Back Issues [Mario Month]: Super Mario Bros. #1

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.

Published: April 1990

Story Title: “The Legend”
By: George Caragonne, Art Nichols, Jade, P. Zorito, and Janet Jackson

Story Title: “Piranha-Round Sue”
By: Bill Valley, Mark McClellan, George Wildman, Jade, P. Zorito, Janet Jackson

Story Title: “Koopa’s Believe It or Else!”
By: John Walker, Ken Lopez, and Barry Goldberg

Story Title: “Cloud Nine”
By: John Walker, George Wildman, Jade, P. Zorito, Andrea Brooks, and The Gradations

The Background:
By the early 1990s, Nintendo’s mushroom-stomping mascot had firmly established himself as an icon not just in the videogame industry but in mainstream pop culture as well; with more than sixty videogames already released, and with Super Mario All-Stars (Nintendo EAD, 1993) being a blockbuster release for Nintendo (and a major player in the on-going “Console Wars” between Nintendo and SEGA), merchandising and licensing opportunities naturally increased as Nintendo sought to capitalise on the portly plumber’s popularity. Between 1990 and 1991, Nintendo partnered with Valiant Comics to published comic book adaptations of some of their biggest and most successful franchises, and Super Mario was naturally at the forefront of this. Mario’s Valiant adventures were based not just on his videogame adventures, but also his depiction in the animated Super Mario Bros. Super Show! (1989), and Mario featured in a number of Valiant’s comics, either as the main character or in cameo roles.

The Review:
Valiant’s Nintendo comics were basically like printed versions of their DiC cartoons and were short, slapstick, fun-filled adventures punctuated by advertisements both fake and real (mostly for videogames, other Valiant comics, and radical nineties toys and such). As a result, there are four stories contained in Mario’s debut issue, with two full length adventures and two interludes to pad out the comic, which was the style of many publications for younger kids as opposed to comics by DC and Marvel Comics, which generally had the one story contained in its page alongside ads and such. The first story is a two-page introduction to the general concept of the Super Mario Bros., their world, and their adventures; according to “The Interlude”, the magical Mushroom Kingdom was a peace-loving land of mushroom people until the evil King Bowser Koopa and his forces invaded the land and terrorised the kingdom’s patriarch, the Mushroom King, and his daughter, Princess Toadstool. Fortunately, their plight reached Mario and Luigi, two plumber brothers who “hungered for justice and thirsted for freedom” who heard the Princess’s cries for help through their pipes and…somehow (presumably by jumping in the pipes? It’s not made clear) journeyed to the Mushroom Kingdom with tools in hand to defeat Bowser, push back his troops, and rescue the Princess and then presumably stuck around for more adventures based on their experiences. The first story, “Piranha-Round Sue”, finds the Mushroom Kingdom being over-run by the titular piranha plants (leading to a somewhat amusing gag about the plants being “revolting”). The King doesn’t see this as nearly as much of a pressing issue as his current predicament; Koopa has randomly turned him into a chameleon and the King needs Mario and Toad to retrieve the Magic Wand to restore him. Quite how, where, and when this transformation took place isn’t established, but if you’re willing to overlook that then you’re probably willing to overlook the convenience of a Magic Wand only being located in the piranha’s headquarters in World One.

Despite Piranha-Sue’s best efforts, Mario and Toad manage to restore the King using the Magic Wand.

Although Mario’s exasperated by the King’s distracted nature, he is gifted a “Green Gecko Gem” that protects him (but not Toad…) from “only the strongest enemies” at the cost of them being unable to touch anyone else, and the two head out to get the wand. Almost immediately Toad gets left behind and Mario delights in being able to plough through Goombas without issue, allowing Piranha Sue to easily get into Toad’s ear and manipulate him into getting a hold of the Green Gecko Gem in the promise of a fleeting moment of power as King of the Mushroom Kingdom, but of course it’s a trap to get the gem into the hands of her fellow piranhas so they can be free of Koopa’s service. While Mario’s busy collecting Coins with reckless abandon, he stumbles upon the Magic Wand just randomly sitting under a rock and is startled to find Toad on the verge of going over a tumultuous waterfall and drowning in the water. However, Mario hesitates to act since he can’t touch Toad and doesn’t want to abandon the gem in case someone steals it, but finally drops both the gem and the wand when Piranha Sue drags the mushroom retainer under the water. Although Toad is saved, Piranha Sue swipes both items and instantly declares herself to be the new rule of the world; unfortunately for her, Koopa was just off panel and took offense to her declaration. Despite the gem covering her in a protective aura, Koopa is able to grab her in a strangle hold and reprimand her for her insolence and discards both items since he believes the gem is worthless and Mario swapped out the wand for a fake on Toad’s suggestion. Victorious, the two return to the castle and change the Mushroom King back to normal, though his subjects are dismayed to find he has developed a taste for flies.

The Mario brothers foil Koopa’s attempt to ruin the cranky King’s reputation.

The comic then shifts to a one-page fake infomercial, of sorts, “Koopa’s Believe It or Else!”, a series of random gags and panels that tell us such tall tales as “Koopa” meaning “Thing of beauty” in “lizard language”, stuffed plumber’s caps being a delicacy in the Mushroom Kingdom, the Mushroom King having over 2,000,000 crowns but only one pair of socks, and a gag about a plumber actually making a house call that’s lost on me since I’ve never experienced an issue with plumbers not coming when I call them out. Following this odd segue, the issue ends with another full-length story, “Cloud Nine”, which finds the Mushroom King aggravated to be woken up in a mood so foul that he chases his sentient alarm clock and dumps boiling hot water on Luigi’s crotch! The King complains that his bed is so lumpy and uncomfortable that he can’t sleep, so Mario and Luigi take him to a shop to purchase a new bed. The Marios are stunned to find the King unsatisfied with the shop’s selection as they’re too hard, too soft, too lumpy, and not lumpy enough, and so distracted by his erratic behaviour that they completely miss Koopa switching places with the shopkeeper. Any suspicions they might have about this shady new character are quickly forgotten when the shop (really Koopa’s minion, Pidget), announces a 100% off sale on all plumbing supplies, easily allowing Koopa to spirit the King up to the 2,927th floor to try out his “Cloud Nine” mattresses. Introduced to the “Cumulo-Nimbus Special”, the King instantly falls into a much-needed deep sleep and is unwittingly whisked away across the kingdom. In the middle of despairing over the King’s disappearance, Mario and Luigi spot the cloud bed flying overhead and give chase, though they’re unable to stop Koopa from framing the King for causing bed weather over the land. Eager to stop the King from tarnishing his reputation further, Mario and Luigi hop into a biplane and catch up to the slumbering King, with Mario using his plumbing tools to…fix the leak in the cloud…? and stop the rain. With the King well rested, his mood noticeably improves (though he still doesn’t have a new bed…) and he regales his subjects with a bizarre dream he had where the plumbers harpooned Koppa in the butt and had the biplane carry him out into the faraway Fungus Forest while the repaired cloud blasted him with lightning, bringing the story and the issue to a close.

The Summary:
Super Mario Bros. #1 is a fun enough comic; it’s a pretty juvenile and slapstick series of adventures and gag strips that definitely doesn’t take itself too seriously and leans very heavily into puns, sight jokes, and kid-friendly cartoony situations. If you’ve ever watched an episode of the Super Mario Bros. Super Show! then you’ll be more than familiar with this sense of humour and presentation, which is a great way to capture the fantastical whimsy of the source material. When you think about it, Super Mario Bros. has always had a weird premise and an oddball sense of humour; fire-breathing turtle-dragons, sentient mushrooms, subjects being turned into blocks, and all kinds of weird power-ups and collectibles make this a light-hearted and fanciful world that’s clearly separate from ours. Like the cartoons, Valiant’s comics run with the idea that Mario and Luigi hail from Brooklyn and what we know was the “real world” and bring their plumbing expertise to the fantastical Mushroom Kingdom, making them hardworking, everyday heroes thrust into the roles of heroes in a magical world, which was also reflected in the anime and live-action movie and is a plot point that’s largely been ignored these days.

A fun, whimsical comic book adventure with some amusing gags and references to the videogames.

