You know you’ve written too many reviews in your lifetime when you lie in bed at night and the words for a review for a random game begin to materialize in your head. The problem with this scenario is that once the flow of text starts to leak into your consciousness, then your night of sleep is lost, and the cogs in your brain spiral with one line after another, despite the knowledge that going to sleep would be the wiser move for your real life. So this is the result of one night’s insomnia and subsequent terrible day at work, a review for Super Mario Bros One. The original game is available on the Wii Shop in its original glory for 500 points, though a solid Game Boy Color port that includes among other innovations, a BATTERY SAVE, is out there if you’re willing to go treasure hunting at your local mom and pop game shop.
If you don’t know the historical significance of Super Mario Bros, you can either search the internet or ask anyone in their mid twenties or older, because odds are they were around in the heyday of the Super Mario Bros Super Show. Thus, they know that Lou Albino is a great man. I’m sure the Nintendo PR version of history will tell you that Super Mario Bros resuscitated the video game industry single-handedly without the assist of a moving robot toy or clever marketing. As well, it revolutionized gaming in numerous ways, such as being one of the first great games that ENDED rather than just kept going at a higher speed until the player died, the game crashed (King of Kong reference,) or the janitor kicked you out of the pizzeria.
Despite being so utterly popular, I can all but say that Super Mario Bros is not the best game of all time. I would question its status among even the top ten or twenty best platformers of all time. After all, subsequent Mario games managed to do better in both second and third dimensions. And a game whose story consists of “dude must rescue princess from evil turtle” doesn’t quite push the limits of interactive storytelling the way later releases would.
And there’s the damned maze levels.
The gameplay of Super Mario Bros is just simple enough to be summed up in a paragraph. Mario is to move from the left side of the screen to the far right end of a stage….for there is no turning back! The NES cart didn’t have enough memory to allow the player to revisit parts of the stage.
This worked great for me. inFamous left a bad taste in my mouth for so-called “open world sandbox games,” so what better way to rebound than with a title so linear that that “backwards” isn’t even an option?
Mario has a mighty impressive jump and must use this to navigate an assortment of gigantic potholes, brick apparatuses capable of floating in midair, armoured Ninja Turtles that throw hammers, a heavenly bald computer nerd in an angelic cloud that throws spiked demon seeds at the player and a small handful of other illogical challenges. There are giant pipes that Mario can flush his entire body into to visit hidden crevices filled with coins, for this was 1985 and paranoia about alligators in sewers were at an all time high. Hence, coins and giant plants with teeth weren’t quite as foreign. Along the way, Mario can pick up drug-based powerups like mushrooms, flowers and a star with a face on it to enhance his abilities. I refuse to believe that anyone at Nintendo was at all sober during this era of gaming. Super Mario Bros is gaming’s Yellow Submarine, in so many ways.
Wikipedia tells me that the common enemy of the Mario universe, the Goomba, is some kind of “mushroom traitor.” I am eager to learn of the Goomba backstory. Did they feel like the regular mushrooms were discriminating against them? Is there some kind of religious dissention? Are they the Protestants of the Mario universe?
Super Mario Bros is very fundamentally simple to play, yet it’s absolutely baffling to see people struggle regardless. You hold one button to run, the other to jump. The key to success being the player’s mastery of the speed and trajectory of Mario’s acrobatic maneuvers…and I made that sound indefinitely more complicated than it really is. But it’s amazing how many people will pick up the controller and not understand that the B button makes you run. Or perhaps pressing two buttons at the same time saps too much brainpower for some, I don’t know.
This being the Virtual Console version, the game can freeze your game and let you continue at a later date. But that is the full extent of the mercy the player will be given. Once Mario runs out of lives, you start the game from the beginning in a prime example of the dated mentality of the 80s when beating a game was considered a high honour rather than something the normal man is capable of, and “Game Over” meant “homework time”. The pseudo-compromise to this; there are hidden “warp-zones” in the game that can take the player to the start of any chapter. It’s a better alternative than being made to replay the first 15 levels repeatedly because you’re stuck at the 16, but being made to replay the same first two stages to get to that warp point is still an inconvenience I’d rather not deal with. Come on Nintendo, there’s no need to be afraid to tamper with these dated NES games; give players the option…the option! To play with unlimited continues.
And I must give this a paragraph but boy do those maze levels put me in a rage. The game has three stages, including the final stage, where you must run through a strangely laid out series of multi-floor platforms in a precise order, lest you be made to replay them over and over and lose your mind. The catch being that you have to figure this unorthodox pattern out within the already prudent time limit. They may have some use; if there’s someone you hate with terrible short term memory, you can throw them at one of these stages.
But in spite of being such a fossil, the dated nature of Super Mario Bros does have its innate advantages. There’s no load times, no installation, no mandatory updates to download, no downloading trophy support, no introductory cutscene, no thirty minute tutorial that slowly and agonizingly explains each button press as if the game were potty-training the player, there isn’t even a graphic displaying the company logo at the beginning. No, you start the game, the title screen appears instantly, you press start, you assume control. We need more games like this!
Each level, despite a limited number of background sprites, still feels different than the one before it, presenting unique challenges that gradually escalate in difficulty. The game is difficult enough to slap you for trying to accomplish a level, but accessible enough in nature that you’ll be encouraging yourself to press on regardless. Perhaps it’s a subliminal track in the music. That same subliminal track seems to inspire every one in ten people to have the SMB theme as their danged ringtone. On top of all that, once you’ve completed the game, there becomes a deep-rooted desire to try and speed-run the game, or play through with as little lost lives as possible.
And at the risk of spitting at the virtues of independent music lovers, Super Mario Bros is a great game to have because it’s so damn popular. Almost anyone that wasn’t raised to believe that the video game industry was founded by Halo will have some kind of emotional connection that urges them to play Super Mario Bros. Your non-gamer girlfriend? Your group of stoner buddies? Your sober relatives? The Wiimote, on its side, bears just a reasonable enough resemblance to the layout of an NES controller to recreate to feel of playing in your parents’ basement on Christmas Day with your brand new Nintendo Entertainment System. You can almost hear them telling you to turn the volume down. If you’re really feeling nostalgic, blow into the Wii disc slot.
Even when company isn’t over, Super Mario Bros is a game that is always fun in a pinch. Once you’ve reached a certain high skill level, you’ll find that the game can be completed in about half an hour, and really, having such a short experience can be more beneficial on those days when you’ve only gotten half an hour before Lost is on. So at the very least, having Super Mario Bros appear on your Wii television channel…thing, is more than worth the 500 points.
I don’t watch Lost.