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.

Fantastic

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
Distributor:
Shochiku-Fuji Company VAP Video
Budget:
Unknown
Stars:
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.

Gameplay:
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.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

My Rating:

Rating: 2 out of 5.

Could Be Better

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

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


So, for no better reason than “Mar.10” resembling Mario’s name, March 10th is widely regarded as being “Mario Day”, a day to celebrate Nintendo’s portly plumber, an overalls-wearing mascot who literally changed the videogame industry forever and shaped the home console market of the nineties. To commemorate Mario Day this year, March is once again “Mario Month” and I am spending every Thursday of this month celebrating everyone’s favourite Koopa-flattening plumber.


Released: 27 October 2017
Developer: Nintendo EPD

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Purchase collectibles and new outfits using your Coins.

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

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

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

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

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

My Rating:

Rating: 5 out of 5.

Fantastic

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

Game Corner: Mario & Sonic at the Rio 2016 Olympic Games (Nintendo 3DS)

Released: 18 February 2016
Developer: Arzest/Spike Chunsoft
Also Available For: Arcade and Nintendo Wii U

The Background:
Nintendo’s Super Mario and SEGA’s Sonic the Hedgehog went head to head as their respective company’s mascots during the “Console Wars” of the nineties, resulting in some of the greatest and most influential videogames of that generation, and both company’s went to great lengths to prove that their consoles were the superior. Ultimately, thanks to many expensive peripherals and an ever-changing marketplace, SEGA were forced to withdraw from the home console market and their supersonic mascot appeared on Nintendo consoles, leading to discussions of a long-awaited crossover began between Mario creator Shigeru Miyamoto and Sonic creator Yuji Naka.

Mario and Sonic continually face off in a series of tie-ins to the Olympic Games.

Surprisingly, the two were brought together in the spirit of friendly competition after SEGA was awarded the 2008 Beijing Olympic licence. Mario & Sonic at the Olympic Games (SEGA Sports R&D, 2007) followed as a result; though basically a series of mini games featuring Mario and Sonic characters taking part in Olympic events, the game was a commercial success and led to a series of annual titles being released in conjunction with a number of different Olympic events. This year, I finally got around to playing the 2016 edition of the game, which was set in Rio de Janeiro after they won the right to host the games that year so, since the Beijing Winter Olympic Games are set to kick off today, I figured this was an ideal time to leech off of that event and share my thoughts about this title.

The Plot:
Players create a Mii character and choose to join either Sonic’s gym or Mario’s gym. Either choice sees them training with, and facing off against, familiar Mario and Sonic characters in a bid to win as many gold medals as possible over the seven days of the Olympic Games.

Gameplay:
If you’ve played any of the Mario & Sonic videogames before, you’ll know exactly what to expect heading into Mario & Sonic at the Rio 2016 Olympic Games; essentially, despite the presence of a story mode, the game is a collection of Olympic-themed mini games that go out of their way to take advantage of every single button, gimmick, and control scheme offered by the Nintendo 3DS. The game features forty-one characters from the Mario and Sonic franchises but, this time around, not only are your character selections limited to certain events (Knuckles the Echidna can only take part in the Javelin Throw and Boxing events, for example, while Waluigi can only be used in the Long Jump and BMX events) and come with different stats to give them more emphasis on power, speed, stamina, and the like, but you don’t even get to play as any of your favourite characters in the game’s “Road to Rio” story mode!

Pick between Mario’s Gym and Sonic’s Gym and train to level-up your Mii.

While you can select from the game’s many and varied events (each of which is accompanied by an easy, normal, and hard criteria to get bronze, silver, and gold medals, respectively, with different goals, scores, or times to hit for each) in the game’s single or multiplayer modes, the only way to unlock all of the game’s characters is to play through the story mode. Here, you take control of a Mii and play through seven days of the Olympic Games, visiting different towns in Rio and conversing with non-playable characters (NPCs) that include randomly generated Mii and Mario and Sonic characters. As is often the case, the story branches almost immediately as you’re asked to pick between Sonic’s Gym and Mario’s Gym; whichever you pick, you’ll be competing for gold medals against the opposing gym and can practise the game’s events to earn Training Points and level-up your Mii, which allows you to wear better costumes and increase your stats. The actual story itself is more basic than ever; Mario and Sonic’s Gyms are taking part in the Olympic Games in the spirit of friendly competition…and that’s about it. There are some subplots about Sonic and Mario being absent and Bowser being up to no good, but mainly it’s just a clunky narrative to let you experience the game’s events.

Levelling-up allows you to wear better outfits and improve your chances at getting gold medals.

Each location, and the bulk of the game’s action, takes place on the top screen of the 3DS; here, you navigate the largely empty and uninspiring overworld maps, interact with NPCs, and can see which day you’re playing, your current level, and how many apples and melons you have (which are needed to purchase new outfits and gear from the Yoshi NPCs located in each area). The bottom screen acts as a 2D map and allows you to manually save, view the stats of your current rival, view your stats and available gear, and change your Mii’s outfit whenever you like. Every day of the story mode is centred around you training to face a rival from the opposing gym; there are a number of smaller gyms (or “ginásios”) in each town (generally about four) where a character from your chosen side’s gym will challenge you to practise one of the game’s many events to earn apples and Training Points. As long as you finish between first and fourth, you’ll earn apples and Training Points, but the ginásio won’t be ticked off as complete unless you finish in first place (this is also the best way to earn the most rewards). You don’t actually have to beat the ginásios, however; you can tackle each day’s preliminary event and finals as is but you’ll dramatically increase your chances by beating ginásios and levelling-up so you can equip better gear to buff your stats.

You’ll need to make use of all the 3DS’s functions in order to complete each event.

