Review by Retro
"I wanna go back and do it all over"
Don't you want to go back to your childhood? You didn't have a care or worry in the world, apart from school and the dreaded homework. For over ten years, you swore you couldn't wait until you were finished with school, because you hated it. But then you finally graduated and had to go to college or work. Responsibility showed its ugly face and left you no choice but to work your ass off just to earn pieces of paper that we call 'money'. Eventually, you can't help but to reminisce and long to go back to the glory days when you were a kid. I miss riding my bike down that familiar 1/10th of a mile driveway to go visit friends nearly every day; I miss getting up early every Saturday morning, just so I could watch my favorite cartoons; I miss proving to everybody that I know that I can still outrun them. Most of all, I miss playing video games almost all day and nearly half the night.
I don't know of any video game that I have more timeless memories of playing in the days of yesteryear than Super Mario Bros. It's not because it's my favorite game (well, it was for awhile, of course), or that it was the defining video game of a generation, but because everybody I knew had a copy of it. It was hotter than a Texas trailer in the summer that has no air conditioning. Every single one of my friends and cousins that I saw more than once in a blue moon had this game. Hell, even my aunts that were around my age had it. Before my parents decided to place a brand new NES under our Christmas tree, I would gladly venture to my aunts' house and brave the risk of catching head lice (those little critters sure did love them), just to play this little cart called Super Mario Bros.
During a time when the video game industry was up in the air with no certain future, Super Mario Bros. was not only a lifesaver, but an assurance of the greatness that was to come. Just look at it. We were used to simplistic Atari 2600 games that were always fun, but terribly short, and lacking in variety. Super Mario Bros. showed us variety. It marked the start of what has since become the most overused storyline in the world. Guide a character through dangerous places and past the grips of various enemies, just to get him laid.
The multicolored, spiky dragon named Bowser has never looked younger, and he just happened to kidnap the princess, who has never looked uglier. But Mario and Luigi, two Italian plumbing brothers, still have an eye for her, and absence always makes the heart grow fonder. Mario always gets to try his hand at becoming the hero that rescues the princess, but poor Luigi is only allowed to show his face when you decide to play a two-player game with a friend.
Welcome to the Mushroom Kingdom, a land made up of a number of worlds, each divided into four areas. Press start on the title screen and you're instantly transported to an environment comprised of grounds that look like a dried up river bed, a nice sky blue atmosphere with a few clouds and several bricks hanging in the air, and more than enough pipes to satisfy a plumber that is frothing at the mouth. But this is the most basic of surroundings that you'll ever lay your eyes on in Super Mario Bros.
You'll have to venture through the dark surroundings of underground sewers, with their tons and tons of blue bricks and pipes that hold hidden collections of pocket change. It's no myth that there are fish that can literally fly. Mario (and maybe Luigi) will see this with his own two eyes when you take him to the treetops in your journey that progresses to the right. They know they'll either die or be caught and then fried into fillets anyway, so they decide to be riskier than the average fish by jumping out of the water at you headfirst. Every fourth stage holds a gray castle that's suspended over a fiery body of water that comes complete with jumping fireballs that seem to have an uncanny ability to know exactly when you're going to attempt to get past their parts of the pit. Finally, after making it through a hotter than hell inferno or two, it's time to cool off. What better way is there to do that than to go swimming in clear blue seas with albino squids and fish? Not to mention that Mario and Luigi can hold their breath as long as they please! I take it they've gotten so used to leaky faucets that they've grown gills, perhaps.
If there's a such thing as a perfect example of what a platformer is, it's Super Mario Bros. In short, you just have to make it from the start of each level, to the end, and then jump onto the flagpole and walk into the short castle to mark that ''Mario Wuz Here.'' Then you're off to the next stage. But it was so much more than that back in the day. Along with the decent variety of stages, the enemies were a sight to take in. There's not a single stage that isn't overrun with side-stepping mushrooms called Goombas, and evil turtles that walk like robots in your direction. Since there are more of those than any other breed of enemy, they quickly become monotonous when compared to the more sparse and challenging adversaries. Just wait until you have to get past so many cannons that you'll swear World War III has begun, or until you come up on the famous Hammer Bros., who look like miniature Bowsers (the main, and only boss that resides at the end of each world) that hop and throw hammers at you as if you're a nail that has the words ''Hit me'' printed on your forehead.