One thing I enjoyed about the comic was its juxtaposition of the surreal cartoon version of Mario with more traditional elements from the source material; Mario and Toad’s search for the Magic Wand is framed to resemble gameplay from the videogames, with cameos from Goombas, musical blocks, and even showing Mario grabbing a whole bunch of Coins and stuffing them into a bag so he can buy a new adjustable socket wrench set. Indeed, “Piranha-Round Sue” is the best story in the comic in terms of fidelity to the source material, with Mario utilising a power-up (one not seen in the game, but still…), his incredibly jumping prowess to hop over pipes and piranhas in his search for the Magic Wand, and he’s teamed up with Toad to evoke Super Mario Bros. 2 (Nintendo R&D4, 1988). “The Interlude” is a similarly faithful recreation of the popular canon at the time and a summation of the first videogame, with Mario and Luigi trumping Koopa’s forces and even using the Fire Flower power-up (though without changing colours), and even “Cloud Nine” feature some call-backs to the videogames, such as the cloud-based stages, even though the story’s much more in line with the cartoons. Overall, I have a soft spot for Valiant’s Nintendo comics, especially their Super Mario Bros. publications as they reflect a different, far more whimsical time when adaptations just kind of did whatever they wanted as long as it was fun and entertaining for kids. The artwork, while a little sloppy and rushed at times (character dimensions and spatial awareness suffer a bit), perfectly reflects the Mario cartoons from the time and there were some fun moments that made me chuckle, so this was an enjoyable debut issue for the world’s most famous plumber brothers.

My Rating:

Rating: 3 out of 5.

Pretty Good

Have you ever read Valiant’s Nintendo comics, specifically their Super Mario Bros. publications? What did you think to them? Were you a fan of the comic continuing the slapstick nature of the cartoon and splicing in some references to the videogames? Are you glad that the franchise has slightly moved away from these depictions or do you miss when the Mario’s were plumbers from the real world? Did you read and collect Valiant’s Nintendo comics? If so, what were some of your favourite stories and moments in their publications? 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 Valiants Super Mario and Nintendo comics down below by signing up or on my social media, and thanks for being a part of Mario Month this year.

Game Corner [Mario Month]: New Super Mario Bros. U Deluxe (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.

Released: 11 January 2019
Originally Released: 18 November 2012
Developer: Nintendo EPD
Original Developer: Nintendo EAD
Also Available For: Nintendo Wii U (Standard Edition)

The Background:
After the videogame industry crumbled following an influx of numerous overpriced consoles and mediocre titles, Nintendo pretty much single-handedly saved the industry with the runaway success of Super Mario Bros. (Nintendo EAD, 1985) and, following the “Console Wars” of the mid-nineties, Nintendo and their famous mascot continued to be an innovative and reliable staple of the videogame industry. After a successful venture into the third dimension resulted in some of Mario’s most beloved titles, Nintendo decided to return Mario to his roots with the release of New Super Mario Bros. (Nintendo EAD, 2006) on the Nintendo DS, a 2.5D title that spruced up the platformer’s classic sidescrolling gameplay with new features and modes and which proved to be a hit. Two follow-ups soon followed, one for the Nintendo Wii and one for the 3DS, with both receiving high praise for their multiplayer functionality and addictive gameplay mechanics, and the development of a further follow-up for Nintendo’s unfortunate Wii U console soon began. The first Super Mario title to feature high-definition graphics, New Super Mario Bros. U was designed specifically with the Wii U GamePad in mind and emphasised single-player vertical exploration. The game was highly praised and sold over 4.8 million units; as part of the 2013 to 2014 “Year of Luigi” campaign, an expansion pack was created as both a separate physical release and downloadable content which featured shorter, tougher levels and focused on Luigi’s unique playstyle. After Nintendo bounced back in the home console market with the Nintendo Switch and achieved great success with Super Mario Odyssey (Nintendo EPD, 2017), this enhanced port of the game was developed for the console; containing all previously released material, and some additional features, New Super Mario Bros. U Deluxe was also met with positive reviews and become one of the best-selling games for the Switch.

The Plot:
Bowser, King of the Koopas, and his children (Bowser Jr. and the Koopalings) invade Princess Peach’s castle and hold her hostage, flinging Mario, Luigi, and two Toads far away. The portly plumber and his friends then resolve to travel across the land, defeating Bowser’s minions along the way, in order to rescue Peach and restore her castle to normal.

Like the classic Super Mario games of the bygone 8- and 16-bit days, New Super Mario Bros. U Deluxe is a sidescrolling platformer but, in the style of the New Super Mario Bros. subseries, it’s a 2.5D title. The game allows up to four players to team up and travel across eight colourful, whimsical Worlds, hopping across platforms and on enemy’s heads in their quest to defeat Bowser’s minions. Each of the five playable characters controls a little differently and has slightly different power-ups and mechanics tied to them, meaning that the game’s difficulty is directly tied to which character you pick (Mario is an all-rounder, for example, while Luigi has poor traction, and Nabbit cannot be harmed by any enemies, making him the default “Very Easy” mode of the game). Each character has their own set of lives, but shares any collectibles they find along the way, and you can easily revisit and replay previous Worlds with whichever character you like from the overworld screen and the submenu. As is also the style of these kinds of Super Mario games, the controls are as simple as you could want: by default, the A and B buttons allow you to jump and you can hold the X and Y buttons to run, though you can swap these two sets of controls around if you like. Jumping three times in succession, especially while running, will allow you to pull off a triple jump to reach higher areas. When jumping, you can kick off walls to wall jump higher or potentially save yourself from falling down a pit (though you’re just as likely to accidentally wall jump off a platform or block and die if you’re not careful), press down to perform a block-smashing butt stomp, or press A, B, L, or R to perform a little twirl for a bit of extra height. You can also climb up and down ladders, press down when on a slope to slide down and kick any enemies out of your path, and tap the jump buttons when underwater to swim along. X and Y can also be used to hold certain items or characters, such as a Koopa shell or a Baby Yoshi, and you can release the button to throw these at enemies or to collect out of reach Coins.

Play alongside your friends with five different playable characters, each with slightly different mechanics.

Jumping, however, remains your primary method of attacking enemies; with well-timed jumps, you can clear gaps and entire sections of the game using the triple jump and gaining extra height by bouncing off an enemy’s head, but it pays to not be too complacent as some enemies either can’t be defeated by jumping on them or will hurt you if you try. Similarly, other enemies can only be dispatched by jumping at the blocks or platforms beneath them to either knock them off or tip them over, and you’ll also want to make use of the game’s many different power-ups and suits to help take out enemies faster. By default, each character begins the game with five lives and in their base form; this means that one hit will kill you, so be sure to search out a Super Mushroom or similar power-up as soon as possible to gain an extra hit point. When playing as Toadette, the Super Crown will transform her into “Peachette”, allowing her to float and double jump just like Princess Peach is known to do, while Nabbit doesn’t actually power-up from any of the items (but is immune to damage to compensate). When playing, you’re battling against a time limit, which alerts you when it counts down to the last 100 seconds and speeds the game’s music up accordingly to help push you forward. As if this, and the high number of hazards and projectiles you’ll eventually face, wasn’t bad enough, you also have to keep an eye out for the bevy of bottomless pits, which eventually expand to cover the majority of the ground in later Worlds. Handy checkpoints placed within Worlds will power you up and allow for a respawn point, but you still get kicked out of the World and have to manually re-enter, in your base form, to try again. Fail enough times and a “Super Guide” block will appear to help show you how to succeed, but the World will be flagged as incomplete until you finally reach that flagpole unassisted by this mechanic. Your main objective, unsurprisingly, is to head to the right of the screen, jumping over pits, hopping to platforms and blocks, and taking out any enemies in your way to reach the flagpole. Along the way, you’ll contend with such hazards as fog-spewing clouds, rising and falling platforms, swaying mushrooms, giant toppling heads, cannons, temporary platforms, and plumes of both water and sand.

There’s plenty of variety, and challenge, awaiting in the game’s different Worlds.