To clear each day, you first need to qualify in the prelims for that day’s event: on the first day in the Mario’s Gym story, for example, you’ll need to qualify in the 100m Hurdles event before you go up against your rival (and other Mii), Silver the Hedgehog, in the finals; on the fourth day of the Sonic’s Gym story, you’ll need to take on Bowser Jr. in the Equestrian event. The ginásio training sees you playing the game’s other events but, while you don’t necessarily need to come first in the ginásio events, you do need to finish first in the prelims and finals to progress the story. Once again, many of these events are needlessly frustrating; you’ll get a brief overview of what to do before an event but this often doesn’t really help prepare you as it’ll provide basic instructions and then the actual event will throw new inputs and requirements at you that aren’t mentioned in the overview. The game’s events mostly have you rapidly tapping buttons, pressing specific button combinations, shouting or blowing into the microphone (which continues to make me feel a little woozy…), moving the 3DS about like a moron, or using the stylus or circle pad. Some of these are quite simple (Synchronised Duet is a glorified rhythm game where you must press A in time to the beat and switch reticules with the directional pad (D-pad), while Trampoline has you jumping and pressing A when you hit the centre of the trampoline and aiming yourself with the circle pad) but others can be extremely aggravating (Hammer Throw sees you holding the L and R buttons, gyrating the 3DS, and releasing the buttons at the right moment, and you’ll need to awkwardly tilt the 3DS about to aim and use L or R to shoot in the Double Trap shooting event).

The onscreen prompts and clunky controls can make even the simplest events arduous.

While there are far less doubles games, these will still crop up; Platform Diving (Synchronized) sees you pressing A to dive at the same time as your partner without the aid of an onscreen countdown, Badminton (Doubles) has you sliding the stylus down the touch screen to smack the flashing shuttlecock, and Beach Volleyball sees you moving with the circle pad to the highlighted areas and pressing either A (or X for a super shot once your gauge is full) to hit the ball back and score a point. While the events seem to be a bit fairer compared to the last Mario & Sonic game I played, they’re still incredibly vague at times and come down to a question of timing or frantic button mashing rather than skill. The Kayak event, for example, requires you to set the 3DS down and frantically spin the circle pad like an absolute madman; you’ll need to stave off a fainting spell and consistently blow into the microphone while steering to boost pads in the Sailing – 470 (Pair) event, and you’ll need to draw neat circles to swim along in the Backstroke event (but, of course, the directions for this are on the top screen rather than the bottom where you’re drawing).

“Plus” events add new obstacles and success criteria and allow you to unlock new characters.

Overall, the games are once again very hit and miss: Handball isn’t too bad and has you touching the screen to block incoming shots; Rhythmic Gymnastics has you pressing or holding buttons in time with some familiar music tracks, and the BMX event has been slightly tweaked to make cycling and hitting boost jumps a little easier but it’s still a very clunky experience. New to this version of the game are “Plus” events; you can unlock additional characters by playing these in the story mode, and they’re basically slightly modified versions of the prelims/finals you’ll take on for that day. This could mean the presence of an additional gauge to fill to gain access to helpful items, extra obstacles from the Mario and Sonic franchises that you’ll have to watch out for, or slight changes to the gameplay mechanics to speed things up or make things a bit more manic. You can only challenge the secret characters to these Plus events by qualifying for the finals, but they add a little spice to things such as adding bingo-like tiles to Beach Volleyball for additional points or riding or ducking under waves caused by Thwomps in 100m Freestyle Swimming Plus. Unfortunately, though, while many of the camera angles and mechanics have been tweaked for the better compared to the last Mario & Sonic game I played, very few of the game’s events are actually fun to play and it kind of neuters the appeal of the crossover to not let you play as Mario and Sonic characters in Road to Rio.

Graphics and Sound:
As a 3DS game, the graphics are decent enough for the most part; all of the Mario and Sonic characters look pretty good thanks to their cartoony aesthetic, but still only communicate using pantomime. This time around, the whole game is populated by Mii; even the crowd, when it is actually present, is mostly Mii this time but, once again, the game is very empty and not much to look at. The game’s locations are very sparse and all look the same, and the arenas are mostly lifeless. Similarly, the music isn’t much to shout about; there are some recognisable tunes here but mostly it’s just generic trumpets and fanfares. Cutscenes are even more basic than ever before, with still images being thrown at you for the opening scene, in-game graphics and text boxes used for dialogue and cinematics, and there are only a few very brief sound bites from the characters here and there, making for an overall very bland visual experience.

Enemies and Bosses:
As is often the case with these games, your opponents are dictated by which character and event you wish to play; you won’t be able to pit Wario against Blaze the Cat in archery, for example, but you can pit Yoshi against Shadow the Hedgehog in football. You won’t really get to battle against Mario and Sonic characters in Road to Rio, though; mostly, you’re pitted against generic Mii and you’ll only ever get a sniff of facing someone recognisable when going up against an opponent from the opposite team or battling an unlockable character.

Familiar characters will challenge you in the prelims, finals, and Plus events.

One the first day, you’ll take on either Silver the Hedgehog in 100m Hurdles or Yoshi in the 100m event; Hurdles see you holding B to charge up, tapping A to run, and then timing presses of B to hop over the hurdles, while 100m features similar controls but has you pressing B near the end to shave a few seconds off your time. 100m Plus has you going up against Nabbit, grabbing items to reach the goal and pressing B for an additional burst, while 100m Hurdles Plus sees you challenging Diddy Kong in the event which is made trickier by the hurdles moving up and down. Day two is all about Table Tennis in the Mario story and Beach Volleyball in the Sonic path; Table Tennis has you moving with circle pad or D-Pad and smacking the ball back at the right time with ether A (for a fast shot), B (for a slower backspin), or X (for a super shot) to see who wins the best of three sets, while Beach Volleyball is a doubles event and it can be tricky angling your shots correctly. Table Tennis Plus pits you against Zazz and has you accumulating more points by hitting the ball onto coloured, numbered tiles, while Beach Volleyball Plus has you playing against Roy and trying to get a bingo score going on.

