Review by dtm666
"Pretty decent conversion of Super Mario Bros. 2 with added goodies for good measure"
Super Mario Advance for the Game Boy Advance was one of the handheld console's flagship launch titles... well, I don't think "flagship title" is the proper word to use, but whatever. Basically, for those who don't know, Super Mario Advance is an enhanced compilation of two games; Super Mario Bros. 2 (or Super Mario USA) as it appeared on the SNES compilation Super Mario All-Stars, with some added bells and whistles here and there to make the game seem less like a retread. AND... you also get Mario Bros. Classic, which is an enhanced version of the original Mario Bros. arcade game, which also includes a few multiplayer modes... here and there.
STORY: Depending on the game you play, Super Mario Advance either features Mario and his friends attempting to save the dream world of Subcon from the veggie-hating frog king Wart in Super Mario Bros. 2 OR features Mario & Luigi clearing the pipes of pests in Mario Bros. Classic. Not quite the height of literary masterpieces, but back in the 1980s, paper-thin storylines were merely background information for the actual gameplay. 7/10
GRAPHICS: As previously stated, Super Mario Bros. 2 is basically a port over from Super Mario All-Stars as far as graphics and visuals go. The majority of sprites and backgrounds seem to have made the transition from SNES to GBA rather nicely, save for some minor color changes which might have been detrimental in the long run. I felt the colors looked richer on the SNES side, but I guess that was a technical thing that they couldn't really much about. There are some decent graphical improvements that can be found throughout the game. Hearts are bigger, there's some nice rotation applied here and there, some enemies have grown in scale and look alright, I suppose. These visual updates do a passable job of basically saying "We no lazy! We change things! Look, BIG SHYGUY! Wooo!" The character-select screen and level intermission screens are also well-done, essentially out of necessity to justify a repost. But yeah, for the most part, it's essentially a 16-bit title with a few added bells and whistles. And it looks just fine. Doesn't wow me, but it's good enough.
Meanwhile, Mario Bros. Classic's 16-bit facelift isn't much to look at. They recycled the Mario sprite from the main game, replaced the Shellcreepers with Spinies, added a couple backgrounds, and gave the playfield a bit of gloss. It's not fantastic looking, but for a side game, it looks alright. Nothing to really brag or complain about here. 7/10
SOUND: The sounds are nicely ported from the SNES to the GBA. The tunes are almost identical sounding between the two versions save for some lesser instrumentation quality on the Advance side, but it sounds good. There's also a few new tunes which sound alright and fit in nicely with the rest of the pack. Sound effects have also been ported over from the other game with little to no loss. Sounds quietier in a way, but not a big deal. Just about the only annoyance are the added voices, which I initially found distracting and even now, having gotten used to it... I still can't stand them. I don't know; it's just a hard sell for me on that count.
Meanwhile, Mario Bros' arcade soundtrack - what little soundtrack that game actually has, that is - has been faithfully retained and recreated in Mario Bros. Classic. Straight up, no real enhancements or remixes or anything of the sort. Even the sound effects used seem to be have lifted from the arcade original. Once again, you have the annoying voice grunts and they also added background music during the gameplay. They sound fine... nothing special. 7/10
GAMEPLAY: In terms of gameplay, Super Mario Advance pretty much plays like the source material it's based upon. Super Mario Bros. 2, an offshoot of another game entirely, broke away from the original Super Mario Bros. gameplay and went for mechanics that had you tossing vegetables and other things at enemies rather than jumping on them to kill them. There's also an element of exploration as you seek out mushrooms, keys, and other things to help you on your way. For the most part, Advance plays much like Mario 2, but it's not quite the same game. They added a scoring system, some jars have different rooms, there's bigger enemies, there's a new boss, you start off one hit point as opposed to two, and there're more ways to get extra lives in this game. They added and changed just enough so that it doesn't just come off as a stale, cash-grabbing retread, but retained most of the familiar aspects of the gameplay that if you played prior versions of the game, you can jump into this and not have any problem adjusting. It's just really easy to get into.
Meanwhile, Mario Bros. Classic manages to nail the gameplay aspect of the arcade original. Outside of an extra POW block on top, reduced visibility, some slightly improved mobility, and the ability to chuck POW blocks Mario 2 style, Mario Bros. Classic plays almost exactly like the arcade original... close enough, I suppose. 8/10
CHALLENGE: In terms of challenge, Super Mario Advance is somewhat moderately difficult. Basically, Super Mario Bros. 2 is a generally balanced game. Starts off easy and gets a bit tougher as you progress. And while some of the changes to the level layouts and reorganization of a couple levels might add to the challenge a bit, the challenge is offset by the fact that it's too damn easy to get extra lives. I'm not just talking about the slot machine, but there are points where enemies are lined up in such a way that if you manage to kill them with a single veg, you get a 1up. Right off the bat. But on the other hand, they also tossed in red Ace coins that if you collect them all, you'll get the Yoshi Challenge where you have to find Yoshi eggs. So, there's an extra challenge there for those who want it.
Meanwhile... Mario Bros. Classic also starts off easy and gradually gets tougher... sorry, that's all I got. 8/10
REPLAY VALUE: Super Mario Advance offers quite a bit of value. There are four characters that you would want to play the whole thing with - try playing Toad through out the game, for example. There's the hunt for red coins. There's the extra Yoshi Challenge and stuff you can uncover later, so there's quite a bit to do in this game. And of course, Mario Bros. Classic is always fun. So fun that they seemed to recycle that thing for the next three SMA games, but that's another story. 7/10
OVERALL: Even though Super Mario Advance is a conversion of an older game and doesn't really offer anything new or substantial, it was a fairly well done conversion that actually made it worth buying the same game. Because they could have simply taken the 16-bit iteration, slap it on a GBA rom cartridge, slap a price tag, put it to retail, and BAM! Cheap and easy... but they didn't do that. They took Super Mario 2, added and changed a few things that made it feel fresh, and yet enough of the game retained that it felt familiar. And as an added bonus, they tossed a updated version of the classic Mario Bros arcade and that version has a cool multiplayer set that only needs one cartridge to play. Haven't tried this myself, but sounds like a nice gimmick at least. If you enjoyed SMB2 and want more of the same, Super Mario Advance should fill that want nicely. If you can't stand SMB2 for whatever reason, chances are this isn't going to change your mind any time soon... but if you just want a fun little platformer on the go, definitely give this one a shot. 8/10
Reviewer's Score: 8/10 | Originally Posted: 03/12/02, Updated 11/27/12
Game Release: Super Mario Advance (US, 06/10/01)
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