While gameplay is, by the nature of its presentation, quite linear, there are opportunities for exploration; paths are hidden behind the background, leading to Coins and blocks, you can spawn vines to reach upper platforms, and you can enter pipes to explore underground areas, again usually for Coins or to find one of the three Star Coins hidden in each World. Sometimes, you can wall jump beyond the boundaries of the screen to take shortcuts or reach Secret Exits, which create new paths (or bypass Worlds entirely) on the overworld map so you can reach the Koopaling’s castle for that World. Some Worlds feature autoscrolling sections, either horizontally or vertically, that force you to stay on the move to keep from being crushed or boiled by rising lava, and, after clearing World 2, the game will ask you to choose a path to tackle either World 3 or World 4 (though you can, and absolutely should, backtrack to play both of these Worlds regardless). These Worlds add a new wrinkle to the overworld map in the form of the haunted locations (usually mansions, but there’s a shipwreck, too) infested with Boos. Boos will only advance towards you when your back is turned, and these stages tend to feature confusing door mazes, temporary platforms formed by hitting P Switches to turn Coins into blocks, and light-based mechanics where you need to carry a Baby Yoshi to light the way and scare off Boos. Other Worlds favour tilting platforms, slippery ground, an abundance of pits and crushing hazards, and you’ll even find yourself jumping to and swimming in bubbles when progressing vertically through World 7. You’ll also have to watch out for bigger enemy variants, instant-death lava and poison, and weighted platforms that either require you to jump to keep them moving or will stop if too many enemies and items drift onto them. There’s a lot of fun, colourful variety on offer and your platforming and jumping skills will be progressively put to the test as you clear each World, with more and more hazards and gimmicks being thrown in your path; thankfully, the controls are tight and responsive enough to manage these, but it’s true that the jumping can tend to be a bit spotty at times and you can easily find yourself slipping off a platform or falling to your death when you didn’t mean to.

Graphics and Sound:
I’d played New Super Mario Bros. before, so I was well aware of how great Mario and his Worlds look in 2.5D but New Super Mario Bros. U Deluxe is absolutely gorgeous to behold; Mario, Luigi, and their friends have never looked better in 2.5D thanks to the Switch’s high-definition graphics, with each of them sporting cute idle animations and victory poses when finishing a World. This emphasis on adorable character models and animations even carries through to the enemies, who still hop and dance to the jaunty themes playing in the Worlds to not only give you an opening to attack but also to allow you to better time your jumps or anticipate enemy movements. As is often the case, there’s no spoken dialogue in the game and the characters largely rely on gibberish and pantomime and simple cries of “Yahoo!” and “Oh, no!” to make their point, which is fine by me, though you will encounter non-playable Toads who will offer encouragement, power-ups, and challenge you to mini games in their houses. There can often be a lot happening on the screen at any one time, between the enemies, moving platforms, obscured paths, and projectiles, but everything pops out and has a discernible pattern and it’s simply a matter of skill and timing to overcome the obstacles in your way.

The game shines in its visuals, making for probably the best looking 2.5D Super Mario title yet.

Similarly, the Worlds on offer here are just as vibrant and visually interesting as the character models; there’s a lot to see in the background and foreground, often to tease you into taking a risk on a hidden path or entice you into trying a different power-up to make a tricky jump. While the Worlds are pretty standard Super Mario fare, ranging from colourful fields to snowy landscapes and lava-ridden castles, there’s also some fun throwbacks to previous Mario games, like Soda Jungle (which features retracting vines, rotating logs over poisonous water, and enlarged enemies and blocks), and the haunted houses. You’ll also traverse a desert full of quicksand, shifting sand, and statues to jump from, a beach-front and coral reef where jets of water blast you along underwater, tricky jumps to chains and up and across the rocky landscape of the mines, and a whimsical but taxing trip through the clouds. Every World also features two castles, which adopt an ominous stone-and-magma aesthetic and feature crushing blocks, buzzsaws, and rotating platforms, and you’ll also have to endure a cannonball and Bob-omb filled obstacle course when whisked onto Bowser’s battleship.

Enemies and Bosses:
The vast majority of the enemies you’ll encounter in New Super Mario Bros. U Deluxe are returning baddies from previous other Super Mario videogames, such as the mushroom-like Goombas, green and red Koopas, Boos, Thwomps, Chain Chomps, Bullet and Banzai Bills (which are frequently invulnerable), Piranha Plants, and Monty Moles. Most of these are pretty harmless, wandering back and forth or in easily recognisable patterns, but they quickly fill up the screen in larger numbers and some of the more annoying enemies, like the Hammer Bros (and their fire, ice, and boomerang variants) and Dry Bones, can cause headaches with their arching projectiles and ability to respawn, respectively. Naturally, there are also some new enemies in the game as well, such as the squirrel-like Waddlewings (which often carry Super Acorns for your consumption), walrus-like Flipruses, the screen-filling Dragoneel, homing Targeting Teds, and the mischievous Nabbit, who steals Toad’s items and must be captured in a race against the clock in previous Worlds.

A number of mini bosses will constantly return to oppose you, changing size and tactics each time.

In addition to the seven bosses you’ll encounter, you’ll also have to contend with a couple of mini bosses along the way. Not only will your platforming skills be tested if you choose to go back and capture Nabbit (and you really should, if only to get him off the overworld and get his items), but six of the Worlds include a tower guarded by Boom Boom, a muscular Koopa who is afforded new abilities by Kamek as the game progresses. Primarily, Boom Boom will attack by flailing his pythons at you, either in a charge or a jumping, spinning attack, but he also grows in size and sprouts wings to dive down at you. While the arena you battle him in is often altered by cosmetic changes befitting the World (such as water and lava), the area you fight him in is never really a hazard and it’s actually beneficial to use the walls to get better height and bop him on the head three times, which is usually easier to do than with the Koopalings since Boom Boom doesn’t attack while protected by his shell. In World 6, the tower is defended by a Sumo Bro who is enlarged by Kamek; this hulking brute can’t be attacked from above and causes electrical shockwaves by stomping his feet, and can stun you with his jumps. To defeat him, you need to jump into the platform he’s standing on while beneath him to tip him onto his shell and then jump on his exposed belly three times to put him away. World 7’s tower is guarded by Kamek himself, who magically spawns in blocks containing enemies. You can hop around on these to try and jump on his head when he teleports in, but he’ll cause them to rain down and hurt you, or release their captives, and he also flings magical bolts at you that cause the ground to become temporarily unstable. Sticking to a set pattern and staying off the floor is your best chance at winning this battle, and it’s not too difficult to jump on his head when he teleports in nearby. You’ll also battle Bowser Jr. one-on-one twice in the game, once after clearing World 5 and then again after World 7. You need to traverse the cannons of Bowser’s battleship to reach him, and both battles are a little different. In the first, you’re underwater and must lure the Targeting Teds into his craft while avoiding the Bullet Bills that fire horizontally and vertically through the arena. The second battle is much tougher; you’re on a precarious metal-blocked platform and Bowser Jr. floats just out of reach, occasionally tossing Bob-ombs at you. His craft sports boxing gloves which can wreck and temporarily destroy the ground beneath you, or extend to shove you right off edge, but you can quickly hop on his head as he passes by or run up them to bonk him if you’re fast enough. Bowser Jr. also causes trouble in World 8, ramming into you, blocks, and platforms to try and hurt, kill, and force you into lava and also joins his father for the finale.

The Koopaling’s each guard a castle filled with death traps and have some tricks of their own to slow you down.