You’ll need to train up in order to help you best your rival, or hope that events aren’t too difficult to master.

Day three forces you to endure Archery against Birdo and Rhythmic Gymnastics against Blaze; while this latter isn’t too bad, Archery is a pain in the ass thanks to having to use the 3DS’ gyroscopic controls to aim and the wind throwing off your arrows. Archery Plus adds a whole mess of targets to hit to screw things up even more, while Rhythmic Gymnastics Plus sees you avoiding hazards to chain together combos for a higher score. On day four, you’ll have to take on Bowser Jr. in the Equestrian event (where you must press B to jump at the right time and stay on track to fill up your boost gauge) and Espio in the Long Jump (which sees you rapidly tap A to run up, press X for a super dash, and then press B at the right time leap ahead and judged on your furthest distance). You’ll then take on the oft-underused Doctor Eggman Nega in Long Jump Plus, which adds a giant spring to propel you further, and Larry in Equestrian Plus, where giant obstacles from the Mario and Sonic series are littered across the course.

Each story culminates in one of the more frustrating events, with Golf being particularly aggravating.

Day five is all about Javelin in Sonic’s story and BMX in Mario’s; Javelin is a bit of a frustrating event that sees you swiping the stylus across the touch screen like an idiot, then trying to match the angle on the top screen without crossing the foul line (which is stupidly easy to do). In BMX, you need to rapidly tap A to cycle while staying on track with the circle pad, and hit B to make jumps and build up your super boost. When you face Dry Bowser in Javelin Plus, you get to toss a whole bunch of Javelins but this is really more for show than anything else, while you’ll need to avoid obstacles ad perform tricks in BMX Plus to beat Wave the Swallow’s record. Things pick up in day six in Sonic’s story as you get to take part in Boxing; here, you press B and A to punch, guard with Y, and unleash a super punch with X and can use item boxes to help take down Zavok in Boxing Plus. In Mario’s story, you have to best the 100m Freestyle Swimming event by drawing circles at just the right speed and tapping the screen at just the right time to turn around, but the shit really hits the fan on day seven. Everything ramps up, with some of the most finnicky games and controls, and you’re forced to play football in Sonic’s story (which sees you awkwardly passing the ball, tackling opponents, and trying to get a shot in and just goes on forever) or golf in Mario’s story (easily the most complex event, with wind speeds, angles, environment hazards, and extremely unhelpful and unclear directions meaning I won more out of luck than anything else!)

Power-Ups and Bonuses:
As a glorified collection of mini games, there’s not many power-ups on offer; some events have you rapidly tapping A to recover stamina, or touching dash panels for a boost, and many reward a perfect finish with a fancy special flourish but you’ll only really see in-game benefits when playing Plus events. You can however, find hidden chests all over the game’s many locations (some even hidden behind springs or pipes) that will reward you with additional gear or melons. Every time you finish between first or fourth (or use the daily log-in/step challenge), you’ll earn both Training Points and apples. Apples can be traded for a variety of outfits with one Yoshi, while more additional items can be bought from another with melons; these items include new golf clubs, horses, hula rings, and boxing gloves that afford you additional boosts and benefits in their respective events and you can equip and unequip them at any time. Your outfits are limited by your character’s current level; the higher your level, you more gear you can equip and the better your stats will be, and you can even save sets of clothing to tailor your Mii for different events (boosting your strength over speed, for example).

Additional Features:
Mario & Sonic at the Rio 2016 Olympic Games offers many of the same incentives for repeated play as its predecessors; at the start of the game, you can set up your Mii, regional flag, the computer’s difficulty level, and Street Pass to get daily rewards as you walk around. Quick play allows you to take on the computer or up to three other plays in all of the game’s different events, if you fancy testing your skill against others, and you have two story paths to play through. However, while your level, items, and costumes will transfer across each story, you can’t replay previous parts of the story at will and will need to play through from the beginning if you missed any chests, costumes, instruments, or unlockable characters. There’s also an achievement list to compare against other plays, a random medley option to mix and match events, and a challenge mode to take on but, once you’ve played through even one of the Road to Rio stories you’ve basically seen everything the game has to offer.

The Summary:
Mario & Sonic at the Rio 2016 Olympic Games improves on quite a few aspects of the last entry I played but still suffers from many of the same issues that have bogged down the series since day one. Essentially, it’s just a collection of Olympic-themed mini games involving some of gaming’s most iconic characters but with the weird twist that you really don’t get to play as any of these characters in the story mode. Road to Rio is so dumbed down and basic compared to the story modes in the other Mario & Sonic games I’ve played that it really makes playing even more of a chore. Couple that with the needlessly overcomplicated gameplay mechanics, vague tutorials, clunky camera and controls, and once again you’re left flailing around like an idiot as you desperately blow crafts along or try to match onscreen prompts. As a lifelong Sonic fan, I’m always happy to play one of his titles but these really aren’t games built for me…I actually struggle to think of anyone who would actually enjoy them, to be honest. There are far better party games and mini game collections out there, and definitely way better Mario and Sonic games, so it’s really more of an annoying novelty more than anything.

My Rating:

Rating: 2 out of 5.

