Review by guru_roodypoo

"Holds up beautifully as one of the best platformers ever."

Few characters in the gaming world today evoke recognition as quickly as Mario. He's synonymous with the word Nintendo, and these days, he's skilled at everything from golf to tennis and even basketball. But before he became so multi-talented, he was just a plumber with a penchant for power-ups and a knack for getting princesses out of trouble. Super Mario World: Super Mario Advance 2 recreates possibly his finest adventure yet, which on its original release was widely hailed as the best platformer of its time, and still holds up extremely well even now.

Mario, Luigi, and Princess Peach are taking a well-deserved vacation in Dinosaur Land, when, to no-one's surprise, Bowser swoops in for the kidnap. It seems he's also nabbed various coloured Yoshi's from the island, so it's up to the super duo to come to the rescue. The game starts off like any other Mario platformer, having the player defeat enemies by bopping on their heads, all the while deftly jumping to avoid hazards underneath. Gradually, new power-ups and gameplay elements are introduced, from Mario's always-hungry dinosaur friend Yoshi, who can swallow enemies whole, to the super cape, which lets Mario fly and drift slowly down from his jumps. The early levels serve as a training ground of sorts to ease the player into using Mario's new skills, but over the course of the game, the difficulty ramps up steadily until you're forced to put all of your platforming knowledge to the test.

Without question, the action found here is some of the finest in any side-scrolling game. Level design is varied and often ingenious - the wide open levels of the Donut Plains give you a sense of wonder and freedom, the levels high in the sky where you can plummet to your death at any moment give you a sense of urgency, and the fortresses make you feel appropriately claustrophobic. Many stages also have hidden exits in addition to their normal ones, which are cleverly hidden and require several play-throughs to find. In fact, the secret levels in Super Mario World are easily its best, particularly Special World. Here, advanced techniques like jumping off an enemy's head to gain extra height are not only encouraged, but required to get past certain areas - while definitely challenging, simply beating these stages gives the player immense satisfaction.

The only major change made to the original game is that you can now swap between Mario and Luigi on the map screen. Like in Super Mario Bros. 2, Luigi can jump higher than his portly brother, doesn't run quite as fast, and has some subtle changes in how his fireball and cape work. Overall, though, jumping feels much less precise with him than with Mario, and makes the game more difficult in general, so he's certainly not recommended for novices. Everything else, from the placement of the power-up blocks to the pattern of boss characters, has remained intact.

It's often said that today's 3-D games lack the charm of many of the older 2-D relics - the people who said that must have had Super Mario World in mind. The characters and backgrounds alike are drawn with a whimsical quality that's characteristic of the Mario universe, and look nothing short of wonderful. Things like parallax scrolling and Mode 7 effects are also used in abundance, which at the time were to show off the SNES's capabilities, and still look great today. While better looking games have since appeared on the GBA's superior hardware, it's amazing that the graphics of a first-generation SNES game haven't lost an ounce of their delightfulness.

Helping to contribute to the game's overall charm is the excellently-composed soundtrack, which for the most part is cheery and upbeat, but also becomes frantic and even ominous where appropriate. It's a good thing the tunes are as catchy and memorable as they are, too, because they come off sounding significantly worse on the GBA's hardware than they did on the SNES - anything resembling bass or low frequencies gets mutilated. Still, the familiar sounds of Mario powering up from grabbing a Super Mushroom and stomping a Koopa over the head are faithfully reproduced, although his new, added voice samples are unnecessary. It's too bad they can't be turned off, either, because Mario actually had more appeal as a silent, stoic hero than a catchphrase-spouting one.

The average gamer will likely take about 8 to 10 hours to complete the seven core worlds and rescue the princess from harm. However, with the plethora of hidden secrets and bonus levels, there's a lot of value to be had beyond that. The game keeps track how many hidden exits you've discovered, as well as whether you've collected the 5 Dragon Coins in each level yet, so for the truly dedicated, there's ample reason to keep playing even after Bowser is defeated. It's also worth mentioning that many of the levels are so much fun just to go back and replay, even if there's no goal other than to bop a few more Goomba heads. The original Mario Bros. is offered on the cartridge, as it is in every Mario Advance game, and while it's a neat diversion, it's not something that will hold your interest for too long.

Even if you've played Super Mario World before when you first picked up your Super Nintendo, it's a fantastic game that is worth buying again to remember the joys of platforming. If you're a newcomer to the Mario series, this game more than any other shows why this pudgy Italian plumber is so adored by gamers worldwide, both young and old.

Reviewer's Rating:   4.5 - Outstanding

Originally Posted: 02/10/05

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