Before you can reach that climatic battle, however, you have to contend with the seven Koopalings, each of whom awaits after clearing a castle filled with death traps and hazards, and each of them will erratically spin at you in their spiked shells after you land a hit, which can be tricky to avoid. First up is Lemmy Koopa, who tosses progressively larger bombs at you, though you can hop onto these for an extra bit of hang time. Morton Koopa Jr. awaits in World 2 and knocks segments of a giant, caterpillar-like Pokey at you from across the arena that you need to jump over or duck under. This battle’s made a little tougher thanks to Morton shaking the ground with his stomps and the two gaping holes to a bottomless pit at either side of the platform, though you can use the walls to help avoid the Pokey projectiles. After this, you have a choice of your next destination; I chose to visit World 3 first so I battled Larry Koopa next; this pint-sized sucker fires bolts from his magic wand and can be tricky to hit thanks to the three water jets that burst up from the arena floor. The arena is similarly against you when you visit World 4, as Wendy Koopa skates about on the slippery ice and causes icicles to drop from the ceiling. The only way to reach Iggy Koopa is to find the Secret Exit in World 5; this leads you to one of the more troublesome boss battles as Iggy constantly runs away through the pipes, appearing on the floor and the ceiling, and fires bolts at you that can also cause up to two large Magmaarghs to pop up. His shell attack is also a pain as he’ll reverse direction, which can catch you off-guard and result in a hit, but once you figure out which pipe leads him to where you can anticipate his movements and hit him accordingly. Roy Koopa is a pretty simple and enjoyable fight; he fires Bullet Bills from a bazooka and hops up onto the stream of floating platforms to evade you, which means there’s a fall hazard in play here, but I found this the easiest boss of them all as you can just hop on his head, take the high ground, and instantly repeat without him getting off another shot. Finally, there’s Ludwig von Koopa, who hovers at the top of the arena, duplicating himself and filling the screen with diagonal projectiles that can be tough to avoid. Naturally, you need to hop on the head of the real Ludwig to score a hit, and the projectiles only increase with each successful blow.

After making it through the lava-filled final World, you’ll have a face off against a gigantic version of Bowser.

Finally, after beating all the other Worlds and crashing Bower’s airship, you’ll dispel the dark cloud surrounding Peach’s Castle and tackle the final, most aggravating World of the game. The once lush and verdant castle has been transformed into a stony, lava-filled hellhole; flaming meteors fall from the sky, lava rises and falls beneath your feet, and you must not only cross the sea of burning magma on a raft but also watch out for Bowser Jr.’s attempts to crush and boil you alive. Succeed, and you’ll reach the final battle, which begins familiarly enough with you ducking under and jumping over fireballs spat by the Koopa King himself. When faced with Bowser, you’ll need to jump over or duck under his fireballs and quickly run underneath him to hit the switch and cause the bridge beneath him to collapse, but this is only the appetiser to the game’s true finale. Enlarged by Kamek’s magic and joined by Bowser Jr., Bowser battles you to the end on the castle rooftop, again spitting high and low fireballs and jumping about the place. To defeat him, you need to dodge Bowser Jr.’s Bob-ombs and hop on his head after avoiding his craft slam; you can then commandeer the Junior Clown Car with B, tapping B to hover over Bowser’s head, and then hit R to crash onto him. Like his kids, Bowser becomes a spinning dervish after he’s hurt and you’ll need to run under his shell when you get the chance to avoid being hurt or killed, and then dodge the rain of fireballs he spits into the air to repeat the same cycle over, dodging more Bob-ombs and fireballs as you go but, as long as you have at least a Super Mushroom and are mindful of your jumps and hit box, this shouldn’t be too difficult to do.

Power-Ups and Bonuses:
Many of Mario’s most famous power-ups are here for the taking, including the Super Mushroom, 1-Up Mushroom (with extra lives also awarded with every 100 Coins you collect), Super Stars, and Fire and Ice Flowers. Super Stars are rare in the Worlds themselves but endlessly helpful as they make you invincible for a short time (and speed you up and add a nifty somersault to your jump) and successfully defeating a bunch of enemies in a row in this state will net you an extra life, but it won’t protect you from instant death hazards, unfortunately. The Fire and Ice Flowers let you shoot off a bouncing projectile with X or Y, with the iceballs temporarily freezing enemies to create platforms or allow you to throw them. Other power-ups include the Mini Mushroom, which grants you a moon jump, the ability to run up walls and enter tiny pipes, but costs you your ability to actually defeat enemies. POW Blocks will defeat all onscreen enemies, the aforementioned Super Crown lets Toadette become Peachette, and you can also hover through the sky with the Propeller Mushroom or slide along the ground or water (and fire off iceballs) with the Penguin Suit.

There are plenty of fun power-ups, old and new, to help you in your whimsical journey.

If you can knock Lakitu out of the sky, you can briefly take control of his cloud to fly over stages, and you’ll also come across the new Super Acorn power-up, which transforms you into a flying squirrel and allows you to glide, cling to walls, and perform an arch to gain a little extra height. You can also win P-Acorns from the various mini games which allow you to mid-air jump indefinitely, and you’ll find Yoshi eggs hidden in blocks throughout the game. Yoshis come in four styles, the regular green (which you ride as normal, using his tongue to eat and spit out enemies, chow down fruit for power-ups, and make use of his flutter jump to reach higher areas), and three Baby Yoshis: magenta (which swells up into a balloon to help you bypass hazards), blue (which spits out bubbles), and yellow (which can light up dark and/or haunted areas). Each of these baby Yoshis will also automatically eat up any enemies or projectiles that come your way and can be throw, but it’s usually better to keep them in hand. Every now and then, a Toad will offer you a power-up at the end of a World, and you can play mini games in their houses to collect Coins and earn more power-ups (though you’ll lose out if you get a Bowser tile), and you’ll also find power-ups on the overworld on occasion, too.

Additional Features:
There are 246 Star Coins to find in New Super Mario Bros. U Deluxe, three in every World, and collecting them will really test your patience and platforming skills as they can be well hidden or hanging in precarious positions. When you finish the game as any character, you’ll unlock the ability to save at any time on the overworld (previously, the game saved after towers and castles and you could only create a one-time save point), the Secret Island (a kind of pointless overworld inclusion that lets you view the credits and various other in-game records, and the Superstar Road. This is where those Star Coins will come into play as you can unlock eight new challenge stages by collecting every Star Coin in each of the game’s other worlds, which is easier said than done. Accomplishing all this adds another Star Stamp to your save file, which allows you to brag that you’ve finished the game to 100%, though finishing the game as the other characters doesn’t factor into this achievement. There are also some alternative paths on the overworld beyond the Secret Exits where moving to certain points causes you to collide with enemies and be warped to a special challenge (usually involving the Super Star) or be automatically taken to different Worlds.

New Super Luigi U adds a whole new level of challenge and difficulty to the game.

Being as it’s the most complete version of the game available, New Super Mario Bros. U Deluxe also features the New Super Luigi U content, which excises Mario from the playable roster, expands upon Luigi’s controls and physics to make him slippery and light as all hell, and reduces both the length and time limit of each World. Worlds are also full of references to Luigi, from statues to sprite work and silhouettes and an abundance of green, as well as being restructured into bite-size obstacle courses that will offer the greatest challenge of the game by far. With checkpoints gone and hazards everywhere, it’ll take every bit of skill and precision jumping to best this mode, which pushes you to use your triple jump, loose physics, and the game’s power-ups in new ways to bop off enemies, avoid death traps and hazards, and reach the goal flag. The game also offers a few additional challenge modes, including time trials and speed runs, Coin collections, and 1-Up collections, all of which deny you the use of power-ups, put you against a tough time limit and meeting criteria (like not touching the floor), and award you either a Bronze, Silver, or Gold Medal depending how well you do. Boost Rush allows you to take on rejigged versions of the World’s according to certain criteria (such as focusing on the balloon Yoshi, Penguin Suit, or Squirrel Suit) to nab Coins and speed up the tempo of the game and the enemies. Finally, you can go head-to-head against other players in Coin Battle, or put together your own courses using Coin Edit to challenge your friends, and all of the game’s modes can be played with other players, who will respawn in bubbles after losing lives.

The Summary:
Although I’ve never had the greatest relationship with Super Mario titles since I notoriously struggle with his classic titles and only really got into the franchise once it moved into 3D, I really enjoy these 2.5D throwback games and New Super Mario Bros. U Deluxe truly is an exemplary title that showcases the very best of this side of the franchise. Colourful, visually appealing, and bolstered by jaunty music and cute, cartoony attention to detail, the game impresses with its tight controls and a fantastic implementation of some of Mario’s 3D skills (such as the triple jump and wall jump). While it can be frustrating at times because of the precise nature of its platforming and how inconsistent the physics and wall jumps can be with some characters, this is purposely implemented as part of the game’s difficulty curve and, more often than not, any mistakes you make will be because of you rather than the game being unfair. Every enemy, challenge, and obstacle can be overcome with skill and patience, and you’ll find yourself using Mario’s power-ups (especially the new Squirrel Suit) to take risks that invariably pay off to launch you off enemies and towards the coveted flagpole. The inclusion of four additional playable characters, each with their own strengths and weaknesses, really helps to add some variety to the gameplay (though I would’ve preferred there only being one Toad and to have Peach be playable by default, no matter how little sense that makes) so that anyone of any skill level can pick this up and enjoy it, and the boss battles, while simple, were pretty fun thanks to the challenging castles you have to go through beforehand. Super Luigi U was a much-appreciated additional feature, if one I found far more harrowing and frustrating, and I enjoyed all the extra challenges and features to help extend the game beyond the main story. Overall, this is easily my favourite 2.5D Super Mario adventure by far; it takes everything that worked so well in Mario’s better 16-bit titles and infuses them with the Switch’s high-definition graphics and mechanics, and it was an extremely fun and challenging gameplay experience from start to finish.

