Review by SneakTheSnake
"A landmark in the Mario-niverse."
There will be an ongoing debate, far after this review has been posted, about what the best Mario game of all time is. I'm not looking to contribute to that argument; besides, can't we just enjoy the games we have and celebrate how we have such equally well-made platformers? Anyway, my only major complaint about Super Mario World is that I wish I could play it anew, with fresh eyes, and explore all its hidden exits, fun boss fights and sprawling levels all over again as I did when I was a child. But there's a reason I keep coming back; as I visit the game again - and again - and again - I still find myself surprised at the sheer quality of the game overall. Super Mario World is - and will remain - an important footnote in the history of the platformer.
Super Mario World was a critical success for Nintendo; it put Mario in a completely new environment for a burgeoning audience of gamers, introduced graphics that were much more colorful and impressive than the NES counterparts, included multiplayer and even brought Yoshi into the mix. The levels are bigger, the feather literally lifting Mario to new heights, there were secrets galore to explore and a set of super-tough levels for only the most dedicated players. The game had it all.
Bowser has captured Princess Toadstool again. Mario must go after her, all through these strange, mostly food-themed worlds, like Choco Island, Donut Plains and Vanilla Dome. Mario's not alone; his brother Luigi comes along as a sidekick and playable character, and Yoshi, a plucky dinosaur that Mario finds on the aptly-named Yoshi's Island, becomes an all-too-important companion and fan favorite.
To borrow a cliche, I don't know what I can say about Super Mario World that has not already been said. Super Mario World, much like Super Mario Bros. and Super Mario Bros. 3, are still cited as examples of excellent game design, level design and exuberant graphical style. If they can stand the test of time, at least in these three areas, then we know we are talking about one of the greats. Super Mario World, in its most basic description, is a 2D platformer, one peppered with interesting levels, varying backdrops and more secret exits than any Mario game to come before and after it.
The gameplay is just as one would expect from a platformer, primarily because the predecessors in the Super Mario series set the tone and standards for platformers that would come after. In most of the levels, it's up to you to navigate Mario to the right and make it to the end goal. You'll bop on enemies' heads, take on the occasional boss, collect coins to rack up lives and take part in some mini-games to break up the action.
From the cavernous Vanilla Dome to the mysterious Forest of Illusion, right down to Bowser's Keep and the eerie Ghost Ship, Super Mario World boasts interesting level mechanics, goofy enemies and secrets all over the place. Seasoned players are already familiar with the switch palaces, which activated colored blocks throughout the game, as well as the keyholes featured in some stages which lead to new areas. And who can forget the Top Secret Area located in the... well, I can't tell you that. It's top secret!
Super Mario World has some very nice power-ups as well, the most interesting of which being the feather. Yes, Mario had flown before, but not with such style. There's a real learning curve in keeping Mario in flight in his aerial adventures, and it can be satisfying to see Mario glide effortlessly, in his dives and ascents, soaring over enemies and coins alike.
What I believe people remember most from Super Mario World, besides the graphics, would be the stage design and control. Super Mario World has more secret exits than any Mario game before and after it; half the stages contain exits which are especially hard to find or access. They're hardly ever straightforward, either, usually requiring some exploration or experimentation. They may not always lead to areas you haven't been to before, but the completion of all 90-plus exits is certainly a rewarding one. It's possible to play through the game and only experience 75% if you go through the whole game linearly (or, if you're really good and in a hurry, about 25%), but that's doing a great disservice.
The control is also top-knotch; Mario turns on a dime and jumps like a champ. There's a certain visceral feeling, too, when taking to the skies with Mario's feather power-up; he soars, glides and dive bombs based on your precise inputs, and it wouldn't be possible or as wonderful to control if it weren't for the distinct effort on Nintendo's part to fine-tune the controls to truly pristine levels. Mario has a wide enough arsenal to keep things interesting and fresh throughout the adventure.
The graphics in Super Mario World hold up decently. The game, at the very least, features a distinct style, and it's a very bright and colorful game. Sprites are varied and the backgrounds add significantly to the atmosphere. I especially like the rudimentary scaling and rotation effects in the final boss fight. Super Mario World employs a more organic feel than any of the other games before it; instead of giant world or sky world, the tropes are taken more from more realistic landscapes like forests and plains. Lakes, mountains, bridges and the like populate this tiny world, and it allows for many different backdrops to explore along your adventure.
I don't know if it's possible to top a theme as iconic as the one to Super Mario Bros., but Super Mario World is no slouch in the music department either. The music is rendered very, very well, and the tunes that accompany your adventures on and around Yoshi's Island suits to this game's style excellently. Like many games after this one, Super Mario World employs a simple melody in many of its stages; it's played off of in many different ways throughout the adventure. I especially like the song that plays in the caves of the Vanilla Dome and the faster-paced theme that accompanies the more harrowing levels.
A few minor gripes, if one should even consider them; the scrolling in some of the stages can give a person eye strain. The mini-games are a little pedantic. And that's... really about it, in all honesty. Super Mario World is not a flawless game, but it is indeed an excellent one. It offers surprises in the second playthrough, the third, the sixth and so on. The controls are top-knotch, the graphics are charming and the game serves as a great introduction to the Super Nintendo.
I recommend this game wholeheartedly, as it's a footnote in the history of the platformer as a genre. It's also a staple in the SNES library. It did not revolutionize as much as, say, Super Mario Bros., but Super Mario World is nonetheless an excellent game with plenty of fun and replay value to be had. If you haven't done so yet, you would be doing a disservice if you didn't hop on your favorite dinosaur and give this game a try.
Reviewer's Score: 9/10 | Originally Posted: 10/01/12
Game Release: Super Mario World (US, 08/13/91)
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