Talking Movies: The Super Mario Bros. Movie

Released: 7 April 2023
Director: Aaron Horvath and Michael Jelenic
Distributor: Universal Pictures
Budget: $100 million
Stars: Chris Pratt, Anya Taylor-Joy, Jack Black, Charlie Day, Seth Rogen, and Keegan-Michael Key

The Plot:
Struggling plumber brothers Mario (Pratt) and Luigi (Day) are sucked into the magical Mushroom Kingdom, where Luigi is captured by the nefarious King of the Koopas, Bowser (Black). To rescue him, Mario must embark on a quest with Princess Peach (Joy), whose people are threatened by Bowser’s perverted designs for her.

The Background:
It didn’t take long for Nintendo’s portly plumber Mario to become a mainstream icon; there was a time when Mario’s popularity eclipsed even Mickey Mouse so it wasn’t all that surprising to see Super Mario Bros, expand into a multimedia franchise. However, while the plumber duo may have seen some success in cartoons and comics, they didn’t exactly take the world by storm when they made the jump to the silver screen. Super Mario Bros. (Morton and Jankel, 1993) wasn’t just a critical and commercial flop, it was derided by both its cast and crew, and Mario creator Shigeru Miyamoto was so disappointed by the film that Nintendo largely shied away from feature-film adaptations. Miyamoto’s position softened decades later when he believed such films had the potential to grow Nintendo’s brands and we got our first hint that a new Super Mario Bros. movie was on the cards following the November 2014 hack of Sony Pictures. After partnering with Illumination, whose animated ventures and proven critically and commercially popular, production on an all-CGI Mario movie was officially announced in November 2017. The production would push Illumination’s techniques to new heights and the filmmakers specifically aimed to make the film both cartoony and somewhat realistic so that the dangers would be taken seriously, when appropriate. Sadly, the film attracted toxic, unnecessary criticism after Chris Pratt landed the Mario role over long-term Mario voice actor Charles Martinet, though Martinet did cameo in the film and the filmmaker’s defended their decision as it tied into their desire to craft an origin story for the titular brothers. Although The Super Mario Bros. Movie has currently grossed over $445.3 million at the box office, the critical reaction has been mixed: some praised the film’s carefree presentation and narrative, the colourful visuals, and some of the performances, but others couldn’t get past their bias against Chris Pratt and criticised the simple plot and influx of fan pandering. Still, as of this writing, all involved have expressed interest in producing sequels and potential spin-offs

The Review:
Unlike the vast majority of audiences, I actually didn’t mind the first Super Mario Bros. movie; sure, it had barely anything to do with the source material but adaptation is all about change and reconfiguring media into new forms. Plus, videogame adaptations weren’t exactly commonplace back then and the medium wasn’t exactly well renowned at the time, so it made sense to try and alter the admittedly bizarre source material into something a little more accessible and mainstream. Finally, I thought it was a perfectly fun action/adventure for kids, and the whole family, with some enjoyable performances and a great visual style, but it can’t be denied that the poor reception to the film pretty much soured Nintendo on ever trying something like that again. Luckily, Mario and their other characters lived on in animated ventures and comic books but Nintendo has such a rich and diverse library of characters that it’s a shame we don’t see more feature films based on their properties; I’m still waiting for a Lord of the Rings (Jackson, 2001 to 2003) or Willow (Howard, 1988) inspired outing for the Legend of Zelda series (Various, 1986 to present) and an epic sci-fi/action film based on the Metroid games (ibid, 1986 to present). So, yes, I was very excited to hear that Nintendo were finally getting back in the cinema industry and teaming up with Illumination for an all-CGI Super Mario Bros. movie. Illumination have done some really fun films in their time and seemed like a perfect fit for the franchise, and going all CGI just makes so much more sense than doing a live-action film or even a hybrid as then there are far less restrictions on what the filmmakers can do and the gap between the source material and the movie screen is suitably shortened as the mediums are much easier to compare.

Mario’s never-say-die attitude drives him to overcome his failings and reunite with his beloved brother.

The Super Mario Bros. Movie once again has the titular brothers be depicted as blue-collar plumbers operating out of Brooklyn, New York. Having recently quit the employ of the Wrecking Crew corporation and sunk their entire life savings in building a recognisable, independent brand for themselves, the Marios are struggling to make it on their own; their colourful extended family disapproves of their decision and Mario struggles with the constant belittlement he faces for daring to dream big. In an effort to establish himself and his brother as legitimate, Mario insists that the two try and save the city from being flooded and the two are subsequently separated when they’re sucked through a mysterious pipe while venturing into the sewers. Mario is deposited into the Mushroom Kingdom, a surreal land of fungus, floating blocks, and populated almost exclusively by diminutive mushroom men like Toad (Key). The excitable Toad offers to bring Mario to the kingdom’s benevolent matriarch, Princess Peach, to help him rescue Luigi, who they theorise has almost certainly been captured by Bowser. Awestruck by the Mushroom Kingdom, Mario insists on accompanying Peach on her mission to recruit the King army from the nearby Jungle Kingdom in a bid to defend her lands from Bowser’s forces. However, while she’s excited to meet another human, Peach also questions Mario’s stature and suitability for such a mission and demands that he complete a hazardous obstacle course and get to grips with the various power-ups that are scattered throughout the land. Though Mario struggles with this, a montage is used to show him improving bit by bit and learning the jumping, fighting, and survival skills he’ll need later in the movie; crucially, though, this montage and much of Mario’s character arc is focused on his never-give-up attitude. Even when he fails time and time again or is being pummelled by a physically superior foe, Mario never quits and keeps getting back up; it’s this attitude as much as his love for his brother that pushes him to overcome the various platforming challenges set before him, take life-threatening risks when racing along Rainbow Road, and even find the courage to challenge Donkey Kong (Rogen) to a battle in order to recruit the Kong’s aid.