My Rating:

Rating: 5 out of 5.


Did you enjoy Super Mario Bros. U Deluxe? How do you feel it compares other Mario titles, specifically the previous Super Mario Bros. games? Which of the playable characters was your favourite and why? Did you enjoy the new power-ups and the challenge offered by collecting the Star Coins? Which of the boss battles did you struggle with, and did you ever get all of the Star Stamps on your save file? What did you think to Super Luigi U? Which of Mario’s Switch games was your favourite and how are you celebrating Mario’s birthday this year? Whatever your thoughts on Super Mario Bros. U Deluxe, feel free to share them below or drop a comment on my social media and be sure to check back in for more Mario content throughout March!

Talking Movies [Mario Month]: Super Mario Bros.

So, for no better reason than “Mar.10” resembling Mario’s name, March 10th is widely regarded as being “Mario Day”, a day to celebrate Nintendo’s portly plumber, an overalls-wearing mascot who literally changed the videogame industry forever and shaped the home console market of the nineties.

Released: 28 May 1993
Director: Rocky Morton and Annabel Jankel
Distributor: Buena Vista Pictures
Budget: $42 to 48 million
Stars: Bob Hoskins, John Leguizamo, Samantha Mathis, Fiona Shaw, Fisher Stevens, Richard Edson, and Dennis Hopper

The Plot:
Mario (Hoskins) and his younger brother, Luigi (Leguizamo), are out-of-luck plumbers who, upon meeting Daisy (Mathis), are suddenly transported to a parallel world where dinosaurs, rather than primates, evolved into the dominant lifeform and are immediately caught up in King Koopa’s (Hopper) diabolical plans to merge this “Dinohattan” with the real world.

The Background:
By 1993, Nintendo’s portly plumber Mario was well-established as a successful videogame and pop culture icon; over sixty videogames had been released that either included Mario or featured him and his brother, Luigi, in a starring role. Super Mario All-Stars (Nintendo EAD, 1993) was released that same year and the characters had featured in numerous animated and live-action productions. Mario’s popularity had captured the mainstream; a 1990 survey revealed that the character’s popularity and eclipsed that of Mickey Mouse and, perhaps inevitably, the idea of a live-action feature film began to take shape thanks to Nintendo’s then-director of advertising and public relations, Bill White. Despite bringing in Blade Runner (Scott, 1982) co-writer Barry Morrow and attracting such superstar names as Dustin Hoffman, Danny DeVito, and Tom Hanks, production of the film almost immediately ran into troubles when pages of the script were “rewritten on a daily basis” so the “actors didn’t bother reading the new pages, knowing full well that more would likely follow” (Russell, 2012: 140). Despite some reservations about the script and being typecast, Bob Hoskins eventually signed on for the lead role and ultimately came to regret the experience; reportedly, he and co-star Leguizamo were so frustrated and unhappy on set that they spent the majority of their working days drunk and Hoskins later claimed that the film was the “worst thing” he had ever done and a “nightmare” as the general onset atmosphere was “anarchic”, with Nintendo being “nowhere to be seen [and without] a representative present during the shoot” and the directors being “out of their depth, pulled between the demands of the producers, their attempts to rewrite on-the-hoof and the logistical enormity of the production” (ibid: 140). Budgeted at $42 million and grossing just over $20 million, Super Mario Bros. was met with almost universal derision; everyone from critics, to cast and crew, and even Mario creator Shigeru Miyamoto distanced themselves from the film because of its troubled production and removal from the source material. I, however, loved this movie as a kid; my friends loved this movie back in the day, too, because it was a bright, goofy, fun-packed adventure that was entertaining as hell. As I grew up and moved into studying videogame adaptations for my PhD thesis, I also came to appreciate the film as a movie rather than an adaptation, which I think is where a lot of its criticism falls down as people seemed to have been expecting a one-to-one transliteration of the source material and adaptation just doesn’t (or rarely ever) works that way, resulting an a light-hearted, kid-friendly action/adventure romp rather than a 100% recreation of the game’s more obscure fantasy elements (although the later computer-animated movie absolute blew this one out of the water).

The Review:
Although Super Mario Bros. was not the only videogame adaptation to be a critical and commercial failure, by virtue of being “the first” it exists as a perpetual reminder that videogame adaptation is difficult and often disappointing. Despite its failure at the box office, movie studios quickly exploited videogame adaptations to entice videogame players into cinemas and allowed the videogame industry the opportunity to license their franchises out with little to lose (Picard: 2008: 295). As a result, Hollywood continues to attract reasonable budgets and high-profile actors and production stuff to videogame adaptations despite the genre “[failing] to receive much in the way of critical or commercial success” and Uwe Boll’s ill-received contributions (ibid). However, while it’s true that the film has many differences from its source material and isn’t much more than a fun kids adventure, that doesn’t necessarily make it “bad”; it’s like a live-action cartoon and, when your source material is a chubby plumber bouncing on the heads of malevolent mushrooms, what else do you really expect?

Though dysfunctional, both brothers have strengths and weaknesses that make them a team.

Bob Hoskins may have spoken out against the film in the years since it released but, whatever his demeanour and mindset on set, he is absolutely fantastic in the role of Mario; the plumber brothers are introduced as normal, everyday working men who are behind on their rent, drive a clapped-out van, and are constantly being scuppered by Anthony Scapelli (Gianni Russo). While Luigi is the young, lazy, overly enthusiastic and imaginative of the two, Mario is the older, more cynical and jaded brother; Luigi is a day dreamer, who is open to all possibilities and probabilities while Mario is realistic and grouchy, concerned about their lack in income and their sustainability. Due to the absence of their parents, Mario has had to fulfil the role of mother, father, and brother to Luigi, raising him since he was a kid and his priority, above all other concerns, is Luigi’s welfare; this manifests itself in a number of ways, from berating his younger brother for his reckless ways and daydreaming, encouraging him to keep his feet on the ground and be realistic and serious for a change, to literally holding Luigi in check physically and emotionally. While Luigi somewhat resents Mario’s constant over-protectiveness and influence on his life, he is also heavily reliant upon his brother; Luigi isn’t much of a plumber and is more like Mario’s apprentice and assistant (he knows the tools and the trade but lacks confidence in tackling big plumbing jobs by himself) and is far my awkward around women compared to his older, far more confident brother. Still, the chemistry between both actors is immediately believable; I totally buy that these two are brothers who wind each other up and get on each other’s nerves in other ways but, nevertheless, share a real bond, their banter is amusing and realistic and, best of all, while they argue and disagree a lot, they never have a big, cliché falling out or anything like that and Mario is always extremely supportive of his younger brother even while he despairs over Luigi’s immaturity.

Though she undergoes a bit of a transformation, Daisy is little more than a damsel in distress.

Furthermore, Mario is given a crippling fear of heights (kind of ironic, you could argue, given the amount of jumping his videogame counter parts takes part in), meaning that he relies on his fearless younger brother when it comes to taking literal leaps of faith; additionally, Mario learns to adopt many of Luigi’s more open-minded characteristics by the conclusion of the film and grows from a reluctant hero to a willing hero, immediately jumping into action to assist Daisy when she pops up for the film’s conclusion. Speaking of which, Daisy is a serviceable enough character for the most part. Like Luigi, she’s an orphan but, unlike him, she’s been driven by an insatiable enthusiasm for dinosaurs and bones and struggled with her identity after she was abandoned as a child (…well, egg, to be more precise). Luigi is instantly enamoured by her based on her beauty and, later, her commitment to this cause and she seems taken by his enthusiasm and awkwardness. While she is able to speak up for herself and is largely calm and emotionally stable, she’s little more than a damsel in distress and doesn’t transform into a proactive heroine until the film’s sequel-bait ending. She directs the brothers when they come to rescue her and sets Yoshi free from his bindings but she doesn’t really factor into the finale in a meaningful way beyond being the only one physically capable of interacting with the meteorite (why, though, is never really explained).

