Back Issues [Mario Month]: Super Mario Adventures

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. To commemorate Mario Day this year, I have been celebrating everyone’s favourite Koopa-flattening plumber every Thursday of this month in a little event I call “Mario Month”.

Story Title: “Super Mario Bros. Adventures” and “Mario vs. Wario”
Published: 25 October 2016
Originally Published: 1 January 1992 to 31 January 1993
Writer: Kentaro Takekuma
Artist: Charlie Nozawa

The Background:
By the early 1990s, Nintendo’s mushroom-stomping mascot was well-established as an icon not just in the videogame industry but in mainstream pop culture as well; with over sixty videogames to his name, and with Super Mario All-Stars (Nintendo EAD, 1993) proving a blockbuster release for Nintendo (and a pivotal title in the on-going “Console Wars” of the time), merchandising and licensing opportunities naturally began to increase as Nintendo sought to capitalise on the portly plumber’s popularity. In July/August of 1988, Nintendo of America began publishing a monthly review and strategy magazine, Nintendo Power (1988 to 2012), which soon included comic book and manga adaptations of its most popular videogame titles and, naturally, Super Mario was one such character who found his adventures chronicled in the magazine.

The Review:
Super Mario Adventures starts with a cute little musical introduction to the titular plumber duo, who operate as the Mushroom Kingdom’s “plumbers extraordinaire” and claim that “there’s no pipe [they] can’t repair!” The plumber brothers have been called to an emergency situation at Princess Toadstool’s castle: the pipes are a leaking, broken mess and need to be fixed for the Princess’s big party that night. Although Luigi (affectionately called “Weege” by Mario) is suffering from hunger pains, Mario enthusiastically takes to the job and encourages him to get stuck in and fix up the castle’s pipes.

Bowser attacks the kingdom, turning many to stone, and the Mario Bros. race to assist the princess.

However, his eagerness is cut short when a series of larger green pipes suddenly start sprouting up through the ground and a hoard of Koopas, Goombas, and other nasties pop out and attack the castle. Although Mario fights off the invaders, his efforts are brought to a halt when Bowser, the King of the Koopas himself, arrives in his Koopa Copter and alongside his Koopalings to lay claim to the entire kingdom through his superior forces and his proposal to marry the princess to make his takeover official. When the princess adamantly refuses his offer, Bowser uses his magic wand to turn her loyal Toads (and, amusingly, their distraught cries) to stone. Although Mario is also caught in the blast, leaving Luigi hysterical, the princess refuses to bow to Bowser’s demands and leads a group of Toads into battle against him. The Toads take the petrified Mario to the Minister of Massage, an aged oriental Toad who cures him of his ailment and, determined to get his revenge against Bowser and rescue the princess, Mario boldly charges after the two and he and Luigi end up being dropped right onto Dinosaur Island.

While Mario and Luigi make a new friend, Princess Toadstool manages to escape her cell.

There, they meet Yoshi, a friendly green dinosaur who helps them out when they’re attacked by a giant Wiggler and then speeds them off to Yoshi Village and they’re introduced to Friendly Floyd, a travelling salesman who randomly lives in the otherwise Yoshi-centric population. Floyd tells them that Bowser has been kidnapping Yoshis and punishing anyone who gets in his way and then scams them out of ten Coins by selling them a book to help them communicate with Yoshi that turns out to be basically useless. Mario’s anger at Floyd is quickly shifted back onto his main objective, though, when the princess’s Guard stumbles, bruised and hurt, into town and informs them that the princess was captured by an army of Bowser’s minions, the Lakitu. Back at Bowser’s Tower, Bowser reveals an additional motivation to his plot is to provide his rambunctious kids with a mother, and demands his chef make a cake that is one hundred times bigger than the humongous dessert he’s already made and orders the Koopalings to make sure that the princess doesn’t escape. However, when they go to check on her, the princess easily fools them by hiding up in the rafters and then escapes from her cell, locking them inside instead.

Luigi and the princess swap places, free Mario, and bring Bowser’s Tower crashing down.

While Mario and Luigi struggle to reach Bowser’s Tower thanks to the surrounding waters being full of piranhas, the princess proves capable enough to fight and threaten her way out of the tower by use of a “cape-achute”. Although the princess manages to get to safety and meet up with Luigi, Mario ends up crashing into the castle when he saves his brother from a Bullet Bill and winds up being chained up in his own cell. Bowser has his Mechakoopa’s deliver Luigi a threatening ultimatum to deliver him the princess or lose his brother forever and, rather than send the princess back into the jaws of danger, Luigi opts to have Floyd make him up into a decoy. While the princess resolves to go save the two, Luigi is able to successfully fool Bowser with his performance and delay Mario’s execution by ordering pizza for the Koopalings. The princess, who is dressed in Luigi’s clothing, bursts in holding a bomb and demands that Mario be set free; the Koopalings’ confusion soon turns to anger as Luigi swipes the keys from Roy Koopa and, thanks to a distraction from Yoshi, is able to free Mario just in time for the two of them to help fight off the Thwomps and Chucks who threaten to crush the princess, Yoshi, and Floyd to death. Unfortunately in the commotion, the fuse on the princess’ bomb catches fire and the tower collapses in a massive explosion!

Bowser recaptures the princess but Dr. Mario helps cure the Boos of their shyness.

Although blasted to safety and pleased with their victory, the group realises that they’re still stuck on Dinosaur Island so one of the princess’s Toads offers to fly back to the Mushroom Kingdom for help. When help arrives, though, it turns out to be a bunch of Bowser’s minions in disguise and Bowser himself shows up to capture the princess once again. After fighting off Koopa’s forces, Mario and Luigi are astounded to see Yoshi sprout wings from over-eating; however, in their haste to chase after the Koopa King, they end up getting lost and crash-landing before a spooky chalet in a fog-strewn forest. Luigi suggests that they rest in the house, not realising that it’s another of Bowser’s devious traps, and, despite Mario’s better judgement, the two are lured inside by the irrespirable smell of Provolone. Trapped inside and separated from Yoshi, the duo are attacked by Boos; although the little spirits blush uncontrollably when looked at, they charge at the plumbers when their backs are turned, eager to take a bite out of their behinds! Eventually, Mario and Luigi find themselves trapped between a gaggle of Boos and the mighty Big Boo but are finally able to escape by luring the Big Boo into a faux therapy session where Mario gets to the roots of the ghost’s debilitating fear of humans.

Mario, Luigi, and an army of Yoshis interrupt the wedding ceremony and defeat Bowser.

Having scammed their way out of the chalet, Mario and Luigi hop back onto Yoshi and race off to Marvy Mansion to keep the princess from marrying Bowser. Everyone in the Mushroom Kingdom is present for the wedding thanks to Bowser’s forces making up the majority of the guests and Magikoopa hypnotising the rest into compliance. With security type, and the hypnotised Yoshi’s willingly allowing themselves to be encased in eggs, Mario and Luigi sneak into the fortress using a pipe and end up being attacked by a Thwomp in a lava pit! While Bowser admires himself and his super sexy white suit, the princess throws a massive tantrum and continues to refuse to go through with the wedding, so Bowser has Magikoopa hypnotise the princess into falling in love with him. Thankfully, Mario crashes the party before the princess can say “I do” but, thanks to Magikoopa’s influence, ends up being beaten and tied up when the princess refuses to leave her beloved’s side. The ceremony is interrupted again, however, when Luigi and Yoshi free all other Yoshis from their eggs and the cuddly little dinosaurs quickly trample all over Bowser’s forces, including Magikoopa. After keeping Bowser from escaping in his little ‘copter, Mario fights his nemesis atop the gigantic wedding cake and merges victorious when the cake collapses, apparently taking Bowser with it, and thus saving the princess and the Mushroom Kingdom for another day.

Wario lures Mario into an ambush as payback for his childhood trauma.

The fun doesn’t end there, though, as the collected edition includes an additional tale that is basically an adaptation of Super Mario Land 2: 6 Golden Coins (Nintendo R&D1, 1992). Unlike in the videogame, rather than Wario usurping Mario’s castle and forcing him to collect the titular six Golden Coins to retake his home, “Mario vs. Wario” shows Wario as the king of his own castle and inviting Mario to a reunion after twenty years of having not seen each other. In this story, Mario and Wario were childhood friends but their memories of those days differ wildly; while Mario recalls the two having fun playing in the garden, “[experimenting] with Coins”, and playing cowboys, Wario remembers Mario as a bully and a liar who got to get all the best vegetables while Wario got bitten by piranhas, how Mario got the Coins while Wario got flattened by a Thwomp, and (worst of all) how Wario was always forced to be the cattle rustler who was beaten by Mario’s sheriff. Mario has very quick run-ins with the bosses from the videogame, the majority of whom he has no idea are actually looking to cause him harm and whom he defeats (or kills, in one case) simply by being helpful or friendly. When he reaches Wario’s home, though, he is attacked by a big, mean incarnation of his old friend but Mario quickly takes the wind out of Wario’s sails, quite literally, by deflating his balloon-like form. Mario then makes amends with Wario but Wario’s grievances with his rival are rekindled when Mario busts out a cowboy hat and water pistol and casts himself as the sheriff once again!

The Summary:
Super Mario Adventures is a colourful, endlessly fun little adaptation of the Super Mario videogames, most prominently Super Mario World. Perfectly capturing the look and feel of the videogames, the manga-like presentation of the story is immediately appealing and the artwork is consistently vivid and amusing all the way through. Add to that the moments of humour, sight and physical gags, and little details like characters playing a Super Mario substitute (with either with Mario or Bowser as the hero) or Luigi and Princess Toadstool swapping outfits really add to the quirky nature of the story.

Mario and Luigi quickly transform from energetic plumbers into princess-saving heroes.

Mario is characterised as an energetic, brave do-gooder with a playful nature and a quick temper at times, especially when he’s scammed by Friendly Floyd. He is committed to helping the princess by any means necessary, whether it’s by fixing her pipes (oi-oi!) or rescuing her from Bowser and is constantly keeping his brother focused on the tasks at hand. While he’s not a complete coward or a stick-in-the-mud, Luigi has a running gag throughout the story where he’s constantly distracted by his hunger. At first, he seems to lack the courage to act without his brother by his side and would rather eat or slink away than work or fight Bowser’s minions but, when Mario is captured, he voluntarily switches places with the princess and uses his wiles to free his brother and he’s directly responsible for helping to stop the wedding and provide much-needed back-up when he helps free the Yoshis.

Yoshi proves a valuable ally though the princess’s fiery nature means she’s no pushover.

While Yoshi is merely just a cute, cuddly sidekick, his motivations are called into question when he’s introduced as the duo (especially Luigi) are initially worried that he must be intending to eat them, he proves essential to their quest thanks to his insatiable appetite and ability to sprout new abilities as he gobbles up Goombas and such. As for Princess Toadstool, she’s an absolute bad-ass in this story! Right away, she adamantly refuses to submit to Bowser and only ends up being captured in the first place because she chooses to bring the fight to the Koopa King rather than let him run roughshod over her kingdom. Indeed, while the duo try valiantly to rescue her from Bowser’s Tower, she actually escapes without their help and only ends up being recaptured because of them. In the end, her demeanour and rage are so fervent that Bowser is forced to resort to hypnotising her to force her to go through with the ceremony, which is something I’ve personally never seen him stoop to in any of the videogames or adaptations.

Bowser is little more than a blowhard with largely ineffectual minions.

As for Bowser, well…he’s a very loud, bombastic figure here and certainly commands a great deal of dangerous forces but he’s not actually very effectual as a villain. He’s more concerned with winning the princess over, the cut of his suit, and the size of the wedding cake than spitting fireballs at Mario and their final confrontation is pretty humiliating for the Koopa King. Indeed, Bowser spends more of his time delegating down to his Koopalings, who are young and easily distracted and fooled by the antics of Mario, Luigi, and the princess. Magikoopa is, without a doubt, Bowser’s most useful minion as, without the maniacal wizard, he would never have been able to subjugate the Yoshis and the rest of the kingdom and, when Magikoopa is taken out of the equation, it’s surely no coincidence that Bowser is buried beneath a pile of sweet frosting soon after.

Mario and Wario have wildly different memories of their childhood days.

And then there’s Wario, easily my favourite character in the entire franchise, who is reduced to a bitter, snivelling child thanks to a lifetime of resenting Mario. It’s interesting that “Mario vs. Wario” paints Mario in such a negative light; here, he’s extremely naïve and insensitive to the feelings and concerns of others and is focused only on having a good time playing with his friend without considering Wario’s perspective. Indeed, the ending seems to suggest that Wario’s version of their childhood is more accurate since Mario not only calls him a “wimp” for getting upset but goes right back to type by chasing after him as the “sheriff”. It’s a fun enough little epilogue to the main story but all-too-brief for an adaptation of Super Mario Land 2 and, while it provides an interesting twist on the Mario/Wario rivalry from the time, it ends up veering a bit too far away from Wario’s more popular portrayal as a greedy, disgusting, self-obsessed mirror of Nintendo’s portly mascot.

My Rating:

Rating: 5 out of 5.


Have you ever read Super Mario Adventures? What did you think to it? Were you a fan of the manga’s quirky art style and humour? How do you think it worked as an adaptation of Super Mario World and the franchise’s gameplay mechanics? Did you read and collect Nintendo Power? If so, what were some of your favourite sections and inclusions in the magazine? Did you enjoy Mario’s other comic book adaptations as well and would you like to see another produced some time? Feel free to leave your thoughts on Super Mario Adventures, and Mario in general, down below and thanks for being a part of Mario Month.

Talking Movies [Mario Month]: Super Mario Bros.: The Great Mission to Rescue Princess Peach!

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. To commemorate Mario Day this year, March is once again “Mario Month” and I am spending every Thursday of this month celebrating everyone’s favourite Koopa-flattening plumber.

Released: 20 July 1986
Director: Masami Hata
Shochiku-Fuji Company VAP Video
Toru Furuya, Yū Mizushima, Mami Yamase, Akiko Wada, and Kōhei Miyauchi

The Plot:
When Princess Peach (Yamase) suddenly emerges from Mario’s (Furuya) games console in a desperate bid to escape the clutches of King Bowser of the Koopas (Wada), Mario and his brother, Luigi (Mizushima), venture into the fantastical Mushroom Kingdom and are tasked with retrieving three powerful artefacts in order to defeat Bowser and rescue the princess.

The Background:
By 1986, Nintendo’s portly plumber mascot was fast becoming one of the most successful and recognisable videogame character in the world; Super Mario Bros. (Nintendo R&D4, 1985) sold about three million copies within three months of its Japanese release and was regarded as the hottest videogame on the market and, though it wouldn’t be released worldwide until 1993, Super Mario Bros. 2 (ibid, 1986) was an equally popular release in its native Japan. To capitalise on Mario’s growing success, which would eventually see him eclipse Mickey Mouse in popularity, Nintendo allowed Japanese studio Grouper Productions to create and advertise an anime adaptation of their fast-growing franchise. Never released outside of Japan, Sūpā Mario Burazāzu: Piichi-hime Kyūshutsu Dai Sakusen! (or “Super Mario Bros.: The Great Mission to Rescue Princess Peach!”) has been both dubbed and subtitled by fans but remains one of the Mario’s most obscure pieces of media (though its fidelity to the source material has drawn praise).

The Review:
Unlike, say, Sonic the Hedgehog: The Movie (Ikegami, 1999), there really was no way for me to experience the Super Mario Bros. anime except to use online resources. The animated feature never released outside of Japan and I have no idea how accessible it even is out there; indeed, I only became aware of it when studying videogame adaptations for my PhD and found next to no writing or background on it.

When bizarre creatures pour from their television, the brothers begin their quest to rescue a princess!

Still, despite how obscure and unknown the anime is, it has a lot of elements to its narrative and presentation that will be immediately recognisable to anyone who is a fan of the videogames and Mario’s various other adaptations into other media. For example, although Mario and Luigi work in a grocery store rather than as plumbers in a loose approximation of the real world, they own a Nintendo Family Computer (FAMICOM) on which Mario plays a game that is startlingly similar to Super Mario Bros. And yet, Mario is surprisingly nonplussed when Princess Peach (closely followed by a whole slew of Mario’s videogame enemies) comes flying out of his television set; instead, he is immediately besotted by her beauty and wishes to protect her based purely on his attraction to her. Mario, however, is no match for Bowser, despite Peach’s immediate and unwavering belief in his ability to save her. Quite why Peach has such faith in Mario isn’t really made clear (maybe she watched him as he played videogames? But he seemed to be struggling with his Super Mario Bros. clone so I’m not sure that’s a fair indication of his heroic prowess). Luigi laughs the whole experience off as a crazy daydream until he sees the precious gem Peach left behind when Bowser kidnapped her; consulting a book, he tells Mario that the jewel is a treasure of the Mushroom Kingdom, which you might assume exists in the real world as well as a result but, when the two chase after Kibidango (Shigeru Chiba) when it steals the gem, they are magically transported to the “Treasure Kingdom” via a warp pipe so…who really knows?

Mario and Luigi overcome many obstacles to acquire the first two treasures.

There, they meet the wizard-like Mushroom Hermit (Miyauchi), who reveals that he summoned them there to help defeat Bowser, who has not only kidnapped Princess Peach but, like in the original videogame, transformed the citizens of the Mushroom Kingdom into bricks. The Mushroom Hermit discloses that Mario and Luigi are part of an ancient prophecy regarding two brothers who would be able to acquire the power necessary to rescue the princess, in this case the “Mushroom of Strength”, “Flower of Courage”, and the “Yellow star of Invincibility” that have been hidden across the kingdom. Thus, accompanied by Kibidango, the duo set off across the vast land in search of their objectives (accompanied by one of many cringe-worthy, jaunty little songs). Despite the efforts of a couple of Goombas (Hiroko Maruyama and Kazue Komiya) and an overly-maternal Paratroopa (Reiko Nakano), Mario retrieves the Mushroom of Strength from atop a mountain. The Mushroom appears to give Mario superhuman strength to take out Bullet Bills and even grow to gigantic proportions but it’s hard to tell if this is really happening or just part of the anime’s weird fantasy presentation. The Goombas then try to lead the duo into a field of Petey Piranha plants and, when they destroy it with their escape, they incur the wrath of Lakitu (Junko Hori). However, a convenient beanstalk helps save Mario from Lakitu’s Spinies and, though he struggles a bit with operating Lakitu’s cloud, they’re rewarded with the Flower of Courage for their efforts.

While Bowser tries to keep Peach amused, Mario recovers the final treasure and heads off to rescue her.

The entire time that the brothers are out looking for the three treasures, Princess Peach laments her fate and awaits her rescue. However, she does angrily rebuke Bowser’s advances and desire to marry her despite the fact that the Koopa King is nothing but polite, attentive, and eager to please her by using his shape-shifting powers to cheer her up (you know…those shape-changing powers that Bowser is well known for…) Her one attempt to try and escape from him by locking him in a box when he takes the form of a small teddy bear backfires completely and, when she learns that Mario and Luigi have been trapped in a gold mine (despite Mario now being able to toss fireballs), she is left despondent. The duo escape, however, after Luigi digs a tunnel; they even stumble upon the Yellow Star of Invincibility, which Mario retrieves from deep beneath the ocean despite a slew of aggressive sea creatures (interestingly, Luigi complains that he can’t swim and yet Mario and Kibidango are perfectly capable of breathing underwater…) Armed with all three weapons, the two brothers and their oddly canine companion journey on a flying ship they raised from the bottom of the sea (using little more than their breath…somehow…) to Koopa’s Castle and a confrontation with the King of the Koopas.

