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Saturday, February 18, 2012

Virtual Console Review: Super Mario Bros. 3

System: NES
Genre: Platformer
Developer: Nintendo EAD
Publisher: Nintendo
Virtual Console Release: Nov 5, 2007 USA / Nov 9, 2007 EUR / Nov 9, 2007 AUS / Dec, 11 2007 JPN / May 26, 2008 S. Korea
Original Release: Feb 9, 1990 USA / Aug 29, 1991 EUR / Oct 23, 1988 JPN
Players: 1-2
Cost: 500 points
Controllers Supported: GameCube, Wii Remote, Classic
Rated: E for Everyone

In October of 1988, Super Mario Bros. 3 was released for the Famicom in Japan. One of the most highly anticipated sequels and arguably the plumber's best 2D outing, gamers outside of Japan had some time to wait before the game graced their shores. The game didn't arrive in North America until 1990 and the United Kingdom wouldn't receive it until 1991. As the saying goes, good things are worth waiting for. Super Mario Bros. 3 was everything we'd wanted from a Mario game and so much more.

No one really plays a Mario game for the plot elements but if you're interested, Mario and Luigi are out to save the seven lands of the Mushroom Kingdom from Bowser's seven Koopalings. Each world has been invaded by one of Bowser's brats and they've got mooks strutting all over like they own the place. To further complicate things, the Koopalings have taken the Magic Wand of each king's world and transformed him into a member of the animal kingdom. Once again, Mario and Luigi are called into action because the kingdom has no known knights and the Toads are more or less worthless at their job descriptions. Surprised that the Princess Peach hasn't been kidnapped in this game? Spoiler: Bowser does his usual abducting while you're running around in World 7.

Real men fly with raccoon tails.

Super Mario Bros. 3 plays a lot like the original Super Mario Bros. Gone are the vegetables from Super Mario Bros. 2 along with the option of playing as Peach and Toad. You can only play as Mario and Luigi, with Luigi being regulated to player 2 status. Luigi is also back to being a palette swap of Mario and for better or worse, this is the only difference between the two as they play exactly the same. It is nice that the alternating aspects of Super Mario Bros. 3 aren't the same as Super Mario Bros. Once Mario finishes a level, it's Luigi's turn. No more waiting until the other player dies to have a go. Matching the play style of the first Super Mario Bros., you can stomp on your enemies, collect coins for extra lives and there are a smorgasbord of power-ups for you to play with, the most out of any game in the Super Mario series.

We wouldn't be having this conversation if
you didn't suck as a guard, Toad.

There are far more themed worlds in this game than there were in Super Mario Bros. 2. The first world, Grass Land is your basic green covered world, allowing you to take it easy since there's no major obstacles to overcome here. World 2, Desert Land is home to quicksand, pyramids and one mean looking sun. Hope you enjoy water levels because World 3, Water Land is filled with obligatory water stages. Giant Land, World 4, a fan favorite has giant sized mooks that drop just as easily as the regular sized flunkies. Once you enter World 6, be prepared for less traction because ice stages abound. Dark Land, the eight and final world has more cannon balls, lava and flying ships than anything you've seen in any of the previous worlds. Each world is represented on a map screen and as you progress they get more and more expansive. By comparison, Grass Land is a single screen where as Pipe Land's world map spans several screens.

It isn't a Super Mario Bros. game without
a fortress and this game is loaded with them.

The levels are actually quite short, the shortest of any Super Mario game and can be zipped through rather quickly. But the kicker to these brief stages is that there are no check points. None. So if you mess up, be it on a castle, an airship, or the final showdown with Bowser, you have to do the whole level over again. Seems kinda harsh even by NES standards so you'll want to collect as many lives as you can and stay at the top of your game. The short length of the stages does not detract from the game in the slightest, however. Make no mistake, Super Mario Bros. 3 has some of the most engaging, superbly designed and overall enjoyable levels in a Mario game. And with eight worlds to conquer, you're in for one long Mario adventure.

Most of the world maps have branching
paths, allowing you to skip some levels.