He might not resemble his videogame counterpart but Koopa is a zany, scenary-chewing villain.

And then there’s King Koopa himself, Dennis Hopper. Again, Hopper might have distanced himself from the film but he delivers a glorious over the top, scenery chewing performance. For all their buffoonery, the Mario Brothers play mostly as the film’s straight men and, in comparison, Koopa is a cartoon villain; he’s bombastic, melodramatic, and packed full of weird little character quirks while still being cold, ruthless, sadistic, and the more serious of his many underlings. Koopa’s plot is ridiculous in the best way (he wants to take Daisy as his own and use the meteorite piece (the “Rock”) she wears around her next to complete the meteor that split their worlds into separate dimensions and merge Dinohattan with New York, with him as the ruling dictator) and every decision he makes is equally ludicrous: when he’s told the Rock is in the hands of two plumbers, he calls for a “Plumber alert!”; when his underlings defy him (or he faces defiance of any kind), he subjects them to his De-Evolution machine and turns them into incompetent Goombas; and, when he acquires the Rock, his first course of action is the order a pizza!

While Iggy and Spike are bumbling fools, Lena conspires to eliminate Daisy to rule alongside Koopa.

Koopa’s primary minions are his cousins, Iggy (Stevens) and Spike (Edson); while the Mario Brothers are bumbling at times due to their status as unlikely heroes, Iggy and Spike are bumbling full stop; incompetent in every respect, the two act as the film’s comic relief and are thematic parallels to the titular brothers, echoing the Mario’s love/hate relationship through their verbal and physical banter. In an effort to make them more competent, Koopa opts to subject them to a spell of cranial evolution; however, this does little to improve their competency and actually serves to make them smarter than Koopa in many ways, certainly smart enough to cut a deal with the Mario Brothers and, ultimately, turn against their cousin to ensure their own survival. Koopa does have at least one reliable subordinate, however, in the form of Lena (Shaw); however, Lena is intensely jealous of Daisy, since Koopa favours her, so conspires to remove Daisy from the equation while positioning herself as the only woman capable and willing enough to rule by Koopa’s side. Bat shit crazy, she is also a cartoonish villain, literally cackling like a witch when she tries to merge the Rock with the meteorite and pays the ultimate price for her pride and hubris. Before that, though, she demonstrates far more focus in her sadistic desire to off Daisy and even usurp Koopa’s ambitions as she believes that she can rule without him but is blinded by her mad desires just as Koopa is blinded by his ego and libido.

Dinohattan has a very tangible, “lived-in” feel it its dystopian dressings.

At its core, Super Mario Bros. is little more than a fun kid’s movie; an action/adventure piece that needs to be big, bright, and bombastic and, for the most part, it takes all of these boxes. Dinohattan evokes the murky, gritty, industrial aesthetic of Blade Runner, being this desolate dystopian city that (thanks to an elaborate, practical set) feels real and lived in. Covered with a disgusting fungus, the city is full of little background elements and references (the Hammer Bros, Thwomp, Bullet Bill, and Wriggler all get little cameos as brightly-coloured neon signs, advertisements, and businesses but perhaps the most accurate inclusion is that of the much-feared Bob-omb); sparks, flames, and explosions are aplenty in this gloomy dystopia and the film has a very tangible sense of kinetic energy (things are always moving and bustling and the Mario’s are constantly being herded or pushed forward). Furthermore, there are a lot of amusing scenes and moments in the film; the elevator sequence, for example, where Luigi teaches the Goombas to dance is a stand out, the Mario’s bickering in the desert is gold, and there’s an humorous little side plot later in the film regarding Koopa’s pizza and Toad (Mojo Nixon) bringing Daisy a plate of steamed vegetable amidst her dramatic escape from Koopa’s tower. Not every joke lands, obviously, largely those involving Iggy and Spike (who are a bit too cartoonish) but, again, this is a film designed to appeal to kids so, for the most part, the humour really works, in my opinion, thanks, again, largely to the banter and bickering between the titular brothers.

The Nitty-Gritty:
Super Mario Bros. is intrinsically linked with the perceived notion of the film as being a failure and being the first of many big-budget cinematic failings for videogame adaptations. It doesn’t help that the film is largely disregarded by academics (some, like Brookey (2010: 4), who exhibit a blatant misunderstanding about the film’s source material) and critics. Yet, positive reviews of the film can be found, with Thomas Leitch (2007: 263) admirably emphasising the film’s contribution to the field of adaptation by detailing how film-making techniques substitute for the layout of, and interaction with, the videogame world: “[Super Mario Bros.] not only retains but constantly emphasizes the title characters’ absurd names[,] their professional status as plumbers, their unlikely credentials as heroes, and their quest to rescue a kidnapped princess”. I know what you’re probably thinking, though; you’re thinking that the movie is trash because it’s nothing like the videogame. But you’re talking to the wrong person there because, honestly, I don’t care. The only way a Mario movie can hope to recreate the aesthetics of the videogames is to go the all CGI route, in my opinion, and we’ll be seeing that soon enough (hopefully) so, for me, the film does a pretty decent job of translating many of the source material’s more outlandish aspects to live-action.

The film incorporates dionsaurs elements from the videogames in a variety of ways.

The focus on dinosaurs is a bit odd, I guess, but remember that Super Mario World (Nintendo EAD, 1990) was still very fresh in people’s minds at the time and featured a dinosaur setting but also a little film called Jurassic Park (Spielberg, 1993) was due out the very next month and would go on to inspire a brief dinosaur craze so Super Mario Bros. was potentially influenced by that. It also really emphasises the Mario’s profession as plumbers; while pipes and plumber iconography was rife in the Mario videogames at the time, it was most more heavily emphasised in the various Mario cartoons (and, perhaps even more obscurely, Super Mario Bros.: Peach-Hime Kyushutsu Dai Sakusen! (Hata, 1986), a Japanese-exclusive anime that exhbits a number of narrative similarities to its live-action counterpart) that released before the film (which popularised the notion of the Mario Brothers as both plumbers from Brooklyn and everyday, unlikely heroes). Additionally, there are many aspects from the videogames included in the film; the iconic Mario theme opens the movie (and even plays on the DVD menu, despite never appearing in a prominent way in the film), Daisy ends up in a purple dress reminiscent of the pink attire worn by Princess Toadstool (who was largely interchangeable with Daisy at the time), and the film has a heavy emphasis on jumping and running; the production design features “strong verticals [that] provide many reminders of its heroes’ relative freedom from gravity” (Leitch, 2007: 270) and the Mario Brothers are “constantly jumping, falling, and swinging through a series of unusually vertical sets” to reinforce “the ability of video game heroes to surmount obstacles and enemies by [simply] jumping over them” (ibid: 264). Much of this is thanks to the “Stompers”, gas-powered futuristic boots that allow characters to make superhuman leaps and hover in the air to recreate the jumping mechanics of the videogames.