The Nitty-Gritty:
If there’s one thing that you can’t fault The Great Mission to Rescue Princess Peach! on, it’s its unwavering fidelity to the source material. While the live-action movie was more a weird mish-mash of science-fiction and fantasy, its anime counterpart faithfully recreates many of the wackier and fantastical elements from the videogames. This means that many of the game’s most recognisable enemies appear, even if just in small, cameo roles, and the anime makes frequent use of the music and sound effects form the videogames as well. This is best seen near the end of the feature when, while navigating past the hazards in Koopa’s Castle, the anime’s presentation switches to a side-scrolling style that emulates the look of the videogames. Yet, despite being far more faithful to the source material than the live-action movie, the anime still takes many liberties. Commonplace power-ups become rare treasures necessary to defeat Bowser, for example, and the two Goombas that feature are portrayed as King Koopa’s trusted lieutenants.

Unlike Mario, Luigi is primarily motivated by a lust for gold and riches.

Mario is characterised as a love-sick gamer who readily rises to the challenge of rescuing the princess. His initial fear and trepidation gives way to a bold courage the moment he learns that he and Luigi are prophesied to save the Mushroom Kingdom and he ventures into the unknown without fear, with the only thing stopping him from succeeding being his tendency to lose himself in daydreams of him and Peach getting married. While Mario is motivated simply to rescue Peach and keep her from being forcibly married to King Koopa, Luigi is convinced to go along when the Mushroom Hermit permits him to take as many Golden Coins as he can find. This is a continual sub-plot and character trait of his throughout the anime as his search for riches constantly leads the two into danger or backfires against him; his cache of Coins transform into child-like Toads, for example, they are trapped in the gold mine when the Goombas prey upon Luigi’s greed and, while his mining does uncover the final treasure, he’s left with a bag full of rocks rather than priceless gold. Indeed, while he’s generally the practical voice of reason and thinks about concerns such as food and water while Mario daydreams about Princess Peach, Luigi is easily tricked on numerous occasions, such as when the Goombas lead him into a field of mushrooms that cause his behaviour to wildly fluctuate between happiness, sadness, and anger.

Thanks to the three treasures, Bowser is defeated and the Mushroom Kingdom is restored!

Bowser’s characterisation is a far cry from the bombastic overlord seen in the comics and other cartoons; to be fair, though, Bowser didn’t have much of a personality at this time and it is amusing to see how polite and attentive he is towards Peach…it just would have been nice if he’d appeared to be a credible threat for longer than a couple of minutes. In the end, the two brothers arrive right as the wedding between King Koopa and Princess Peach is about the take place; Bowser’s excitement at finally getting his wish turns to anger when they crash the party and he forces the two to overcome both his minions and a series of deadly traps while he continues the ceremony in private. Regardless, they are able to best these hazards and face Bowser head-on; although King Koopa cuts an intimidating figure and boasts flame breath, Mario consumes all three treasures and becomes super-powered (I guess you’d call him “Super Mario”) as a result. Exhibiting superhuman strength, Mario easily defeats King Koopa by putting a beating on him and tossing him away by his tail, thus restoring the Mushroom Kingdom to its former glory. However, Mario is distraught when Peach chooses to marry Kibidango, who turns out to have been her betrothed, Prince Haru (Masami Kikuchi), all along. Still, the two vow to return to aid the Princess and the Mushroom Kingdom should they ever be threatened again.

The Summary:
Sūpā Mario Burazāzu: Piichi-hime Kyūshutsu Dai Sakusen! is quite the head-trip. When I first saw it, I marvelled at how similar many of its elements are to other Super Mario cartoons, especially considering how obscure it is. This, however, is largely down to a lot of the lore detailed in the videogame manuals from the time but it’s always a blast to see iconic characters such as Mario and Luigi come to life in a traditional anime. I feel it’s unfair to judge the quality of the voice acting as I was watching a dubbed version but this definitely has a lot of rough edges; the music not taken from the videogames is grating and embarrassing, the animation is quite jerky and low quality, and a lot of the colours are off (especially on Luigi). It also looks quite cheaply made and is bogged down by some odd original concepts and adaptations of Super Mario Bros.’ gameplay mechanics. Still, it’s a charming enough little obscurity and well worth seeking out if you can find it, and a wider release, though it can’t be denied that there are better anime and Super Mario adaptations out there.

My Rating:

Rating: 2 out of 5.

Could Be Better

Have you ever seen Sūpā Mario Burazāzu: Piichi-hime Kyūshutsu Dai Sakusen!, especially out in the wild? If so, what did you think of it and how do you feel it compares to other adaptations of the videogames? What did you think to the anime’s animation and portrayal of the videogame characters? Did you find King Koopa’s attentive personality and Luigi’s focus on riches amusing or do you think they were a bit far-fetched? Would you like to see another anime version of Super Mario Bros.? Share your thoughts on Mario’s obscure anime adventure, and your favourite Super Mario memories, in the comments below and check back in next Thursday for the last week of Mario Month.

Game Corner [Mario Month]: Super Mario Land 2: 6 Golden Coins (Nintendo 3DS)

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. To commemorate Mario Day this year, March is once again “Mario Month” and I am spending every Thursday of this month celebrating everyone’s favourite Koopa-flattening plumber.

Released: 29 September 2011
Originally Released: 21 October 1992
Original Developer: Nintendo R&D1
Also Available For: Game Boy

The Background:
After Super Mario Land (ibid, 1989), a launch title for Nintendo’s influential Game Boy handheld console, sold over 18 million copies, and given the rising success of the Super Mario franchise, a sequel was all-but-inevitable. Spearheaded once again by Gunpei Yokoi, the man behind the Game Boy, development of the sequel began in November 1991 and was eventually geared towards capturing the same feel and tone as Super Mario World (Nintendo EAD, 1990). Super Mario Land 2: 6 Golden Coins continued the trend of the Mario Land sub-series of introducing new antagonists into the franchise with the creation of my favourite Mario character, Wario. Mario’s evil doppelgänger was created by director Hiroji Kiyotake and born out of the development team’s disdain for working on a franchise they didn’t help create; nevertheless, Wario not only subsequently took over the Mario Land series and became a popular character in his own right but Super Mario Land 2: 6 Golden Coins was released to rave reviews, sold over 11 million copies, is largely considered one of the best Game Boy titles, and was eventually released on the Nintendo 3DS Virtual Console, which is the version I’ll be looking at today.

The Plot:
After returning from his adventures in Super Mario Land, Mario finds his castle and the land surrounding it has been usurped by his diabolical doppelgänger, Wario! In order to restore the land, Mario must travel to six different worlds (referred to as “Zones”) and collect the titular Golden Coins to enter Wario’s fortress and topple his nefarious lookalike.

Super Mario Land 2: 6 Golden Coins is a 2D, sidescrolling action/platformer; rather than the linear format of the previous title, the sequel incorporates a world map similar to the ones seen in Super Mario Bros. 3 (ibid, 1988) and Super Mario World and allows players to pick and choose the stages they challenge once they get past the opening tutorial level. While Super Mario Land was an extremely basic and simplistic title, Super Mario Land 2 looks and feels much more like its later 8- and 16-bit counterparts thanks to much bigger, far more detailed graphics, an overworld map, and has far more to do and see throughout the game (the game is so much bigger than its predecessor that it includes a battery back-up save feature, allowing you to have three different save files at once).

Mario now looks and controls much more like his home console counterparts.

Functionally, though, Mario controls exactly the same; players can run by holding B, jump with A, and perform a spinning jump by holding down on the directional pad (D-pad) while jumping, which allows Mario to smash or pop goodies out of blocks when standing on top of them. Mario is a little more slippery this time around but it’s nowhere near as bad as in Super Mario Bros. (ibid, 1983) and he has just enough weight to him to make him crisp and responsive. Sadly, there are no vehicles to pilot this time around so players must rapidly tap A to swim when under water rather than piloting a submarine.

Hit a bell for a checkpoint and be sure to take advantage of all those extra lives.

As always, Mario can only take one hit before dying so you’ll need to grab a Super Mushroom or other power-up to defend yourself from attack. You won’t have to try too hard to find and accumulate extra lives, though, as you can earn them by collecting Hearts (found in blocks and/or won in bonus stages), defeating 100 enemies (helpfully tracked in the game’s heads-up display (HUD)), or defeating five enemies in a row while invincible. Of course, you’ll have to contend with a time limit and many bottomless pits along the way but you can hit bells part-way through stages to create a checkpoint in case the worst happens.

Super Mario Land 2 is much bigger and better than its predecessor.

Super Mario Land 2 is divided into six stages, now called “Zones”, each of which has at least one “Special Area” that can be accessed by finding a hidden exit within one of the Zone’s stages. You’ll also be able to visit a couple of different courses and areas from the overworld to grab a healthy supply of Coins, stock up on power-ups or extra lives, and access other Zones. Zones can be tackled in any order but, since some have more stages and are more difficult than others, you might want to plan out your gameplay accordingly and tackle some of the shorter, easier stages first. After clearing each of the six Zones, you’ll acquire one of the titular Golden Coins; get all six and you can enter the game’s final area, which is devoid of enemies but full of traps and tricky obstacles and leads directly to the final confrontation with Wario.

Gameplay is mixed up with some quirky mechanics sprinkled throughout.

For the most part, the game controls and plays like a traditional Mario title; this means you’ll be doing a lot of jumping, travelling through pipes, and hopping on enemy’s heads. Gameplay is mixed up a bit, though, by frequent instances of water (though mostly in the Turtle Zone), forcing you to jump across platforms above an endless void (particularly seen in Tree Zone, which also has you using sticky sap to avoid spikes and pits), or navigate disappearing/reappearing blocks in Pumpkin Zone. You’ll also ride on a fair amount of moving platforms or cross vast chasms in bubbles but probably the most unique Zone is Space Zone, which features both an autoscrolling section, a unique sprite for Mario, and much lighter gravity that allows you to jump far higher and stay in the air indefinitely by holding down A.

Graphics and Sound:
Compared to its predecessor, Super Mario Land 2 is a quantum leap forward in terms of graphics and presentation; it’s still a basic title (it is a Game Boy game, after all) but sprites and backgrounds are so much bigger, far more detailed, and world’s beyond the simplistic aesthetic of the first game. It’s actually mind boggling to me how much of an improvement the game is in such a short space of time; the first game was like a super scaled down version of Super Mario Bros. and it worked for what it was but this is like a small-scale version of Super Mario Bros. 3 or Super Mario World, featuring far more stages, much more variety, and is far bigger, allowing players to pick and choose the order of the Zones and how they play, with many of the mechanics and features of this game bleeding over into Wario’s spin-offs.

The graphics are much bigger and more detailed, with variety and fun being the order of the day.

Of course, bigger sprites means bigger hit boxes, which can be an issue, and the game does noticeably slow down when there are a lot of sprites onscreen at once (which isn’t something I can say for the first game) but I can forgive that for the sheer amount of detail and variety on offer. In Super Mario Land, background details were sparse and limited but, here, each Zone feels big, unique, and full of quirky little gimmicks and elements. Turtle Zone sees you exploring a submarine before venturing into the belly of a giant whale, for example, while Macro Zone has you travelling through a house from the garden to the inside and up to the bedroom/library all while shrunk down to a size that makes everyday household objects seem far bigger. Pumpkin Zone also stands out, being the now-traditional haunted house/Boo stage of the game and featuring a lot of clever lighting and graphical details.

Though the game only has one real cutscene, its overworld is big and full of life and quirks.

Even the overworld is bustling with life; you see a dark, ominous storm cloud over Wario’s Castle (and Wario himself pacing along the rooftop), the water surrounding the land constantly shifts, and Mario can even get literally sucked into some of the Zones. The game’s music is also much improved, featuring a catchy main theme, unique tunes for the Zones and boss battles, and just being much more memorable and lively compared to its predecessor.

Enemies and Bosses:
Super Mario Land 2 also features a wide assortment of enemies, including (as you might expect) the return of several series staples such as Goombas (who also come in a winged variant), Boos, Koopa Troopas (whose shells you can now use to smash blocks and defeat enemies like in the main games), Piranha Plants, Bullet Bills, and Cheep Cheeps. You’ll also encounter some new enemies, some more interesting than others: Antotto is literally just an ant, for example, but Bomubomu is a pig that fires cannonballs at you! Some of the game’s most unique enemies appear in Mario Zone and Pumpkin Zone, including J-son (whose oddly familiar hockey mask has a knife sticking out of it!), a clown-faced Jack-in-the-Box, and Kurokyura the Vampire (who throws bats (or “Minikyura” at you). You’ll also encounter a weird cow/fish hybrid in Tree Zone, an indestructible, boxing-glove-wearing shark in Turtle Zone, and giant, fireball-spewing piranha status in Wario’s Castle.

Super Mario Land 2‘s bosses are big and fun but easily defeated.

Six Zones means, of course, that Mario has to defeat six bosses to retrieve the six Golden Coins and confront Wario. While there is no “instant kill” switch as seen in the previous game, none of these bosses really pose that much of a threat as long as you are packing the Fire Flower, which makes most of them an absolute joke. The first boss I fought was Turtle Zone’s Pako, a giant octopus that spits its smaller, invulnerable offspring (“Poko”) out at you as it swims across the arena. Despite taking place underwater, which limits your mobility, you can simply spam fireballs at it or bounce on its bulbous head three times without too much difficulty. Next, I took on Tree Zone’s Big Bird, which you battle in its nest at the top of the tree. As its sole method of attack is to swoop down at you, this one is also easily cheesed with the Fire Flower but it’s equally pretty simple to just jump on its head.

Some bosses require a little more strategy to take them down.

I then fought the Witch in the final area of the Pumpkin Zone; this boss can actually be quite tricky as the Witch teleports about the screen throwing fireballs at you, which can ignite under her cauldrons and send you up into the spikes in the ceiling. I found the best strategy was to stay in the middle of the screen and spam fireballs but you can easily anticipate where she’s going to teleport in so you can jump on her head. In Mario Zone, you’ll battle the Three Little Pigs, who come at you one at a time using rolling and bouncing attacks. I can’t say too much about this one as I just tossed fireballs at them relentlessly and bounced on their heads to beat them in seconds but I can’t imagine them causing you too much trouble.

Mario has a rematch with Tatanga, now a far easier and less imposing foe.

Macro Zone has you battling a Sewer Rat that darts in and out from pipes and clambers all over the walls and ceilings of the arena to drop down on you; this one can be tricky because of how fast the boss is but, again, the Fire Flower will make short work of it. Finally, in Space Zone, I took on a familiar face as Tatanga, the final boss of the first game, returns for a rematch. As this battle takes place in the low gravity of the Moon, it can be tricky to dodge between Tatanga’s two energy bolts, each of which has a different attack pattern, and his tendency to stay on the top corners of the screen makes using your fireballs much more difficult. Thankfully, he also tries to dive bomb you, leaving him wide open for attack, and he’s far weaker than in the last game, going down in just three hits like every other boss in the game.

Wario pulls out all the stops for the game’s final, three phase boss battle.

Similarly, the final battle against Wario is a much grander and elaborate fair than the final boss of Super Mario Land; as if running the gauntlet of Wario’s many traps and hazards and battling multiple floating Wario faces wasn’t enough, Wario (here a much bigger, monstrous figure than usually depicted) has three phases to his boss battle. In the first, he charges and stomps around the throne room trying to squash you and causing crystal balls to fall from the ceiling. Next, he grabs a Carrot to become Bunny Wario and takes refuge at the top of the screen before dropping down onto you and, finally, he becomes Fire Wario and launches fireballs at you while also jumping at you. While you have to take on all three phases one after the other, you can grab power-ups between each one and, again, Wario is defeated in three hits each time so, while this is easily the longest and most involved boss battle in the game, it’s no mean feat.

Power-Ups and Bonuses:
As mentioned before, and as you should expect from a Mario title, Mario can grab a Super Mushroom to become Super Mario; this allows him to take a hit without dying, destroy certain blocks, and perform the spin jump. You can also grab an “M” bag to earn more Coins and a Star to become invincible; while you can still die from bottomless pits and certain hazards, defeating five enemies in a row (and every one thereafter) will also award you with an extra life in this form.

It’s great to see the Fire Flower back and Bunny Mario is…unique, at least.

While he no longer has his cool little vehicles from the last game, Mario does get some cool power-ups this time around: the bouncy Superball is gone, replaced with the traditional Fire Flower (which, honestly, is the power-up you should favour at every opportunity) and Mario can now grab a Carrot to become Bunny Mario. This gives him bunny ears and allows you to float through the air by rapidly tapping A, though Mario descends slowly over time so it’s best to get a good run up or jump from a high ledge.

Additional Features:
While Super Mario Land 2 doesn’t really feature a scoring system, Coins still serve a purpose in that Mario can use them in certain areas of the overworld to buy extra lives and power-ups. If you exit each stage using the upper exit, you’ll get to play either a claw machine or a circuit mini game that can also net you these same rewards, allowing you to earn many extra lives very quickly. Unlike the previous game, though, there’s no harder game mode to be unlocked; once you’ve beaten the game, all that’s left to do is reload your save file to find any hidden exists and areas you’ve missed or start the game over from the beginning again. When playing the 3DS version of the game, you can, of course, make liberal use of the save state feature to make the game an absolute breeze, which is always  a helpful and appreciated feature.

The Summary:
Super Mario Land 2: 6 Golden Coins is a fantastic little game; it never fails to impress me how much bigger and better it is compared to its predecessor, which looks like a Game & Watch title in comparison. Super Mario Land 2 is much more like the later 8-bit Mario titles in its detail, variety, and scope, making for a game that takes up much more of your time and is thus far more enjoyable on those long car journeys. Everything from the sprites, backgrounds, and music has been brought up a notch and the game is really showing the power and potential of the Game Boy to emulate its bigger, home console counterparts. Add to that the fact that Super Mario Land 2 was one of the first Game Boy titles I owned and that it introduced my favourite Mario character, Wario, and you have a game that not only holds up really well as a solid Mario/Game Boy title but also a game that is very close to my heart. I’ve always had more affinity and appreciation from Mario’s handheld adventures and Super Mario Land 2 is largely to thank for that.

My Rating:

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Great Stuff

Did you ever play Super Mario Land 2: 6 Golden Coins on the old Game Boy brick? How do you feel it compares to the original and other Mario titles from the time? Are you a fan of Wario and would you like to see him return to prominence in the franchise? What are some of your memories/experiences with the Game Boy? Whatever your thoughts on the Game Boy and Mario’s handheld adventures, feel free to leave a comment below.

Game Corner [Mario Month]: Super Mario Land (Nintendo 3DS)

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. To commemorate Mario Day this year, March is once again “Mario Month” and I am spending every Thursday of this month celebrating everyone’s favourite Koopa-flattening plumber.