Could Be Better

Did you enjoy the 3DS version of Mario & Sonic at the Rio 2016 Olympic Games or did you prefer the Nintendo Wii version? How did you find the game’s motion controls, assortment of games, and story mode? Were you disappointed at the Mario and Sonic characters not being playable in Road to Rio? Do you agree that the concept is somewhat wasted on the Olympic Games or have you enjoyed the series so far? Which country are you pulling for in this year’s Olympic Games? Whatever your thoughts, feel free to sign up to leave a comment below, or leave a comment on my social media.

Game Corner: Mario & Sonic at the London 2012 Olympic Games (Nintendo 3DS)

Released: 9 February 2012
Developer: SEGA Sports R&D/Racjin
Also Available For: Nintendo Wii

The Background:
During the “Console Wars” of the nineties, there were no truer rivals than Nintendo’s Super Mario and SEGA’s Sonic the Hedgehog; both went head to head as their respective company’s mascots, spearheading the release of some of the greatest and most influential videogames of a generation, and both company’s went to great lengths over the years in a bid to prove that their consoles were the superior. In the end, though, thanks to a variety of expensive and poorly-conceived ideas and an ever-changing marketplace, SEGA were forced to withdraw from developing home consoles; now developing videogames for their competitors, SEGA’s supersonic mascot began appearing in games exclusive to Nintendo consoles and discussions of a long-awaited crossover began between Mario creator Shigeru Miyamoto and Sonic creator Yuji Naka.

The Mario & Sonic series continually pits the two rivals in a series of Olympic Games.

Rather than have their two iconic mascots meet in a merging of their worlds for a traditional platform title, however, the two were brought together in the spirit of friendly competition after SEGA was awarded the 2008 Beijing Olympic licence. Mario & Sonic at the Olympic Games (SEGA Sports R&D, 2007) followed as a result; though little more than a series of mini games featuring Mario and Sonic characters taking part in a number of Olympic events, the game was a commercial success and led to a series of annual titles being released in conjunction with a number of different Olympic events. After many years of putting it off, I finally got around to playing the 2012 edition of the game, which was set in London since we Brits won the right to host the games that year so, since the Tokyo Olympic Games are set to kick off today, I figured this was an ideal time to leech off of that event and share my thoughts about this title.

The Plot:
Sonic, Mario, and all their friends have arrived in London for the 2012 Olympic Games; however, annoyed that they weren’t invited to compete, King Bowser of the Koopas and Doctor Eggman join forces to cover London in the “Phantasmal Fog”, disrupting the games and forcing our heroes to battle against fog-based duplicates of themselves to dispel the fog and allow the Olympic Games to proceed as planned.

Gameplay:
I’ve played games in the Mario & Sonic series before so I knew what to expect heading into Mario & Sonic at the London 2012 Olympic Games; while the games do generally have a story mode these days to make the gameplay a bit more involved than just a simple party game, it is still, nevertheless, a collection of Olympic-themed mini games. Because I’ve never been a fan of the Wii’s motion controls (or the Wii in general, if I’m honest), I always opt for the handheld versions of these sorts of games in the hopes that they will be less frustrating to play.

The game’s events restrict which characters you can use according to their specific classes.

Sadly, for the most part, that isn’t the case with Mario & Sonic at the London 2012 Olympic Games, a game which, seemingly, goes out of its way to use every single button, control, and aspect of the 3DS for its numerous events. The game features twenty playable characters, each of which falls into one of five different character classes (Heroes, Challengers, Girls, Wild Ones, and Tricksters) and, as a result, each character takes part in different events (Sonic, for example, can be used in the Marathon event, Yoshi in Shot Put, Blaze the Cat in Beach Volleyball, Bowser in Wrestling, and Metal Sonic in Hockey) and you cannot mix characters or classes.

Each event has medals to go for and different controls to master.

The moment you start a new game, Omochao rears his ugly little head to talk you through some of the game’s basic controls; you can then select from a few different customisation options, single or multiplayer events, or the game’s story mode. If you choose the single or multiplayer modes, you can select from all of the game’s many and varied events, each of which comes with an easy, normal, and hard criteria to get bronze, silver, and gold medals, respectively, with different goals, scores, or times to hit for each, as well as a brief overview of the event’s controls and objectives.

Bowser and Eggman team up in the story mode to disrupt the Olympic Games with their fog.

I skipped this, however, and went straight to the story mode. The story allows you to take control of all of the game’s playable characters and the vast majority of the mini games and events the game has to offer, all while dialogue boxes and some limited voice clips and effects convey the game’s simple story. Generally, the story branches into two separate paths, one that follows primarily Mario characters and one that follows mainly Sonic characters, with the groups mixing up, overlapping, and interacting as they investigate the Phantasmal Fog, battle their shadowy doubles, and go head to head with Bower, Eggman, and their underlings.

Complete Challenges to clear each episode of the story mode.

It’s a pretty simple story, one that is geared more towards teaching younger players a little about London and the Olympic Games more than anything, and it’s extremely linear. You can jump to a map screen to replay events (or just let the story take you from one episode to the next), skip cutscenes if you’re retrying an event, and are given a number of Challenges to complete to advance the plot. In the story’s early going, you’ll probably only be required to complete one or two Challenges but, as the story progresses, you’ll be asked to more, with each Challenge being comprised of harder or more complex events. Only first place will do here; if you don’t come first, you fail the Challenge and must either retry or choose a different Challenge if you want to see the story through to completion.

Though you’re given a brief overview of each event’s controls, the actual gameplay can be tricky.