Toad might have gotten a raw deal but Yoshi and the Mario’s outfits turned out pretty good…

Sure, you can cry about the film’s depiction of Toad and even Koopa as much as you want but do you really believe that early-nineties effects would have been able to render a kingdom full of anthropomorphic mushrooms and a fire-breathing dragon/turtle hybrid? Of course, the counterpoint to that is to simply produce an animated movie but they didn’t and that’s ignoring the fact that many of the film’s effects hold up extremely well. Sure, the computer effects are quite janky but they’re used sparingly; as I said, Dinohattan is this huge, bustling set, for one thing, and the film is full of elaborate locations that evoke their source material in more ways than you might thing (there’s an arid desert, for one thing, and Koopa’s tower is full of ominous spikes, much like Bowser’s many castles). Add to this a pretty exciting and action-packed car chase that is full of practical effects and some nice puppetry and effects work (Yoshi, in particular, stands out but the Goomba’s aren’t half bad either) and you have an extremely visually interesting and exciting movie for my money. Also, while their outfits aren’t overalls and it makes little sense for them to wear them (Mario seems to think wearing them will help them get up Koopa’s tower without suspicion but none of Koopa’s minions are dressed that way…), I absolutely love the Mario’s brightly-coloured outfits and there’s a real sense of thematic significance given to the scene where they acquire them as it represents them embracing their roles as heroes. Furthermore, there’s some fun little Easter Eggs in the film, too, such as Koopa’s portable de-evolution guns being Super Scopes and Mario using a piece of fungus to shield himself from the gun’s effects (like in the games, he uses a mushroom allows him to take a free hit).

The Summary:
Even now, there is a lot to like about Super Mario Bros.; it’s a fun, bombastic live-action cartoon that is geared towards being adventurous and whimsical. What few elements it does take from its source material are incorporated subtly and slavish devotion to fidelity is secondary to telling a quirky story that will appeal, primarily, to kids and be amusing enough for their parents to sit through. In many respects, the film isn’t really geared towards fans of the videogames at all, at least not those who expect an exact recreation of the source material (something no adaptation, live-action or otherwise, has ever done; no matter how accurate an adaptation may be, it will never be 100% faithful as films are a completely different medium to videogames, being passive entertainment over which the viewer has no control). Sadly, though, Super Mario Bros. is perhaps destined to go down in infamy not just for differing so wildly from its source material but also for being the most often-cited example of why videogame adaptations are doomed to fail again and again. It was the first of its kind, however; no one knew how to translate a videogame into a live-action film and, it can be argued, few have really learned how to refine this process since then. Regardless, however, I think it’s best to view Super Mario Bros. in terms of its genre rather than as an adaptation; it’s so far removed from its source material that you kind of have to and, as a result, you’re left with a pretty decent kids movie that isn’t designed to appeal to everybody but is nowhere near as bad a movie as the majority of people like to make it out to be.

My Rating:

Rating: 3 out of 5.

Pretty Good

How do you feel about Super Mario Bros.? Did you see it as a kid? If so, what are your memories of it and how do you feel it holds up today? What did you think to the casting and the performances in the film? Do you agree with the majority consensus that it’s a terrible film because it’s nothing like the videogames or do you, perhaps, enjoy it as an entertaining adventure film and nothing more? Do you think a live-action Mario movie could work with today’s technology? Which Nintendo franchise would you most like to see get a live-action adaptation? Whatever you think, leave a comment below and come back next Thursday for more Mario content.

Game Corner [Mario Month]: Super Mario Bros. Deluxe (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.

Released: 27 January 2014
Originally Released: 10 May 1999
Developer: Nintendo
Original Developer: Nintendo R&D4
Also Available For: Game Boy Color

The Background:
After his debut in Donkey Kong (Nintendo R&D2/Ikegami Tsushinki, 1983) and graduating to his own arcade title alongside his brother, Luigi, Shigeru Miyamoto’s Mario took the world by storm with Super Mario Bros. The game was extremely popular, selling over 40 million copies and was pivotal to Nintendo saving the videogames industry from destitution. The game is also no stranger to being ported to other systems; it was a 16-bit makeover for Super Mario All-Stars (Nintendo EAD, 1993) and re-released on the Nintendo Wii to commemorate its twenty-fifth anniversary but, before that, though, Super Mario Bros. was ported to the Game Boy Color in this version of the game. Although Super Mario Bros. Deluxe suffered from a smaller screen size due to its new portable format, the game featured a few new features, such as additional animated elements, challenge modes, compatibility with the Game Boy Printer, and bonus levels, all of which saw it ranked as one of the greatest Game Boy games of all time and it was highly praised for its additional features. The game later made it onto the Nintendo 3DS Virtual Library, and gamers were even able to receive a free copy by registering their Nintendo Network ID, which further bolstered the game with the 3DS save state features and finally gave me my best opportunity to play through this classic title after years of struggling with Mario’s classic 2D efforts.

The Plot:
The Mushroom Kingdom has been invaded by Bowser, King of the Koopas, and this wacky army, the Koopa Troopas. After transforming the citizens into inanimate objects and kidnapping Princess Toadstool, Mario and Luigi set out to liberate the Mushroom Kingdom and rescue the princess from his clutches!

As an updated port of perhaps gaming’s most famous 2D, sidescrolling platformer,Super Mario Bros. Deluxe looks, sounds, and plays exactly the same as Super Mario Bros. except you have reduced visibility due to the screen size and the scrolling is a little janky at times. This basically means that the left side of the screen catches up to you pretty fast, which can be an issue as you can’t freely backtrack in the level (or “World”) so it can cause you to plummet to your death if you’re not careful, and it’s not always immediately clear what dangers or goodies are above or below you, meaning you need to use the directional pad to shunt the screen up and down for a better look but, otherwise, the controls and presentation are exactly what you’d expect from Nintendo’s breakout title. You’re played into the overalls or Mario (or Luigi, if you press the Select button prior to entering a World), who can run by holding B or Y and jump by pressing A. Mario will cain extra height and distance if you hold down the jump button and jump from a run, and jumping on enemies is his primary way of dispatching them. While Mario’s physics are pretty tight and responsive, he can be slippery and awkward at times, especially when bouncing off springs, but Luigi is even worse since he has far less traction and a less manageable, higher jump.

Run and hop around the game’s Worlds squashing baddies, clearing gaps, and swimming through treacherous waters.

As ever, your goal is to move from the left side of the screen to the right and reach a goal flag within a time limit; this timer is pretty generous and it’s only on later Worlds where the game throws repeating paths at you that it can get a bit tricky reaching the end in time. Mario hops about, bouncing off enemies and hitting blocks to progress, but also has to clear longer gaps with the aid of a spring or moving, weighted, or temporary platforms or smaller ones by running over them. Throughout the Mushroom Kingdom, you’ll find a number of pipes; some of these can be entered to reach secret areas, usually full of Coins, and provide you with a shortcut, but you can also go out of bounds sometimes and find a Warp Zone to skip ahead to a later World. For the most part, you’ll be exploring the block-and-gap-landed Mushroom Kingdom, with only a few different obstacles (either “stairs” or blocks, more gaps, or long stretches of land with enemies to bump off) distinguishing them, but you’ll also venture into underground areas somewhat reminiscent of caves (which tend to be a bit more claustrophobic had have more elevator platforms) and also underwater a couple of times. Here, you’re completely defenceless without a Fire Flower or Super Star and must rapidly tap A to swim ahead; you don’t need to worry about air, which is helpful, but there does seem to be sections where you’re pulled down towards the bottom of the screen (and your death). Although there’s a score counter in the game, it’s more for bragging rights than anything else and doesn’t seem to award you extra lives, though these are awarded for consecutively defeating enemies. Furthermore, while there are no mid-World checkpoints, you can save and end your game at any time from the pause menu and you’re given three save files to play with, and the game keeps track of your lives and completion progress on the new (albeit limited) overworld screen.

Graphics and Sound:  
Super Mario Bros. Deluxe appears to be an exact recreation of the original title, so it’s Super Mario Bros. as you know and love it and in all its 8-bit glory, though there are a few graphical additions to the water and lava to make them more lively. This means, of course, that animation frames are low, and the presentation is quite basic, but the game is still a colourful and pretty ambitious title, with Mario and Luigi’s sprites being the obvious standout. Sure, they have no idle animations, but they can grow and shrink and change colour from power-ups, do a little slide/turnaround pose when you quickly change direction, perform a breaststroke underwater, and have a little death animation when you stupidly run into an oncoming Koopa shell. Enemies receive even less animation but remain memorable simply because they’re so quirky and weird; mean little mushrooms, hammer tossing turtles, and pouting fish fill the screen, with all of them popping out from the backgrounds thanks to their unique colour palettes, and there’s never a question of not being able to see where you’re going or what you’re doing (as long as it’s not too high up or below you).

Some minor improvements and new additions bolster the classic 8-bit graphics.