Released: 2011
Originally Released: 21 April 1989
Original Developer: Nintendo R&D1
Also Available For: Game Boy

The Background:
In 1989, Nintendo were preparing to release their handheld console, the Game Boy, a machine that would go on to pretty much define portable gaming. To coincide with this release, they needed fun, appealing titles to attract players and Super Mario was the obvious candidate given how well Super Mario Bros. (Nintendo EAD, 1985) had sold some years prior. The first game in the series not to feature the input of Mario’s creator, Shigeru Miyamoto, the game was also significantly shorter and smaller than its home console counterpart. While this has been reflected in reviews, Super Mario Land sold over 18 million copies, kickstarting an entire sub-series for Nintendo’s portly plumber that was exclusive to its handheld devices. Naturally, it was eventually ported to the Nintendo 3DS Virtual Console with some minor revisions, which is the version I’ll be looking at today.

The Plot:
After conquering the four kingdoms of Sarasaland, the diabolical space tyrant Tatanga kidnaps Princess Daisy in order to consolidate his dictatorship and only Mario has the skills and bravery necessary to travel throughout Sarasaland in a bid to rescue Daisy from Tatanga’s clutches.

Though functionally the same game as Super Mario Bros., there’s plenty of differences between that game and its handheld counterpart to help Super Mario Land stand out…and not all of them are good, to be honest. Like its bigger brother, Super Mario Land is a 2D sidescrolling platformer in which players control Mario as he runs, jumps, and blasts his way through four distinct Kingdoms. While the game sacrifices a lot in terms of length and graphical quality, Mario actually controls far better in his Game Boy debut than in his more famous title; for one thing, he’s far less slippery, which is a Godsend as it’s much harder to slip and randomly fall off platforms down a bottomless pits and to your death.

Coins, points, and mushrooms are as important as ever in Super Mario Land.

Mario can still jump, bouncing off enemies’ heads and gaining more height and momentum as he does so and from running by holding down the B button, and he feels like he has a bit more weight to him; not enough to make him plummet like a rock like some of his contemporaries but also not so little that he goes flying off the screen. The game is simplicity in itself; you start on the left side of the screen and run and jump to the right, taking out enemies, collecting Coins for points and extra lives, and taking your chances down the game’s various pipes to find hidden areas full of these aforementioned Coins. As in pretty much all Mario games, and most videogames at the time, you’re also racing against a time limit and can protect yourself from death by bashing blocks to randomly unearth a collectable Super Mushroom, which will transform you into Super Mario.

Mario’s new vehicles really help to spice up Mario’s classic platforming action.

While Super Mario Land has only four stages, referred to as “Kingdoms”, it mixes up its gameplay significantly from other Mario games of the time with the inclusion of two autoscrolling shooter stages; one has you piloting the “Marine Pop”, the other the “Sky Pop”, a cute little submarine and bi-plane, respectively. While autoscrolling stages can be a pain in the ass, and it easy to get crushed to death if you don’t blast blocks quickly enough, these are actually quite fun and it’s just a shame that the developers didn’t program a couple more stages like these in there to help keep things interesting.

Extra lives are plentiful, which helps when the game gets trickier and more demanding.

Additionally, rather than jump atop a flagpole at the end of each Kingdom, Mario exits each stage by entering a doorway; if you direct him to the top exit, you’ll be taken to a Bonus Game where you can earn anywhere between one and three extra lives or a power-up by stopping the fast-moving ladders. Extra lives are rather plentiful overall, to be honest, meaning you generally have an abundance of chances to tackle the games more troublesome and difficult sections, which usually involve making a few tricky jumps over an endless void, jumping to moving platforms, and using rolling boulders to safely cross spiked platforms.

Graphics and Sound:
Given that it was a launch title for the Game Boy, a handheld console not exactly known for being the most powerful or graphically interesting amongst its peers despite its immense popularity, it’s important to set your expectations quite low for Super Mario Land. Graphics are painfully simple and monochromatic, with Mario helpfully standing out thanks to his iconic cap and moustache as, without these, he may as well have just been Mr. Game & Watch. The game’s enemies, for all their variety, don’t exactly fare much better but, thankfully, the bosses are much bigger and more indicative of the superior sequel.

Despite its understandable simplicity, the game’s Kingdoms are distinct and varied.

Similarly, while each of the game’s four Kingdoms feels distinct, they’re not exactly teeming with detail; most opt for a plain, empty background with some simple elements (pyramids, mountains, clouds, Easter Island-like heads and the like) and an abundance of blocks, platforms, and pipes. As you progress through each Kingdom, the stages take on more distinctive and detailed environments, such as exploring inside a pyramid, with hieroglyphics etched into the background layer, or traversing the block-and-platform-ample mountaintops of the Chai Kingdom. The game also separates itself from its bigger brother by having a mostly unique soundtrack; some familiar Mario tunes are present but, for the most part, Hirokazu Tanaka’s music is distinctive enough if a little off-brand for what the franchise was known for at the time.

Enemies and Bosses:
Super Mario Land features around thirty different enemies, most of which are distinct to each of the game’s four Kingdoms and many of which return from, or are directly inspired by, enemies encountered in the bigger, better Mario titles. As such, you’ll be stomping on Goomba heads, blasting Piranha Plants as they pop out of pipes, and knocking Bullet Bills out of the air but will run into a devious little trap after smacking a Koopa Trooper as their shells now explode a few seconds after they are defeated!

The game renders its many familiar and unique enemies as best as possible.

As mentioned, each Kingdom features their own distinct enemies: you’ll encounter spear-throwing Bunbuns and fireball-spitting Gaos in the Birabuto Kingdom; a variety of skeletal fish and fireball-spitting aquatic enemies in the Muda Kingdom; spiders and sentiment rocks and Easter Island heads in the Easton Kingdom; and zombie-like Pionpi, deadly chickens, and relentless bi-planes in the Chai Kingdom.

Bosses might look tough but they’re easy to get past if you don’t feel like fighting them.

Each Kingdom concludes in a boss battle that is, in essence, the same as battling Bowser in Super Mario Bros. but much more varied: you’ll encounter a fireball-spitting, jumping sphinx-like lion, a large, fireball-spewing seahorse, and a rock-throwing sentient Easter Island head rock monster. Regardless of the arena or differing environment or the attacks the bosses use, your tactics pretty much stay the same until the final showdown with Tatanga: avoid their projectiles and either blast at them with Superballs or dodge behind them to take them out with a switch at the cost of some bonus points.

Tatanga is easily the game’s toughest boss thanks to his screen-filling projectiles.

You’ll battle Tatanga in the Sky Pop but, before you can fight him, you’ll have to take out Biokinton, a chicken-throwing cloud that bounces around the screen. Afterwards, Tatanga rises into the sky, incessantly firing cannonballs from his Pagosu warship. While easily the toughest boss of the game, Tatanga’s shots are easy to avoid once you spot their pattern and, while he can absorb more shots than his counterparts, he still goes down fairly easily to allow Mario to literally rocket away with the true Princess Daisy.

Power-Ups and Bonuses:
As you explore and bop blocks through the game’s Kingdoms, you’ll collect a number of Coins; collect one hundred and you’ll be awarded with an extra life, which can also be found sporadically throughout the game (this time in the form of a heart).

Grab a flower to toss bouncy Superballs or a Star for temporary invincibility!

Mario’s chief power-up in this game is the Superball, which allows him to toss a projectile similar to the Fire Flower but with the added bonus of the Superball bouncing around the screen to damage multiple enemies and even collect Coins, though you can only ever throw  one at a time. If you take a hit while holding a Superball, you’ll revert right back to little Mario, but you can also grab Stars for a temporary period of invincibility.

Additional Features:
Unlike other Mario games of the time, you cannot play as Luigi or any character other than Mario; as a result, the primary additional features you’ll find in this game are the aforementioned autoscrolling and bonus stages. However, after you beat the game for the first time, you’ll unlock a “Hard Mode” that adds additional enemies to the game’s Kingdoms and, after clearing that mode, you’ll unlock a stage select feature. Otherwise, the 3DS version also allows you to create one save state to dramatically reduce the game’s difficulty and challenge (I remember owning this game as a kid and never being able to clear the Easton Kingdom but, thanks to the 3DS’s save feature, I beat the game in about an hour without really trying that hard).

The Summary:
It’s easy to forget about Super Mario Land; not only is its sequel worlds better in every way but so is the far more memorable and popular Super Mario Bros. It’s a great little burst of fun and a decent enough distraction for short car journeys but it’s not really got much to it, even for a Game Boy launch title or a product of its time. Still, this was the first Mario title I ever played so I have a decent amount of nostalgia for it and finally beating it after all these years was cathartic, though I’d still rather play the sequel of one of Wario’s many spin-offs on the same console.

My Rating:

Rating: 2 out of 5.

Could Be Better

What are your memories of Super Mario Land, if any? How do you feel it holds up compared to Super Mario Bros. or the other Mario Game Boy titles? What was your first ever Game Boy title and which is your favourite? Whatever your thoughts on Super Mario Land, Mario, and or the Game Boy in general, feel free to leave a comment below.

Game Corner [Mario Month]: Super Mario Odyssey (Nintendo Switch)

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. To commemorate Mario Day this year, March is once again “Mario Month” and I am spending every Thursday of this month celebrating everyone’s favourite Koopa-flattening plumber.

Released: 27 October 2017
Developer: Nintendo EPD

The Background:
After the videogame industry crumbled under the weight of numerous overpriced consoles and lacklustre titles, Nintendo basically single-handedly rebuilt the industry with the blockbuster success of Super Mario Bros. (Nintendo EAD, 1985) and, following the “Console Wars” of the mid-nineties, Nintendo and their portly plumber continued to be an innovative and reliable staple of the videogame industry. On 3 March 2017, Nintendo struck again with their first high-definition console, the Nintendo Switch, an inventive little machine that could be played on the go or “docked” to play on televisions, with gamers using detachable “Joy-Cons” (with the usual motion control trappings Nintendo is now known for) to play. Accompanying this new console was an all-new Mario title, one that was aimed squarely on Mario’s long-term fans and would emphasise dense, open-world exploration over linear gameplay. To mix things up, producer Yoshiaki Koizumi aimed to have the player travel across multiple worlds (known as “Kingdoms”) and collect Power Moons instead of Power Stars, and to bolster Mario’s move set with Cappy, a mechanic specifically designed to incorporate the Switch’s unique control schemes. Upon release, Super Mario Odyssey received critical acclaim as critics lauded the game’s addictive gameplay, and originality, and it became a best-seller for Nintendo’s powerful little system.

The Plot:
Bowser, the King of the Koopas, has once again kidnapped Princess Peach and his underlings, the Broodals, have laid waste to the Bonneteer’s Cap Kingdom. Mario teams up with a Bonneteer, Cappy, a sentient hat who joins him on his quest to power up the Odyssey airship and chase after Bowser before he can force Peach into marriage!

Super Mario Odyssey is a 3D, semi-open world action/adventure with a heavy emphasis on platforming, exploration, and performing elaborate jump tricks to progress further and track down the game’s 880 (!) Power Moons. Although you only need 124 to finish the main story, and 500 to unlock every Kingdom in the game, you’ll quickly find that collecting Power Moons becomes an addictive and fun-filled adventure as you spend another ten, twenty, thirty minutes scouring the latest Kingdom for one more Power Moon. If you’ve played any of Mario’s 3D adventures before, you’ll be instantly familiar with Mario’s controls; for me, the game clearly draws inspiration from Mario’s moveset from Super Mario 64 (Nintendo EAD, 1996) and Super Mario Galaxy (Nintendo EAD Tokyo, 2007) and Mario features all of his athletic abilities from those games. Players press A or B to jump; pressing either button in consecutive order will see Mario perform a triple jump to reach higher platforms, and he can crouch with ZL to enter small spaces or perform a backflip by pressing B. If you press ZL and B while running, you’ll fly ahead with a long jump, and pressing ZL and Y in mid-air will see him dive ahead. You can also perform a ground pound to flatten enemies or uncover secrets by jumping and pressing ZL (you can even press B as Mario hits the ground to spring up for a boost jump), perform side jumps, wall jumps, pick up and throw items, and swim through water by tapping B. While you can rotate the left stick to spin around and knock back enemies, you’ll notice that Mario can no longer punch or kick enemies; instead, you need to hop on their heads to defeat them or press X/Y/flick the Joy-Con to toss Cappy at enemies.

In addition to his athletic abilities, Mario can now possess enemies using his cap!

This will allow you “capture” certain enemies; sometimes, you’ll need to knock a hat or other headwear off their heads first, and not every enemy can be captured (and you can sometimes capture inanimate objects such as boulders and trees), but this is the game’s big new mechanic. Cappy can be used to uproot posts, collect Golden Coins, activate switches, clear away poisonous gunk, open doors, smash and hit brick blocks and ? blocks, and extend Mario’s jumps by holding Y to spin it in place. However, you can capture Goombas to walk along slippery surfaces without fear (and even stack them up to reach higher areas), frogs to leap to higher platforms, a fireball to safely pass through lava, and capture a spark pylon to travel across powerlines as a bolt of electricity. You can even capture bigger creatures, such as Chain Chomps that let you bash through blocks and a Tyrannosaurus rex to barge across the landscape (though this latter puts a great strain on Cappy). Capturing Bullet Bills lets you fly across the Kingdom for a short time, as do Paragoobas (though you need to tap B to keep these aloft), while Glydons let you glide across the landscape, Cheep Cheeps let you swim without far of drowning, and Uproots let you extend up to new areas. Moe-Eyes are slow but let you see hidden platforms, Wigglers let you stretch across gaps like a xylophone, Gushens let you blast up and across the area with temporary jets of water, and you can capture Hammer Bros, Yoshi, and even Bowser in the finale! You can press ZL at any time to return to normal, and often get a jump boost at the same time, and the enemy will temporarily remain nearby if you need to capture it again, but the capture mechanic really helps to expand your abilities and is essential to solving puzzles, reaching new areas, and finding more Power Moons so be sure to toss Cappy at everything you see.

Use the map’s warps to quick travel and help hunt down those many, varied, and elusive Power Moons.

Once again, Mario’s health is measured by a pie chart; you’ll need to collect Power Moons or life hearts to replenish Mario’ health, and can temporarily extend it up to six hearts like in Super Mario Galaxy, and you can open up the map screen with the – button to read up on the Kingdom and warp around the map to the checkpoint flags you’ve activated. Mario can take three hits before failing, but the life system has been abandoned. When you fall, land in instant-death gunk, or lose all your health, Mario will lose a number of his accumulated Coins and respawn back at the last checkpoint flag. Coins are also used as in-game currency and can be spent at shops in each Kingdom to purchase additional hearts, Power Moons, and outfits for Mario to wear; each Kingdom also has its own unique currency in the form of Purple Coins that can be used to buy regional outfits, stickers, and souvenirs. If you’re having a hard time with the game, you can activate “Assist Mode” to have arrows guide you along and bounce you back after a fall, but the game really isn’t too difficult for the most part so you shouldn’t really need this as various non-playable characters (NPCs), menu screens, Cappy, and tutorials are available to keep you on track. When you reach a Kingdom, you’ll be encouraged to explore high and low for Power Moons, which you can collect multiples of without having to restart the Kingdom. Some of these are hiding in plain sight, others require a bit of wall jumping or platforming, others need you to race across or up temporary platforms (sometimes without the benefit of Cappy) against a time limit, and others are hidden underneath bridges, behind walls, or even underground and require a ground pound to spit out. You’ll also come across rabbits that need to be caught, find Captain Toad hiding out in each Kingdom, race against Koopas, open chests (sometimes having to open them in the right order), destroy blocks or pillars, enter pipes and cross spinning or moving platforms, blossom flowers, herd sheep, pace walk across arrows, and complete picture puzzles to collect additional Power Moons.

Power Moons are everywhere, and many require you to go old-school to track them down!

Power Moons can also be bought, assembled by collecting Moon Pieces, spawned by collecting musical notes against a time limit, navigating mazes, finding hidden areas using Cappy, activating scarecrows to take on timed platforming challenges, rocketing up to new areas, playing a Slots game, and clearing away snow, gunk, or enemies and blast open cages to find even more Power Moons. “P” switches will activate temporary platforms or bridges, the Switch will rumble when you’re over secrets to indicate a ground pound, and you’ll need to capture and stack up multiple Goombas to activate pressure pads. Sometimes a vulture will steal Cappy from you, meaning you’ll need to chase after it and lure it near to columns that you can raise up by ground pounding a neighbouring column to knock Cappy loose. You’ll also need to plant seeds to grow vines to reach new areas, enter pictures to warp to secret, far away areas of the game’s Kingdoms, and capture puzzle pieces to solve puzzles. Thankfully, there are no sections of the game that require the use of the Switch’s motion controls; you can even turn these off at the main menu, and the motion controls are nicely focused on giving the console a shake to boost Mario’s speed or attacks in certain situations. The story also quickly offers the choice to travel to different Kingdoms and back so you can explore and play the game at your own pace. The hunt for Power Moons will be where you’ll find the bulk of the game’s variety, as you’ll often have to capture a variety of enemies or objects or use your jumping abilities in interesting ways to clamber over the environment and find hidden areas. You can even enter the iconic Mario pipes and pop out in 2D areas that harken back to Mario’s 8-bit routes and see you hopping onto or over enemies and fireballs, traversing ledges and girders, and collecting Coins and Power Moons and bringing you out to new areas.

Graphics and Sound:
Super Mario Odyssey is easily the most colourful, charming, and graphically advanced Super Mario title I’ve played so far. As is always the case, cutscenes play out using a mixture of gibberish, limited sound bites, and subtitles but the body language of Mario, Bowser, and Peach make these perfectly adorable and there’s very little, if any, distinction between the in-game graphics and the few cinematic sequences. While there are some noticeable loading times, especially when travelling between worlds in the story mode, most of these seem to be purposely implemented as an excuse to have Cappy give players a quick rundown on Mario’s abilities as you can eventually skip these sequences with the + button. Mario, especially, looks at his very best; his cap lifts off his head when he jumps, he gets covered in ash when burned, and has a number of idle animations (falling asleep in most Kingdoms, sweating in others, or shivering when cold) and is full of life and charm, which is good as he’s the only character you’ll be playing as this time around. For a sentient cap, Cappy is surprisingly full of life as well; occasionally, he’ll hop off your head to deliver hints and his big, cartoonish eyes make him very expressive.

Each Kingdom is brought to life in stunning detail and has lots to see and do.

As you might expect from a Super Mario title, the game is full of unique and interesting locations to visit; you start off in the Cap Kingdom, which has been covered in ash from Bowser’s attacks and is full of large hat-like structures and a thick fog that masks a death pit. You’ll then travel to thirteen additional Kingdoms, each one sporting their own unique trappings, currency, and Power Moon designs; you’ll hop around waterfalls and prehistoric terrain in the Cascade Kingdom, cross a vast, scorching desert in the Sand Kingdom, and explore the depths of the coral-like Lake Kingdom in your search for Power Moons. In the Wooded Kingdom, you’ll find a great forest, dark undergrowth, and an overgrown factory while poisonous lakes and large tropical trees await you in the Lost Kingdom. You can also briefly travel to the upper atmosphere above the clouds in the Cloud Kingdom and battle Bowser’s vicious dragon in the medieval ruins of the Ruined Kingdom, brave an aggressive blizzard in the Snow Kingdom, and explore the beach at the Seaside Kingdom. Upon first visiting many of the Kingdoms, you’ll find the region in a state of chaos that must be addressed by defeating a boss; this will calm the blizzard in Snow Kingdom, for example, and restore power to Metro Kingdom.

