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Review: Super Mario Advance (GBA)

Wednesday, August 22, 2001

Super Mario Advance

"Mario returns on the Game Boy Advance with 2 classic adventures"

The most recognized icon in video games returns in his first traditional 2D platformer since Super Mario World. The 11 year absence has left many gamers starving for any morsel of a new Super Mario installment. While perhaps not what everyone was hoping for, Nintendo has decided to release its famed Super Mario franchise in a series of enhanced ports for the GBA, hoping to serve as filler before the company decides to do an all new Super Mario game.

Super Mario Advance is a remixed compilation of Mario Bros, the original arcade game released in 1983, and Super Mario Bros. 2 USA which Nintendo released outside of Japan as a pseudo-sequel to Super Mario Bros. Super Mario Bros 2 USA was originally known as Doki Doki Panic and only released in Japan. At the same time, the real Japan-only Super Mario 2 resembled an expansion pack to Super Mario Bros. with the same level tiles only arranged in different layouts, and with the ability to play as Mario or Luigi.

Nintendo took its Doki Doki Panic title, gave the game a more familiar look, and opted to release it as Super Mario Bros 2 in the USA, and completely forewent releasing the Japanese Super Mario Bros 2 anywhere outside of Japan. Ironically, this ended up being the Mario game that sent its US popularity through the roof. While the ability to control 4 characters was a very welcome addition, many players still question how much they enjoyed the games eccentricity given its departure from the classic Mario game play.

Not surprisingly, many questioned why Nintendo would deliver an old enhanced port people may not have necessarily demanded. Truth is, Nintendo decided to continue its deluxe Super Mario ports first introduced with Super Mario Bros. DX on the Game Boy Color. Nintendo has decided to finish porting the entire series on the GBA before it decides to develop a new Mario title. Part of the reason, as explained by Nintendo, being many new gamers have never played the original Mario games, and Nintendo wanted to give them one last chance before moving on to bigger and better things.

Although most of the Nintendo EAD departments are focusing on the Nintendo GameCube, its hand-held division, EAD R&D1 is still cranking away with several titles for the GBA. The production of Super Mario Advance was supervised by EAD Assistant General Manager Takashi Tezuka, and produced by R&D1 Manager Takehiro Izushi. Under the watchful eye of experience NCL directors, the game was programmed by one of the younger teams at Nintendo EAD. Toshiaki Suzuki, and Hyroyuki Kimura, original members of the Super Mario Bros. DX team on the Game Boy Color, served as the project leaders for this second installment.

Features

  • Two full games included: Super Mario 2 and Classic Mario Bros.
  • Battery back-up
  • 2 to 4 player link-up action
  • Downloadable link feature for four players (one cartridge)
  • Only for Game Boy Advance

Presentation

Super Mario Advance's game intro is a very nice touch as it actually starts out letterboxed to the classic Game Boy Color resolution, visually showing you how much bigger the new Game Boy Advance screen is. It then shifts into its native Game Boy Advance resolution and showcases a short cinema of Mario, Luigi, Toad, and Peach pulling out vegetables from the ground. From there you can begin your adventure. The interface is nicely done with some newly added menus and artwork, accompanied by a narration voice and cheerful background melody. One subtle but appreciated feature is the comically voiced boss confrontations, one of the better used examples of this game's sometimes annoying speech samples.

Gameplay

With Super Mario Advance you basically get two different games, Super Mario 2 and Mario Bros. Each game has its own feel, and in no way can they be directly compared to each other.

Mario Bros. Classic

Being a remake of a 1983 arcade game, this game won't take very long to master. It's your standard classic arcade game featuring one basic level and 99 revisions of it. Each time you complete the level, faster and smarter enemies appear along with more obstacles.

The control revolves around one button, as the only action other than running is jumping. You defeat your enemies by jumping on the block under them; this flips them on to their back, where they become vulnerable to your kicks. The game's main operative is to thwart and avoid enemies, collect coins, and advance to the next level.

The levels gradually increase in difficulty, and definitely require a lot of skill to keep progressing. There is also tons of very fun bonus levels scattered in-between every 4-5 action levels.

Super Mario Bros. 2

Super Mario Bros. 2 has a very distinct art style and game play mechanics. Instead of the traditional platform attack method of jumping and plowing your enemy, Super Mario Bros. 2 allows you to jump on top of your enemies without killing them. The player is asked to jump on top of an enemy, pick it up, and carry it over your head. You can then use that enemy as a projectile and kill another enemy with it. You can also simply toss the enemy into any ditch or opening, it's all depending on your situation.

