Review by Achilles Heel

"I'm getting a slight sense of deja vu.. Wooo..."

Super Mario Advance is Nintendo’s token launch “Mario” game; every good new Nintendo system (Virtual Boy is definitely not good) has gotten one, and a stellar one at that. However, SMA is a port of the US version of the NES game Super Mario Brothers 2, which really wasn’t a Mario game to start with. The original SMB2 was released in Japan and was extremely similar to the first, but the difficulty level was enormous. Nintendo didn’t think that Americans were ready for this, so they took an existing game, Doki Doki Panic, and changed it to make it seem more like a Mario game, releasing it as SMB2 in the US. Accordingly, there were mixed reactions to the alteration of the classic gameplay back then, and the same is true now. However, to keep everyone happy, SMA has been marketed as a collection. It also includes Mario Bros., the original arcade Mario game. Of course, its gameplay is about as classic as it gets.

Story: 4.8/10
The plot is better than your usual Mario game (save the princess!), but it’s still not stellar. Apparently, Mario has had a weird dream; one night, he dreams that he is walking up a staircase to a closed door, which leads to a strange world. A voice tells him that this is “Subcon, the land of dreams”, and he must defeat Wart, the evil toad terrorizing the land. The next day, Mario and his friends go on a picnic and find a small cave. Upon entering, they realize that this is Mario’s dreamland! It is now up to them to defeat Wart and save the land. This is different than most Mario games (get your cake!), and I appreciate that. However, it’s not explored enough within the game until the ending, and there is no actual development within the game. I would have liked to see more twists, and perhaps, an actual cutscene! I understand that to do that would be changing the original game, but if it’s an alteration for the better, why not?

Gameplay
Super Mario Brothers 2: 7.9/10
SMB2 is, at heart, like the other Mario games in that it is a 2D platformer. However, this ain’t no goomba-stomping romp. Apparently Mario and his friends have taken up gardening, so instead of jumping on enemies to kill them, they pick vegetables out of the ground to throw them at the baddies. Also, enemies can be thrown at other enemies. It’s a neat idea, but it really slows down the gameplay. No more can you rush through levels; picking up items takes much more time than jumping on enemies’ heads. Other staples of Mario gameplay, such as ? mark blocks, coins, and the classic goombas, are gone. Coins do make an appearance, but they only appear in “Subspace”, and area accessible by throwing a potion (which is found in the ground) and creating a magic door. The coins do a completely different job than before; at the end of a level, they can be used in a slot machine. Replacing the goombas are completely different enemies than in the first SMB; Shy Guys, weirdos with masks and Birdo, a strange female dinosaur that appears at the end of every level, are the sorts you’ll be fighting. Birdo is particularly bizarre; in the SMB2 on NES, it was revealed in the instruction booklet that it was actually a he whom wanted to be a girl. Though this is not mentioned in SMA, his roots are even stranger when you realize that he shoots eggs out of his snout.

An addition that I particularly like, however, is the fact that you can pick from four very different characters: Mario, Luigi, Peach, and Toad. Mario is everybody’s favorite mascot, and he’s your typical average Joe; he has good speed, power (in picking up items) and jump height. Luigi is the often-overlooked brother of Mario, and he’s an excellent jumper, but has medium speed and power. Peach, Mario’s favorite princess, has mediocre stats. However, Peach is the best character, in my opinion, as she has the ability to hover/glide for about two seconds. Finally, Toad is extremely strong and quick, but a cruddy jumper. I really like the ability to choose from all these different characters; they all give a truly unique gameplay experience.

SMB2’s gameplay is a lot different than the other Mario games; it’s a heck of a lot slower. I personally wish that it was faster-paced and more of the classic Mario elements were intact. However, the ability to choose from four different characters makes this a much better game and much more fun.