The game’s visual style and presentation is top-notch and full of humour and colour.

Metro Kingdom is probably the area most familiar to people since it featured heavily in the game’s advertising; New Donk City is a massive city full of skyscrapers, construction sites, realistic NPCs, and numerous references to the Super Mario franchise and, more specifically, the Donkey Kong franchise (Nintendo R&D1/Various, 1981 to present). Not only does Pauline make a long-awaited return to the series but you can even race across an expanded 2D section that is a fantastic call-back to Donkey Kong (Nintendo R&D1, 1981) and many of the street names, business, and billboards directly reference characters or locations from the franchise. The Luncheon Kingdom is probably the game’s quirkiest area as it’s populated by anthropomorphic cutlery and a veritable explosion of vivid colours and giant foods, while Bower’s Kingdom is fittingly the largest and most dangerous area in the game and draws its aesthetic inspiration from Japanese temples. The finale takes place in the Moon Kingdom, where gravity is much lighter and allows you to jump much higher and fall much slower; while the surface of the Moon is a barren wasteland, you’ll find an ornate church there and battle your way through a lava-and-trap-filled cavern to reach your final confrontation with Bowser. After besting the Koopa King, you get to travel to the Mushroom Kingdom, which is both a loving recreation and an extension of the same area from Super Mario 64, featuring paintings, Toads galore, and even Power Stars replacing the Power Moons. Each area is further bolstered by remixes and recreations of classic Super Mario tracks, and even a catchy vocal tune, “Jump Up Super Star!”, by Kate Higgins.

Enemies and Bosses:
Long-time fans of the series can rejoice here as many of Mario’s most famous enemies make a return in Super Mario Odyssey, and can even be controlled thanks to Cappy; you’ll bounce off Goombas and Paragoombas, stretch across gaps as Wiggler, smash trough blocks with Chain Chomps, barge through obstacles as Chargin’ Chuck, and hop on Koopa Troopas and use their shells to smash apart blocks. There are also some new enemies to be found here, such as the Trapbeetle (which captures Cappy when he’s thrown at him and charges at you, but you can use this to clear blocks from your path), the Stairface Ogre (who tries to squash you with a giant mallet but leaves itself vulnerable and allows you to reach higher ledges), Sherms (tanks that are great fun to take control of), Pokios (needle-nosed birds that let you awkwardly climb up and across the walls of Bowser’s Kingdom), and Chinchos (mummy-like creatures that Cappy simply passes tough harmlessly). Many of these can be captured and used to your advantage, but many more will also respawn, especially if you need to capture them to progress, and while they’re all pretty goofy and simple to get around, you’ll also find them placed in precarious positions or in large numbers as the game progresses, which helps keep the game’s difficulty nicely balanced. To restore each Kingdom or solve problems for the NPCs, you’ll have to battle a few bosses; defeating these earns you a “Multi Moon” that counts as three Power Moons. Although each Kingdom features at least one boss, the game does reuse and recycle these for other Kingdoms and boss rushes, the most obvious cases being that of the Broodals.

You’ll battle the Broodals on multiple occasions, with the bouts being a bit tougher the next time around.

These mean little bunnies replace Bowser’s usual Koopalings and are each fought at three separate points throughout the game, with the battles getting tougher each time. Topper bounces around and is protected by his green top hats; you must throw Cappy at him to knock these off and avoid being hit by them as they ricochet around so you can bounce on his head. As the fight progresses, more hats come into play and Topper swings them around to try and hit you as well. Harriet’s head is protected by a spiked helmet and she tosses explosive maces at you that you can hit away with Cappy, but they leave temporary flaming puddle son the floor. When she tries to crush you with the maces on her pigtails, you can smack these back to stun her, and you can also knock her out of the air when she withdraws into her helmet by hitting the bombs she drops. Spewart protects himself by spraying poison gunk all over the place, but you can use Cappy to clean it up and stun him, and to knock him away when he retreats into his hat and leave a trail of the muck in his wake. Rango tosses his sawblade-like hat at you from afar, but you can flip them over with Cappy and use them as a trampoline to twirl onto his head; as the fight progresses, Rango tosses more hats and also hops around trying to hit you, and you’ll have to battle each of the Broodals again in Bowser’s Kingdom and in succession in a gruelling gauntlet on the Dark Side of the Moon Kingdom.

You’ll need to make use of Cappy’s capture abilities to take out the game’s large, colourful bosses.

You’ll encounter the Broodals’ mother, Madame Broode, in the Cascade Kingdom; this rotund bunny sends her golden Chain Chompkin after you, but you can easily avoid it, knock its hat off, and capture it to launch it back at her. Although she tries to swipe at you, and more hats are added to later bouts, it’s pretty easy to stay out of her way and knock her on her ass. In the Sand Kingdom, you’ll find Knucklotec, a statue-like head who tries to crush you with its fists. However, you can trick it into hitting ice so you can capture its fist and fly it right into its face, but you’ll have to watch out for the projectiles it shoots out to protect itself. Torkdrift, a large UFO, awaits in the Wooded Kingdom; luckily, there are Uproots nearby for you to capture and stretch up into Torkdrift’s glass underbelly, but you’ll have to dodge the shockwaves it sends out and the flaming lasers it fires, and smash through thick blocks to flip it over and deliver additional damage to it. After unsuccessfully trying to attack Bowser’s airship, you’ll fall into the Ruined Kingdom and face off with the Ruined Dragon, a massive beast that sends out rings of lightning; when it collapses from exhaustion, you have a brief window of opportunity to hop onto its head, remove the stakes from its skull, and ground pound its weak spot but its attacks will become more aggressive and harder to dodge as the fight goes on.

Bosses become very creative, and are made tougher when you fight them again in the Mushroom Kingdom.

The latter Kingdoms offer some of the more interesting boss battles; Metro Kingdom’s Mechwiggler clambers about on the side of a building firing energy bolts at you and charging at you through portals, but you can pilot a Sherm to blast its glowing weak spots and deal big damage to it, and you’ll have to battle two at once in the Mushroom Kingdom rematch. Similarly, you’ll need to capture a Gushen to chase after and defeat the Seaside Kingdom boss, Mollusque-Lanceur, a giant octopus that floats around the beach (or above the clouds in the rematch) firing torpedos and spiked bombs. However, he’s vulnerable on his head so you can jet after him with Y and gush water down onto him with B once you’re hovering over him. In the Luncheon Kingdom, you’ll do battle with Cookatiel in a giant stew pot; Cookatiel spits vegetables as projectiles, but also spews up a stream of vomit that you can travel up as a fireball to bounce on his head. Each of these bosses is fought again by jumping into paintings in the Mushroom Kingdom, and the battles are made harder by the presence of additional enemies and hazards, less health items, bottomless spits, and more aggressive attacks from the bosses.

Topple the Broodals’ mech, then put a beating on Bowser and take control of the Koopa King to save the day.

Before you can finally face off against Bowser, you’ll have to battle the Broodals once again, this time in a giant mech! To defeat the RoboBrood, you’ll need to avoid the bombs it throws out and capture a Pokio to hit them back at its feet, toppling it over and leaving it vulnerable for you to fling yourself up and attack each of the Broodals’ pods. The RoboBrood becomes temporarily invincible after each pod is destroyed, targets you more directly, and it gets harder to scale it with each hit as well. Bowser himself is also fought twice, once in the Cloud Kingdom and again in the Moon Kingdom (and a third time at the end of the super-hard Darker Side of the Moon Kingdom). Both times, you must toss Cappy at his top hat to flip it over and take possession of it; you must then hop over the shockwaves caused by his jumps, avoid or punch away the rocks he throws at you, and put a beating on him when he’s stunned. As the fight progresses, Bowser jumps faster, throws more projectiles, defends himself from your punches and tries to swipe at you with his tail, and spews out flames in anger, but he’s not particularly difficult to best in the main encounters. After defeating him, you’ll need to capture him to use his massive claws to escape, which is pretty fun (if harrowing because of the temporary platforms).

Power-Ups and Bonuses:
Mario’s primary power-up is his ability to capture enemies and other objects with Cappy; this allows you to leap higher, protects you from lava, activates switches, allows you to flip, fly, or travel to new areas, and is crucial to solving some of the game’s puzzles and tracking down the Power Moons. There are, however, other power-ups you can find in each Kingdom; bubbles will restore your air meter when swimming, Life-Up Hearts temporarily add three extra hits to your life meter, Keys unlock additional Power Moons, scooters and catapults will allow you to travel quickly across areas, and Rocket Flowers let Mario blast ahead, and up sharp inclines, with a burst of speed but at the cost of his manoeuvrability.

Purchase collectibles and new outfits using your Coins.

Although there are no extra life mushrooms, cap power-ups, leaves, or invincibilities in the game, you can capture Yoshi in the Mushroom Kingdom and use his flutter jump and long tongue to eat fruit, and you can also spend your Coins on stickers to adorn the Odyssey with, souvenirs to fill it with, and outfits to change Mario’s appearance. Each Kingdom has one door that is blocked to you unless you buy and wear the regional outfit, but otherwise these are purely cosmetic items to wear. However, the range of them is quite impressive: you can dress up as Doctor Mario, Luigi, Waluigi, Wario, and even Diddy Kong; wear Mario’s Hawaiian shirt, his spacesuit, and even be rendered as his polygonal model from Super Mario 64 or in blocky 8-bits. You can dress up in the Broodals’ outfits, wear Peach’s wedding dress, and even mix and match the head wear with the clothing to create bizarre combinations. Sadly, though, these are simply costumes rather than new skins and the only character you’ll ever play as is Mario, which is a shame considering Luigi was playable in Super Mario Galaxy.

Additional Features:
With nearly 900 Power Moons to collect, you’ll never be short on things to do in Super Mario Odyssey. After you defeat Bowser, you can travel to the Mushroom Kingdom to find more Power Moons (this time rendered as Power Stars), rebattle the game’s bosses, and be awarded additional Power Moons for completing Toadette’s objectives. You can also return to the previous Kingdoms to track down Princess Peach for another Power Moon and break open Moon Rocks and access tough platforming or puzzle sections for additional Power Moons, and cause even more Power Moons to be spread across each Kingdom. You can keep track of these in the – menu by reviewing your lists, and once you have powered up the Odyssey with 250 and then 500 Power Moons, you’ll unlock two new areas of the Moon Kingdom.

There’s still lots to do, find, and challenge yourself with after beating the main story.

Dark Side has you scaling a tower and battling the Broodals in a tough gauntlet with no checkpoints or health power-ups between or during the bout, and the Darker Side is home to the game’s most challenging, and frustrating, course as you must cross lava, avoiding spikes, fireballs, and all manner of hazards and obstacles in a true test of you skills. Furthermore, players can find Luigi in each Kingdom and take on the Balloon World mini game, which is basically an online version of hide-and-seek and has you racing to locate balloons and comparing your time and scores with other players. The game can also be played in a rudimentary two-player mode where one player controls Mario and the other controls a captured enemy, and you can also use Amiibos and the Switch’s snapshot feature to find additional hints or unlock costumes, respectively.

The Summary:
I was actually very surprised by how much I enjoyed Super Mario Odyssey. I had heard so much about the game since it first released, all of it nothing but praise, and it was getting to the point where the game felt a little overhyped to me. Once I got a Nintendo Switch, I knew that the game was going to be a must-have for my collection, but I was a little apprehensive as I have a bit of an odd relationship with Super Mario games. However, it didn’t take long for my worries to be completely set aside; Super Mario Odyssey harkens back to the days when games could be played in fun-filled little bursts and its addictive gameplay and eye-catching visuals make it a title that’s simple to pick up and hard as hell to put down. The game gets progressively more challenging as you progress and visit new Kingdoms, but it’s never unfair or punishing and any mishaps you might make simply come down to a mistake on your part rather than due to a janky camera or controls. Mario’s athletic prowess and the additional abilities afforded to him by Cappy mean that there is always another way, or multiple ways, to accomplish tasks, explore further, or obtain Power Moons and the sheer amount of options available to you is impressive, but never too daunting. Colourful, endlessly entertaining, and fun from start to finish, Super Mario Odyssey is a fantastic entry in the franchise; I loved the call-backs to Super Mario 64, particularly the rendition of the Mushroom Kingdom, and all the outfits available to you (though it was disappointing to only be able to play as Mario again). The Kingdoms were all fun and unique areas, finding Power Moons was a great little distraction, and the bosses were enjoyable little challenges that never outstayed their welcome. There’s something on offer here for players of all skill levels, from beginners to advanced players who fancy tackling the super-tough optional areas, and I found myself having a great time from start to finish.

My Rating:

Rating: 5 out of 5.


Have you every played Super Mario Odyssey ? If so, did you enjoy it and how do you think it compares to other 3D Mario titles? Which of the game’s Kingdoms was your favourite? What did you think to Cappy and the capture mechanic, and which enemy was your favourite to take possession of? Did you enjoy collecting Power Moons or were you a bit overwhelmed by the sheer amount to find? What did you think to the game’s bosses and the Broodals? Did you ever best the Dark and Darker Side of the Moon Kingdom? Which outfit was your favourite and would you have liked to see skins or other playabale characters? Whatever your thoughts on the Mario’s cap-based adventure, feel free to sign up and leave a comment below or leave a comment on my social media.

Game Corner [Mario Month]: Super Mario Galaxy (Nintendo Switch)

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. To commemorate Mario Day this year, March has been “Mario Month” as I have celebrated everyone’s favourite Koopa-flattening plumber on each Wednesday of the month.

Released: 18 September 2020
Originally Released: 1 November 2007
Developer: Nintendo
Original Developer: Nintendo EAD Tokyo
Also Available For: Nintendo Wii and Nvidia Shield

The Background:
The concept of Super Mario Galaxy’s gameplay finds its genesis in Super Mario 128, a tech demo designed to showcase the power of Nintendo’s GameCube compared to the Nintendo 64 and other consoles at the time. Specifically, it was the concept of running, jumping, and exploring shifting, spherical bodies that caught Mario creator Shigeru Miyamoto’s imagination and many of the game’s concepts and ideas were thought up before Nintendo Wii was even developed, including new gameplay mechanics such as adding a spin attack to Mario’s arsenal to make it easier to attack enemies on spherical, 3D plane.

Super Mario Galaxy incorporated a number of new mechanics to spice up Mario’s gameplay.

After tweaking the gameplay to make things a bit more challenging for players, the team worked on implementing unique ways to take advantage of Mario’s space-based adventure, including gravity-based mechanics, new transformations and ways to play, and focusing on making the game fun to play rather than simply rushing to finish it. Super Mario Galaxy was a critical and commercial success, selling over 350,000 units in Japan during its first week alone and over 12.80 million copies worldwide by March 2020. The game also won, or was nominated for, numerous gaming awards and received an equally-well-received sequel in 2020. While that game wasn’t included in Super Mario 3D All-Stars (Nintendo, 2020) for the Nintendo Switch, Super Mario Galaxy was, meaning that I recently finally got the chance to play this game through, my to my delight.

The Plot:
All of the Mushroom Kingdom has gathered together for the centennial Star Festival. Unfortunately, the diabolical Bowser, King of the Koopas, gatecrashes the celebrations and kidnaps not just Princess Peach but her entire castle, hurtling them into outer space! Guided by Rosalina and the Lumas, Mario resolves to explore the entire galaxy, collecting both Power Stars and Grand Stars to power Rosalina’s Comet Observatory and rescue Princess Peach.

Super Mario Galaxy is a 3D action/platformer that brings back many of Mario’s controls and abilities from Super Mario 64 (Nintendo EAD, 1996); not longer hampered by a water-spewing jetpack, Mario is, thankfully, once again able to backflip and long jump in addition to using his patented triple jump, side jump, and wall kicks to navigate the game’s many and varied Galaxies.

Mario has a few new tricks up his sleeve that change the way you play.

Mario can still hop on the heads of his enemies to dispatch them or use his ample rump to squash them flat but, in the absence of his punching attacks, players can now use the touch screen to gather and launch “Star Bits” at the screen to attack enemies, destroy certain objects, and reveal Yellow Coins. This allows a second player to work alongside Mario in a pretty lacklustre implementation of a two-player co-op mode but, thankfully, Mario is gifted with a new spin attack that allows him to take out enemies and helicopter his way across tricky gaps.

Travel to the game’s many Galaxies to retrieve all the Power Stars.

As in the previous 3D Mario games, Super Mario Galaxy is structured around a central hub world (in this case Rosalina’s “Comet Observatory”) from which you can enter the game’s forty-two different stages (referred to as “Galaxies”) from different areas in the hub world. Each Galaxy has anywhere from one to six different missions, the completion of which awards you with a Power Star; once you collect sixty Power Stars, you’ll be able to access the game’s final Galaxy and battle Bowser, but you’ll need all 120 to see the game’s true ending.

There are many Galaxies and missions to complete, with additional challenges on offer.

It may seem, on the surface, that Super Mario Galaxy has far too many stages on offer but not all of the Galaxies are accessible right from the start or even while you’re visiting that Galaxy. Other areas of the Comet Observatory will open up as you collect Power Stars, with numerous small, more challenging Galaxies cropping up along the way and Mario’s skills being tested by a series of “Prankster Comets”. These see you return to previous Galaxies to earn a new Power Star with only one sliver of health, racing against Mario’s doppelgänger, “Cosmic Mario”, completing the Galaxy within a time limit, and contending with much faster enemies and obstacles.

Super Mario Galaxy‘s main selling points were space, spheres, planets, and gravity.

Furthermore, Galaxies are actually quite small in a lot of ways and tackled in sections; you’ll be dropped into a Galaxy and be tasked with navigating spheres, jumping to platforms, and blasting across the area using Launch Stars, with each mission allowing you, and tasking you, to access different areas of the Galaxy to mix up the stage each time you visit. Super Mario Galaxy’s main selling point is its use of gravity- and space-based stages; almost every planet, block, or platform you stand on has its own gravitational force, allowing you to run all around it without fear of falling to your death and you can easily jump to another traversable body and get sucked into its gravity to make platforming a simple but, eventually, challenging affair as you’ll have to use all of Mario’s skills to jump and navigate across Galaxies without being sucked into a black hole and to his death.

You’ll have to complete a wide variety of missions to get all the Power Stars.

Gravity also comes into play in other ways, such as hitting clock-like arrows to change its direction or navigating across walls, blocks, and platforms while the gravity shifts in different directions. You’ll also be required to perform specific tasks or do some extremely light puzzle solving to cross the Galaxy or access the Power Star. This includes pounding on switches, collecting five yellow Star Chips to assemble a Launch Star, directing Banzai Bills or tossing Bob-ombs to blow up cages, hopping up or across temporary platforms, collecting five Silver Stars, finding Star Bunnies, racing against certain enemies or a time limit, or using a Koopa shell or manta ray to dart through rings underwater or through a water slide.