Surprisingly, it’s Luigi who needs rescuing and Peach leads Mario in recruiting help from the Kongs.

While Mario lands in the Mushroom Kingdom and embarks on a wacky adventure filled with fun references to the videogames, Luigi is unceremoniously spat out into the dark lands, a nightmarish landscape filled with lava and patrolled by Bowser’s forces. Unlike his bold, daring older brother, Luigi is far more cautious and resorts to running from danger rather than facing it head-on like Mario. In a surprising twist, it’s not Princess Peach who is captured by Bowser and must be rescued; it’s Luigi, who is picked up by a group of Shyguy and summarily trapped in a cage above a lava pit to be sacrificed as tribute to the Koopa King’s would-be bride. Still, despite his terror, Luigi puts up a good effort in resisting Bower’s torture, though he’s left with no choice but to give up his brother’s name when the Koopa King rips at his moustache. It’s interesting that the filmmakers chose to separate the Mario Brothers for the majority of the film; the dynamic between the two is charming and relatable and they absolutely feels like two brothers who love each other and work well together. Luigi does thankfully get some time to shine in the finale, but he doesn’t get to try out any of the power-ups Mario does and is basically a hostage for the entire film. this means that it’s Princess Peach who acts as Mario’s primary partner throughout; sure, Toad is there as well to whip up some goodies and offer his unwavering support, but it’s Peach who teaches Mario about the world and the power-ups and with whom Mario bonds over his relationship with his brother. Princess Peach is depicted as a strong, courageous, and incredible capable matriarch and fighter; she can easily conquer the obstacle course that continuously defeats Mario, makes effective use of her dress and the various power-ups in a fight, and is definitely not a damsel in distress. While I feel like we could’ve seen this and had both Mario and Luigi accompany her on her quest, there focus is still firmly on the brothers’ bond and I definitely think Luigi will have more time to shine in a potential sequel.

Mario is forced to fight Donkey Kong to sway the Kongs to Peach’s course and net them some sweet wheels.

Mario and Toad join Princess Peach as she travels (on foot, strangely) across the land to the Jungle Kingdom. Confident that she can sway the Kongs to join her cause after Bowser decimates the Penguin Kingdom and steals the fabled “Super Star”, Peach is initially prepared to travel alone but allows Mario and Toad to accompany her after being impressed by their heart. The Jungle Kingdom sports Aztec-inspired ruins, a life-threatening series of racetracks through the treetops, and is ruled over by Cranky Kong (Fred Armisen), a cantankerous old ape who knows that he commands the greatest army in the land and initially has no interest in offering his aid. However, when he suggests that he’ll be swayed if Mario can defeat his son, Donkey Kong, in a fight, Mario doesn’t hesitate to take the challenge despite having no idea of what’s awaiting him in the arena. A natural showboat and possessing both great strength and an ego to match, Donkey Kong delights in pummelling his outclassed foe and, even when eventually trounced by Mario in his cat form, refuses to openly admit defeat or let go of his grudge against the plumber after he and the other Kongs get to work building special karts for the heroes to use to get the Bowser. However, Mario and Donkey Kong manage to build a mutual respect for each other after Mario goes out of his way to save DK’s life and the burly ape returns the favour, resulting in them fighting side by side against Bowser in the finale. Although its only briefly touched upon, there’s a surprising amount of emotional depth to the grandstanding ape; he’s riled up by the suggestion that all he has to offer is his incredible strength and he and Mario bond over their mutual desire to prove to their fathers that they’re not a joke.

The cruel and insecure Bowser wishes to use the Super Star to win over Princess Peach and rule the land.

Naturally, the film’s primary antagonist is the half-dragon, half-turtle Koopa King, Bowser. Bowser and his minions (including Koopas, Goombas, Parakoopas, Bullet Bills, Shyguys, and Piranha Plants) travel across the land on a gigantic slab of molten rock and lava and easily lay claim to the Super Star with a minimum of effort. While Kamek’s (Kevin Michael Richardson) magic and aid is of much assistance to Bowser, the Koopa King cuts an intimidating figure all on his own; alongside possessing incredible strength and surprising speed, he’s able to bring entire kingdoms to his knees with his fire breath and is not above leaving his prisoners to dangle over a lava pit or sacrificing them to prove his love to Princess Peach. Indeed, Bowser’s entire motivation for stealing the Super Star was not to harness its power for himself, but to impress Peach and convince her to marry him so that they could conquer all the lands side by side. Though he’s a cruel and merciless ruler, Bowser is deeply insecure; when he learns that Mario is accompanying the princess, he grows increasingly jealous and enraged and he’s in constant need of pep talks from Kamek and his minions to help him find the courage to propose to Peach. Bowser even takes the time to compose a ballad for his beloved “Peaches” and has no desire to destroy her kingdom unnecessarily, though he threatens to do so and kill all of her people if she doesn’t agree to marry him. Although they don’t actually meet until the film’s finale, Bowser’s hatred for Mario  is palpable since he views him not as a threat to his power, but a rival for Peach’s affections; he revels in the idea of immolating Luigi just to teach Mario a lesson and orders his troops to attack without mercy to intercept the heroes when they race along Rainbow Road. Here, Mario and the others encounter a particularly stubborn Koopa (Scott Menville) who delivers a decisive blow to the heroes by blowing up the Rainbow Road in his blue shell form, which allows all the Kongs to be captured and sees Mario and DK getting briefly swallowed up by a Maw-Maw before rocketing to Bowser’s domain to interrupt the ceremony at the film’s climax.