I've never been one to keep secrets from the world, and it's clear that the Mushroom Kingdom is the same way. Not only can thousands of gold coins be found inside those mysterious question mark blocks and in various everyday bricks, but you may also luck up and find a star for temporary invincibility, a tasty mushroom for growing from being a midget to a grown man, or, if you're already grown, a fire flower. The flowers were always the best. They gave you the ability to hurl an endless supply of fireballs at enemies. You can't convince me that shooting a Goomba, turtle, or nearly any other enemy with a fireball and then watching it fall off the screen to the depths of hell ever loses its luster. This power over fire was even better for ridding the screen of those pesky, carnivorous plants that inhabited way too many pipes for a plumber's liking.
There's a popular saying that you used to always hear in cartoons back in the 80's, which was ''cheaters never win.'' From playing Super Mario Bros., I've come to the conclusion that that saying has about as much truth to it as the tooth fairy. One of the most revolutionary aspects about the game is its warp zones. You can be minding your own business and just happen to jump into the air and hit your head on an invisible block, and eventually find a way to skip entire worlds by simply ducking down into a particular pipe. Some might argue that that's the lazy person's way out, but I've always thought it was a great idea.
Get used to it. You'll hear young up-and-coming gamers yell for years that Super Mario Bros. looks like ****. Being older than twenty and one who was raised on Atari 2600 and NES games, I'll look you straight in the eye and tell you that Super Mario Bros. wasn't ugly at all for its time. It was more colorful and detailed than any video game the world had ever seen. Mario and most of the enemies moved around in fluid animation, and the backgrounds, with their puffy white clouds and lakes of stationary lava, looked great. While we're all playing 64-bit and 128-bit games now while we wow at them and proclaim, ''Dang man, that looks like a real cartoon'', in 1985, Super Mario Bros. was the game that we looked at and made that statement.
There are many things that one word can describe more than a whole sentence could. How would you describe the everlasting popularity of The Beatles? Timeless. What would you call a person who enjoys arguing at something as little as the tiniest speck of dirt on the floor? Dumb. What is Super Mario Bros. in one word? Classic. Nearly everything about it is classic. One of the defining factors in its greatness over the years has been its many sounds, and especially its soundtrack. All the way from the energizing sound of catching a mushroom or flower, to the basic 'thump' of a fireball coming in contact with a Goomba, to the tearing apart sound of busting a brick, the sound effects always seem to fit with what it is you're doing. The tracks that accompany you from start to finish are always a good bit atmospheric. The song you'll hear at the very start is perhaps the best known video game tune in all of video games. It gives you a sense that the gameplay in that level is a little laid back, but fun as well. And it's right; that's exactly what it is. The castle music promotes a feeling of urgency and danger at the same time, with its fast beat and hectic tempo.
Time is of the essence. While Mario and Luigi can be killed by time if its digits happen to reach triple zero, Super Mario Bros. simply can't be. It literally saved the video game industry as a whole upon its release. It showed loyal fans of video games that there would be a long-lasting future in their favorite form of entertainment. Pitfall! is regarded by many to be the first 'platformer', and maybe it was, in the most basic meaning of the word. But Super Mario Bros. was the platformer that took the world by surprise, and it's the one that will forever be remembered for what it accomplished. Want proof? Just look at the hundreds, if not thousands, of games that have attempted to copy its style. Getting back to the current days, there are several platformers that have been made into being better games than Super Mario Bros., but none as inspirational or as classic.
Do you ever do things like watch old TV shows that you used to watch all the time and then think to yourself something such as, ''That was made in 1989. Back then I was doing so and so. Damn, I wish I could go back''? While I don't have a time machine that allows me to travel back to past sequences in my life, Super Mario Bros. is one of the things that I can always go back to to rekindle loads of nostalgia and unforgettable memories. I hope it does the same for you.
Reviewer's Rating: 4.5 - Outstanding
Originally Posted: 01/17/04
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