Ride the air currents with a Floaty Fluff or put Mario’s Olympic skills to good use when on ice.

Other times, the environment will assemble itself around you or become intangible thanks to a ghostly light, which will test your reaction times as much as your patience, or Mario will have to run over flip switches to progress, collect a Key, or grab a ? Coin to spawn musical notes to collect. You’ll also have to grab on to a Floaty Fluff to float across air currents, rotate Bolt Lifts by running on them to reach platforms, hitch a ride in a bubble, awkwardly run across (or skate by pressing Y) icy platforms, smash coconuts to damage certain enemies, hit levers, or fling Mario across the arena using sticky Sling Pods.

The game is at its most frustrating when you’re forced to use the Pull Stars or ride a Star Ball.

Some of the game’s more troublesome sections come from the inclusion of blue Pull Stars; you need to tap the screen to draw Mario towards these little bastards, holding down to keep him hovering there and releasing it at the right moment to slingshot across the area, usually while in a race, against a time limit, or avoiding a load of obstacles. By far the most frustrating gameplay element, though, are the missions that require you to hop onto a Star Ball and navigate mini golf-like obstacle courses full of hazards and platforms to roll off. Though Mario can jump when on the Star Ball, you are forced to use the Nintendo Switch’s lousy gyroscopic controls to roll him about, which is needlessly annoying since I found it extremely difficult to hold the machine in a way that actually made Mario move where I wanted him to and, often, Mario simply rolled wherever he wanted, often to his death.

Mario is quite weak this time around but, luckily, 1-Ups are plentiful.

Similar to its predecessors, Mario’s health is again measured with a pie chart but, this time around, Mario can only take three hits before he’ll lose a life. Mario can still replenish his health by collecting Yellow Coins, though, and a number of checkpoints appear in the game’s Galaxies (though I found there was no onscreen indication of when you had passed one of these checkpoints) which means you won’t always have to restart the Galaxy from the very beginning. Extra lives are extremely plentiful, however, with 1-Up Mushrooms placed helpfully in or near the game’s trickier sections and Mario can earn an extra life for every fifty Coins and/or Star Bits he collects and, later in the game, Princess Peach will gift you with five extra lives via a Toad courier.

Many classic Mario staples make a welcome return in Super Mario Galaxy.

It’s highly advisable to collect every Star Bit you see as hungry Lumas will appear within the Galaxies and in the Comet Observatory and feeding them is the only way to unlock all of the game’s Galaxies. You can keep track of your progress by speaking to various non-playable characters (NPCs), such as Rosalina, the Toads, and the Lumas and a map of the Comet Observatory shows you which Galaxies you need to revisit by use of a little crown to indicate when a Galaxy has been completed. Finally, unlike its predecessor, Super Mario Galaxy not only returns to the kind of stage variety we saw in Super Mario 64 but also brings back classic 2D Mario staples such as warp pipes and ? Blocks.

Graphics and Sound:
If there’s one area that Super Mario Galaxy excels in it’s presentation; the game is absolutely gorgeous, popping with colour and variety and oozing a cartoonish charm at every turn. It retains the cute, cuddly, almost action figure aesthetic of Super Mario Sunshine but improves upon it immensely, with all of the game’s environments brought to life through a fantastic use of colour, lighting, music, and intractable elements. Each Galaxy is populated by a variety of NPCs, including Toads, Lumas, Honeybees, Gearmos, and Penguins, all of whom each talk to you through speech bubbles or can be spoken to for hints or more useful rewards like Power Stars. Toads and Lumas also begin to populate the Comet Observatory as you progress, which really helps to bring some life to the hub world, which disappointingly otherwise takes more inspiration from Princess Peach’s Castle in Super Mario 64 than the lively Delfino Plaza.

Super Mario Galaxy‘s stages are full of colour, challenge, and variety.

Thankfully, Super Mario Galaxy is almost the exact opposite of Super Mario Sunshine when it comes to level and gameplay variety. Each of the game’s Galaxies is unique in its presentation, with Mario visiting Galaxies of ice, lava, water, sand battleships, beachfronts, and toy-strewn bedrooms. In the Ghostly Galaxy, you’ll explore a haunted mansion that is reminiscent of both Big Boo’s Mansion from Super Mario 64 and the titular mansion of Luigi’s Mansion (ibid, 2001), explore sunken pirate ships, clamber up honey-drenched walls, race across stony platforms to avoid being sucked into deadly quicksand, and blast out from an active volcano, with every Galaxy and Star mission being an energetic and fun, yet challenging, burst of action and, at times, intensity.

The game uses are variety of storytelling methods to convey its fun and simple plot.

Perhaps best of all, Super Mario Galaxy brings back a lot of classic Mario tunes and sound effects to really bring the title back to its roots. Rather than using full blown voice acting, the game opts for speech bubbles, brief voice clips, and a heavy use of gibberish and pantomime for the few instances of dialogue. Cutscenes are also heavily reduced compared to its predecessor, with the opening cinematic split across a brief tutorial and the game opting to tell the story of Rosalina and the Luma’s through an adorable children’s book.

Enemies and Bosses:
Many of Mario’s recognisable enemies make their return in Super Mario Galaxy, with each one being slightly tweaked to accommodate Mario’s new mechanics. You can jump on Goombas to dispatch them, which will produce a Coin, but if you spin into them and kick them away you can get Star Bits, for example, adding a little strategy to how you play. Bullet Bills are often fired at you from the cannons of Bowser’s many battleships, you’ll need to toss Bob-ombs to destroy garbage or break open cages, Bloopers patrol beneath the waves, and Chomps freely roll around various Galaxies looking to take a bite out of you. Boos also make a return, now being completely immune to all of Mario’s attacks and only vulnerable to beams of light, and you’ll also encounter old favourites such as Koopas, Pokeys, Wrigglers, Twomps, Piranha Plants, and Magikoopas (who conjure fireballs your way and teleport to avoid your attacks).

Enemies old and new provide a minor nuisance to Mario’s galaxy-spanning quest.

New enemies include the bomb-throwing Cluckbooms, explosive Bomb Boos, electrified jellyfish, and easily-dispatched bugs. Just as Gombeetle’s protect themselves from your Star Bits and standard jump attacks with an armoured shell, Crabber’s can only be attacked from their exposed rear and you’ll need to use your spin attack to put out Lil’ Cinder’s flames before you can dispatch them. Mandibugs will charge at you with their pincer-like jaws, Micro Mecha-Bower’s try to roast your behind, and Monty Moles like to burrow under the dirt to catch you off guard but, while your butt stomp will serve you well in taking care of these enemies, you’ll need to use your spin attack to push the members of the Topman tribe into electrified walls to end their threat.

Run around the Dino Piranha to whack its tail but watch out for the flames!

You’ll battle sixteen bosses throughout the course of Super Mario Galaxy, with eight of them needing to be fought more than once. The first boss you’ll have to contend with is the Dino Piranha, a large, aggressive, and hungry variant of Petey Piranha. This boss stomps around a small sphere trying to trample you to death and can only be defeated by hitting its rock-encrusted tail with a spin attack. Later in the game you battle a far more formidable version of this boss, the Fiery Dino Piranha, in the Melting Molten Galaxy. Though the strategy remains the same, this battle is much more difficult by the fact that the Fiery Dino Piranha’s tail becomes engulfed in flames and the boss’s ability to spit fireballs out at you.

Use Mario’s spin attack to knock King Kaliente’s shots back at him.

Another boss you’ll go up against twice is King Kaliente, a gigantic octopus that emerges from lava to shoot flaming projectiles at you; unfortunately for him, though, he also spits out a coconut, which you can hit with your spin attack to damage him. He crops up again in Bower Jr’s Lava Reactor with the battle being made more difficult by the fact that you’re now stood on a series of small platforms that sink into lava and King Kaliente’s more frequent and aggressive attacks (though, again, the strategy remains the same; you should also be prepared to parry coconuts with the boss since it likes to knock them away as the fight progresses).

Major Burrows and Bouldergeist require a little more strategy on your part.

Major Burrows and Bouldergeist are also fought twice across the course of the game, with the battle being much tougher the second time around. Major Burrows is, basically, a giant Monty Mole and is only vulnerable when he pops up from the ground; once he does, you can perform a ground pound to scare him completely out of his hole and then attack him as he runs around the spherical stage. Bouldergeist is, by comparison, much tougher since the only way you can break off his rock-like hide is to trick Bomb Boos into colliding with him. Once his exterior is smashed, Mario must then swing a Bomb Boo into Bouldergeist’s exposed core using his spin attack but before it explodes in his face, all of which is made much more troublesome by Bouldergeist’s desire to pummel you with his hands, smash you with boulders, and erect destructible rocky walls to box you in.

Super Mario Galaxy features some big, colourful, and unique bosses battles.

Interestingly, the boss you’ll encounter the most isn’t Bowser; it’s Topmaniac, the gigantic leader of the Topman tribe who is easily disposed of by jumping on its head to get rid of its spikes and then using your spin attack to bash it into the electrified walls of the arena. The game’s bosses are all quite large, memorable affairs though: you’ll need to lure Bullet Bills over Megaleg’s legs to destroy the cages on its head; navigate icy platforms and use wall jumps to reach Baron Burr and thaw him out with Mario’s spin attack; dispatch waves of Mandibugs to ground pound the large Stink Bug Parent; you’ll need to use similar tactics (in conjunction with Banandelions and Mario’s Bee power-up) to defeat the bomb-dropping Bugaboom; fire yourself at Tarantox’s glowing red boils with Sling Pods; and fire Koopa shells at the skeletal remains of Kingfin as it swims through the dark waters.

Bowser Jr only shows up for one boss battle but you’ll fight with Kamella more than once.

Despite his prominence in the last game and frequent appearances throughout Super Mario Galaxy, you’ll only battle Bowser Jr the one time; Bowser Jr shoots cannonballs at you from his flying pirate ship and can only be damaged by throwing Koopa shells at him. This gets very intense during the final stages as Bowser Jr also starts firing Banzai Bills at you, meaning there are a lot of projectiles and hazards to watch out for at the same time. In comparison, you’ll fight Kamella three times, with each battle having a very similar strategy to fighting Bowser Jr; Kamella conjures both fireballs and green shells that you can throw at her, though she also summons Magikoopas, wandering fireballs, and teleports about the arena to make it harder for you to hit her.

You’ll face Bowser three times, with the final fight being a three stage boss battle.

As in Super Mario 64,you’ll also battle Bowser three times throughout the game, with your strategy to defeating him remaining relatively unchanged in each bout. Bowser likes to generate shockwaves across the small spherical planet you fight him on and must be lured into pounding through a sheet of glass to set his tail on fire; as he flees in pain, you can hit him with your spin attack, which can be hard to do as Bowser slides all over the sphere in an erratic pattern on the back of his shell. When you encounter Bowser again, he’ll perform his own spinning attack and launch numerous fireballs your way but it’s the finale battle of the game where Bowser is at his most formidable. This is a three phase boss battle that first sees Mario having to time his spin attack just right to hit Bowser out of the rocky exterior he has protected himself with, desperately outrun Bowser’s powerful spinning attack, and puts your jumping and reaction skills to the test avoiding the many shockwaves and fireballs that Bowser fills the small arena with. As long as you keep your wits about you and watch Bowser’s frenzied spinning, charging, and jumping attacks, these battles mainly come down to a question of properly timing your spin attack to put en end to Bowser’s latest threat.

Power-Ups and Bonuses:
As in all Mario games, you can collect Yellow Coins in each Galaxy; you no longer need to worry about collecting a hundred of these for a hidden Power Star, or any Red Coins (which is a blessing after Super Mario Sunshine’s massive overuse of the concept), but you will get an extra life for every fifty Coins you collect. The game’s big, new feature is the Star Bit mechanic, which allows you to fire at enemies and objects on the screen; it’s advisable to frantically swipe at any and all Star Bits you see to add to your grand total and collect extra lives but don’t get so distracted to you lose focus on what you’re doing!

Be sure to grab a Life Mushroom or Rainbow Star whenever they appear to give yourself an edge.

At various points throughout the game, you’ll find or be given the opportunity to purchase a Life Mushroom, which will double Mario’s health meter; if you spot one of these, grab it as you’ll probably need it for an upcoming boss battle or tricky section. Mario also has a number of transformations this time around, some which are familiar, some which are new, but none of which are as prominent as you might expect. You can grab a Rainbow Star to briefly become invincible, allowing you to run through enemies and hazards without fear, for example, but this only lasts for a short period of time.

Grab a power-up to temporarily gain access to some new, and familiar, abilities.

Other temporary power-ups include the returning Fire Flower (which allows you to shoot fireballs and defrost snowmen), the Ice Flower (which allows you to walk across water and wall jump up waterfalls using ice platforms), and the Red Star (which allows Mario to fly unimpeded like an upgraded version of the Wing Cap). It’s a shame that these power-ups are so limited in their appearances and use, to be honest, as it would be fun to revisit the game’s Galaxies and explore them using Flying Mario or open new areas as Fire Mario, for example.

Mario’s new power-ups are certainly fun, if a bit unwieldy at times.

Mario has other, less temporary power-ups at his disposal as well: the Bee Mushroom allows him to fly for a short time by tapping or holding A and to climb up honey-covered walls; the Boo Mushroom transforms Mario into a Boo, which allows him to float indefinitely and pass through certain walls by becoming temporarily incorporeal; and the Spring Mushroom allows Mario to bounce extremely high into the air with a well-timed press of the A button. Each of these transformations will be lost if Mario touches water or an enemy and, of the three, Bee Mario is the most often used and Spring Mario is easily the most unwieldy thanks to Mario bouncing all over the place, but none of them are as prominent as power-ups in previous Mario titles such as the Wing Cap and Raccoon Mario (which both feature on the front covers of their respective games).

Additional Features:
As in its predecessors, Super Mario Galaxy requires you to collect a number of special objects to progress further. There are 120 Power Stars to be found in the game, including Grand Stars to be won from boss battles, and rarer Green and Red Power Stars found in hidden Galaxies or from finding Mario’s brother, Luigi, in specific areas of each Galaxy. You only need sixty Power Stars to battle the final boss but, once you finish the game, a new Galaxy will appear and you’ll be tasked with collecting the remaining Power Stars to see the game’s true ending.

The Purple Coin trials are some of the game’s most frustrating challenges.

This new Galaxy introduces you to the Purple Comet mechanic; when the Purple Comet is in orbit around a Galaxy, you’ll have to collect one hundred Purple Coins to earn a Power Star. This can be quite frustrating and troublesome as you’re often racing against a time limit, which continues to count down even after the Power Star spawns, with Luigi’s Purple Coin mission being easily the most maddening trial of them all since it forces you to run across disappearing and rotating platforms over an endless void and against a time limit. If you’ve missed any of the other Prankster Comet Stars, you’ll have to chat to a Luma in the Comet Observatory to put them in orbit and collect any you’re missing.

Collect all 120 Stars to play through the entire game again as Luigi and earn that elusive 121st Star.

Once you have all 120, you then have to go through the game’s gruelling final Galaxy and battle Bowser again in order to see an additional cutscene and unlock Luigi as a playable character! Yes, finally, after the lacklustre rewards of the last two games you actually get something substantial for all your hard work. You can switch to Luigi when accessing your saved file, which will begin a new game from the start as Luigi, who jumps higher and further than his stoutly brother. Sadly, though, you must then play through the entire game all over again, collecting the same 120 Power Stars as Luigi, in order to access the game’s final final Galaxy and claim the elusive 121st Power Star by collecting another one hundred Purple Coins during the Star Festival celebrations. I don’t mean to complain about this since I have been waiting to play as Luigi, and get a decent completion reward, since Super Mario 64 but, as much as I enjoyed the game, it’s a bit much to ask players to do everything all over again as Luigi since you’re pretty exhausted after getting the first 120 Stars.

The Summary:
Super Mario Galaxy was an incredibly enjoyable experience; right from the start, as soon as I experimented with Mario’s controls, I knew that I would prefer this game over Super Mario Sunshine. It plays much more like Super Mario 64, returning a lot of Mario’s abilities and controls from that game, which makes platforming and gameplay all the better. Add to that the game’s fantastic presentation, use of classic Mario elements, and unique setting and you have an extremely grandiose and accessible Mario adventure.

It’s a massive, gorgeous game with loads of replay value and some real challenge.

While it was disappointing to see Mario still confined to a hub world and acquiring Power Stars on a mission-by-mission basis, and the game was maddeningly frustrating at times, Super Mario Galaxy does some pretty impressive things with its unique concept. Through clever use of its gravity mechanics, a rising level of challenge, and being packed full of bright, colourful environments, characters, and content, there’s certainly a lot more on offer in Super Mario Galaxy than in its predecessors and the game is presented in a way that encourages short bursts of gameplay, making it a perfect title to play on the go or in your down time.

My Rating:

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Great Stuff

What did you think of Super Mario Galaxy? Did you play the original Wii version and, if so, how do you find the Switch remaster holds up? Were you a fan of the game’s space- and gravity-orientated gameplay or do you feel like the concept was a bit outlandish even for Mario? What did you think to the game’s level of challenge? Which Power Star did you struggle the most with, which Galaxy was your favourite, and what did you think of the new characters the game introduced? Did you ever finish the game as Luigi and get all 121 Power Stars? Either way, I’d love to hear your thoughts and memories of Super Mario Galaxy, and your feedback regarding Mario Month, in the comments below.

Game Corner [Mario Month]: Super Mario Sunshine (Nintendo Switch)

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. To commemorate Mario Day this year, I’ve made March “Mario Month” and am spending each Wednesday talking about everyone’s favourite Koopa-flattening plumber.

Released: 18 September 2020
Originally Released: 19 July 2002
Developer: Nintendo EAD
Also Available For: Nintendo GameCube

The Background:
After the success of Super Mario 64 (ibid, 1996), a sequel had been in development for several years; however, despite a title apparently in line to be released in the early days of the Nintendo GameCube’s release, Nintendo opted to focus on Mario’s brother, Luigi, for the GameCube’s launch.

The sequel to Super Mario 64 spend many years in development.

Beginning life as a tech demo tentatively titled Super Mario 128, Super Mario Sunshine was retooled to both expand upon the mechanics and gameplay of its predecessor and to have Mario utilise a water pump as both a weapon and to navigate his environment. Upon release, the game garnered widespread critical acclaim for its presentation, music, and gameplay, though some did criticise the game’s camera and more frustrating moments. For my part, I had been attempting to buy a copy of the game for many years, having only found it to be extortionately expensive for such an old title, so I was delighted when the title was included in Super Mario 3D All-Stars (Nintendo, 2020) for the Nintendo Switch, which is the version I’ll be looking at today.

The Plot:
Mario arrives at Isle Delfino for a vacation with Princess Peach, her long-time steward Toadsworth, and several other Toads. However, upon arrival, they find that the once-pristine island has been polluted and plastered with graffiti and Mario, as the prime suspect, is charged with cleaning up the graffiti, recovering the missing Shine Sprites, and uncovering the mystery of his shadowy doppelgänger.