The Nitty-Gritty:
When I saw the first full trailer for The Super Mario Bros. Movie, I was a little worried that the film might be trying to do too much: in addition to the main plot, we have a fight between Mario and Donkey Kong, a kart race, and all these other elements being thrown at us but, thankfully, the pace, execution, and balance of these sequences is absolutely spot on. Also, the film is absolutely stuffed to the brim with Easter Eggs, references, and little background details to not just the Super Mario franchise, but other Nintendo properties as well: Mario and Luigi frequent a pizzeria themed after Punch-Out!! (Nintendo R&D3, 1987), Mario plays Kid Icarus (Nintendo R&D1/Tose, 1986) after being upset by his father (Charles Martinet), the heroes pass by a herd of Yoshis on their quest, Diddy, Chunky, and Dixie Kong cameo during the fight between DK and Mario (which also includes various references to Donkey Kong (Nintendo R&D1, 1981) and a Jumpman-themed Donkey Kong knock-off is also seen in the Punch-Out Pizzeria), and we even get a flashback showing Baby Mario and Baby Luigi (though, in my opinion, the filmmakers missed a trick by not having Wario be the bully who picks on Baby Luigi). Music and sound effects from the games are also included in the film’s soundtrack to great effect Mario and Luigi star in a hilarious and catchy ad for their plumbing services that sees them adopt comically exaggerated Italian accents, and there are numerous times when the film switches to a side-on perspective to recreate the platforming action of the videogames.

A fun-filled animated jaunt full of visual gags and references to the videogames.

The Super Mario Bros. Movie is a fun-filled action/adventure movie that’s full of visual gags, cartoonish humour, and a surprising amount of heart. The plot is simplicity at its best, but I fail to see how that’s a negative as the Super Mario games have never (or, at least, very rarely) showcased a deeper plot other than “rescue the princess”. Much of the humour comes from Mario’s struggles to adapt to the Mushroom Kingdom; he’s constantly being bashed about by the high-speed pipes, gets pummelled by Peach’s obstacle course, and is far less adept at holding onto his power-ups compared to the princess. Since he hates mushrooms, Mario is reluctant to devour the Super Mushroom but delights in being tall and super strong from its power; unfortunately, he’s so taken by this form that he falls victim to the shrinking Mini Mushroom in his fight with Donkey Kong, though he is able to make use of the cat and raccoon suits to best DK and keep Bowser’s gigantic Banzai Bill from destroying Peach’s castle. DK and Peach also get time to shine with the power-ups, making use of a Fire Flower and Ice Flower, respectively, when the wedding ceremony descends into all-out chaos. Mario’s fight with DK is a notable highlight; though overpowered and outclassed, Mario keeps getting back up and ultimately emerges victorious, leading to the Kongs building custom karts for him, Peach, and Toad. They, and the Kong army, take a shortcut along Rainbow Road to intercept Bowser and, when the Koopas give chase, we’re treated to a brief adaptation of the Mario Kart series (Various, 1992 to present) as characters toss banana peels and Koopa shells, switch to a glider and anti-gravity mode, and fire rockets at each other in a unexpectedly brutal race to the death. We even get a very brief underwater section where Mario and DK are trapped inside a Maw-Maw that, admittedly, is more there for dramatic effect and an obvious fake-out death, but it works to unite these two rivals for the finale. One last aspect I particularly enjoyed and didn’t see coming was the inclusion of the extended Mario family; since most of them delight in putting Mario down, they primarily act as a catalyst to push Mario into trying and fighting harder to prove that he’s not a joke.

Reunited and empowered by the Super Star, the Mario Brothers defeat Bowser and prove their worth as heroes.