As you play, you’ll be required to take part in a number of Olympic Games; it’s kind of weird that characters just spontaneously challenge their rivals to these games, and how the stadiums and arenas and locations and crowds and such just “appear” when you need to compete but…what do you expect? This is the best way, though, to experience a variety of the game’s events and get an idea of what is required of you. Sadly, however, many of the game’s events are an exercise in frustration; as I mentioned, you’ll be given a brief overview of what to do before an event but, sometimes, that doesn’t really help prepare you for the actual gameplay of that event.

Some events are made needlessly complicated by the game’s use of the 3DS many controls.

Generally, you’ll be rapidly tapping buttons, inputting specific button combinations, shouting or blowing into the microphone (which I can’t seem to find on my 3DS and which makes me a little lightheaded since I’m so unfit…), moving the 3DS about, or using the stylus to complete these events. Some, like the Pole Vault and 100M Backstroke, aren’t too difficult (you must angle the circle stick in a diagonal direction to charge your vault and release before the hidden meter overfills and your pole breaks or rapidly draw circles with the stylus to swim faster) but others, like Archery (Solo) and BMX are maddeningly frustrating (you don’t just aim and shot in Archery, you need to account for wind currents which can screw up your shot, and BMX requires almost perfect hand co-ordination to tilt the 3DS in the right position to give you a much-needed boost).

Be careful not to damage your touch screen trying to get to grips with the game’s controls…

Almost all of the events have one thing in common and that is that they come down to split second timing as much as skill; if you do not time your inputs exactly right, you’re screwed but, often, the game’s button prompts and directions mislead you and cause you to fail. Take the Triple Jump, for example; it seems pretty easy (tap the touch screen left and right in an alternating pattern and then tap in time with the directions to leap) but if you tap for your first jump when the game/button prompt tells you then you will fail on a foul since you jumped too late! Similarly, Basketball only gives you an aiming reticule in the training mode, which makes landing a shot really difficult with the 3DS’s motion controls, and many games that have you draw on the bottom screen have the directions on the top, which is really confusing as you’d expect to tap targets on the touch screen when playing the Shooting events.

It takes some time to figure out exactly what’s required of you and perfect your timings.

Others seem incredibly random or unfair just for the sake of it; the 20km Racewalk event, for example, has you moving the stylus to a tempo at just the right speed. The game helpfully tells you when to speed up and penalises you if you need to slow down but it’s more annoying than anything to try and get the balance just right. The Canoe Slalom (Pair) event has you balancing with the circle pad and tapping A to pass through gates, which sounds easy but is super tricky as the control stick is overly sensitive, and you’ll be jerking your 3DS around like a moron trying to hit targets in the Double Trap event.

Other events are troublesome because of a dodgy camera angle as well as poor onscreen prompts.

Similarly, in a lot of events are handicapped by poor camera angles; it’s hard to see (or know) what you’re doing in the Sprint event as you’re stuck in a bad position and your opponent just rockets away too fast for you to catch, and it’s very difficult to judge your positioning in the ball-based games like Badminton and Football (to say nothing of the Goddamn Table Tennis (Doubles) event which requires you to switch between two characters but sometimes they swap independently and always right as you think you have the rhythm down). It’s equally difficult to make jumps in the 3000m Steeplechase event as the camera position means you don’t see which sort of button press is required of you until the very last second; the same goes for the Marathon event, where the angle is positioned just annoyingly enough to mean you need split-second accuracy to pick up the water bottle at the right time.

Some events are actually fun to play rather than being needlessly overcomplicated or frustrating.

It’s not all bad, though; some events (like 25m Rapid Fire Pistol, Trampoline, and Wrestling) can be fun but there’s very little room for error here; it may take some practice to understand exactly what is required of you but, generally, once you get the inputs down you can usually scrape by to advance the game’s story to the next episode. Other times, though, you’ll have to take on a number of quick-fire events in a row, with no way to restart if you fail one until you load into the next event (and then you have to restart the whole Challenge so be sure to retry before you fail), and by the end of it all you’ll be too burned out to really want to try out the other events in the game’s single player mode.

Graphics and Sound:
Being that it’s a 3DS game, the graphics are serviceable enough; Mario, Sonic, and all their friends and enemies look pretty good and coexist decently enough thanks to their cartoony aesthetic but it’s a bit weird how some characters (the girls, mostly) are dressed to compete and others are not and how characters like Sonic are suddenly only able to communicate in pantomime.

The game’s presentation is decent enough and mixes cartoony characters with real-world locations.

Otherwise, there’s not much to the in-game graphics; the story mode sees the characters visit a number of iconic British landmarks but they’re mostly lifeless voids or obscured by thick, colourful fog. When you enter the events themselves, there’s a decent amount of detail, with minor Mario and Sonic characters filling out the crowds and the arenas sharing the same bright, cartoony aesthetic of the characters. Musically, though, aside from a few recognisable sound clips and sound effects, there’s nothing really Mario or Sonic about this title as it opts for simple trumpets and fanfares.

Enemies and Bosses:
Outside of the game’s story mode, your choices for opponents are dictated by which character, class, and event you wish to play; you won’t be able to pit Sonic against Eggman in a Triathalon, for example, but you can pit Knuckles against Donkey Kong in a Boxing match.

You’ll have to compete against fog imposters of numerous Mario and Sonic characters.

In the story mode, you’ll mostly compete against evil fog imposters of Mario and Sonic characters; Amy Rose and Princess Daisy, for example, get to take on the imposter versions of Blaze and Princess Peach in Beach Volleyball and Yoshi will have to compete against imposter versions of Shadow the Hedgehog and Silver the Hedgehog in the 1500m and 10km Marathon Swim events. As you progress, the amount of Challenges you have to clear increases, as does the difficulty of your opponents, and you’ll be allowed to choose between different characters to take on different events and imposters.