Like Super Mario 64, Super Mario Sunshine is a 3D action/platformer. However, while Super Mario 64 had you leaping through magical paintings inside of Princess Peach’s castle, Mario finds himself jumping and hopping around the tropical island resort of Isle Delfino and its surrounding areas.

Mario’s jumping skills are good but not quite as versatile as before…

While, at first, it seems as though Mario retains all of his abilities from Super Mario 64, this isn’t actually the case; Mario can still run, jump, double-, and triple-jump, wall jump, and perform a sideways jump to reach higher areas but he can no longer duck, crawl, long jump, or perform a backwards somersault. This is massively problematic coming into this game right after playing Super Mario 64 as you don’t realise how helpful those abilities are until they’re missing.

Use F.L.U.D.D. to attack enemies and hover to out-of-reach areas.

Also, Mario can no longer punch or kick enemies. He can still perform a running dive (and can now use this to slide away like a rocket if he dives onto wet ground) and a ground pound, which is useful, but his primary mode of attack and manoeuvring is to utilise Professor E. Gadd’s Flash Liquidizer Ultra Dousing Device (“F.L.U.D.D.”), a water-blasting jetpack, of sorts, that not only allows Mario to clean up toxic waste, sludge, and graffiti but also to blast at enemies to stun them or topple them over and hover short distances. Mario gains a slight amount of height the longer you hold the jump button to help him reach higher areas but it’s an awkward and cumbersome system, one that makes platforming and jumping far more frustrating than it needs to be as Mario tends to spiral off like a madman, spewing water everywhere, or fall just short or reaching far away (or high up) platforms thanks to F.L.U.D.D.’s limited tank and the game’s bothersome controls.

Shadow Mario has framed Mario and spread goop and graffiti throughout Isle Delfino.

Since Isle Delfino has been polluted and graffitied by “Shadow Mario”, and the population holds Mario himself responsible, you’ll be spending a lot of your time spraying your environment with water. Entering any of the many (many) bodies of water allows Mario to not only swim and dive but also refill F.L.U.D.D. Even when F.L.U.D.D. is full, though, you can’t just spray until the tank is empty; instead, your water will sputter out after a short time whenever you try to spray stuff for a long time. If you get muck on you, you can wash it off in water or by wriggling the control stick, which can also double as a whirlwind-like jump that I, honestly, found little use for.

This time, there’s no reprieve in water or from Coins other than the common yellow variants.

As in Super Mario 64, Mario has a health meter, this time measured by a glowing sun. While health can be replenished by collecting Yellow Coins, you’ll no longer instantly regain health by entering water, though you can keep yourself from drowning by collecting Coins and sucking in air bubbles. Also, while you’ll still find Red and Blue Coins in the game’s various stages, these won’t refill your health, though Mario is far less likely to plummet to his doom this time around since there is always a massive body of water to break his fall.

Rather than Stars, Mario must find 120 Shine Sprites across a number of tropical locations.

Rather than being confined to a castle, Mario has the run of Isle Delfino, a bright and lively seaside port town that is populated by Piantas (goofy little characters who offer vague hints and task you with bringing them fruit) and a few of Peach’s Toads. Still, the general premise is the same; explore a hub world and enter into one of the game’s eight stages, seven of which featuring eight missions (known as “Episodes”) that allow Mario to recover one of Isle Delfino’s 120 Shine Sprites. Mario can, again, also find Shines in the hub world and by collecting 100 Coins in each of the stages (and easily keep track of any missing Shines using the map/totals screen) but, unlike in Super Mario 64, each Shine can only be obtained in its corresponding Episode (the Red Coins, for example, don’t appear in every Episode) and you’re still unceremoniously spat out of the current stage every time you collect a Shine (even a 100 Coin Shine), all of which means that, while each stage changes in various ways from Episode to Episode, there’s a lot less freedom and choice to how you recover the Shines.

Shine missions range from the easy, to the lazy, to the maddeningly annoying!

To recover the Shines, you’ll be tasked with performing such familiar tasks as defeating bosses, collecting eight Red Coins, or racing against another character. Each Episode also has you chasing after Shadow Mario, spraying him as you go until he yields a Shine, while some have you collecting another eight Red Coins in a startling example of laziness on the developers’ part. Other times, you’ll be running around in circles desperately trying to figure out what you need to do; each Episode opens with a short cutscene to help guide you in how to obtain its Shine but a lot of the time it’s very difficult to figure out what you need to do. Other times, you’ll be racing or collecting Red Coins against a time limit, returning to previous stages with new upgrades and abilities to get missing Shines or be tasked with performing needlessly difficult tasks, such as rolling watermelons to a pier or surfing on a Blooper without touching anything as you’ll have to start all over again or lose a life, respectively!

The damn obstacle course stages can go burn in a fiery pit!

While the game is much prettier and far more aesthetically pleasing than Super Mario 64, the same blocky visuals make an unwelcome return in the game’s many obstacle course stages; these hidden areas are found in each stage and see Shadow Mario steal away F.L.U.D.D., leaving you to run and jump across various moving, rotating, and temporary platforms without the aid of your water jet or Mario’s more useful jumping skills from the previous game. Generally, you can find at least one, if not two, 1-Up Mushrooms in these secret stages and you are going to need them as, while the game’s camera allows for full 360 degree control and is much improved over the last game’s camera, it’s still sometimes painfully difficult to get a decent angle, to say nothing of Mario’s continued slipperiness and instability (seriously, it’s like he doesn’t even try to stay on or hang from ledges!) Add to that the fact that you’ll have to frantically run around long rotating platforms, try not to slide off of cog-like blocks, and be reliant on Piantas throwing you to far away or high up platforms in these stages and it all amounts to the game’s most frustrating moments by far.

While the game is gorgeous to look at, I wasn’t exactly blown away with the stage variety.

While Isle Delfino is a much livelier and visually interesting environment, with lots to see, do, and find compared to Peach’s Castle, the variety in the game’s stages leaves a lot to be desired. It sounds stupid but the game really does rely way too much on F.L.U.D.D. and its tropical island theme; this means that every stage is full of water and such clichés as beach fronts, theme parks, and ports. While it’s nice that you’re far less likely to fall down a bottomless pit and that you can see the other stages way off in the distance, it got pretty tiresome and boring quite quickly as all of the game’s stages felt far too visually similar. Super Mario 64 was full of stage variety; one minute you’d be exploring sunken depths or sliding about in an ice and snow world, the next you’d be flying through the clouds or exploring a gas-filled maze. While some Episodes in Super Mario Sunshine inject some variety, with a haunted hotel being the focus for most of Sirena Beach and Pianta Village featuring a distinct (if frustrating) cage maze beneath it, I never got the same feeling of diversity while playing through the game and, when it did try something new, it was often frustrating shit like clambering up temporary platforms, trying to not slide off of moving and twisting fairground rides, or shooting yourself into the air using spontaneous sandscastles.

Graphics and Sound:
If there’s one thing Super Mario Sunshine has going for it, it’s its bright, colourful, and attractive graphics and presentation. In keeping with the tropical theme of the game, Mario is wearing a short-sleeved shirt and will not only doze off when left idle but also wipe sweat from his brow when in the shade. He, and all of the game’s characters, also have a plastic, action figure-like quality to them and are far more expressive thanks to the game’s greater processing power.

The water effects are fantastic and the stages are full of characters and life.

While I grew tired of the tropical theme pretty quickly, the developers definitely went all-in with it; the water effects are amazing, with waves rippling, rising, and falling in the many instances of sea, and the lighting effects really make it feel as though you’re caught in the unrelenting heat of tropical sunshine. Each of the game’s worlds, and the hub world, are populated by Pinatas, all of whom have funny little reactions to being squirted or jumping on and offer vague hints to your goal for that Episode, which really helps to make the place feel alive compared to Peach’s Castle, which was basically deserted.

Some Episodes spice things up but the game’s aesthetic doesn’t really alter until the final stage!

Though each stage doesn’t really deviate from the overall tropical theme, there are some distinctions to help them stand out; you’ll be traversing ropes and running up a hill in Bianco Hills, fly on the back of a stone bird through the skies of Gelato Beach, and dive into the polluted depths of Noki Bay, with different Episodes offering slightly different variations on each stage in an attempt to spice things up. Things don’t really become visually different until you reach the eighth and final stage, Corona Mountain, which is a volcano full of instant death spikes and lava and awkward boat steering sections.

Beautifully done, fully voiced cutscenes tell the game’s simple story.

The game relates its incredibly basic story with beautiful, fully voiced cutscenes. While Mario still only communicates through pantomime and characters use the tried-and-tested speech bubbles outside of the cutscenes, it’s refreshing to see Mario embracing full motion cutscenes for a change. As for its soundtrack, long-time series composer Koji Kondo and Shinobu Tanaka largely eschew the traditional Mario themes for an appropriately tropical theme which, while fitting for the game’s aesthetic, wasn’t quite as memorable to me as Super Mario 64’s music.

Enemies and Bosses:
Despite taking place in an entirely new environment, Super Mario Sunshine sees the return of a number of Mario’s traditional enemies, though many have undergone a slight aesthetic change to better fit in with their tropical locations. This means you’ll be coming across Bob-ombs, Boos, Bullet Bills, and Piranha Plants but you won’t just be able to smack them or jump on the to take them out this time. Instead, you generally must make use of F.L.U.D.D. to clean them off, whittle them down, expose them, or stun them to toss them at other enemies.

You’ll need more than the direct approach to take out the game’s array of enemies.

You’ll also come across a number of new enemies as you explore Isle Delfino’s sun-drenched locations, many of which are rather troublesome to take care of: Chain Chomplets must be doused with water until they cool off and then ricocheted into water to dispose of them; Cataquacks will fling you into the air when you get near and must be stunned with water so you can butt stomp them; and the Electrokoopas will throw their electrifying shell at you and are only vulnerable for a short time. By far one of the worst obstacles, though, are the swirling clouds that appear in various Episodes; these will dart at you and are very difficult to dodge, meaning you’ll probably be knocked out of the air mid-jump or sent plummeting off a high ledge to have to climb all the way back up again.

You’ll come up against a few mini bosses on more than one occasion.

Super Mario Sunshine features far more bosses than its predecessor; some of these are more like mini bosses, such as the aforementioned chases against Shadow Mario, the Piranha Plants made of sludge that need water sprayed into their mouths until they are defeated in order to open up new areas, and the Monty Moles who incessantly shoot Bob-ombs and Bullet Bills at you from cannons.

Petey Piranha and Glooper Blooper pop up for a couple of boss battles.

Twice in the game you’ll have to contend with Petey Piranha and Glooper Blooper in Bianco Hills and Rico Harbour, respectively. The first time you battle Petey, it’s in an enclosed area and he shoots gunk at you that spawns enemies or headbutts you if you get too close. The second time, he’s flying around Biano Hills and must be shot out of the sky but, in both battles, you must frantically squirt water into his mouth to make him reel over and vulnerable to a ground pound. Glooper Blooper, meanwhile, sits there spitting ink at you and trying to squash you with its tentacles; you must ground pound all (or most) of his tentacles to give yourself enough time to pull out the cork stuck in his mouth and send him flying away (though you can make this easier by pulling off his tentacles in the same way).

Wiggler and King Boo return, bigger and badder than ever!

As in Super Mario 64, you’ll also battle Wiggler and King Boo; this time around, Wiggler is a far more troublesome foe as he stomps around Gelato Beach in random patterns and can only be toppled over by causing sandcastles to spring up beneath his feet, leaving him open for a ground pound or three. King Boo is also far more formidable; this time, you have to content with three spinning rings and a roulette, which will see enemies, Coins, and fruit tossed into the arena. The only way to damage this King Boo is to grab a spicy red pepper, toss it at him, and then toss a different fruit at him three times, which isn’t immediately obvious when you first drop into the arena.

Phantamanta and Eely-Mouth can be frustrating boss battles.

Two of the game’s more unique, if frustrating and troublesome, bosses, for me, were Sirena Beach’s Phantamanta and Noki Bay’s Eely-Mouth. The Phantamanta is little more than a shadow that glides over the sandy beaches and resort leaving icky sludge in its wake; spraying it with water is the key to defeating it but, every time you do, it splits into smaller and smaller parts which, combined with the life-sapping sludge, can make this a tricky battle. Eely-Mouth is a giant eel fought in the dark depths of Noki Bay; Mario dons a diver’s suit for this battle, which means you are constantly fighting with the controls as Mario bops and hovers and darts all over the place seemingly at random, slowly drowning as time passing, and you’re desperately left trying to clean the eel’s foul, rotten teeth with F.L.U.D.D. to unearth a golden tooth that is your true goal without drowning or being eaten up.

It’s tough to get a good shot at Mecha Bowser since you’re strapped to a rollercoaster!

Though a prominent force throughout the game, you never actually battle Shadow Mario in a boss battle; after being revealed to be Bowser Jr in disguise, you take on a giant mechanical version of Bowser in Pinna Park. In this battle, you’re forced into a rollercoaster and must shoot rockets at Mecha Bowser while also blasting Bullet Bills out of the sky. While this is good practice for a particularly annoying timed Shine mission that has you shooting balloons with just as little control, the rollercoaster’s constant speed and spinning means getting a clear shot is easier said than done and that’s without factoring in Mecha Bowser’s fire breath.

Bowser might be gigantic but the biggest hazard is the precarious nature of the boss arena.

After finally getting through the treacherous Coronoa Mountain, you’ll go head-to-head with Bowser once more; this time, he’s grown to giant size and is sitting inside of a jacuzzi tub full of caustic water. Bowser tries to fry you with his fire breath and burn you with the acid-like sludge while Bowser Jr shoots homing Bullet Bills at you. The only way to win this battle is to use F.L.U.D.D.’s rocket nozzle to perform five rocket-powered ground pounds at the five spokes of the arena. However, while this eventually leads to Bowser’s defeat, it causes the already-unstable arena to further crumble and the two dragon-turtle’s attacks to increase in speed. Still, probably the hardest thing about this boss battle is not slipping or tumbling from the arena and to your death.

Power-Ups and Bonuses:
Although Mario can still collect 1-Up Mushrooms for extra lives, Yellow Coins for health, and both Red and Blue Coins for Shines, there are no invincibility power-ups to be found this time around and, after swapping flowers and capes for special caps in Super Mario 64, Super Mario Sunshine primarily revolves around you making good use of F.L.U.D.D. to traverse the game’s various tropical environments.

The rocket and turbo nozzle allow you to blast away in a burst of speed!

Though versatile, F.L.U.D.D. is largely more of a pain in the ass than an asset thanks to some awkward controls and mechanics at times. However, you can acquire a couple of additional nozzles to make things a bit easier; the rocket nozzle allows you to charge up and release a burst of water to go flying high into the sky and the turbo nozzle allows you to blast away across both land and water, both of which are incredibly useful for reaching new areas and out of reach or temporary Blue Coins.

Yoshi finally gets his time in the sun (…literally) but be sure to keep him away from water!

After being relegated to an after-game cameo in Super Mario 64, clearing the fourth Episode of Pinna Park will see Yoshi eggs appear in each of Super Mario Sunshine’s stages (with the exception of Corona Mountain) and the hub world. If you bring the egg the fruit it asks for, it will hatch and you’ll finally be able to ride either a pink, orange, or purple Yoshi! Yoshi can eat up fruits and certain enemies with his long tongue, use his flutter jump to reach platforms, and each Yoshi can create goopy platforms of a different nature (ascending, stationary, and forward-moving, respectively). As great as it is to actually be able to ride on Yoshi, though, there are some drawbacks; the first is that you can’t ride the traditional green Yoshi, then there’s the fact that he can’t spit fireballs and his supply of fruit drains over time, and, of course, the glaring flaw that your Yoshi will explode when it comes into contact with water, which is particularly frustrating when trying to reach a secret Shine in Delfino Plaza.

Additional Features:
Similar to how Mario’s brother was left with a purely solo adventure for his GameCube outing, this is once again a solo adventure for Mario; even after clearing the game, you can’t unlock any additional characters to play as, which is a real shame considering we missed out on playing as Luigi in Super Mario 64.

Finish the game and you’ll get to wear a snazzy shirt and revisit the airstrip.

If you talk to the various Pinatas in the game’s Episodes after collecting enough Shines, they’ll eventually gift you a pair of sunglasses that slightly darken the game’s presentation. After clearing the game for the first time, you can pair these with a super snazzy Hawaiian shirt (though neither of these can be worn outside of the Episode you are playing, unfortunately). Clearing the game once also allows you to return to the Delfino Airstrip to collect eight Red Coins for another Shine.

Getting all 120 Shines will require more patience and skill than I have…

While that’s slightly more than in Super Mario 64, it’s still a bit disappointing; once again, you don’t need all 120 Shines to clear the game but having them all slightly changes the ending you get. However, obtaining them all is no mean feat; I finished the game with 90 Shines, which was all eight stage-based Shines, all 100 Coin Shines, and a handful found around the hub world but, to get them all, you’re going to need to find all of those Blue Coins and secret stages, which can be needlessly frustrating.

The Summary:
I was super excited to finally play Super Mario Sunshine; I missed out on it back when I was playing the GameCube on the regular and have been putting off getting it for ages (literally years). The bright, colourful graphics and my fond memories of Super Mario 64 really appealed to me and fuelled my desire to finally get my hands on this game.

As great as it looks, I was left disappointed and frustrated by the lack of variety and awkwardness.

Yet, despite a promising start, I was left disappointed. There’s a lot to see and do and to like; the graphics are gorgeous, the F.L.U.D.D. concept is interesting (if flawed), and it’s great to be able to ride Yoshi again but there are so many frustrating elements to the game that really let it down. There’s very little stage variety, too many missions per stage (with too many repeating, such as the Red Coin challenges), too much water for my liking (no matter how fitting it is for the game’s setting), and just far too many instances where you slip or fall from platforms, ledges, or ceilings or fail to make jumps because of an awkward camera angle or Mario just deciding to miss or fall. The secret obstacle course stages are an absolute ball ache and, just as the game seems to be getting interesting, it’s over in uncharacteristically anticlimactic fashion, leaving me feeling disheartened and drained rather than encouraged to hunt down the last few Shines.

My Rating:

Rating: 2 out of 5.

Could Be Better

What are your thoughts on Super Mario Sunshine? Did you play it on the GameCube back in the day or, like me, did you first experience it on the Nintendo Switch? What did you think to F.L.U.D.D. and the game’s tropical island setting? Were you also frustrated by the controls, mechanics, and over-reliance on the setting or did you, perhaps, enjoy the different direction the game took and the challenge it offered? Were you glad to be riding Yoshi again and did you manage to find all 120 Shines? What other setting would you like to see Mario placed into? Whatever your thoughts, drop a comment below and pop back next Wednesday for the final instalment of Mario Month!

Game Corner [Mario Month]: Super Mario 64 (Nintendo Switch)

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. To commemorate Mario Day this year, I’ve made March “Mario Month” and am spending each Wednesday talking about everyone’s favourite Koopa-flattening plumber.