Although Mario’s victory over Donkey Kong means the Kongs agree to join Princess Peach’s fight, the ape army is denied the chance to actually fight against Boswer’s forces as they’re left stranded on Rainbow Road or locked up in cages alongside Luigi and Bowser’s other captives. To spare her people, Peach agrees to marry Bowser but this is simply a ruse to get close to him; using an Ice Flower, she’s able to temporarily freeze the Koopa King and free his captives, with Mario swooping in at the last second in his raccoon suit to save Luigi from a gruesome fate. Enraged by the betrayal and defiance, Bowser orders a gigantic Banzai Bill be fired at Peach’s castle; though Mario is able to entice the weapon away, and into a warp pipe, the explosion causes a dimensional vortex that sucks them all into the streets of Brooklyn. There, an incensed Bowser targets Mario relentlessly and briefly sends him running before he’s inspired by his own advertisement and stands alongside his brother and newfound allies to battle Bowser. I was very happy to see Mario and Luigi team up for the finale after spending most of the movie apart; it really reinforced their bond and allowed them to share the spotlight rather than simply having Mario be the one to single-handedly stand against Bowser. Thanks to Princess Peach, the reunited Mario Brothers are able to grab the Super Star, which turns out to actually be a Starman power-up rather than a Power Star; this grants them temporary invincibility and superhuman abilities, allowing them to charge through Bowser’s minions and put a beating on the Koopa King, pummelling him in submission and force-feeding a Mini Mushroom to end his threat. In the aftermath, the city celebrates its heroes, and the Mario Brothers finally earn the respect of their friends and family, however they choose to stay in the Mushroom Kingdom and help rebuild the damage caused by Bowser’s attack.

The Summary:
I had a good feeling about The Super Mario Bros. Movie right from the first announcement; each trailer just got me more excited for it as it really seemed to be a fun-filled, colourful adventure film that did justice to the source material and I still can’t get over the fact that people were more focused on unnecessarily targeting the casting, specifically Chris Pratt, than focusing on how good the film looked. You can count on one hand the number of times that the videogame cast have featured in an adaptation, so I really don’t understand the pushback against Chris Pratt, especially as he was perfectly fine in the role and his dynamic with Charlie Day went a long way to making the Mario Brothers a charismatic and relatable duo. For me, The Super Mario Bros. Movie is probably the best feature-film adaptation of a videogame (and I’m something of an expert in that field); it’s startling faithful to the source material, featuring a bevy of references and Easter Eggs for fans of the games as well as adapting the platforming action of the source material in a fun and visually engaging way. While it’s a shame that the brothers were separated throughout the film, their bond is at the heart of the story and they come together beautifully in the finale, and I loved that Princess Peach was a strong, independent character who could hold her own alongside Mario. Bowser was also a highlight; his comical buffoonery and swooning over Peach didn’t diminish his threat and it was great seeing Mario, Luigi, Toad, peach, and DK unite to stand against him. honestly, you couldn’t really ask for more from a Super Mario Bros. movie; it takes everything that made the games so popular and brings it to life as a thoroughly entertaining animated venture that’s only bolstered by the all-CGI presentation, the ideal format for these characters and their surreal adventures.

My Rating:

Rating: 5 out of 5.


Did you enjoy The Super Mario Bros. Movie? How do you feel it compares to the live-action film and Mario’s animated adventures? What did you think to the casting and the performances in the film? Do you agree that going all CGI was the best way to bring the source material to life? What did you think to Princess Peach having a more proactive role and would you like to see Luigi get more of the spotlight in a potential sequel? What Easter Eggs and references did you spot? Which Nintendo franchise would you most like to see get a feature-film adaptation? Whatever you think, leave a comment below or on my social media and be sure to check out my other Super Mario content on my site.

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!

Game Corner: Luigi’s Mansion 3 (Nintendo Switch)

Released: 31 October 2019
Developer: Next Level Games

The Background:
In 1996, following their success in the “Console Wars” of the nineties, Nintendo entered the third dimension with Nintendo 64, a console that stood out against its competitors by continuing to use cartridges, coming readymade for multi-player player, and featuring a unique controller design. Having lost out to Sony’s new-fangled PlayStation, Nintendo sought to recoup their once-vaulted position as the premier entertainment option with the Nintendo GameCube, which finally saw the company switch to discs (albeit with a suitably “Nintendo” flair) and was also notable for Mario’s younger brother, Luigi, finally receiving his time in the spotlight with Luigi’s Mansion (Nintendo EAD, 2001), a game that focused more on exploration and puzzle solving as Luigi channelled his inner Ghostbuster to suck up ghosts infesting a hotel and rescue his brother. Although the game sold extremely well and was a critical success, it took twelve years for the game to get a sequel. Luigi’s Mansion: Dark Moon (Next Level Hames, 2013) released for the Nintendo 3DS and was also a best-selling title for the system and met with largely unanimous praise. After development of a third game for the Wii U was delayed, Next Level Games finally returned to the franchise six years after the release of the second game; developed for the Nintendo Switch, Luigi’s Mansion 3 saw the setting expand from a mansion to a high-rise hotel and also increased the game’s accessibility by including on- and offline multiplayer modes. Considering the success of its predecessors, it’s perhaps no surprise that Luigi’s Mansion 3 became one of the Switch’s best-selling titles and was regarded as Luigi’s best adventure yet.

The Plot:
Luigi, his pet ghost dog Polterpup, Mario, Princess Peach, and three Toads are invited to the luxurious Last Resort hotel for a vacation. Soon after arriving, Luigi awakens to find the hotel transformed into a haunted building and the others imprisoned in pictures by the hotel’s ghostly owner, Hellen Gravely, as part of a trap set by the nefarious King Boo. Arming himself with Professor E. Gadd’s newest Poltergust vacuum, Luigi hesitantly sets out to rescue his friends and suck up the hotel’s ghost infestation.