The game also seems to pop a little more and run a little smoother, potentially because of the better hardware, and all the classic Super Mario Bros. tunes are here to settle in your ear for the rest of the day. There’s no many, granted, with only a handful of different tunes playing in the game’s different areas, but they’re all chirpy and catchy and help keep everything very whimsical. Sadly, there’s really not much variety in the Worlds; the Mushroom Kingdom stages sometimes have more pipes or blocks or platforms, or slightly different hills or even mushroom platforms at some point, but the closest they get to actually looking any different are the rare occasions when they receive a minor palette swap to simulate night or have brick castle walls in the background. The underwater levels are very visually appealing with their bubbles and seaweed, but are few and far between, same as the underground sections, but the game does impress with its end of World melody and jingle (a little flagpole raises and fireworks go off when you clear Worlds) and in the lava-filled stone castles you must conquer to clear each World. There’s no in-game story offered at all, but a Toad will tell you that the princess is in another castle at the end of every World and there’s fun little animations of the castle crumbling on the new overworld screens, so that’s a nice touch.

Enemies and Bosses:
Naturally, all the enemies you’ve come to know and love from Super Mario titles appear and made their debut in this title. The first enemy you’ll come across are the Goomas (pretty unthreatening sentient mushrooms that wander about and can be flattened with your jump) and the Koopa Troopas. These come in two colours (red and green) and a flying variant that can either catch you off-guard in mid-air or act as a temporary jump boost. When you defeat a Koopa Troopa, you can hit their shell to send it flying into other enemies for a score and life bonus but be careful as it’s just as likely to ricochet back at you. You can do the same to the Buzzy Beetles, but these guys are smaller, harder to hit, and are immune to your fireballs. Also of great annoyance are the piranha plants to pop out from pipes, usually when you least expect it, the squid-like Bloopers (who erratically swim about underwater), and Cheap Cheaps (who often dive up out of the water as you run over bridges).

You’ll be dodging past many enemies and fake Bowsers in you quest to take out the real Koopa King.

By far the worst regular enemies you’ll encounter, though, are Lakitu and the Hammer Bros. Lakitu hovers overhead (just out of reach) and drops Spinys across the stage , though you can take both of these out if you have a Fire Flower. The Hammer Bros usually attack in twos and from higher ground, tossing hammers in a tight arc that can be tough to jump over and even tougher to land with your jump as the window where they’re vulnerable is incredibly small. As for bosses, there’s technically only one in the entire game but you must battle him eight times and each time you have to endure a lava-filled obstacle course and/or pick the correct path to reach him, and this is, of course, Bowser. While seven of the eight Bowsers are actually his minions in disguise, each one attacks just like the real thing; perched over a bridge, Bowser moves back and forth, hops up and down, and spits fireballs at you. Some castles include a moving platform overhead for you to use to get behind him, and the fights become tougher as the amount of projectiles he spits increases, he adds a load of hammers to his arsenal, and Lava Bubbles will pop up from the magma below. However, the strategy to defeating Bowser remains the same every time: either blast at him repeatedly with a Fire Flower until he’s done in, or hop over him (or pass through him after taking a hit) and jump on the axe to remove the bridge beneath him and send him to the lava below.

Power-Ups and Bonuses:
Coins are scattered all throughout the Mushroom Kingdom. Collecting these adds to your score tally and will net you an extra life once you get one-hundred of them, after which the counter resets to zero. Your Coin counter carries over between Worlds and you’ll often find bunches of them hidden away beneath pipes or along higher paths. You can also grab a 1-Up Mushroom for an extra life as well, or a Super Mushroom to grow bigger and become Super Mario/Luigi. This lets you take a hit without dying and allows you to smash certain blocks by hitting them from beneath, which can uncover secret routes. A Fire Flower lets you throw bouncing fireballs with the B button, which is great for taking out most enemies (and Bowser) from a safe distance, but you’ll revert to you basic, smaller form if you take a hit in either of these states. Finally, there’s the Super Star, which grants you a brief period of invincibility from all onscreen hazards except bottomless pits and lava pools; consecutively defeating enemies in this state will net you extra points and, eventually, an extra life.

Additional Features:
One of the primary reasons I was actually able to finish the game this time around was due to the additional features offered by the Nintendo 3DS, most notably the save state feature, which lets you create a save point wherever you want so you can recover from mistakes much faster and easier, though the base game includes a number of additional features, too. Although you initially can’t backtrack to previous Worlds, you’ll be able to select which World to revisit on your save file after clearing the game. This also unlocks a new, far more challenging adventure, which you can play by selecting the star option when loading your save file. This replaces all Goombas with Buzzy Beetles, speeds up the enemy’s walking speed, reduces the size of elevator lifts, adds more fire bars, and removes the power-ups from the game. New Super Mario Bros. Deluxe also includes a ‘Challenge’ mode that sees you exploring the game’s Worlds once again, this time in search of Red Coins and Yoshi Eggs to unlock content in the game’s Toy Box.

The game’s additional modes and unlockables add a great deal of challenge and replay value.

Once you accumulate 100,000 points in the main game, you unlock ‘You VS. Boo’, a race against a Boo across rejigged Worlds hitting new blocks to clear the way so you can get ahead of the ghost, which can naturally pass through walls. Once you beat the Boo, it’ll get replaced by faster and faster different coloured variants to test your high score. When you earn 300,000 points in the main game, you’ll unlock Super Mario Bros. for Super Players (indicated by the Luigi face now on the main title screen), which is a remake of Super Mario Bros.: The Lost Levels (Nintendo EAD, 1986). This game gives you only one save slot and provides thirteen new, much tougher Worlds, a new item in the injury- (or death-) dealing Poison Mushroom, alongside palette swaps of enemies and a wind that makes jumping even trickier. You can also partake in a ‘VS Game’, which is a two-player challenge mode that’s exactly the same as ‘You VS Boo’ but pits you against another human player, a Toy Box that offers a variety of toys for you to unlock and use, and a Fortune Teller mini game that awards you extra lives on a new save file. Every time you defeat each of the eight castles, a Toad will be added to the Mystery Room which will show you animations or artwork to print out on the Game Boy Printer, you’ll receive medals for clearing the different game modes, and there’s even a calendar included if you want to keep track of the days of the week.

The Summary:
I’ve carried the shame of never having beaten Super Mario Bros. for most of my life; to be fair, I didn’t own any of Nintendo’s home consoles until the Nintendo 64 so I didn’t really play any Super Mario titles that weren’t on the Game Boy or played through emulators, and my attempt to play it on the Nintendo Wii was largely just me messing about rather than actually sitting down and trying to finish it. Knowing that the Nintendo 3DS Virtual Console wasn’t long for this world, I jumped at the chance to get Super Mario Bros. Deluxe while I could can give it a go and finally achieved that long-elusive goal of finishing this classic platformer, and I was mostly happy with the results. The game is fun, bright, and full of a steady challenge; while it can be too simple at some times and a little frustrating at others with its obstacle placement, it’s fun hopping about and using the skills you’ve mastered over the course of the game to dash past and jump around the later Worlds. While there’s not a lot of variety to the Worlds and the graphics are very basic, I can excuse that since it was an 8-bit title from the mid-eighties and it still holds up as an entertaining little adventure to keep you busy for a long afternoon. While it’s a shame that a version of Mario Bros. (Nintendo R&D1, 1983) included as well, I won’t hold that against it as the additional features added to this game, including mini games, The Lost Levels, and extra challenges, really make Super Mario Bros. Deluxe the definitive 8-bit version of Nintendo’s classic platformer.

My Rating:

Rating: 3 out of 5.

Pretty Good

Did you enjoy Super Mario Bros. Deluxe? What did you think to the additions made to the game and how do you feel it compares to the original videogame? Did you play Super Mario Bros. as a child and, if so, what are some of your memories of the game? Did you ever find all the Warp Zones and complete the new challenges introduced in this version of the game? Which of the classic Super Mario titles is your favourite? Are there any retro videogames you didn’t complete until later in like? Whatever your thoughts on Super Mario Bros. Deluxe, feel free to leave a comment below by signing up or drop your thoughts on my social media, and be sure to check back for more Mario content this March!

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. 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. 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.

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

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.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. 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. 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.