Released: 18 September 2020
Originally Released: 23 June 1996
Developer: Nintendo
Original Developer: Nintendo EAD
Also Available For: Nintendo 64, Nintendo DS (Remake), Nintendo Wii (Virtual Console)

The Background:
By the end of 1983, the videogame industry was dead after crumbling under the weight of countless overpriced consoles and poor quality titles. From the ashes, Nintendo stepped in and pretty much single-handedly rebuilt the industry with the release of the Nintendo Family Computer (Famicom)/Nintendo Entertainment System (NES), a machine marketed not as another home videogame console but as a more market-friendly “Entertainment System”. The videogame industry was resurrected from the dead with the NES and the blockbuster success of Super Mario Bros. (Nintendo EAD, 1985) and given a massive kick into overdrive following the release of the SEGA Mega Drive and Sonic the Hedgehog (Sonic Team, 1991). The “Console Wars” of the mid-nineties resulted in some of the greatest 8- and 16-bit releases, a series of videogames that defined an entire generation, and ensured that videogames were big business once more. Very quickly, though, the story became about which developer could be the more innovative than the other and who would crack 3D gaming first. SEGA attempted to break into the 32-bit arena with a series of expensive add-ons for the Mega Drive while Nintendo played the long game, discussing various CD-based options with both Sony and Panasonic and inadvertently creating one of the industry’s biggest gaming powerhouses, the PlayStation, when talks with Sony fell apart.

After cutting ties with Sony, Nintendo developed their own 64-bit machine.

Initially developed as the “Ultra 64”, the Nintendo 64 was Nintendo’s first fully-3D home console and was officially announced to the world on 24 November 1995; although the console favoured more expensive and limited cartridges over CD-ROMS, this dramatically sped up the load times of its titles and helped to reduce piracy. The console also utilised a unique (and massively under-rated) controller that included an analogue stick for full 3600 movement and could be fitted with Rumble and Memory Paks, and the system launched a number of first- and third-party titles that would be exclusive to the console. One such title was, of course, Super Mario 64. Developed over the course of three years, Super Mario 64 sought to showcase exactly what the Nintendo 64 was capable of by offering large, open 3D worlds that allowed for exploration, experimentation, and offered a diverse field of view. The game was a massive critical and financial success and is still the best-selling Nintendo 64 videogame of all time; just as Super Mario Bros. had set the standard for 2D sidescrolling platformers back in the day, so too did Super Mario 64 set the standard for 3D platformers in this new era of gaming. The game was later ported to the Nintendo DS in what is, in my view, the definitive version of the game thanks to the additional elements it provides but it was also included in Super Mario 3D All-Stars (Nintendo, 2020) for the Nintendo Switch, which is the version I’ll be looking at today.

The Plot:
Princess Toadstool (finally referred to as “Peach” for the first time outside of Japan) invites Mario to her castle with the promise of cake but, when he arrives, he finds that the diabolical Bowser, King of the Koopas, has kidnapped the Princess and hidden the castle’s Power Stars within a series of paintings throughout the castle. Never one to back down from a challenge, and motivated by the promise of a sweet treat, Mario leaps into the castle’s magical paintings to retrieve the Stars and rescue Peach and the castle’s Toad guards from Bowser’s clutches.

I think it’s safe to say that everyone who owned a Nintendo 64 back in the day also owned Super Mario 64; it was the first (and, for a long time, the only) Nintendo 64 title I had when I got the console and all of my friends had it, too. Thanks to the realities of life, it was also the first Nintendo home console I owned and the first main-line Mario game I had ever owned and, honestly, it was a pretty great way to experience of Mario’s unique world and cast of characters (not to mention mind-boggling through its crisp 3D models and tight controls).

Peach’s Castle is the game’s hub world, with Stars hidden in paintings and needed to open doors.

Super Mario 64 is a 3D action/platformer in which you play as the titular Mario. The game takes place entirely within Princess Peach’s Castle and the grounds outside of it; within the castle are a series of magical paintings that lead Mario to a total of fifteen Courses, each with six mission-based Power Stars to collect and one hidden Star. You can also find a number of additional secret Stars in other paintings and mini Courses scattered throughout the castle and you’ll need to collect a certain amount in order to open doors to more Courses. Once you have enough Stars, however, Courses can be attempted in any order you wish but you may be limited in what you can do if you haven’t unlocked the game’s three cap-based power-ups and you’ll need a boss key to access the castle’s upper and lower areas, plus at least seventy Power Stars to battle the final boss and all 120 to see the game through to 100% completion.

You’re required to fulfill certain objectives to acquire each Course’s Stars.

When you enter a Course, you must select a Star Mission to tackle; at first, you’ll only be told of the first mission but, once you’re in the Course, you can generally attempt to obtain any Star you wish (with some exceptions). This means that you can free the Chain-Chomp instead of racing Koopa the Quick, for example. Each Star comes with a vague hint about how to acquire it (“Lil’ Penguin Lost” or “Shining Atop the Pyramid”) but it’s not always massively clear what you have to do to obtain these Stars, encouraging exploration and experimentation (or a quick Google search). Collecting one hundred Yellow Coins in every Course will also award you with a Power Star and, sometimes, you’ll have to revisit secret Courses to obtain another Star you may have missed but, generally, the Star Missions are quite similar across all courses (battle a boss, find five secret areas, utilise a cap, scale to the top, etc).

Mario’s jumping abilities have vastly improved.

As in his 2D outings, Mario’s primary form of traversal and attacking is his ability to jump but this ability has been expanded exponentially to allow for a far more diverse means of movement and to showcase the capabilities of the Nintendo 64. Pressing jump once will see Mario perform a hop; press it again and he will jump higher, and press it a third time while running and Mario will somersault even higher, allowing him to reach out-of-reach ledges with ease. If you press the R button while running and then press jump, Mario will throw himself forwards to cover faster distances in one dramatic leap, which is great for reaching faraway platforms or navigating Mario at a faster pace.

Mario’s wall kick helps him reach higher areas…when you can see what you’re doing…

It doesn’t end there, either; Mario gains momentum as he runs and jumps, meaning if you jump onto an enemy’s head while running, you’ll get a boost upwards and jump further. He can also perform a wall kick to scale vertical shafts quickly but not, it has to be said, with a great deal of ease; as will come up numerous times in this review, the wall kick is somewhat hampered by the game’s janky camera and how difficult it can be to properly judge your perspective and alignment to certain walls and objects. When you can pull it off though (which, to be fair, is more often than not and can be perfected with practise), it’s a nifty little trick that you can combine with long jumps and triple jumps to move Mario’s pudgy behind at a break-neck pace.

Mario has a lot of melee attacks to send enemies flying.

For what I believe is a first in the series, Mario can also perform a series of melee attacks to fend off his foes. Pressing the attack button once will see him perform a punch but press it twice more and he’ll perform another punch followed by a big ol’ kick to send enemies flying. You can also perform a sweep kick while crouching, a jump kick, and a diving attack by running, jumping, and hitting the attack button, a ground-pound (where Mario will flatten enemies with his butt), and also pick up certain blocks and even enemies to toss them at other enemies. It’s quite a deep control scheme, to be honest, offering a range of smooth and crisp combat and movement options; you can run Mario in any direction at full speed and, with a twitch of the analogue stick and a press of the jump button, side-flip around to get the drop on enemies, wall kick your way up to otherwise inaccessible areas, or backflip your way to another Power Star with ease.

Although Mario can grab edges, the camera makes it easy to slip or misjudge your jumps.

Mario can also grab onto ledges to save himself from accidental falls and pull himself up from tricky jumps; however, this isn’t as reliable as you might think and it’s just as easy to bounce head-first off of a platform or ledge and fall to your death or go careening down a bottomless pit or into a river of butt-burning lava. Similarly, the game’s camera can sometimes get stuck behind other objects, which can cause it (and Mario) to freak out a bit; Mario also stutters and jitters if positioned too close to an edge and will most likely fall to his death if you don’t quickly tap that jump button.

Mario visably feels the affects of low health but it’s easily replenished through a variety of means.

Thankfully, Mario is far more durable than in the majority of Mario videogames; he has a life bar (represented be a colourful pie chart) that loses a segment each time he takes a hit or other damage. Once all segments are drained, Mario loses a life and is unceremoniously spat out of the Course he was in and will have to attempt the Course over from the beginning. Luckily, Mario can refill his health by running through spinning Hearts dotted around each Course, collecting Coins, or taking a dip in water and is only dependant on Mushrooms to gain an extra life.

Be sure to get your cap back as quick as you can if you lose it as you take double damage without it!

Take care when swimming, however, as Mario’s health will slowly deplete and he’ll eventually drown unless you collect Coins or suck in an air bubble and he’s also not capable of surviving being sucked into quicksand. Compounding matters is the fact that certain enemies and hazards will cause Mario’s iconic cap to fly off; if you lose your cap, be sure to collect it as quickly as possible as you’ll take double damage without it!

Graphics and Sound:
Even now, after the release of so many technically superior 3D action/platformers, Super Mario 64 holds up ridiculously well. It’s a testament to how diligently Shigeru Miyamoto and his team worked to showcase the power and capability of the Nintendo 64 as character models still look spot on to this day, seamlessly retaining their quality and stability (unless you move Mario too far away from the camera, of course), and the game is just as silky smooth as ever. Sure, Bowser doesn’t look so great these days (and he, along with all of the character models, were vastly improved in the DS remake) but it’s cute to see all of Mario’s eccentricities, from his enthusiastic shouts when he hops around, his triumphant cry of “Her-r-re we go-o-o!” whenever he grabs a Star, and the way he falls into a mumbling sleep when he’s left idle for a short time.

Bob-omb Battlefield is a perfect introduction to the game’s basic mechanics.

Having said that, though, there are some issues that are more noticeable with the benefit of hindsight. The game’s Courses vary wildly in their scope and quality; the first, Bob-omb Battlefield, is basically a tutorial area where you’ll quickly get to grips with the game’s controls and mechanics. As user friendly as you could like, Bob-omb Battlefield features some basic enemies and hazards and is completely devoid of bottomless pits, something the vast majority of the game’s other Course cannot say.

In most Courses, you’re only one stupid mistake away from plummeting to your death.

Courses like Whomp’s Fortress, Cool, Cool Mountain, and Tall, Tall Mountain are all much more limited in their scope, substituting a quasi-sandbox arena for vertically-themed stages that hover over a bottomless pit, meaning you’re always one stupid mistake away from falling to your death. Things don’t get really frustrating, however, until you reach the game’s final Courses; Tick Tock Clock and Rainbow Ride suspend you over a vast, empty void that will truly test your skill and patience thanks to the game’s dodgy camera and some very tricky and frustrating platforming elements.

Courses are carefully thought-out sandboxes restricted only by the finicky camera.

Other stages, like Jolly Roger Bay and Hazy Maze Cave, also feature an abundance of water; this isn’t a massive issue as Mario is quite a capable swimmer but he’s not exactly a fast swimmer and the game’s controls noticeably lag when he’s under water. Combine this with the aforementioned camera troubles and how easy it is for the camera to get stuck behind objects and these Courses can be difficult to navigate. The camera is serviceable for the most part, to be fair, and automatically and diligently following Mario around to provide the optimal viewpoint but Nintendo really should have integrated full 3600 camera control into the Switch version to correct this one glaring flaw.

There’s both variety and a lack of variety in Super Mario 64‘s Courses…

Still, the game offers a fair amount of variety in its Courses; Big Boo’s Haunt and Lethal Lava Land are standouts for me thanks to their unique mechanics and visual presentation but, at the same time, it lacks variety in a number of other instances. For example, Jolly Roger Bay and Dire, Dire Docks are essentially the same stage with the same music and, as much as I like Snowman’s Land, did we really need two snow/ice-themed stages? Plus, playing the game now, it’s really hard not to notice how basic a lot of the stage geometry is; everything is very angular and blocky, which isn’t surprising given it was a Nintendo 64 launch title, but it’s one of the many reasons why I prefer Banjo-Kazooie (Rare, 1998) since it improved and expanded upon everything Super Mario 64 pioneered.

Cutscenes with some charming voice acting bookend the game’s plot.

The game only really has a handful of cutscenes, all of which are rendered using the in-game graphics and are simply there to establish the game’s simple plot, relay that you’ve opened up new areas or discovered a Star, and convey the game’s ending. These are accompanied by a few instances of voice acting from Peach as Mario, Bowser, and other enemies are limited to a few sound bites, grunts, and yelps, which adds to the game’s cartoonish charm. Finally, Super Mario 64 is bolstered by a bombastic and catchy soundtrack from long-time Mario and Nintendo composer Koji Kondo; a lot of the tracks are re-used on multiple Courses but they’re so fitting and memorable that I can forgive it and if you don’t find yourself humming along to the main castle theme then you honestly have no soul.

Enemies and Bosses:
If I’m being brutally honest, Super Mario 64 doesn’t feature much in the way of enemy variety; within the first handful of Courses, you’ll have encountered pretty much all of the enemies and hazards the game has to offer but, to be fair, these are all used sparingly and to great effect. They’re generally present to cause you some issues when trying to jump and clamber up to new areas rather than being formidable challenges in their own right; you’re far more likely to get bumped off a ledge and to your death rather than beaten to a pulp by these enemies.

Some of Mario’s most iconic enemies get a slick 3D makeover.

You’ll come up against classic Mario enemies such as Goombas (who now hop up in alarm and charge at you head-first when you cross their eye line), Bob-ombs (who chase you relentlessly as their fuse ominously burns down before exploding in a shower of Coins), Boos (who turn incorporeal when you face them so you’ll have to sneak up on them from behind or perform a backflip into a ground-pound), Koopas (give them a thump to ride their shell like a skateboard), and Shy Guys (annoying little bastards that buzz all around you shooting fireballs your way and send Mario into a whirlwind spin if he jumps on them). Each of these has been brought to life with a snazzy 3D makeover that imbues them with simple, but charming, attack and movement patterns and characteristics.

Watch out for the game’s larger and more troublesome enemies…

You’ll also come up against some new enemies; Amps will spin around in a tight circle and electrocute Mario if he touches them, Bubba will swallow him whole if he enters the water while exploring the “Tiny” side of Tiny-Huge Island, three different varieties of Bullies will try to knock Mario off platforms and to his death, Chuckyas and Heave-Hos will also try to throw Mario to his doom, and Klepto and Ukkiki will steal Mario’s cap if given half a chance. You’ll also have to sneak up on the sleeping Piranha Plants to knock them out without getting bitten and watch out for that Goddamn piano in Big Boo’s Haunt as it’ll randomly spring to life to scare the piss out of you!

The strategy for beating these two will serve you well for the remainder of the game’s bosses.

Not every Course in Super Mario 64 has a boss battle but nine out of fourteen isn’t bad. The first one you come across, King Bob-omb, teaches you the fundamental mechanics Mario will need to defeat not only Chuckyas but also Bowser himself as you’ll have to run around the King to grab him from behind and then throw him three times without being thrown off the top of his mountain to defeat him. The second boss, the Whomp King, is even easier to defeat; simply run beneath him or dodge out of the way when he tries to squash you and ground-pound his back three times and he’ll burst into pieces to award you a Star.

Big Boos and big eyes haunt the decrepit mansion…

In Big Boo’s Haunt, you’ll do battle with three Big Boos but, despite their intimidating size, they’re as easily dispatched as any other Boo with the only troublesome one being the Big Boo you battle on the balcony at the top of the haunted house because of the risk of falling. You’ll also encounter a large variant of the Mr. I enemy in this Course but, again, it’s defeated in exactly the same way as any other Mr. I (simply run around it until it gets dizzy and explodes). You’ll also encounter larger variants of existing enemies in Lethal Lava Land and Snowman’s Land, in this case the Bullies; again, though, the hardest thing about fighting these guys is making sure you don’t accidentally slip off the small platform you fight them on or let them push you into the molten lava or freezing water, respectively.

Bosses might be big and talk a good game but they go down pretty easily.

Finally, you’ll have to do battle with the Eyerock inside the pyramid in Shifting Sand Land and a Wiggler on Tiny-Huge Island; the Eyerock is probably the most challenging boss before the final battle with Bowser as it constantly shields its one (well, two really) weak point (the eye) in its rock-like fists, tries to squash you at every opportunity, and can easily shove you off the platform and to your death (luckily, though, you’ll restart right before this battle if you immediately enter the painting again). The Wrigger is pretty much the same basic deal as the Whomp King; although he looks intimidating due to his size, he only looks big because you’re small and you simply ground-pound him three times to take him out, making sure to dodge him as he wriggles around the arena faster and faster with each hit.

Bowser is a bit of a pushover the first time you face him…

The game’s true boss is, of course, Bowser, Mario’s long-time enemy and most persistent foe. You’ll battle Bowser three times and each time you must have the correct number of Stars to access a troublesome mini Course that leads to the Warp Pipe into Bower’s arena. Each time you face Bowser, the general strategy is the same; avoid his attacks and run around him to grab his tail, then rotate the analogue stick to swing him around and then press the attack button to send him flying into one of the many bombs that line the outskirts of each arena. The first time you face Bowser, he’s pretty weak; he’ll stomp around in a circle, slowly spitting fireballs at you, and isn’t much of a threat as long as you don’t run into him, get hit by his burning flames, or fall off the platform and you’ll only have to toss him into a bomb once to take him out, making him functionally weaker than King Bob-omb.

Things (literally) heat up in the second encounter with Bowser…

The second battle ramps things up a bit; Bowser can still be defeated with one bomb but he’ll now jump up and come crashing down on the platform, tilting it into a steep angle that will send you sliding into a bomb yourself or down to the fiery depths below. Bowser also now teleports across the arena if you get too close to him to prolong the battle and will tilt the stage each time he leaps up to the arena from a missed throw so make sure your accuracy is on point when you send him flying.

Bowser isn’t messing around in the third and final fight and throws everything he has at Mario!

The final battle is where Bowser really brings his A game; the music is far more ominous and foreboding and Bowser can now charge at you, spit a slew of fireballs onto the arena (including blue ones that bounce all over the place) and produce shockwaves that must be jumped over every time he lands from a jump. To make matters worse, Bowser must now be thrown three times before he is defeated and, after taking two hits, will stomp around the arena in a tantrum, causing parts of it break off until it resembles a Star and limiting your options for escape and movement. It’s not all bad, though; some of Bowser’s flames will produce Coins to replenish your health and, technically, the strategy remains the same; as with every Bowser battle, it’s just a question of patience and getting your shot lined up to throw him into the final bomb and finally get your cake!

Power-Ups and Bonuses:
Although Mario can still collect a 1-Up Mushroom for an instant extra life and three different types of Coins (Gold, Red, and Blue, each offering different increments to your total Coin count), no other traditional Mario power-ups are present and unlike in other Mario videogames where Mario would collect a Super Mushroom to grow bigger and gain an extra hit or a Fire Flower to throw fireballs at enemies, Super Mario 64 takes inspiration from Super Mario Land 2: 6 Golden Coins (Nintendo R&D1, 1992) and Wario Land: Super Mario Land 3 (ibid, 1994) by giving Mario access to three different caps to aid his progress.

Soar through the sky, pass through walls, or become invincible with Mario’s special caps.