Like its predecessors, Luigi’s Mansion 3 as an action/adventure game with a strong emphasis on exploration and puzzle solving. Players are played into the shoes of Mario’s younger, often unfairly overlooked brother, Luigi, who is robbed of his usual athletic abilities and must rely on a vacuum-cleaner like device, the Poltergust G-00, rather than his jumping prowess to dispose of the many ghosts that have infested the hotel. As you explore the many dark hallways and various themed floors of the hotel, you’ll need to use Luigi’s torch (or “flashlight” for any Americans out there) to stun nearby ghosts; you can do this by tapping or holding A, which will freeze most ghosts on the spot for a few seconds so you can suck them up by holding down ZR and filling up an onscreen circle by holding back on the left analogue stick. Once this is full, you can press A to perform a slam move that will deal greater damage to the ghost and speed up the process, but just sucking them up is enough to whittle down their health.

Stun ghosts and suck them up with your trusty Poltergust G-00.

You can also use ZL to send out a gust of air to push enemies back or fire certain items at ghosts as projectiles, or press ZR and ZL together to perform a quick burst akin to a jump that won’t let you reach higher platforms but will knock back enemies. All of these Poltergust functions are also useful for interacting with your environment; you can suck up curtains and sheets, blast furniture and chandeliers, and affect almost everything in every room either with the vacuum or by pressing X. This will reward you with loot, such as Golden Coins, gold bars, bills of money, and pieces of heart to refill your health, but can also uncover hidden ghosts. Some of these, such as shiny gold and blue-coloured variants, will reward you with additional loot and collectibles, so it’s well worth exploring every room you enter to see what you can uncover. You can use the left-hand circle pad (or directional pad, depending on which Switch you have) to call for Mario with left, right, and down, or enlarge the onscreen map by pressing up. The map can also eventually be accessed from the + menu, which allows you to view the floor you’re on, review your current objectives, and chat with E. Gadd for hints, though it’s generally pretty clear where you need to go and not only will Polterpup occasionally pop up to show you where you need to go but E. Gadd will communicate hints to you through the “Virtual Boo” if you struggle to solve puzzles.

Luigi can use his plunger or his gooey doppelgänger to solve puzzles.

As the story progresses, E. Gadd will furnish you with these additional upgrades, and others; eventually, you’ll gain the ability to fire plungers with Y, which you can suck up to destroy chests and other parts of the environment, activate switches and such, and remove protective items from certain ghosts. You’ll also acquire the “Dark-Light Device”, another torch-like appendage that lets you uncover hidden chests, doors, and other secrets, track Polterpup and the mischievous Polterkitty, and even defeat certain enemies by holding X to shine the dark-light around the environment. Your most useful ability, and the game’s big new gameplay mechanic, is “Gooigi”, a protoplasmic double of Luigi that E. Gadd eventually supplies you with and which you can send out of the Poltergust but pressing in the right stick. Doing so switches your control to the gooey double, who can slip through bars, vents, and grates and allow you to clear rooms and puzzles by activating switches or opening doors as one character and progressing as the other. Gooigi is quite fragile, having only twenty-five hearts to his name, and immediately dissolves upon touching water, and many of the game’s puzzles and bosses that involve him are geared specifically towards having a second player on hand. If you don’t have one, you’re forced to switch between the two on the fly using the right analogue stick, which can be tricky and frustrating at times and leaves Luigi vulnerable to attack while playing as Gooigi. Still, it’s an interesting mechanic and make you think a little harder about approaching each room, as your exploration may uncover a hidden vent that leads to a key or other loot.

You’ll need to make innovative use of Gooigi and the Poltergust to find the keys needed to progress.

Your primary objective in Luigi’s Mansion 3 is to rescue the three Toads, Mario, and Princess Peach from the magical paintings they’ve been trapped in. To do this, you’ll need to defeat a number of bosses to acquire the missing buttons for the hotel’s elevator; each boss you defeat awards a button, giving you access to another floor of the hotel, and many of the floors contain a specific theme that help them to stand out. Most of the time, you need to navigate through rooms clearing out all of the ghosts you encounter and exploring any hidden areas; other times, you’ll need to find a key to open doors, or find another way around if doors are blocked or barred, or use the two Luigis to activate switches and fans with their weight or Poltergusts. The game’s puzzles eventually become a bit more complex, and it’s not always immediately clear what you need to do: in one area, you need to roll and unroll carpets according to how they appear in a mirror; in another, you need to use the jump burst to uncover dangerous and painful laser traps; and other times, you need to blast Toad at breakable walls or use your plunger to pull down weights to activate lifts. Quite a few puzzles require you to shut off water streams so that Gooigi can reach a switch, or have you creating shortcuts using ladders, or blowing on windmills to rotate rooms and access hidden switches or keys. Probably the most complex puzzle is found on the eighth floor, which is a television studio; here, you need to warp between four different film sets using television sets and activate a film camera as one character while the other fends off ghosts to acquire an item, which must be then taken to another set and so on until you’re able to get the key item you require.