Dry Bowser and Dry Bones challenge you to a bit of sail boat racing…

In the course of the game’s story, you’ll also compete against a number of boss characters; it is only by clearing these challenges that you’ll bring that episode to an end and progress to the next part of the story. The first boss battle pits you (as Mario and Luigi) against the duo of Dry Bowser and Dry Bones and has you frantically blowing into the microphone and awkwardly steering your ship across boost panels in the 470 (Pair) event. This is a pretty ridiculous game as the controls are way too slippery and it’s ridiculously easy to just wander into the path of a whirlpool…yet it’s also stupidly easy to win even with minimum effort.

Time your stylus swipes perfectly to beat the Boos at Badminton.

Next, you’ll take on King Boo and Boo in Badminton (Doubles) as Sonic and Miles “Tails” Prower; this involves sliding the stylus (or your finger) down the touch screen as the shuttlecock comes towards you. Don’t do this too soon, though, or you’ll miss like an idiot; instead, you should aim to hit it when the shuttlecock flashes red but this gets tricky as the rallies get faster and faster and, one time, the ball went between Sonic and Tails and they just stood there like lemons!

Outperform Rouge and Jet and they will briefly help you in the game’s story mode.

Mario & Sonic at the London 2012 Olympic Games sees the welcome return of Jet the Hawk as a boss character who challenges Shadow to a 3000m Steeplechase, and also has you competing against Rouge the Bat as Peach in the 100m Backstroke, neither of which are particularly challenging thanks to these events being two of the more user-friendly games. When you take on Bowser Jr, however, you must do so in a three-stage event that sees Yoshi having to fight with the poor game prompts in the Triple Jump, hold the 3DS like an idiot in the 10km Marathon Swim, and struggle through a 3000m Steeplechase, or Silver desperately try to aim for the centre and time button presses correctly in Trampoline, fumble through Basketball, and press and hold the stylus without messing up in Floor. Your best bet to beat Bowser Jr is to pick Shadow, whose events are much easier to get through.

Some bosses require you to finish first in multiple events.

You’ll also come up against one of the most wasted characters ever introduced into the Sonic franchise, Eggman Nega, and have to compete against him in a 4 x 100 relay that simply asks you to slide the stylus to pass the baton between Luigi, Tails, Mario, and Sonic. Similarly easygoing is Donkey Kong’s encounter with E-123Ω “Omega”, which sees you timing presses of the A and B button and going for a super tackle in the Wrestling – Freestyle event. Unfortunately, when Sonic takes on Magikoopa, it’s in the God-awful BMX event which literally had me tearing my hair out as I just couldn’t figure out how the tilt the 3DS properly to land correctly!

Your first encounters with Eggman and Bowser aren’t too difficult to get through.

You’ll battle against both Bowser and Dr. Eggman a couple of times in the story mode; you’ll first face Eggman with Wario and then alongside Waluigi to take on Eggman and Metal Sonic, but he isn’t really a challenge (the Hockey game you must complete is really just a glorified version of Pong (Atari, 1972)). Similarly, Bowser isn’t too difficult to get past if you choose the right events (the Hammer Throw, in particular, isn’t too taxing as long as you can rotate the 3DS fast enough) but they both get a significant power boost for the game’s final chapter.

Eggman and Bowser get a significant power up from their Phantasmal Fog for the story’s finale.

Here, powered up by the Phantasmal Fog, Bowser and Eggman take on Mario and Sonic in Sprint, 20km Race Walk, Judo, and 100m events. Judo isn’t especially hard (it’s just a question of timing your button presses and being a bit aggressive in your attack) and 100m is fine as long as you charge and release A and can tap the button as fast as possible but both Sprint and 20km Race Walk can crawl into a hole and die. Eventually, after much trial and error, I got Sprint down (ignore the onscreen prompts and don’t move or press anything until you’re sure you can dash past Eggman) but the 20km Race Walk mainly came down to luck.

Power-Ups and Bonuses:
Being as this is a glorified collection of mini games, there’s not much on offer here; some events have you rapidly tapping A to recover stamina or splashing water on you for the same effect, or touching dash panels for a boost, and many reward a perfect finish with a fancy special flourish but there’s nothing tangible in-game to help increase your chances.

Additional Features:
There are a couple of extra incentives on offer here for repeat and expansive play; first, when you first start the game, you can customise your in-game name, flag, and Badge (which is a nice touch for when you’re playing online, I’m sure). You can also aim to break world records in each event, win bronze, silver, and gold medals, and complete each of the game’s events and story modes to earn tickets and Badges. You can then use these tickets in a ball machine to unlock yet more Badges, all of which can be viewed in the game’s Record Log along with (obviously) your best times and records.

After clearing the game’s story mode, you unlock a few, more challenging bonus episodes.

After you beat the main story campaign, you’ll unlock a series of additional bonus episodes that see you compete as Bowser Jr, Bowser, Metal Sonic, Dr. Eggman, Peach, Blaze, and Amy in some of the toughest challenges yet. Unlike in the Wii version, there are no “Dream Events” to compete in, though you can cobble together custom events to take on both on and offline if you can bring yourself to play a little longer.

The Summary:
When it comes to the Mario & Sonic series, you know what to expect: Olympic-themed mini games involving some of gaming’s most iconic characters. Yet, as inoffensive as these games often are, Mario & Sonic at the London 2012 Olympic Games takes things to the next level by needlessly overcomplicating so many of the events and controls. It’s as though the developers were forced to shoe-horn in everything the 3DS was capable of, which would be fine if there were the option to switch to more traditional controls but, nine times out of ten, there isn’t. Instead, you’re left to fumble about the place, shouting at your 3DS and trying to rotate it while alternating between hitting buttons or drawing on the touch screen and it’s just more frustrating than fun. Because I’m a big Sonic fan, I am kind of duty-bound to own these games wherever possible but I’ve never really been fond of them; I’m sure that for groups of players who like motion controls and unfairly-balanced party games, they’re a lot of fun but it can’t help but feel like Nintendo and SEGA left a lot of money on the table by not also producing a more traditional crossover for their iconic mascots.