The Wing Cap gives Mario the ability to fly after performing a triple jump or being shot out of a cannon; by diving and pulling up, you can fly higher and further but just make sure you land before it wears off or you’ll suffer a damaging fall. The Vanish Cap turns Mario invisible and incorporeal, allowing him to walk through enemies and wired cages and the Metal Cap allows Mario to walk underwater and renders him functionally invincible at the cost of his speed and more elaborate jumping mechanics. Each cap must be activated by ground-pounding giant switches inside three different hidden mini Courses and are essential to collecting all 120 Power Stars but, it has to be said, their use is surprisingly sparse and you’ll be relying on Mario’s base moveset for the vast majority of the castle’s challenges.

Additional Features:
As big and involving as Super Mario 64 is, there’s sadly not a whole lot of replay value to be had especially compared to the DS remake, which featured four playable characters, additional Courses and Stars, and mini games to pass the time. You can mess around with Mario’s big, goofy 3D face on the title screen, stretching and distorting it at your leisure, which is a nice touch, and the game also allows you to have four different save files and to erase or copy each one, allowing for multiple playthroughs.

Secret Stars are hidden in each Course and all over the castle so search everywhere.

Additionally, while you only need seventy Stars to take on the final battle against Bowser and clear the game, you won’t get 100% completion unless you collect all 120 Stars. This is easier said than done, especially on Courses like Wet-Dry World, Tall, Tall Mountain, and Rainbow Ride which have lots of difficult platforming sections, bottomless pits, and barely enough Coins for you to get those hidden one hundred Stars. You’ll also need to search the castle thoroughly for hidden Courses (like the Princess’s secret slide), talk to the Toads scattered throughout the castle, and catch Mips the Rabbit to find some hidden Stars. Stars are also obtained by finding eight Red Coins in the cap and Bowser stages and other hidden Courses around the castle; luckily, you can track your progress from the pause menu and from the file selection screen so you always know where you might have missed a Star or two.

Find all 120 Stars and you’ll get…very little of value, to be honest…

Sadly, though, finding all 120 Stars doesn’t really offer much in terms of a reward. If you defeat Bowser with all 120, he’ll have some slightly different dialogue to acknowledge your efforts and, after reloading your completed save file, you’ll find you now have access to a cannon on the castle grounds. Use this to blast yourself onto the castle rooftop and you’ll find Yoshi, who has a special thank you message from the developers and awards you with one hundred lives before buggering off. Unfortunately, though, this is completely redundant as you’ve beaten the game and acquired every Star so there’s no real incentive to explore the completed Courses again with your abundance of lives. Perhaps it would have been better to have Yoshi be accessible from a new save file, or even placed within Courses to offer a new Star challenge. Hell, I would have even accepted a ‘New Game+’ mode where the entire game is mirrored but, instead, you get a tantalising cameo and a whole shit load of extra lives that are basically pointless as you’re more likely to just start a new game from scratch than to go back through stages you’ve already completed to 100%.

The Summary:
Super Mario 64 is still an absolutely gorgeous and incredibly fun gaming experience; even now, some twenty-three years after its release, it still holds up remarkable well as one of the tightest, slickest, and most engaging 3D platformers ever. While the likes of Banjo-Kazooie and Sonic Adventure (Sonic Team, 1998) are technically far superior games, Super Mario 64 set a standard for all 3D platformers to strive to achieve and which many failed to match.

Sadly, Nintendo didn’t take the time to improve on the game’s few shortcomings for the Switch port.

It cannot be denied, however, that the game does still have some lingering issues; the camera, for all its diversity, is the most glaring and Mario’s tendency to get a bit stuck on platform edges or to hug walls when standing too close to them as well as his willingness to just slip to his death can all lead to some frustratingly unfair deaths and game overs but, for the most part, all of the game’s shortcomings can be overcome with the right degree of patience, skill, and experience. Once you master the game’s simple controls and mechanics, you can perform all kinds of nifty tricks and feats to aid your progress and you’ll find that the game has given you more than enough tools to find all 120 Stars if you’re skilled enough.

Super Mario 64 still holds up really well and is still one of the best 3D platformers ever made.

With its stunning, colourful visuals, tight and responsive controls, catchy music, and addictive gameplay that is easy to learn and master, Super Mario 64 is positively brimming with gameplay variety. There’s always a new area to unlock and explore, new Courses and hidden Stars to discover, and the attention to detail is staggering for a Nintendo 64 launch title. My only regret is that Nintendo didn’t add in a widescreen feature or patch in that two player co-op mode they had planned or even the ability to play as Luigi after finding all 120 Stars in the Switch version but none of that diminishes the fundamental appeal of Super Mario 64.

My Rating:

Rating: 5 out of 5.


Did you play Super Mario 64 back in the day? Was it your first game for the Nintendo 64 or did you pick it up later? Perhaps you first experienced it on the Nintendo DS; if so, which version of the game do you think is the best? Which of the game’s Power Stars, Courses, enemies, or bosses caused you the most (or the least) hassle? Do you think Yoshi and his one hundred lives was a good enough reward or would you have liked to see something else; if so, what? What are your fondest memories of the Nintendo 64? Perhaps you hated the system; if so, why (and what’s wrong with you?) Whatever you think, comment below and let me know and don’t forget to come back next week for more Mario content.

Game Corner [Bite-Size / Mario Day]: Super Mario Bros. (Nintendo Wii)

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. To commemorate Mario Day this year, I’ve made March “Mario Month” and am spending each Wednesday talking about everyone’s favourite Koopa-flattening plumber.


Released: 21 October 2010
Originally Released: 14 July 1993
Developer: Nintendo
Original Developer: Nintendo EAD
Also Available For: Nintendo 3DS (Virtual Console), Nintendo Wii (Virtual Console), Nintendo Switch (Online), Super Nintendo Entertainment System (SNES)

A Brief Background:
After debuting in Donkey Kong (Nintendo R&D2/Ikegami Tsushinki, 1983) and receiving his own arcade title (alongside his brother, Luigi), Shigeru Miyamoto’s overalls-clad plumber Mario was all set to star in a new game exclusively for the Nintendo Entertainment System (NES) that would be everything Mario Bros. (Nintendo R&D1, 1983) was not: where Mario Bros. was limited and sparse and lacking in colour and variety, Super Mario Bros. would be colourful, with bigger characters and more dynamic gameplay mechanics. Perhaps the most famous platformer in videogame history, Super Mario Bros. taught players everything they needed to know in its first iconic World, allowed for two players to play together (in turns, of course, given the nature of the title), and introduced pretty much every single popular mechanic and feature that the series is still known for today and set the standard for 2D platformers for an entire generation. Having sold over 40 million copies worldwide, the game was later given a 16-bit makeover for the SNES compilation title Super Mario All-Stars (Nintendo EAD, 1993) that brought the graphics, sound, and gameplay up to the standards set by Super Mario World (ibid, 1990). To commemorate the twenty-fifth anniversary of Super Mario Bros., Super Mario All-Stars was re-released on the Nintendo Wii on 21 October 2010. Although a bare-bones release that didn’t even include Super Mario World, the special anniversary edition of this game sold out extremely quickly and, even now, the base version of the game can set you back a high price on eBay and Amazon (though it is, thankfully, available through Nintendo Switch Online if you pay their surprisingly reasonable subscription fees).

First Impressions:
I’ve played Super Mario Bros. before, both the NES original and the 16-bit remake for the SNES. However, since I grew up with the Mega Drive and ploughing through robot-infested landscapes with their supersonic mascot, I am by no means a competent Mario player. I played a lot of the Game Boy titles and a couple for the Nintendo DS but I didn’t really sit down and play a Mario game from start to finish until a bought a Nintendo 64. As a result, my opinion on Super Mario Bros. is one that is likely to cause some amount of controversy because…I hate this game. The music is great, don’t get me wrong; it’s peppy and full of life and the Worlds are bright and colourful and full of unique enemies and iconic characters and items but Goddamn is this a bitch to play!

Watch your step as it’s super easy to run head-first into danger or death.

Seriously, Mario slips and slides all over the place and controls like he’s constantly running on ice; it’s ironic to me that Yuji Naka was inspired to make Sonic move so fast due to him constantly trying to beat World 1-1 faster and faster as Super Mario Bros. feels far more faster and out of control than Sonic the Hedgehog (Sonic Team, 1991) thanks to its slippery and awkward controls. Mario (or Luigi, if you prefer) will jog along at a snail’s pace until you hold down the B button, which breaks him out into a run. Running builds momentum which, in combination with holding down the jump button, allows you to jump higher and faster but while Mario’s jumping abilities have been vastly improved over those in Donkey Kong and Mario Bros. (there’s no fall damage/death and it’s much easier to jump to where you intend without gravity weighing you down), it’s stupidly easy to run face-first into enemies (and no, not the first Goomba you encounter) or fall head-first down one of the game’s many (many) bottomless pits (seriously, this game alone has more bottomless pits than Sonic has ever seen!). The good news is, though, that you no longer die in one hit…as long as you grab a Super Mushroom or a Fire Flower. Either one will allow you to take one hit but the Fire Flower is recommended as it allows you to be a little more proactive at dispatching enemies other than just jumping on their heads.

There’s certainly a fair amount of World variety on offer…if you can get that far…

Sadly, though, Super Mushrooms and 1-Up Mushrooms often appear out of nowhere and you may find yourself careening down one of those pits trying to grab it, killing yourself in a desperate attempt to stave off death. The game’s World’s are divided up nicely, though, and have a lot of variety to them; one minute you’ll be hopping through the Mushroom Kingdom, the next descending through a pipe to the underground or desperately trying to navigate Blooper-infested waters, before you finally make it to one of Bowser’s castles and are faced with a gruelling test of your skills as you dodge fireballs, jump over pits of lava, and finally send the King of the Koopas to a fiery end…only to be told that the Princess is in another castle!

My Progression:
Okay, this is going to sound really bad but just remember that I flat-out admitted up top that I am not a consummate Mario player…

I couldn’t even beat World 1-1.

I know.

I know!

But, in my defence, I was rushing quite a bit as I bought the game as a gift and was just trying it out for size. Still, imagine my shame when I couldn’t even get through the first World when I know that I have beaten it at least once before and I’ve beaten far harder games (some of them even Mario titles) in the past.

The Warp Zone was not as much help as I anticipated…

Still, I did discover the secret Warp Zone, which allowed me to skip ahead to World 4 and…I couldn’t beat that World, either. I then found another Warp Zone that took me to World 8 and I promptly exhausted my remaining lives before I even got within sniffing distance of Bowser’s Castle. It’s at that point that I shut the game off, wrapped it up for my friend, and promptly decided to wallow in indescribable self-pity and shame.


I don’t even want to beat Super Mario Bros. anyway. I don’t have to. Why should I? I don’t have to prove anything…Oh God, I suck so hard! I am so ashamed that I couldn’t do better; I wanted to and I am sure I will revisit the title some day in some way, shape, or form but, as of right now, I am too ashamed and too unimpressed with the game’s slippery, alien controls and physics to want to continue. It’s a classic, addictive, and entertaining title that is well deserving of its reputation but I just struggle to get to grips with Mario’s 2D offerings even after all these years. Have you ever beaten Super Mario Bros.? How highly do you rate it in the pantheon of all-time greatest videogames? Do you, perhaps, agree with my thoughts and experiences and find it to be a difficult game to get the hang of or do you think I just suck at Mario, Nintendo, and life in general? Perhaps you’d like to insult my inability to clear even the first damn World, let alone the entire game! If so, no matter what you think or have to say, do please leave a comment and pop back next Wednesday as Mario Month continues.

Game Corner [Mario Month]: Mario Bros. (Nintendo Switch)

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. To commemorate Mario Day this year, I’m making March “Mario Month” and celebrating everyone’s favourite Koopa-flattening plumber every Wednesday from today.

Released: September 2018
Originally Released: 9 September 1983
Developer: Nintendo R&D1
Also Available For: Amstrad CPC, Apple II FM-7, Arcade, Atari, Commodore 64, Game & Watch, Game Boy Advance, ZX Spectrum, Nintendo 3DS (Virtual Console), Nintendo Entertainment System (NES), Nintendo Wii (Virtual Console), PC-88

The Background:
Mario made his inauspicious debut in Donkey Kong (Nintendo R&D2/Ikegami Tsushinki, 1983); in that game, the avatar formally known as “Jumpman” would die from the briefest of falls and was originally a carpenter. However, after playing with the concept and exploring other gameplay mechanics, creator Shigeru Miyamoto redesigned Mario into a format where he would be capable of carrying his own arcade title (fitting, considering Miyamoto originally intended for Mario to be Nintendo’s go-to, catch-all character to feature in numerous titles and roles). Released in Japan on 14 July 1983 and in North America on the 20th, Mario Bros. featured Mario (and introduced his palette-swapped brother, Luigi) knocking over baddies in the sewers of New York. Though the arcade cabinet was only modestly successful in Japan, the NES port sold over 1.60 million copies and, despite the title being massively overshadowed by its NES follow-up, the title has been ported to numerous systems, the most recent of which being the Nintendo Switch, which is the version I’ll be talking about today.

The Plot:
The sewers have been infested by all kinds of creepy-crawlies and only two portly plumber brothers have the jumping skills necessary to clear the pipes!

Mario Bros. is a wraparound platformer in which players take control of either Mario or Luigi and venture through thirty-five largely-similar stages (called “Phases”); the stages are set within the sewers of New York City and, as was popular in arcade games, players and enemies can exit on the left side of the screen and emerge on the other (or vice versa) to endlessly loop around the one-screen stages.

Bop enemies from underneath to tip them over and dispatch them all to clear the Phase.

In Donkey Kong, Mario’s only defence was to jump over hazards or grab a hammer and smash them to pieces; in Mario Bros., the hammer is gone and titular brothers still can’t dispatch enemies by jumping on them. The only way to take out the game’s handful of enemies is to attack them from below; as they pass overhead, jump at the platform above you and you’ll either topple the enemy over or deal some damage to get them prepped to be knocked over, and then you can run into them to kill them off and earn some points. Dispatch all onscreen enemies and you’ll have cleared that Phase and can move on to the next; wash, rinse, and repeat. This is easier said than done, however; one of the biggest complaints I have with playing Mario videogames (especially the 2D titles) is how slippery and unwieldy Mario can be and Mario Bros. is no different. The characters slip and slide all over the place, meaning it’s pretty easy to run head-first into an enemy or miss-time a jump as you fly right past the platform edge.

The game speeds up as you progress, making that high score harder to obtain.

At the same time, Mario’s jump is nerfed; it’s literally like trying to run on ice and jump underwater as the moment you press the jump button, gravity does everything it can to make vertical movement difficult for you. You simply lose all momentum and easily miss a jump even when you’re standing right next to it, which can be frustrating when you’re just trying to make a simple jump upwards or across. Luckily, Mario and Luigi don’t take fall damage but, like a lot of titles at the time, it’s one-hit kills and there is no health bar or health power-ups. As you might expect, then, the objective is to defeat enemies and collect Coins in order to earn the highest score possible, earning more points for taking out enemies simultaneously. There’s not a lot to the game; Phases remain largely the same but enemies and hazards increase in speed and difficulty as you progress and you are invited to collect as many Coins as possible in the game’s timed Bonus Stages every now and then in order to increase your score.

Graphics and Sound:
It’s hard to get a more classic, pure-blood 8-bit title than Mario Bros.; it belongs in the same conversation as titles like Donkey Kong, Pac-Man (Namco, 1980), and Space Invaders (Taito, 1978) for traditional, 2D arcade action. By utilising a far more stripped back aesthetic and stage layout compared to Donkey Kong, the developers seem to have freed up some space for slightly more detailed sprites and enemy variety but it can’t be denied that it lacks the big, bold sprites of Donkey Kong.

The graphics are simple but there is a lot happening onscreen as things speed up.

While the Phases don’t change very much as you play, there are far more sprites onscreen at any one time (including two simultaneously playable characters if you have a friend to play with) and much more enemy variety compared to Donkey Kong. Luigi might be a simple recolour but it’s better than nothing and indicative of the hardware limitations of the time. What probably lets the game down the most beyond the lack of stage variety has to be the music as there’s no really memorable tunes here and it’s easy to see why this game would be forgotten compared to its big brother.

Enemies and Bosses:
Mario and Luigi will primarily be faced with little turtles known as Koopas Shellcreepers; though relatively harmless and predictable compared to the game’s other enemies, they’ll still kill you if they touch you so bump them from underneath to turn them on their shells and kick them out of there! You’ll also encounter Sidesteppers (which are basically just crabs and require two hits before they’ll tip over), and Fighter Flies (which hop around the stages) as you progress through later Phases.

Enemies increase in their frequency and difficulty but there are no bosses to fight here.

As if that wasn’t bad enough, red and green fireballs emerge from the pipes and sides of the screen, as does Slipice (which slides around and will transform platforms into literal ice unless you shatter them from beneath). Mario Bros. contains no boss battles or primary antagonist to test your skills against; instead, you’ll encounter more and more and increasingly-faster versions of these enemies. Each enemy will react to others or to Coins and change their direction, as well, meaning it can require a bit of strategy and forethought to topple them all when the Phases hit their highest difficulty.

Power-Ups and Bonuses:
There is very little to aid Mario and Luigi in their quest to clear up the sewers; there are no power-ups to pick up or weapons to obtain, meaning you’re forced to rely on your skills and ability to work with the game’s dodgy physics and controls. You can, however, attack a “POW” block to flip every onscreen enemy in one screen-shaking hit. The “POW” block can only be hit three times, however, and once it’s gone you’ll have to wait until the next one spawns in after a Bonus Stage so it’s best to save it for the game’s harder Phases.

Additional Features:
As a conversion of an 8-bit arcade title, the primary objective of the game is to achieve, or beat, a high score. You can pick from four different modes: two are for a single player and two are for two players but, since I don’t have anyone to play with, I could only play the standard ‘Game A’ game. If you do have a friend, though, you have the option of playing as Mario and Luigi in two player co-op, which I’m sure increases the replay value to the game exponentially. Even better, the Nintendo Switch provides a few extra options to make things easier for you; using the Switch’s ‘suspend menu’ mode, you can create a save point at any time and rewind the game so you can correct any mistakes you might have made.

The Summary:
Mario Bros. is a decent enough port of the original arcade game. Unfortunately, there wasn’t really a lot to the game to begin with and the NES version doesn’t really add or improve upon the format very much. However, as fun a distraction as Mario Bros. is and as attractive as the old school 8-bit sprites look, it definitely wears out its welcome a lot faster than Donkey Kong or its follow-up title. Within the first three or five stages, you’ve basically seen everything there is that the game has to offer and, though the game increases in speed and difficulty, there’s just less to it compared to other arcade titles or even Donkey Kong, which requires far more skill to get through. As a videogame, Mario Bros. is much better as a mini game to be included in other Mario titles (as it was on the Game Boy Advance) rather than a full game in and of itself and it’s not surprising that Nintendo was able to improve upon this formula when the bar was set so low.

My Rating:

Rating: 2 out of 5.

Could Be Better

Did you ever play Mario Bros. back in the day, on NES or out in the arcade? What did you think to it compared to other Mario titles and arcade games of the time? Which of the two brothers did you always play as and what was your best score in the game? How are you celebrating Mario Day this year? No matter what you think about Mario Bros. or Mario games in general, leave a comment below and pop back next week for another review as part of Mario Month.