Graphics and Sound:
Luigi’s Mansion 3 retains both the charming, cartoony aesthetic of its iconic characters and also the gloomy, ominous surroundings of its predecessors. Luigi’s character model is fantastically expressive; his body shivers and his teeth chatter as he cautiously wanders the hotel’s hallways, and he jumps with fright at any sudden movements or sounds. I find it endlessly amusing that the developers continue to implement a specific button to have him call out for Mario in a terrified voice, and it’s a continual source of amusement to see how he comically reacts to scares, rooms, and even damage. Of all the other Mario characters seen in the game, the one you’ll interact with the most on a gameplay level is Toad; you have to rescue three of these little blighters, and they’ll follow you around, squealing with fear at every opportunity, and you can give them a little high-five or even shoot them as a projectile to progress further. You’ll also spend a great deal of time interacting with Professor E. Gadd, who sets up a laboratory in the hotel basement that you can quick travel to for upgrades, hints, and to view bonus materials, and all of these familiar characters are brought to life wonderfully using the power of the Nintendo Switch.

The Last Resort is full of rooms both bizarre and expected, and carries a comical horror throughout.

The Last Resort is quite a large and versatile environment; although it’s a hotel, it contains many areas and rooms that you might not expect. At first, you’ll explore such traditional areas as the basement, laundry room, and various bedrooms and dining rooms you would expect to find in a hotel. Each of these are infested with ghosts, of course, and filled with interactable objects, but things start to get incredibly bizarre as you explore the upper floors of the hotel. Here, you’ll enter the aforementioned television studio, a floor littered with magician’s tricks and apparel (including mirrors and upside-down rooms), a gymnasium, and an Egyptian-themed floor full of hieroglyphics, sand, and even a pyramid. You’ll also find a pirate-themed cavern, a beach, and explore rat-infested sewers and a boiler room, and scale a crumbling, wrecked staircase in the overgrown gardens. There are fifteen floors to visit and two basement levels to explore, with secrets and enemies increasing the further you progress; areas start to become more and more overrun with ghosts and different combinations of enemies, which constantly keeps you on your toes, and it’s continuously amusing to see what new surprises await you on the next floor as the hotel is crammed full of both surreal areas like the Unnatural History Museum and the comparatively normal master suite at the top floor.

The game’s presentation shines through, but especially in the pantomime-like cutscenes.

While the graphics and environments are impressive and full of a decent amount of variety, the music isn’t really all that interesting. The iconic Luigi’s Mansion theme plays sporadically throughout the game, and areas are mostly accompanied by bursts of lightning, skittering rats, chattering ghosts, and the sounds of Luigi’s terrified footsteps and whimpers. Ambient sounds and subdued musical cues help add to the game’s comical terror, and Polterpup’s inexhaustible enthusiasm is a welcome addition and, as is the standard for Mario games, characters speak using text boxes, gibberish, and a few choice voice clips, so you won’t have to worry about sitting through any overblown cutscenes here and can simply enjoy the characters employing amusing pantomime-like motions and spouting nonsense when they interact.

Enemies and Bosses:
As you might expect, given the franchise, your primary enemies in Luigi’s Mansion 3 are a series of ghosts who have taken residence in the hotel. These range from the standard blue-coloured Goobs (who are easily mopped up but sometimes shield themselves with shades and wield melee weapons like baseball bats), the yellow-coloured Oozers (who pop up from hiding spots to throw projectiles at you), and miniature versions of these enemies. You’ll also have to fend off rats, bats, and spiders (though these little critters can be easily dispatched with a burst of your flashlight), and possessed chests and bins that need to be blasted with projectiles or subjected to your dark-light. Soon enough, you’ll come across more formidable ghosts, however: the Hammers will try to crush you with their cube-like bodies and must be sucked up from behind, Slinkers will scare you and leave you vulnerable and also try to kidnap Toads, and Trappers require both Luigi and Gooigi to suck on their tongues to dispatch them. When in the Tomb Suites, you’ll have to knock over mummified ghosts with your jump burst and unravel their bandages to expose their ectoplasmic bodies, and larger and more diverse groups of enemies will eventually populate the hotel’s higher floors, causing you to mix and match your attack strategies.

The first few bosses slowly introduce mechanics that prove extremely useful for later battles.

Seventeen bosses must be fought in the game’s story, with fifteen of them being required to beat in order to access every floor in the mansion; while their attacks differ from each other and you’ll generally have to employ different strategies in each battle, they all mostly boil down to finding a way to stun the boss and then suck them up with the Poltergust. The first boss you’ll encounter is a ghostly steward, who shields himself from your flashlight with suitcases and then tosses them at you in the hotel’s basement. On the fifth floor, you’ll counter a particularly malevolent maid who disappears through the bedrooms of the RIP Suites and will cause Luigi to sneeze with her feather duster, and can only be sucked up after using your plunger to slam the briefcase stuck in her stomach. In the hotel’s mall, you’ll need to find a number of different keys to confront Kruller, a bulbous security guard who dissolves Gooigi with a water pistol and must have his shades sucked off so that he can be stunned, but also strikes with a rolling attack. While in the second floor kitchen, you’ll battle the first formidable boss of the game, Chef Soulfflé, who shields himself with a frying pan and unleashes a spinning attack with his knives. To defeat him, you’ll need to avoid the fishes he throws at you and stun him by firing melons at him to leave him vulnerable to your torch and Poltergust.

Soon, you’ll need to use your Poltergust in innovative ways to outwit and defeat the bosses.

