8 Worlds and 19 Years Later...: A Review of Super Mario Bros. 3
Oh yes. This is what it's all about, guys - this is where it's at. Super Mario Bros. 3. The classic Mario path from which Super Mario Bros. 2 deviated is now back in full-force with the entry of Super Mario Bros. 3 to the legendary series. Goombas? Check. Turtles? Check. Bullet Bill? Check. Super Mushrooms, Starmen, Fire Flowers? Check, check, and check. It's all back, plus so many more enemies and items alike, it'll keep you occupied for hours - literally. Assuming you give the game a complete run-through, that is.
Oh, speaking of giving the game a complete run-through, let's cut to the chase and dive right in, shall we? Oh yeah, this time we'll be running through the Story, Graphics / Design, Sound, Gameplay / Control, and as a little added bonus to make this review even more epic than I'm sure it will be, we're gonna do a quick review of all the worlds. So grab a snack, light a smoke, and get ready for my review of Super Mario Bros. 3!
Classic Mario at best. The Princess has been kidnapped again (imagine that...), and to top things off, each of King Koopa's seven children (the Koopalings) have stolen a magic wand from it's respective king (coincidently enough, there's seven kings as well). Now, it's up to none other than Mario and his brother Luigi to travel through seven different worlds, defeat the Koopalings, return the magic wands, and confront King Koopa for the last time (yeah, okay...).
Hold on, kids - it's gonna be a bumpy ride.
Upon passing the game's title screen, we start off in Grass Land, World 1 of our adventure. Grass Land has been taken over by Larry Koopa, the most basic of the Koopalings. While there is nothing special to this world, it basically exists to help the player get their feet wet. Nothing special to endure here: make it to the end, demolish Larry Koopa, return the magic wand back to it's rightful owner, snag your letter from the princess, and it's off to...
Desert Land, or World 2. As it's name implies, Mario is now in a great desert, filled with pyramids, quicksand, and an angry sun. To top it all off, Morton Koopa, Jr. has stolen the magic wand from the king in this world, and he's not interested in playing games. Navigate through the levels, dominate the fortress, attain a hammer, and snag your special secrets hidden away behind the rocks. Rock on, dude! Grab your frog suit, complete this world and you'll find yourself in a bit of a different setting, or rather...
Water Land, aka World 3. Water Land has been corrupted by the devious Wendy O. Koopa, and she's about to give you the ride of your life (and not the good kind, mind you...). Okay, so that whole line was a set up for that one-liner - so sue me.
Anyway, Water Land is a pretty fun portion of the Mushroom Kingdom. Here you'll find giant fish, electric eels, and plenty of flying fish to go around. Swim your way to the castle and confront Ms. Wendy O. herself. Dodge her rings, take her out, and you'll be granted access to undoubtedly the most fun world of all...
Giant Land! Yep, that's right: as the name would lead you to believe, everything in World 4 here has been sized up to spin Mario's head right round (baby right round, like a record baby...). I don't know what it is about this world, but apparently Iggy Koopa thought it would prove a formidable challenge for the Brothers to upsize their enemies with an order of fries and leave them drowning in the tears they cry (Okay, I'm done...). Anyway, after fighting off giant goombas, turtles, and the likes, you'll soon come face-to-face with Iggy himself. Downsize this kid and you'll find yourself floating, floating, floating all the way up to...
Sky Land, or World 5. Now this world is just as interesting as it is expansive - you start things off on the ground, fighting your way through a couple levels until you enter an oddly-shaped castle. Fight your way to the top of said castle and you'll find you've been shot straight up into the sky fortress itself! One level in this world sticks out in my mind, and I'm sure you all know what I'm referring to. I'm not sure which exact level it is (a part of me wants to say 6), but you survive this auto-scrolling mess by hopping from beetle-to-beetle as you stay afloat in the sky, questing to the end, where you commence a showdown between yourself and the stocky Roy Koopa. Watch your back or you'll be stuck paralyzed when he comes down from his jump! Make quick work of Roy to continue on toooo...
Ice Land, World 6, home of the Hammer Brothers suit, so on and so forth. This world is pretty expansive in itself, as you'll find yourself fighting through level after level straight through the ice and snow in search of Lemmy Koopa. On your way through, pick me up a Hammer Bros suit or two, and you'll find that taking out enemies (including the Koopalings) just got 200% easier, though it seems you play with 200% more caution, which always leads to you overreacting and losing your suit in no-time. Oh well. Smash Lemmy's face in and continue on, where you'll find yourself lost and confused in none other than...
Pipe Land, aka World 7. Now, to all my 420-friendly readers out there, don't let the name decieve you: this level is about the pips Mario travels through, and nothing more ;) Aside from being undoubtedly the most annoying of all the previous worlds, this world is probably the most challenging and provides the longest playthrough. Level after level takes you from island to island until you eventually luck out and land on the correct one - aka the last one - and find yourself standing mano-e-mano with Ludwig von Koopa, composing his dreadfully bad symphonies of gloom. Shut him up and you'll receive a letter from King Koopa himself informing you that Princess Toadstool is securely captive in his grasp, at which point you've gotta suck it up and venture forth into the depths of...
