Review by Sprock
"Better than SMB3."
Ask any old-school fan what their favorite Mario platform game is, and you'll likely receive one of two answers - Super Mario Bros. 3 or Super Mario World. Often considered the apex of the genre as a whole, the decision of picking one over the other has spawned many a war between members of the fanbase. One side armed with Tanooki Suits and Warp Whistles, and the other side equipped with Yoshi Eggs and Koopa Shells, an everlasting battle has ensued between Nintendo and platform fans alike. Super Mario Bros. 3 and its predecessors may have been the foundation, but it was Super Mario World that not only led one of Nintendo's greatest console successes, the Super NES, but set the platform bar so unbelievably high that the gaming world has ever since left that mark untouched.
As one may have predicted, a vacation to Dinosaur Island has gone awry as Mario's favorite ditz of a princess has once again been captured by you-know-who. Mario arrives on Yoshi's Island to the south of the mainland, where he firsts meets Yoshi, his trustworthy dinosaur pal. The ability to ride Yoshi is just one of the numerously vast ways Mario can utilize old and new abilities alike. Mushrooms and Fire Flowers make their triumphant return to give the plumber the power of growth and unlimited firepower. The Cape Feather is a new item that basically takes the place of Super Mario Bros. 3's Raccoon Leaf. With the Cape, however, Mario gains the ability to run up walls when at full speed and soar over entire stages as long as the player can keep up flotation momentum. Yoshi is, without a doubt, the most substantial addition to Mario's arsenal. When riding Yoshi (who is found in various select stages), the player can gulp up most enemies, swallow them, or spit them out. When devouring certain enemies, Yoshi can even spit out a trip of fireballs or gain the ability to fly for a short period of time.
Diversity is one of Super Mario World's greatest claims to fame. Many famous Mushroom Kingdom flora and fauna make their triumphant return, along with a stunning new cast of creative foes. Stages are no longer restricted to simply outdoors, underground, and castle interiors. The ghost houses are some of the most creative stages ever, generally not composed of a simply, straightforward route to the goal. Amidst evading pesky poltergeists, a secret exit is hidden among many other seemingly-obvious exits, which in reality, lead you back to the beginning. Various twists will grasp you in the more traditional environments, such as a meadow composed of rising and sinking water, a flooded underground fortress, or a ride on a skull raft down an underground lava bed. There's even a stage where you'll have to cross an entire chasm of demented athletes by inflating yourself like a balloon! Needless to say, while some of these innovations may be the potential product of drug abuse, the amount of originality put into these stages is incredible.
However, the overworld system is perhaps what makes Super Mario World so expansive. Unlike in Super Mario Bros. 3, the world maps are not simply limited to marked paths that move horizontally across the screen. Many stages have more than one exit to them. Completing the stage through these alternate exits opens up new pathways on the map, often leading to secret stages that would not normally be encountered by traveling around Dinosaur Island by normal methods. Half the fun in discovering these vast secrets is figuring out the process of how to locate them. Some may require you to carry a giant key to a keyhole somewhere else in the stage. Others may require you to have accessed some of the various Switch Palaces around Dinosaur Island, which are a secret in their own. You may even have to go to such extents as somehow bypassing the goal to find a second goal, or taking an exclusive route entirely dependant on your timer!
Of course, you cannot have a proper title of the Mario name without a familiar cast of retro enemies. Overhauled from their most basic designs, such delightful foes as Koopas, Goombas, and Boos make their grand debut into the 16-bit world. Bowser's Koopalings also make their triumphant return, guarding each of the seven main areas of Dinosaur Island. A new cast also reveals their faces as the title introduces Charging Chuck, Rex, and Wiggler into the Mario universe. Luigi will only reveal his face if you choose to play co-op with a second player, though both plumbers will control identically.
Perhaps the greatest pride from these hurdles comes from the exhilarating sense of challenge you will receive. Maneuvering through a series of shifting and crushing tablets rising and sinking from a volatile pit of molten lava can prove to be one of the most nerve-racking platform experiences ever. As you find yourself squared off against one of Bowser's Koopalings who comes crashing down from the ceiling, with the side walls gradually closing in on you, precision and strategy suddenly becomes a much bigger factor than a typical bopping. Various elements such as ice will impact your movement dramatically as you traverse the frostbitten abysses of Dinosaur Island.
Super Mario World retains the upbeat and cheerful atmosphere of its predecessors. The sprite and background layers are all vibrant and highly-saturated, which served as a first glimpse of the handling capabilities of the Super Nintendo. Super Mario World deserves greater props, however, for featuring one of the catchiest soundtracks Koji Kondo has ever churned out. Each track follows a similar pattern and beat, yet all are substantially different. An ominous and drawn-out tempo will play while navigating the haunted houses. A much more solemn and melancholy beat will sound while beneath the surface. Underwater stages feature a slower serenade-like version of the main theme. Sound effects are rather limited aside from the standard chimes, but the charm in the audio comes primarily from the soundtrack.
Despite these words, it is not humanly possible to fathom Super Mario World's greatness without playing it for yourself. By boasting over 30 solid hours of gameplay, a relatively steep difficulty curve, and a treasure trove of secrets to be found, Super Mario World takes the experience of Super Mario Bros. 3 and takes it a notch up the ladder. If you have no choice but to resort for the Super Mario Advance 2 port, it will suffice, but the experience is purest in its original form. Maybe the game isn't in such a heavenly high regard as Legend of the Seven Stars, but as far as Mario platform games go, this game is in a World of its own. If there were truly a Mario title worthy of a Perfect 10, this would be it.
Reviewer's Score: 10/10 | Originally Posted: 10/30/06
Got Your Own Opinion?
You can submit your own review for this game using our Review Submission Form.