Review by Ryan Harrison

Reviewed: 04/24/13

In a little World of its own.

Games in the Super Mario series are often brought up as some of the best action games available for their respective system in a topic of discussion. The original Super Mario Bros. set the standard for side-scrollers when it was launched with the NES, and while its western sequel seemed to deviate from the theme and gameplay style of the first, that was also another brilliant game for the same system. SMB3 is usually regarded as one of the greatest games ever made that amplified the formulae of the first to brand new levels. Super Mario 64, much like the original SMB, also set a standard - this time for 3D platformers, when it came bundled with the Nintendo 64, and Super Mario Galaxy (2) are very well-received games for the Wii.

Released along with the Super Nintendo Entertainment System in August of 1991 in the States and April 1992 here in the UK, this game right here, Super Mario World, is much like many other games in the series, considered one of the very best games available for the console. Taking a lot of the features and elements of the earlier 2D games and honing them to a tee, Super Mario World (hereafter abbreviated to SMW) much like the preceding major Mario adventure Super Mario Bros. 3 continues to utilise that same old run-jump-stomp formula as its bread and butter, but also throws in lots of brand new themes and symbolises platforming creativity at perhaps its finest on the Super Nintendo.

Often questioned whether this game is ‘better’ (in loose terms) than SMB3 by many fans, it is too close to call for many folks, myself included. For as much as these two games were about innovation and high-quality platforming, roaming through side-scrolling levels accessed from an overhead-view map screen, collecting unique accessories that grant special powers and so on; SMW doesn’t completely try to be more of the same as what you got before, either. While it cuts down on the mini-games and accessories that were a big theme from SMB3, it introduces a new power-up in the Cape Feather, Mario’s debuting dinosaur companion Yoshi, bigger levels that can also be replayed as well as containing hidden exits leading to new areas on the map screen. The wonderful control and smooth animation also feels much better and does give the impression that this game truly was meant for the Super Nintendo.

First, we’ll begin with the game story, which goes that following Mario and Luigi’s earlier escapades in the Mushroom Kingdom and having rescued Princess Toadstool once again, the trio decide to head off on vacation to a new and never-before-seen place known as Dinosaur Land. While out enjoying themselves, the Princess suddenly goes missing again, with the trail of clues leading the same old culprit again. It’s the same old ‘Defeat Bowser and his Koopaling Kids to save the Princess’ story, albeit with another new twist to it at the same time. You see, many of the inhabitants of Dinosaur World, coloured dinosaurs who all go by the name of ‘Yoshi’, were also captured by Bowser and trapped inside huge eggs. As you play through the many different worlds of the game, you also rescue them from their castle prisons by defeating the Koopaling Kid who governs each castle.

In-game text boxes and cut-scenes also depict the story-telling and advancing of the plot really well. Upon starting up and beginning a new game, the player sees Mario underneath a large black text box reading:

Welcome! This is Dinosaur Land. In this strange land we find that Princess Toadstool is missing again! Looks like Bowser is at it again!

Thus, our new settings are explained, as to why we’re off on another grand adventure, although that reason seldom changes. The new twists are a nice new addition, so altogether the story of the game is alright.

The graphics, artwork and aesthetics of SMW are nicely done. With plenty of rich and colourful backgrounds and level looks, as well as lovingly-designed character sprites and effects, the graphics of this game are 16-bit eye candy. A superb upgrade from the looks seen from the NES, the Super Nintendo showcases its graphical power and potential very well in this game, despite being one of the first games available for the console. A huge lot of the trademark looks and designs of many things that are seen in so many Mario games nowadays seemed to really come into their own when the series lived on in the SNES’ lifespan. The backgrounds are varied in colours and shades, as well as really well-detailed.

Character and enemy designs retain their usual trademark looks to them. The detailing on the Mario Bros.’ clothing and their movement looks superb, and enemy character designs also look unique. Some classic enemies such as the Koopa turtles, Bullet Bills and Piranha Plants pop up from place to place, as do so many new and standout-looking creatures, which include the likes of walking dinosaurs, oversized Bullet ‘Banzai’ Bills, angry gargantuan caterpillars, sporty helmet-wearing Chuck guys and many more. They also come in varying shapes, sizes and colours, and different movement patterns to help them stand out as trademark Mario enemies even more. Overall, the graphics of the game are wonderfully bright, colourful and detailed, and they are excellent.

The music of the game is also delightful. As usual, it is catchy and recognisable, with a range of composition types between stages. In the usual style, you have two different themes that are cheery and upbeat for your general and athletic overworld stages, and lower, deeper themes for underground areas. The bonus area music sounds great and catchy, and even simpler, looped themes heard for each different area on the map screen also sounds superb. One can even notice a slight echo in the dungeon background music, which even adds to the atmosphere. A lot of the background music in the game is original, but some classic sounds have also made it, like the classic Starman theme and the original SMB theme on one of the maps!