Dark Land. World 8. The final world. This place is HUGE. Not only must you fight your way through King Koopa's army, navy, marines, and air force, but after doing so, you have a whole 'nother world to slide your way through! Hope you saved your P-Wings, kids, 'cause even by today's standards, you're in for a challenge here. Never-ending castles, confusing levels, adrenaline-pumping jumps and luck-ridden escapes, this is what it all comes down to. Complete the world, take down one more of Koopa's tanks, and you'll find yourself in the last level. The showdown. The big finale.
A bit disappointing as far as boss battles go, but this is what you've worked for - enjoy it! Trick Koopa into smashing himself straight down into a deep, dark chasm and you're free to collect your prize - Princess Toadstool! And what's this? The chick doesn't even show any appreciation for all your hard work! She just stands there and cracks stupid jokes! Oh, one of these days, Toadstool... POW - straight to the moon!
Quite an expansive array of worlds and levels, one must admit! But eh, we'll save that babble for a different category ;)
GRAPHICS / DESIGN 5/5
Wow, everything in this game is perfect. Hands-down perfect. From watching Mario scroll around from level to level in the mini-maps to controlling him inside each level, this game never lets up on it's beauty and careful design, and it is albeit impossible to discover everything in one play-through, thanks to the countless secret paths, bonus levels, etc. There is enough here to keep you coming back for more... and more... and more... until 19 years later you find yourself coming back for even more! Simply put, this game is huge, and given the year of it's initial release (1988 in Japan), it holds surprisingly impressive, even by today's standards. Go ahead and challenge that fact.
There were countless additions and improvements included in this game to make it an epic entry into the series, including the famous Raccoon Leaf, Tanooki Suit, Frog Suit, Hammer Bros Suit, P-Wing, Jugem's Cloud, Warp Whistles, and so many others I can't even ramble them off the top of my head. Mini games including the "picture slide" and "N-Spade" matching game prove that this is a game with an enlightened sense of adventure. Several small fortresses pollute the world maps, and each hold a sort of curious "sun" boss, who holds a mysterious "? Orb" ... Yes, there are so many levels and extras, items and mini games, bosses and enemies, it's hard to imagine how somebody could not appreciate this game.
The graphics are so lush and spot-on it's unreal, especially for a game of it's time. Colourful backgrounds emphesize the theme of the land you find yourself in, from the warm and sunny, friendly atmosphere of Grass Land to the dark, chasm-like style of Dark Land and everything in between, the scenery never fails to stay fresh and amazing.
A wide array of new threats and enemies were also included into Super Mario Bros. 3 - who could forget the infamous ball-and-chain design of "chomp," or even the irritating Hammer Bros? Goombas, turtles, Bullet Bills, and Spikeys make their presence known once again, and they'll keep you on your feet. Giant man-eating fish, electric eels, and even the Bloopers pollute the sea side, while firebreating orb-like enemies patrol the skies. There are so many other delightful, colourful characters and enemies who made their debut in SMB3, you'll never be stuck fighting the same monotonous threats in each world - thank god!
While the composition here isn't quite as memorable as that in the original Super Mario Bros., there are still pleanty of tunes stuffing this game's soundtrack full of great, catchy melodies that won't be forgotten, at least in my lifetime. Each world map spouts a different theme, while each of their subsequent levels boast the same theme in each one. You would think that would get annoying after a while, and if the composition here was anything less than top-notch, you might just be right. But hey, this is Super Mario Bros. 3 we're dealing with here, nothing less. While I'm sure the soundtrack is appreciated all-around by gamers everywhere, I really see no need to ramble on about the delightfully entertaining melodies found in this one.
GAMEPLAY / CONTROLS 5/5
From taking to the skies as Raccoon Mario to diving into World 3 as Frog Mario, it's all here. The same basic Mario controls introduced in the original still hold true: your basic walking, running, jumping, shooting fire, and as mentioned, some extras. Changing into a statue as Tanooki Mario is infinitely helpful, and lobbing hammers at your foes as Hammer Brother Mario is fun beyond all means. Whether you're flying, swimming, running, jumping, the D-pad won't miss a beat - the controls are expertly executed, giving us the ultimate control in platform gaming. Collision detection is right on, and if an enemy's fireball or a plant's mouth comes even one pixel short of where Mario is, the game won't screw you over and just "round up" - to be hit, you actually have to be hit. Very great programming and controlling is included in this game, making it even more enjoyable to the most casual of gamers.
From the relaxed atmosphere of Grass Land to the eccentric humour introduced in Giant Land, even the irritation brought on by Pipe Land, you'll never find yourself bored and feel as though you're playing the same level over and over, which was perhaps the biggest flaw in the original SMB. When you enter a different level, you're entering an entirely new adventure riddled with pleanty of varying enemies, secret paths, hidden blocks, and the likes.
Very, very impressive to see a game of this calibur released on the 8-bit NES. Breaking graphical boundries as well as replayability and classic moments, Super Mario Bros. 3 was not only a solid entry into the franchise at it's time - it still challenges even the most recent Mario games as "Best Mario Game of All Time" - a challenge which, in my opinion, still continues to dominate today. While other later entries into the realm were outstanding and terrific, such as Super Mario World and even New Super Mario Bros., nothing can quite hold up the nostalgia that is Super Mario Bros. 3 in this reviewer's opinion.
This game has topped the charts with a perfect 5/5 - a score that I am very hesitant to hand to just any game, as I feel there is always room for improvement. If given the opportunity, though, I would not change a thing.