Super Mario Bros. 2 features four playable characters, each with his own special skill and attributes. The character list features: Mario who is the all around character, Peach who has the ability to briefly float in the air, Luigi who has the highest leaping ability, and Toad who is the strongest. You can alternate picking a character between levels or lives, you can play the game with any character so it's not vital to constantly analyze which character best suits the level.

The levels and enemies haven't completely changed outside a few graphical facelifts and minor rearrangement of certain enemies and level architecture. The first level for example features items and plants relocated, with a few changes in environment platforms and inclusion of a giant shy guy not seen in the original. One other notable change is the addition of a Yoshi Egg Challenge which is similar to the one found in the Game Boy Color Super Mario DX. The Yoshi Egg Challenge regards to special coins being hidden throughout the game, unfortunately collecting them does little but offer a sense of accomplishment.

Levels include

  • World 1 Grass Lands
  • World 2 Deserts
  • World 3 Caves
  • World 4 Snow Lands
  • World 5 Forest
  • World 6 Deserts 2
  • World 7 Clouds

The seven worlds are broken off into three sections. Each world has a boss confrontation whose defeat ends your stay in one world and opens an entrance to the next.

The AI and difficulty remain identical to the original adventure. Enemies tend to be very robotic and move towards you in the same attack fashion over and over. Most of the bosses happen to be Birdo, who happens to be a pushover. However, some of the later bosses like Crabby, Mouser and especially Wart will definitely provide a challenge.

Graphics

The graphics of Super Mario Bros. 2 resemble the Super Nintendo Super Mario All-Stars edition with a few improvements. Nintendo added a higher color palette, more enemies on screen, bigger enemies, better backgrounds, and some nifty mode-7 style effects. Nintendo also went through the trouble of adding a lot more animation to the 4 playable characters, and even redesigned all the bosses.

Mario Bros. Classic looks very beautiful even with its simple design nature. Mario and his enemies look like they were ripped from an SNES game rather than an Atari game (the game was originally released in 1983). The backgrounds have been completely overhauled, with cave, ice cavern, and many different lush environments being mapped where there was once nothing but black wallpaper. The fire and ice effects also look infinitely better.

Audio

Super Mario Advance definitely comes through in the audio department. The soundtrack won't overly excite anyone, being they are all much too familiar tunes found in the original NES and SNES versions. What's a sigh of relief is the soundtrack sounds just as good as the Super Nintendo incarnation, for a first generation GBA title that isn't too shabby.

The biggest addition in the audio department is without a doubt, the abundance of speech samples used on the heroes and villains. Mario, Luigi, Toad, and Peach all have dozens of speech samples, heard constantly throughout the game. While being a cool feature, it can definitely get annoying after an hour or two. On the other hand, the villains voiced monologues are well done. Each boss confrontation reveals a humorous speech sample from the boss enemy, definitely adding some pep to the over all animated adventure.

Multiplayer

One of the most surprising features to Super Mario Advance is definitely the 4 player mode. While Mario games have been synonymous with multiplayer gaming thanks to Mario Kart, Mario Party and titles like Mario Tennis, the standalone Mario adventures have never really taken that plunge. Nintendo thought it over and really wanted to at least add something new so they could feel like Super Mario Advance could offer something to the people who played the other revisions.

Multiplayer mode is an absolute blast. The multiplayer game revolves around the arcade original rather than Super Mario 2. The game takes on an arena challenge perspective and has 4 Mario-clones battling it out for all out supremacy. The game is pretty simple, but addictive. The main point is to run around kill enemies, collect coins and sabotage the other players as often as possible. Jumping and flattening another Mario, or jumping on his head and picking him up to use as a projectile is pure joyous mayhem.

Conclusion

Super Mario Advance is a fun game suited best for nostalgic Nintendo fans or for fans who never got to try out either of the two titles included in the package. The game will definitely not win any awards or high appraisal because quite frankly, it's nothing new. Still a good game to play in-between breaks, but definitely not my idea of a game I'd spend a day or two consistently playing. Good game overall and I still recognize that. The best redeeming feature is by far the multiplayer mode.

Anthony JC

Presentation6
Gameplay8
Graphics6
Audio7
Multi-Player7
Lastability8
Overall8.0