Along with the music are some great sound effects. Mario’s classic jumping, stomping and coin collection sound effects sound as good and clear as ever, as do the Yoshi sound effects, like when he I saddles, consumes and exhales objects, and the distinct ‘boom’ sound of pounding enemies. Altogether, the background music and sound effects in this game are excellent, and they are very well-suited for anywhere you hear them.

This game features the same classic control scheme that had made the earlier Mario games so great. For veterans of the NES adventure games, the layout of the SNES controller buttons and each button’s denotations should feel familiar to you. With the D-Pad you move and look around, and with Y you can run and throw fireballs, and B makes Mario jump and swim. A brand new and important move you’ll use in this game comes in the form of a spinning jump, done with the A button, and can defeat stronger enemies and smash some brick blocks that the ordinary jump cannot. Everything in the game is easy to do and as the controls are so precise and instant, I can’t find any issues whatsoever with them.

Moving onto the most important aspect of SMW, the gameplay. Definitely the game’s selling point, SMW as already mentioned follows the same basic formula of other 2D Mario games, and like SMB3, you select which stage you wish to play through by first going to its location on a map screen and entering the level. The maps now provide mostly action stages that can be revisited as well as warp pipes, switch palaces, star road markers, ghost houses and castles, although mini-game panels and item houses were taken away. All maps are interlinked and you can come and go between areas as you please, instead of finishing one area and moving right onto the next without backtracking.

Another feature is the ‘item box’ seen at the top of the screen in the main levels, a window that contains a spare item that you have picked up while you are already in a powered-up form. While some may be confused about the lack of an inventory, the fact is that as you can revisit areas you have beaten and leave them at any time you so wish, stocking up on items doesn’t seem so much a necessity when you can just quickly head to another area, grab the power-up you need for the next stage, then leaving. You can swap them over with the simple pressing of the Select button to make it flutter down for you to catch, and it will also float down should Mario take damage from an enemy and revert to a non-powered form.

Another big thing of note is that by beating levels you can unlock new paths that lead further on into the game, but a lot of levels have hidden exits and different routes that you can take to beat the level. Giving you more to come back for and explore to make sure you find 100 percent of everything in each level is great and adds a huge amount of replay value. You’ll also notice hollowed-out blocks with differently-coloured outlines that fill up with the new “! Blocks” by pressing the giant switch of that respective block’s colour in a switch palace stage. When these blocks are filled in, they can act as extra platforms at might make getting through some tough areas easier on you, or they can act as platforms to take you to a secret exit that you could otherwise not reach if they are hollow. This is a great and very original feature for this game, and this idea would also serve as the basis for blocks that give Mario his magical caps in Super Mario 64.

The different stage types and locales also vary a lot, too. You’ll get to try your basic platforming out in the generic overworld levels, and the caves and dungeons in underground areas, too. With the new ‘cape feather’ item, much like SMB3’s Super Leaf/Tanooki Suit, Mario can use this thing to take off into the air and sail through the skies with this, or even use it as a weapon to tackle his enemies by spinning. The other major new platforming element is Yoshi; when you break him out of a block that contains a Yoshi egg, by jumping onto Yoshi’s back you can ride him around and use his swallow ability to eat enemies for Coins, and by swallowing Koopa shells of varying colours Yoshi can gain extra powers, like flight, fire breath and earthquake stomps!

A game that is fair in challenge, SMW is a game that is well-suited for gamers of any age. Despite having the look of a ‘kiddy game’, you’ll find the gameplay formula, stage designs and things to see and do in every level both so addicting and enjoyable that you won’t regard it as such. The game is on the whole not too tough but not too ridiculously easy, either; the challenge curve is both fair and generous, and by playing more and getting to grips with the mechanics, the challenge stays consistent.

With a total of 96 level exits to find and any fun stages and bonus areas, SMW can have you coming back many a time. The sheer amount of things to do, see and find as well as its open-ended gameplay style give this game tremendous replay value. Overall, with the excellent gameplay, beautiful graphics, great soundtrack and huge amount of levels, beating this game can take a good few hours if you’re looking to get absolutely everything you can. One of the defining classics for the Super Nintendo, SMW has also aged very well; it is still played and remembered fondly by gamers in today’s day and age. Physical copies of the game are reasonably affordable by looking online, as well as a downloadable version for the Virtual Console at the price of 800 points, and a superb enhanced remake is available for the Game Boy Advance, too. If you can manage to get a copy of this game should you have the console to play it on, you absolutely cannot miss out; it’s one of the best 2D side-scrollers ever and should definitely be played at some time or another.

Now, let’s go rescue them Yoshis.

Rating:   5.0 - Flawless

Product Release: Super Mario World (EU, 04/11/92)

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