My Rating:

Rating: 2 out of 5.

Could Be Better

How did you find the 3DS version of Mario & Sonic at the London 2012 Olympic Games? Perhaps you also owned the Nintendo Wii version; if so, which was better, in your opinion? How did you find the game’s motion controls, assortment of games, and story mode? How do you feel about the Mario & Sonic series overall? Do you agree that the concept is somewhat wasted on the Olympic Games or have you enjoyed the series so far? Which country are you pulling for in this year’s Olympic Games? Either way, feel free to leave a comment below.

Game Corner [DK’s Anniversary]: Donkey Kong (Nintendo Switch)


In 1981, Shigeru Miyamoto and his team at Nintendo R&D1 created Donkey Kong, an arcade title that was not only one of the earliest examples of the platform genre but also introduced gamers everywhere to two of Nintendo’s most recognisable characters: Mario and Donkey Kong. Mario, of course, shot to super stardom but today’s a day to celebrate everyone’s favourite King Kong knock-of and to say: Happy birthday, Donkey Kong!


Released: September 2018
Originally Released: 15 July 1983
Developer: Nintendo R&D2/Ikegami Tsushinki
Also Available For: Game Boy Advance, GameCube (via Animal Crossing (Nintendo EAD, 2001)), Nintendo Entertainment System (NES), Nintendo Wii (Virtual Console)

The Background:
Early into 1981, Nintendo had run into a bit of trouble; their plans to expand into North America with Radar Scope (Nintendo R&D2/Ikegami Tsushinki, 1980) had failed and then-president Hiroshi Yamauchi turned to young designer Shigeru Miyamoto to create a new arcade cabinet to turn their fortunes around. When plans to base this new machine on the popular comic strip character Popeye fell through, Miyamoto, inspired by Beauty and the Beast (Barbot de Villeneuve, 1740) and King Kong (Cooper and Schoedsack, 1933), retooled the concept into Donkey Kong, a classic tale of man versus ape that would see gamers guide the character of Jumpman across conveyer belts and up construction sites to rescue Lady from the clutches of a cranky, stubborn ape. Following some suggestions from Nintendo’s American distributors, “Jumpman” and “Lady” were renamed to “Mario” and “Pauline”, respectively, and Donkey Kong was released across the United States in July 1981 and became the financial and critical success Nintendo desperately needed to break into the U.S. Naturally, ports soon followed; versions of Donkey Kong showed up on the ColecoVision, Atari 2600, and Intellivision as well as other home systems like the ZX Spectrum and MSX. A modified, scaled-down version of the game was also released as one of the launch titles for the NES, the console which dragged the videogame industry out of its darkest hour, and it is this version of the game which was later released for the Nintendo Switch Online and which I’ll be discussing today.

The Plot:
The cantankerous ape Donkey Kong has kidnapped Pauline and taken her to the top of a construction site! Her only hope is Mario, a plucky carpenter with the jumping skills necessary to scale Donkey Kong’s tower and rescue the maiden from his hairy clutches.

Gameplay:
Donkey Kong’s genre is a bit difficult to define given that videogame genres hadn’t really been fully established back in the early eighties beyond space shooters and obscure puzzle games but it is, essentially, a vertical action/platformer in which an early iteration of Nintendo’s flagship character and mascot, Mario, must run and jump up and across a series of platforms while avoiding hazards in order to rescue Pauline from Donkey Kong’s clutches at the top of the screen. Generally, I find Mario to be quite a slippery and unwieldy character to play as but, in his debut appearance, he moves more like he has lead weights in his shoes; his default movement is a steady but weighty jog and his jumps constantly feel like he’s struggling against the pull of gravity. The game also employs little to no momentum-based physics, meaning it’s easy to clip hazards and lose a life as a result.

Take care when jumping (or doing anything, for that matter) as it’s easy to wind up dead.

Gravity continues to be the bane of your existence as Mario takes a ridiculous amount of fall damage in Donkey Kong; drop from any height, be it one platform above or from the top of the screen, and you’re going to die. Leaping from a moving conveyer to a small platform that’s slightly below you? Instant death. Accidentally fall down a hole when you remove the rivets from stage three? Dead. As a result, there’s little margin for error in Donkey Kong and, if you screw up, you’re gonna die; there are no second chances here. As you play, you’ll notice a ‘Bonus’ score counter in the game’s limited heads-up display (HUD). This continuously counts down as you play, reducing the bonus score you’ll get upon completing a stage if you take too long. Also, if it reaches zero, guess what? Yep, you lose a life, making it a combination bonus score/time limit for additional pressure.

The game’s three stages loop continuously, getting faster and harder with each playthrough.

Unlike the original arcade game, the NES version of Donkey Kong features only three stages: the first is a construction site, the second features conveyor belts, and the third and final stage has you removing rivets to bring Donkey Kong crashing to the ground. Each time you complete these three stages, the game continues on a loop, getting faster and harder with each subsequent playthrough, however there is no true end to the game; Mario simply keels over and dies once you reach stage twenty-two, meaning that your main incentive to play the game again and again is to beat your own personal high score.

Graphics and Sound:
Donkey Kong is as 8-bit as 8-bit can be; stages consist of a stark, blank black background and are dominated by the iconic red girders and the large, looming, grinning features of the titular ape. While the arcade original was one of the first games to tell an onscreen story through the use of simple animations that we would, today, describe as cutscenes, the NES version omits these entirely but the game is charming enough to look at regardless.

