
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