Things start getting a little more complicated when you battle Amadeus Wolfgeist, a pianist who remains safely out of reach on the stage and causes chairs to fly at you, distracts you with ballerina ghosts, and then possesses his piano. In this form, he is invulnerable and hops around the theatre, but can be stunned when Amadeus pops out of the piano; you then need to try and shoot bombs into the piano lid to collapse it and drag Amadeus out with your plunger, which gives you the chance to properly damage him but you’ll also have to watch out for his flaming attacks and the piano keys he tosses at you. Another troublesome boss is King MacFrights, who’s fought in a medieval coliseum and can only be stunned when he charges at you for a lance attack while archers shoot arrows at you. After slamming him a few times, his armour will break and you’ll have to dodge his spinning attack and strike while he’s left dizzy and vulnerable. Just reaching Doctor Potter can be a chore as you have to weave through the wild gardens to get to him and, when you do, he sends his Venus flytrap at chomp away at you; avoid this, however, and it’ll get stuck on the environment, allowing you to cut it using a convenient buzzsaw, which leaves him vulnerable to your Poltergust. After helping Morty the ghostly director find his megaphone, he’ll force you to star in his latest production and battle a Goob inside a Godzilla-like costume; you must use the Poltergust, in conjunction with Gooigi, to force the monster’s fireballs back into its face in order to damage it. Once you destroy the suit, the Goob is easily sucked up, and you can also choose to suck up Morty as well by going into his office in you fancy it.

Later bosses make use of their environment to defend themselves and attack you!

In the Unnatural History Museum, you’ll be attacked by another monstrous enemy as the caveman-like Ug possesses a giant Tyrannosaurus rex skeleton, which can only be damaged by firing eggs first into its mouth and then into the glowing red orb in its rib cage. Once the T. rex is destroyed, Ug himself will come out to fight; while he’s a bit of a bruiser, as long as you stay away from his club and burst-jump over his shockwaves, you can stun and suck him when his club gets stuck in the floor. Clem awaits you in the boiler for a battle in a reservoir of water lined with spikes; he’ll attack you with a fan and send out landmines, which you must direct towards him to blast him out of the water and leave him vulnerable, meaning it’s best to leave Luigi floating in the water and have Gooigi on the outside ready to attack. After conquering the Tomb Suits’ puzzles and traps, you’ll battle Serpci, a pharaoh-like entity that protects herself with a mound of sand and strikes at you with cobras. Sucking at her sand and snakes will cause her to become exposed, then you must dodge the projectiles she fires to stun her, though her speed and unpredictability make her a particularly aggravating boss. A trio of magician ghosts, Nikki, Lindsey, and Ginny, await you in the Twisted Suites; this is actually good preparation for the final boss as the three fire playing cards at you from their magician’s hats and must be stunned with a jump-burst when they try and grind you up at close range and you must attack each ghost in turn, with decoy ghosts taking the place of each of the triplets as they’re captures.

After chasing down Polterkitty, you’ll need to make use of Gooigi to defeat the game’s later bosses.

One of the most recurring enemies you’ll face is Poltergkitty, a mini boss who steals a couple of the elevator keys and forces you to chase after it across the floors of the hotel. When you finally confront it, you need to face away from it and wait for it to creep up behind you; right as it’s rearing to strike, at the very last minute, you must turn around and stun it so you can suck it up and remove one of its tails until it’s defeated. Captain Fishook awaits you in the Spectral Catch; at first, you need to avoid his charge and the swing of his hook, stunning and sucking him up when he gets stuck in the deck of the ship, but things get much more harrowing when the shark possesses the ship itself, turning the wooden decking into a gnashing mouth that you must fire bombs into and avoid being tipped into it by the ship’s wild dipping. Johnny Deepend absolutely requires the use of both Luigi and Gooigi and is best fought with another player; Luigi must take cover and distract the boss so that Gooigi can slip around behind it and drain the water from the pool. After that, simply avoid his fists, remove his shades, and stun him with a water polo ball to suck him up, and you’ll then have to contend with DJ Phantasmagloria. First, you have to deal with the dancing Goobs, stunning the one who has the elevator button you need with a jump-burst, before the boss officially joins the battle. DJ Phantasmagloria teleports around the dance floor tossing vinyl records at you and you need to use the burst-jump to knock off her afro and leave her vulnerable to your flashlight so you can suck her up.

Fittingly, thanks get extremely challenging and chaotic for the final showdown with Hellen and King Boo.

When you finally reach the fifteenth floor of the hotel, you’ll have to face off against the hotel owner, Hellen Gravely, in another boss battle that is absolutely built to be conquered by two players. While Luigi must avoid the spinning lasers and coloured laser walls, Gooigi must head down into the lower levels to deactivate the aforementioned laser walls by pulling four switches. Removing all four walls makes trying to suck her up much easier but realistically you can probably do just as good a job of avoiding her attacks and going after her with one or two of the walls deactivated. As the battle progresses, you’ll have to avoid more lasers by either frantically running around the arena or jump-bursting over them, and water will flood the lower level, restricting which switches you can pull, though you can flash the green lights on the walls and the insects to replenish your health if necessary. Afterwards, you must head to the roof to do battle with King Boo, who tries to squash and rattle you by dropping down from above and causing shockwaves, spits a bunch of fireballs at you, tries to slam and swipe at you with his tongue, electrifies the roof tiles, and tosses bombs into the arena. You must quickly suck one of these up and fire them into his mouth, which is easier said than done given how tricky the aiming mechanics can be, and this only makes the battle harder as King Boo spawns first one and then two duplicates and vastly increases the aggression and number of its attacks. You’ll only gain victory by firing bombs into the right King Boo, but it’s actually easier to just blast as many bombs as possible at all the targets and hope for the best as things get very chaotic very quickly thanks to the time limit in the final phase.