Mario Bros.: 6/10
Mario Bros. is, as I mentioned before, the original Mario game. However, this doesn’t play like most of the series, either! Here, Mario is a plumber, cleaning up the sewers. Instead of jumping on enemies, he hits the ground below them to knock ‘em over, and kicks their sorry butts off into the water (which is accomplished by simply touching the tripped baddie). Also available to help you out is the POW! Block, which instantly trips all of the pests. The level arrangement is in “Phases”; there are a few phases per area, and then a bonus level in which you try to collect all the coins before the timer runs out. Mario Bros. is a fun game and a great time waster, but all of the arenas are just about exactly the same. After a little bit of playing, it quickly becomes very tedious.

The multiplayer aspect adds some fun while you compete against up to three other human players, but it also becomes old, as there is such little variation. I wish that there had been a few more arenas implemented, as that would have greatly increased the replay value.

Control: 8/10
It doesn’t get much simpler than this: “A” jumps, “B” picks up items/enemies and throws them, and “L” shifts the camera. It all works perfectly. However, the characters seem like they have slick oil on the bottom of their shoes, and whenever they jump onto a platform, they slip a little bit. It’s not that big of a deal, but it’s a bit irritating.

Difficulty: Easy
Enemies are extremely stupid; their patterns could be figured out by a brown paper bag (no offense to the brown paper bags). Also, it’s very easy to rack up extra lives by entering a special vase, throwing an enemy at another, and exiting, then reentering. Finally, the bosses all are extremely predictable like the regular enemies. This is quite an easy game, and you get the feeling it was partially geared towards a younger audience.

Graphics: 2.5/10
The original SMB2 and Mario Bros.’s graphics were nearly identical to this. Unfortunately, they were pretty darned old games. The graphical tweaks are few and in between; the game looks worse the Super Mario World on SNES, which is just plain unacceptable. The Game Boy Advance is supposedly more powerful than the SNES, but this doesn’t do a great job of showing it at all. Mario looks almost exactly the same as before, and enemies are the same. Also, there isn’t enough variation in backgrounds and level themes. There’s about three basic themes: forest/jungle, ice/water, and desert. This is weak. Almost every level has a forest theme, and to add insult to injury, the same exact background graphic is used every single time. If you compare this to something like Rayman Advance, SMA comes up pathetically short.

Sound: 4/10
The music is your same old Mario fare; it’s not very noticeable and fades into the background most of the time. However, Nintendo has seen fit to add in all new sound effects and voicing. I think, though, that they need to go to the bathroom. Mario sounds constipated, Luigi sounds fruity, Peach sounds like she’s inhaled helium, and Toad is a complete twit. Feh. Also, the bosses suffer from “Breathy Programmer Syndrome”, a quite despicable disease. I’m starting to wonder if Nintendo pulled random people off the street, because if these people are supposedly professionals, they seem pretty pathetic to me. Of course, there’s plenty of you that like that sort of stuff, but I think you’re all crazy. Damned masochists.

Value: 3.5/10
SMB2 can be easily completed within a few hours, and Mario Bros. gets dull very quickly. Stretching out the replay value a bit are the five Ace coins per level to collect, and after the game is completed, the Yoshi’s Challenge is available. In the Yoshi’s Challenge, your job is to collect two eggs per stage hidden somewhere in Subspace. However, once they’ve all been found, you get this: NOTHING. Absolutely nothing, other than a Yoshi on your title screen. BIG WHOOP. I imagine that the designers are all laughing their asses off at those who completed it. No, they couldn’t be nice like in the remake of the first SMB, and give you a Toy Box with rewards, they give you a picture of Yoshi. I mean, I like Yoshi and all that, but this is absolutely ridiculous.

Conclusion
Super Mario Advance is little more than an uninspired remake of two Mario games. If they’re going to make a collection, at least they could make it like Mario All-Stars on the SNES and include more than a meager two games. If you absolutely loved these two when they came out, go for it, but for the rest of you: don’t. You’ll only be disappointed.

Pros:
- SMB2’s four playable characters
- Simple controls
- Better story than usual
Cons:
- Awful graphics (comparatively)
- Irritating sound
- Extremely low replay value

Overall Score: 4/10


Reviewer's Score: 6/10 | Originally Posted: 08/05/01, Updated 11/08/01


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