Along with other new features, Super Mario Bros. 3 introduces auto scrolling levels. In these stages the screen is constantly moving so you'll have to watch your position to avoid getting caught on a solid object and being squished. This also means you've got a limited amount of time to grab coins, power-ups and 1-ups. Auto scrolling stages can be found in each of the game's worlds and are most prominent aboard airships. The final level in each world (save for world 8, which is one huge castle) is an flying auto scrolling airship. Remember the Bullet Bills from Super Mario Bros.? Airships are armed with these foes and then some. There's wall-to-wall Bullet Bill and canon fire on just about every airship you encounter. If you thought World 8 from Super Mario Bros. had a lot of Bullet Bills, you haven't seen anything. In fact, a single airship stage shoots more Bullet Bill and cannon opposition than all the levels that housed Bullet Bills from Super Mario Bros. combined. If the Koopalings don't kill you, the onslaught of ammunition that their airships are packing will. But for as much as these stages make you sweat, they are among the most satisfying levels to complete in the game.

Swimming. Like a boss.

One of the many reasons fans love Super Mario Bros. 3 is the wide selection of power-ups that it offers. The classic Super Mushroom and Fire Flower are back, functioning the same way they did in the first Super Mario Bros. Joining them are a slew of crazy new suits for Mario and Luigi to wear in their war against the evil Koopa family. Touching a Super Leaf turns you into Raccoon Mario/Luigi. The brothers sprout ears and a tail and after running to build up their P-meter, they can fly! How does this work? It's a Mario game, logic does not belong here. Even better, the raccoon tail can be used to smash blocks and as well as take out enemies. The tail can also be used to slow your descent, which is great for making precision jumps. The Frog Suit, while not all the useful on land works wonders for underwater stages. The Tanooki Suit has all the perks that the Super Leaf grants you with the extra added ability to transform into a statue for a few seconds to avoid enemies. The rare Hammer Suit gives you the power of one of Mario and Luigi's biggest annoyances, the Hammer Bros. You can chuck hammers that are so powerful that they can kill just about anything. Thwamps, Boos, even Bowser falls to the awesome might of this godly power. On top of all that, the shell is fireproof! World 5-3 lets you use one of the best items in the game, Goomba's Shoe. It may look like an ordinary green boot, but it's just about as powerful and fun to use as the Hammer Suit. You can jump insanely high, stomp on Spinys and Piranha Plants and walk on Munchers without consequence. P-Wings give you unlimited flight without having to run to fill up your P-meter. Lakitu's Cloud, an item that can only be used on the world map, allows you to bypass troublesome stages such as 6-5 and World 8-Fortress that has a million doors. Thankfully you're able to store a copious amount of power-ups thanks to the handy item inventory, which is accessible on the world map. You can add items to your inventory by taking out Hammer Bros. on the world map and by visiting Toad Houses. You can either use your items right away or horde those suckers for tougher stages.

Be it Toad Houses, Peach or stomping Hammer
Bros., there are plenty of chances to get power-ups.

Bear in mind that Super Mario Bros. 3 was originally released in 1988. Even today, it still looks good, with easily recognizable character and enemy sprites. The music as also aged just as well. There are some drums used from Super Mario Bros. 2 that give the music more depth. The Airship theme in particular, even on the NES' archaic hardware sounds menacing with many players preferring this to the updated Super Mario All-Stars version. Bowser's battle theme has some of the best use of bongo drums in any video game. That tune was so good that it was arranged in Super Mario RPG. Athletic (you first hear this song on 1-2) has got to be one of the happiest songs ever, in video games and in general. And who would have thought that speeding up the Underground theme from Super Mario Bros. and adding a drum beat to it would enhance it so much?

With the Hammer Suit, you're more of
a god than a plumber.
With memorable worlds to explore, a colorful selection of power-ups at your disposal and an ultra catchy soundtrack, it's easy to see why Super Mario Bros. 3 ranks so high with players. We can debate whether this game or Super Mario World is the better 2D Mario until the stars turn cold or we can just enjoy one of Mario's greatest adventures. It's emulated rather well on the Virtual Console and getting one of the best games of all-time for just $5 (500 Wii points) is a steal! Being able to save anywhere eliminates one of the original NES version's biggest problems. If for someone reason, you've never played Super Mario Bros. 3, you owe it to yourself to do so. If it's been a while since you've played it, it's high time you went through it again.

1 comment:

Tom Badguy said...

Best Mario game, hands down.