Review by darthjulian

Reviewed: 01/08/07

Mario´s finest hour?

Back in the days, Nintendo´s strategy when releasing a new console was simple: a new Mario game right at the beginning of the console´s life cycle practically guaranteed the success of the new machine right from the start. And in view of the amazingly high quality of Mario based launch titles in general, that´s not really much of a surprise. "Super Mario 64", for example was not just a brilliant launch title and one of the best games ever, it also paved the way for a whole new generation of video games, and while "Super Mario World" did not have the same enormous impact one generation earlier at the beginning of the SNES era, it was at the very least an extraordinary evolution of the Mario franchise - and the ultimate reason for gamers to buy a Super Nintendo.

The story is yet again, like in virtually every single Mario game, not exactly worth mentioning to say the least. As always, Princess Peach has been abducted by the series´ main evildoer Bowser, this time while she, Mario and Luigi were on a vacation in Dinosaur Land. On their way to save her, they meet a new ally: Yoshi, an inhabitant of Dinosaur Land, whose fellow dinosaurs have been imprisoned by Bowser. Yoshi is probably the most important new twist in "Super Mario World", since he is able to transport Mario throughout the levels on his back after you find an egg containing a Yoshi (there are several of them, all of different colors), and of course, Yoshi can also swallow Mario´s enemies with his long tongue, creating a nice new aspect in fighting your enemies. Apart from that, Mario himself can use several items for the means of transformation, like the well known mushroom and fire flower or as a newly introduced cape, enabling Mario to fly through the air for a while. All these aspects are just a small part of the brilliant game design, though, as there´s far more to "Super Mario World" in terms of motivation and playability. First of all, there´s the sheer size of the game: there are 72 levels in the entire game, each being exceptionally well designed and a lot of them having more than just one exit (leading to 96 level exits overall). In fact, there are two secret worlds in this game next to the seven regular worlds (Yoshi´s Island, Donut Plains, Vanilla Dome, Twin Bridges Area, Forest of Illusion, Chocolate Island and Valley of Bowser), namely the Star World and Special Zone, and finding as well as beating them is a task Jump and Run experts will be delighted with. Thanks to this, "Super Mario World" is able to entertain the gamer far longer than the usual 2D Jump and Run of the early 90s, with the massive amount of regular levels as well as secrets to uncover. Next to the castle at the end of each world, where one of Bowser´s children will await you as a boss enemy, you´ll also discover another kind of level that differs from the usual ones: the ghost houses. What makes them so special is on one hand the appearance of ghosts as enemies whom you can´t harm in any way, only avoid. On the other hand, these levels also surprise with sometimes confusing level design and puzzles, serving for a cool new idea again by Shigeru Miyamoto. The only remotely negative aspect about "Super Mario World" I can readily recall is the return of the time limit in each level. Sure, there´s always enough time for you to beat the level, and in most cases, you won´t have to worry about it in the least bit (unless you want to increase your highscore, that is), but I think Nintendo could have left it out in their first new-generation Super Mario title. Still, it´s such an insignificant flaw that I can´t even recognize it as such, so in the end, "Super Mario World" remains a masterpiece in terms of playability.

Being the first title on Nintendo´s 16-Bit machine, "Super Mario World" already made use of the vast technical enhancements of the SNES, marking a perfect showcase for the capabilities of the console and a considerable improvement over anything gamers had seen before on the NES or even the Sega Genesis. If you compare "Super Mario World" to its direct predecessor "Super Mario Bros. 3" - the peak on the NES as far as graphics go - you will immediately notice that SMW is far more colorful, thanks to the more varied and larger color palette of the SNES hardware, and of course, the character sprites themselves also feature more details than ever, which is especially helpful in giving Mario even more charm and personality. And then, Nintendo already hinted at the impressive potential the system had in terms of 3D, like the dozens of rotating objects and platforms or most famously during the last boss fight against you-know-who. Every single level in the game also astounds once again with a fantastic amount of creativity that went into the visualization of all the different locations, and in the end, "Super Mario World" represents a consequent and worthy 2D evolution of the Mario series that lives up to the SNES hardware even as one of its first titles.

The music comes off as a surprise, honestly - but a more than pleasant one. Instead of simply relying on already existing melodies and tunes from older Mario titles, Nintendo mainstay composer Koji Kondo with some wonderful new themes that fit the Mario universe perfectly: they´re catchy, cute and a joy to listen to, always giving you an upbeat and happy feeling. The only downside to this might be a slight lack of variety, since some of the themes appear in several levels, leading to a small number of tracks overall. Their quality, on the other hand, makes you forget that small flaw instantly, and combined with the nice new sound effects for Mario´s new abilities, the audio in "Super Mario World" is yet another technical aspect that improves upon the NES Super Mario Bros. trilogy and shows what the SNES is capable of.

There´s not much else to say about a game like "Super Mario World". Its legendary status among video game fans worldwide is well deserved, and it might even be the best Mario game of all time, maybe even the best Jump and Run ever. The typical Mario gameplay in combination with some new twists is simply timeless, and even over a decade after its initial release, the game has not lost its appeal - it´s yet another testament to Shigeru Miyamoto´s genius as a game designer.

Rating:   5.0 - Flawless

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