The game’s graphics are charmingly simple, with Donkey Kong being the standout.

Mario is an extremely simple and yet surprisingly expressive bit of sprite work; unlike other avatars like Pac-Man, he has clearly-defined features such as a prominent nose, moustache, and his signature overalls and cap meaning that he easily stands out against the game’s otherwise-limited colour palette. Pauline looks like a bit of a mess but, luckily, Donkey Kong makes up for it by being big and full of character despite his obviously-limited frames of animation. The game features some iconic and simple melodies, boasting such features as separate tunes for the title screen, each of the game’s three stages, and for completing a stage. It’s limited by the hardware of the time, clearly, but it’s enough to have you humming along as you play.

Enemies and Bosses:
Far from the Goombas and Koopas that would later plague Mario’s every waking hour, Donkey Kong mainly has you avoiding barrels tossed at you by the giant ape. These can roll along, drop off ledges, and fall down ladders seemingly at random, meaning you constantly have to be on your toes to make split-second decisions about when to jump or climb a ladder. These barrels can also bounce around the screen, drop down vertically, and take a dip into some oil to transform into anthropomorphic flames. In stage two, Donkey Kong will also toss bouncing springs at you; as the game speeds up, these can be extremely difficult to avoid as the window of opportunity is so small and the game’s hit boxes are deceptively big.

Barrels, springs, and living fireballs are the game’s primary hazards and enemies.

In stage three, you’ll also have to watch out for more troublesome balls of fire that wander around the stage seemingly at random, going up ladders and suddenly changing direction to cost you a life. Of course, the game’s primary antagonist is Donkey Kong himself; should you brave his many hazards and attempt to tackle him directly, you’ll lose a life. As a result, the only way to defeat him is to get to the game’s third and final stage. Here, you’ll have to avoid the aforementioned fireballs while jumping over eight rivets. Once all eight are removed, the girders will vanish from beneath Donkey Kong and he will crash comically down onto his head so you can make love hearts with Pauline. Honestly, it’s probably the game’s easiest stage as the first two can get pretty hairy when the game speeds up, making the climax a little anticlimactic even for an 8-bit title.

Power-Ups and Bonuses:
As you jump your way to rescue Pauline, you’ll be able to earn points by leaping over enemies (whatever you do, don’t jump on to them like you might expect Mario to do!) and collecting (what I assume are) Pauline’s parasol and purse from across the stages, Mario’s sole method of fighting back in this game is his trusty hammer; two hammers can be found in stage one and three (you’ll just have to fend for yourself in stage two) and collecting one will send Mario into barrel-and-fireball-bustin’ frenzy as a frenetic tune plays. The hammer will destroy anything it touches, allowing you to clear the way for your progress, but you cannot jump while holding it which, honestly, makes it kind of useless as hazards will have respawned by the time you’re ready to progress further.

Additional Features:
Being an 8-bit title, the main motivation for playing is to achieve, or beat, a high score. The game does offer four gameplay modes: two for a solo player and two for two players but I don’t have anyone to play with so I was only able to play the one-player game. From what I can tell, though, the two-player mode is a case of each player taking it in turns to play rather than a simultaneous co-op mode. When playing Donkey Kong on the Nintendo Switch, you get a few extra options that dramatically reduce the game’s difficulty thanks to the Switch’s ‘suspend menu’ mode, which allows you can create a save point at any time and rewind the game back so you can correct and miss-steps you might have made.

The Summary:
I’ve played Donkey Kong before; I’m pretty sure I had it on the Amiga back in the day and I remember sucking at the version that was included as a mini game in Donkey Kong 64 (Rare, 1999) but this is the first time I’ve properly sat down and put some time into the game. It’s a simple bit of 8-bit fun and an enjoyable slice of nostalgia; gameplay is easy to get to grips with and the controls are responsive even if Mario does feel a bit weighty in his movements. The sprites and music and charming and indicative of their era and the game offers a fair amount of challenge thanks to it speeding up the more you play. It’s obviously limited in terms of its features and options, which does affect my rating of the game, but it’s a fun enough title that’ll keep you occupied for as long as you feel like playing (in my case…about half an hour or so).

My Rating:

Rating: 2 out of 5.

Could Be Better

Did you ever own Donkey Kong for the NES back in the day? Perhaps you played the arcade version out in the wild; if so, when and what was that like? Which port of Donkey Kong is your favourite? Which Donkey Kong videogame is your favourite and why? How are you celebrating Donkey Kong’s anniversary this year? Whatever your thoughts on Donkey Kong, feel free to leave a comment below.

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


So, for no better reason than “Mar.10” resembling Mario’s name, March 10th is widely regarded as being “Mario Day”, a day to celebrate Nintendo’s portly plumber, an overalls-wearing mascot who literally changed the videogame industry forever and shaped the home console market of the nineties. To commemorate Mario Day this year, March has been “Mario Month” as I have celebrated everyone’s favourite Koopa-flattening plumber on each Wednesday of the month.


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

My Rating:

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Great Stuff

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

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


So, for no better reason than “Mar.10” resembling Mario’s name, March 10th is widely regarded as being “Mario Day”, a day to celebrate Nintendo’s portly plumber, an overalls-wearing mascot who literally changed the videogame industry forever and shaped the home console market of the nineties. To commemorate Mario Day this year, I’ve made March “Mario Month” and am spending each Wednesday talking about everyone’s favourite Koopa-flattening plumber.


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Phantamanta and Eely-Mouth can be frustrating boss battles.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

My Rating:

Rating: 2 out of 5.

Could Be Better

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