Review by Mercenary

Reviewed: 08/24/04

Excellent, if unnecessary!

Mario is arguably the most famous mascot in the history of the videogame industry. Since his debut in the Shigeru Miyamoto-developed classic Donkey Kong coin-op title from 1981 as a carpenter called Jumpman, Mario has featured in countless titles and become an icon. It would be safe to assume that without Mario, Nintendo and Miyamoto-san may have never achieved the same level of success and notoriety they have enjoyed today and in the past.

When Nintendo released the original classic Super Mario Bros. title for the NES in 1985, it revitalised the industry with its addictive, instantly accessible game play that defined the side-scrolling platform videogame genre. It was a ground-breaking title at its inception that you literally just pick up and play, with no previous skills required. Unlike other titles previous to this, players were no longer confined to just setting a new High score. Super Mario Bros. was the first truly epic adventure title created. You have to help Mario (or Luigi if you are player two) complete eight worlds and thirty-two stages to save Her Royal Highness Princess Toadstool and the Mushroom Kingdom from the expansionist and satanic Koopa turtle tribe’s tyrannical sorcerer sovereign, His Majesty King Bowser. Over the course of time, two-thirds of NES owners had purchased a copy and with very good reason, besides the fact that most of these copies were packaged with the format. Almost two decades later, Nintendo have released a virtually exact pixel perfect emulated reproduction of the original Super Mario Bros. for the Game Boy Advance as the first title in the portable format’s budget range NES Classics series.

This title’s graphics are sharp and vibrant despite the repetitive backdrops (which Miyamoto-san himself has described as being “sheer black and blue at times”) and appearing slightly squashed. This is because the Game Boy Advance’s TFT wide colour screen is not equal in proportion with that of a television screen. This translation has the advantage of not requiring the necessity for horizontal and vertical scrolling from Super Mario Bros. Deluxe on the Game Boy Color to view the entire plane on each stage. Nintendo were able to port the sound flawlessly with musical scores expertly selected to accompany each setting by Nintendo composer, Koji Kondo and you will find yourself humming its tunes all day. These tunes will speed up when you are running out of time to complete the stage you are on.

Goodness gracious, great balls of fire
As with the latter titles in the Super Mario Bros. series, you spend all of your time sprinting and jumping gaps whilst trying to land on firm ground, braving underwater depths and storming castles. The controls have survived the translation process from the original NES incarnation (yet lacking the precision of those from both Super Mario Bros. Deluxe and the Super Mario Advance series) and the collision detection is flawless. This means that when you get hit, you are hit. This title also contains some of the major elements that were successfully introduced by this series as coin collection and exploration. To obstruct your progress throughout this title are various obstacles and adversaries that test all comers ranging from the treacherous Goombas to the monstrous fire-breathing Bowser himself. When certain bricks and blocks are punched from below, items such as Super Mushrooms, Fire Flowers and Stars are dislodged that transforms Mario and Luigi. These transformations empower them with extra abilities. Super Mushrooms and Fire Flowers increase the Marios height, enabling them to smash bricks and sustain a hit temporarily rendering the Marios invincible without losing a life. Fire Flowers also allow them to throw fireballs that can dispose of troublesome opponents more easily such as those irritating, burly and hammer throwing Hammer brothers. Stars temporarily render the Marios invincible. However Mario and Luigi can also lose their abilities in a multitude of ways such as by coming into any harmful contact with an enemy or by plummeting down a bottomless abyss, even when they are invincible. Some of the fun provided by the Super Mario Bros. series is the discovery of shortcuts between worlds. The entrances to this title’s Star Trek-inspired Warp Zones are located in the secret areas of some stages.

There are a few things that a number of Nintendo novices might find strange such as this title’s scrupulous fairness, with no traps that kill you without any warning. There is no energy bar in this title (when something touches you, you are dead, unless you are Super Mario, Fire Mario, Super Luigi or Fire Luigi), which can lead to an awful amount of frustration (but with yourself, rather than the title). The only real problem with NES Classics Super Mario Bros. is that it is generally inferior to Nintendo’s own earlier conversion of this title for the Game Boy Color; Super Mario Bros. Deluxe. That earlier conversion offers virtually everything this translation has and much more. Even the reduced retail price of this title is undercut by Super Mario Bros. Deluxe’s own cheaper price due to its older age, greater compatibility with other formats in the Game Boy series and greater plus superior wealth of features. The latter of these is because Nintendo wished to have all of the NES Classics series titles translated to the Game Boy Advance be as faithful emulations of the NES versions as is possible.

The only addition to this emulated translation other than the presence of Sleep Mode is the ability to save and erase High scores. Although this feature is inferior to the one on offer in Super Mario Bros. Deluxe, saving your High score does allow you to continue playing this title from the first stage of the world that you died in provided that you hold the A Button and press Start to begin a fresh session. The other bonuses are the presence of both the infamous minus world and a tougher second quest game mode that is unlocked upon completion of the default game mode. Both of these were removed from Super Mario Bros. Deluxe. The greatest advantage that NES Classics Super Mario Bros. has is that it is tougher to complete than Super Mario Bros. Deluxe due to the inability to save your progress made after each stage and fewer initial lives. The Warp Zones do help to reduce some of the burden of completing this title, though this does come at the expensive of skipping past many challenging stages and enjoyable experiences that this title has to offer. It is this that helps both NES Classics Super Mario Bros. and Super Mario Bros. Deluxe complement each other. This title provides the greater challenge while Super Mario Bros. Deluxe allows you to save your progress after each level, use the Warp Zones to quicker complete Super Mario Bros. and still be able to explore and enjoy everything Super Mario Bros. has to offer at leisure.

NES Classics Super Mario Bros. also features a single and dual cartridge two player game mode where both players take turns to complete stages until a player loses all of their lives. While Super Mario Bros. has always been an excellent single player title, it does lack the head-to-head competitiveness of truly great multi-player titles such as those from the Street Fighter series and even the superior VS mode from Super Mario Bros. Deluxe. Yet this does not mean that Super Mario Bros. is not a good multi-player title as it retains almost all of the strengths of the single player game mode. The single and dual cartridge two player game mode NES Classics Super Mario Bros. can be played through both the standard Game Boy Advance Game Link cable and the Game Boy Advance Wireless Adaptor.

Although it is not always a good practice to convert some older titles onto newer formats, when they are the calibre of those from the Super Mario Bros. series, they are certainly well worthy of conversion. The playability provided by the original title has stood the test of time with qualities far in excess of some more recent titles. While it is inferior to the earlier Super Mario Bros. Deluxe title, NES Classics Super Mario Bros. is still superior to the NES original it is emulated from due to the High score features and portability factor. Even if-in the cold light of the present day-this title were to have turned out to be really poor after all, NES Classics Super Mario Bros. would still be worth purchasing and playing for its immense historical importance and very significance as a pillar of Nintendo’s original success. The fact that this proven classic costs half that of most other Game Boy Advance titles also helps make this better value for money than it otherwise would have been and a great impulse purchase.

NES Classic Super Mario Bros. is an excellent, if unnecessary translation of a timeless masterpiece. Nintendo would have been wiser though to develop an improved incarnation of this title translated from the Super NES Super Mario All Stars package as an instalment of the Super Mario Advance series.

Did You Know?:
An exact pixel perfect translation of the original Super Mario Bros. title from the Family Computer (the Japanese version of the NES) was released as a launch title for the Family Computer Disk System add-on format in 1986.

Rating:   4.5 - Outstanding

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