Power-Ups and Bonuses:
At the start of the game, your options are limited to your flashlight but it doesn’t take long before you acquire the Poltergust G-00. However, once you have this, you’ve basically got everything you’ll need for the remainder of the game; sure, you get the dark-light, the plungers, and the Virtual Boo but there’s only really one prominent upgrade to the Poltergust, the Super Suction, and it’s only used once in the game, which is a little disappointing. You can earn additional upgrades for the device by meeting certain requirements, such as collecting all of the game’s gems or defeating all of the optional Boos, but none of the money you earn is used to upgrade your repertoire or even your health. When Professor E. Gadd sets up his shop, however, you can buy some helpful items, such as Gold Bones to have Polterpuppy resurrect you when your health is drained and sensors to alert you to nearby Gems and Boos, but that’s about it in terms of items and power-ups beyond the temporary use of a buzzsaw in the gardens.

Additional Features:
As alluded to, there are some rewards you can earn for meeting specific requirements, referred to as “Achievements”; these are directly tied to repetitive actions, such as riding the elevator, defeating specific numbers of ghosts, and interacting with certain objects in each environment. They’re also tied the game’s few collectibles; every floor has six hidden gems to find, with many requiring quite a bit of exploration and ingenuity to track down, and you’ll also be given the optional task of hunting down sixteen hidden Boos, who require a little more strategy than just stunning and sucking up as they like to play hide-and-seek, must be stunned with the dark-light, and can be difficult to pin down. When you complete the story, you’ll receive a letter grade and get to see a rebuilt version of the hotel that reflects how much money you have but, unlike in the first game, you don’t get to play through a mirrored version of the game on a new save file.

Hunt down hidden gems and Boos, and battle against friends in the game’s multiplayer modes.

You can view the ghosts you’ve defeated and the gems you’ve collected at Professor E. Gadd’s lab, but the majority of your additional playtime will probably be taken up with the game’s extra modes, which can be played either solo or alongside fellow players. The ScreamPark challenges you to collect Coins, defeat ghosts, or shoot at targets to score points for your team; the ScareScraper sees you defeating ghosts, rescuing Toads, and fulfilling other objects either alone or in teams while avoiding traps. At the end of those mode, you’ll battle the Boolossus, an even more formidable version of King Boo that adds a phasing attack to its arsenal and splits into a number of regular Boos after eating a bomb. If you fancy putting your hand in your pocket, you can also purchase some additional content (such as costumes, games, and ghosts) for these modes, though I have to say that I remain unimpressed with the lack of post-game content.

The Summary:
I remember enjoying the original Luigi’s Mansion back when I borrowed it for the GameCube when it came out, but being disappointed by the post-game content; there wasn’t too much on offer beyond the main game, despite there being a lot to see and do as you explore, and I can’t say that I was too interested in revisiting the franchise after that experience but I was won over by the game’s visual style and charm. Luigi’s Mansion 3 is basically more of the same; the gameplay and mechanics haven’t really changed all that much as far as I can tell, and the developers haven’t really complicated the premise with too many different mechanics. The addition of Gooigi is an interesting one that is tailor-made for two players (specifically an older and younger player) but perfectly acceptable to play solo as long as you can properly manage your characters thanks to the puzzles and areas being quite restricted to closed off areas. As visually impressive as the game is, and as expansive and diverse as the hotel is, however, there’s really not too much to occupy your time in the main game outside of bustin’ ghosts and ransacking the hotel for loot. There’s still no option to play as any other character, which I find endlessly disappointing, and while you suck up a lot of currency, there’s very few opportunities to really spend your money on anything beyond a few minor additions to your arsenal, and beyond the hidden gems and Boos there’s not really much incentive to explore or search around the hotel’s rooms. I imagine that the additional modes offer a lot of replay value, and that the game is more enjoyable in co-op mode, but I put all of my time into the single player story and, while I had a good time, I was hoping for a little more from it. A mirrored mode, purchasable upgrades and skins, and maybe the option to utilise Polterpup and/or Toad would have been nice but there’s definitely enough content and gameplay on offer to keep players (especially younger players) invested and challenged, I just think there could have been a little more spice added to the mix.

My Rating:

Rating: 3 out of 5.

Pretty Good

Have you played Luigi’s Mansion3? What did you think of it compared to the previous two games, and which was your introduction to the franchise? Are you a fan of the series and how different it is from the traditional Mario formula? Do you agree that there could have been a little more in-game content or were you satisfied with what was on offer? Which of the floors and bosses was your most, or least, favourite and did you ever play the game in co-op? What games are you playing this Halloween season? Whatever you think about Luigi’s Mansion, sign up to leave your thoughts or let me know on my social media.

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.