Review: Super Mario World: Super Mario Advance 2

Developer: Nintendo EAD | Year: 2002 | List Price: ~$15 | Buy from Amazon

smwsma2I’m currently going through a Mario phase wherein I’ve been going through and playing all the Mario 2D platformers (roughly in order of difficulty). I enjoyed Nintendo’s side series like Mario Kart and Super Smash Bros. but never played much in the way of Mario platformers as a kid, so it’s been really cool to actually try the mainline Mario games. Last weekend I finally beat the GBA port of the 1990 SNES game Super Mario World, a game that many consider to be the best Mario game and one of the best platformers of all time.

And what a game it is. Super Mario World is one of the few games I can say I enjoyed every moment of, from the beginning right to the very end. Of course, this being a Mario game, don’t come in expecting much plot, but the basic premise is that Mario, Luigi, and Princess Toadstool are on vacation in Dinosaur Land when, all of a sudden, the Princess disappears. With the help of Yoshi and his friendly dinosaur friends, it’s up to Mario and Luigi to defeat Bowser and save the Princess yet again.

To do so, the player will have to run, hop, and fly through some of the game’s 96 masterfully-created levels. Notice I said ‘some’. This is because you don’t necessarily have to play all the levels to beat the game. In fact, some levels are so well-hidden, you’d be hard-pressed to access them even if you were looking for them! I beat the game after 44 levels, more or less taking the beaten path most of the time, but I’ve heard it’s actually possible to beat the game in just 12 levels if you find certain routes! This is because many levels have secret exits that lead to alternate routes. It’s a wonderful breath of non-linearity that freshens the traditionally linear Mario formula. Although Super Mario Bros. 3, which preceded World by a couple years, had some alternate routes, they were often laid out on the world map right in front of the player. Super Mario World’s secret levels are numerous and wholly satisfying to search for.

To find everything in the game, you’ll have to master the new power-ups introduced in this installment of Mario. Gone are the suits introduced in Mario 3, but in their place is the cape feather, which allows Mario to fly, as well as a dinosaur egg, which hatches into a Yoshi that the player can ride. I personally never got really good with either of these power-ups, and they’re usually not required to finish any levels, but it was really fun to experiment with them. I especially found it sadistically satisfying to jump while riding a Yoshi, abandoning the dinosaur into a pit and getting extra height!

As you’d expect in a Mario soundtrack composed by Koji Kondo, Super Mario World is accompanied by some awesome music. Everything works upon the same theme, but it’s so creatively played with that you may not even notice. It becomes a waltz when you’re underwater, it shifts to a minor key in castles, etc. There’s even some more complex percussion when you mount and ride a Yoshi! Super Mario World has easily one of the most iconic and recognisable soundtracks in video-game history.

My favourite part of Super Mario World is the physics. Although the general idea is the same across all Mario games, I found that Mario was a lot less slide-y in this game than in the first Super Mario Bros. game or even New Super Mario Bros., which already isn’t that bad. I found the mechanics really intuitive and I surprised myself by actually being able to execute the later levels’ crazy precise jumps.

Super Mario World is often cited as being the easiest of the classic Mario games. That’s probably true, but being relatively new to the series I still found myself dying hundreds of times! Most of the game’s difficulty is concentrated in Worlds 6 and 7, but luckily, you have unlimited continues, and if you got to the halfway checkpoint, you can even continue from there after getting a game over, which I found really helpful. Overall, I found the perfect mix of challenge and reward in the levels that I played, and for those looking for even harder levels, they do exist in the Star and Special Worlds, though I haven’t figured out how to access them yet!

Super Mario World is my favourite Mario game so far, though I’m currently looking to revisit Super Mario Bros. 1 and 3 to give them a second chance as I never beat them originally. The GBA version is a good one to pick up, as it leaves most things unchanged, fixes an annoying SNES glitch that always restarted the game with 5 lives, and can be taken on the go. The only downside I can think of is the 2-player co-op being removed. Finding a used copy shouldn’t cost you more than $15. If you really want to try the original SNES version, you can download it on the Wii U Virtual Console for something like 7 or 8 bucks. In any case, Super Mario World is an example of a classic that really does hold up 25 years later and you really owe it to yourself to give it a try.

Design: 10/10 Story is minimal as always, but the Dinosaur Land setting is wonderfully realised. You’ll be skipping from craggy peaks to confusing forests with eerie ghost houses. You never stay in the same place long enough to get sick of it, but if you really look around, there are tons of areas to find and explore for secrets. The enemies and characters are colourful and fun as well.

Visuals: 10/10 The spritework is absolutely masterful in this game. Mario as well as his friends and enemies have more emotion here than they had in any preceding Mario game. The varied backdrops make use of parallax scrolling, and vibrant primary colours give the game a more childish, cartoony look. All this make Super Mario World a wholly pleasing game to behold.

Sound: 10/10 Koji Kondo’s soundtrack takes a single, catchy motif and uses in in nearly every level. The result is a musical signature that pervades the entire experience. The theme never gets tiring because of the creative ways in which it’s tweaked. This is one of the most recognisable video-game soundtracks of all time, and it’s simply wonderful.

Gameplay: 10/10 Mario’s familiar jumping mechanics are refined to perfection here and every moment of gameplay is enjoyable. The branching paths an alternate exits add depth to the linear formula and allow for experimentation. The new cape feather and Yoshi power-ups are fun to play with and difficult to master, and though the GBA tones the difficulty a tiny bit, there’s still ample challenge to be found in the game’s later levels as well as in secret hidden levels.

Value: 10/10 Super Mario World is the longest 2D Mario in terms of goals to get to: 96 exits over 72 levels. But what really gives Super Mario World its replayability is its overworld and how well-placed and well-hidded some of its secrets and extra levels are. Even if you don’t bother to complete every single level, the main story should take at least about 5-7 hours, meaning you’re already getting plenty of bang for your buck with a game that doesn’t cost more than $15 used nowadays.

Total: 50/50 (A-)

List Price: ~$15 | Buy from Amazon

I just bought a Wii U with my army allowance, even though I only have weekends to play it! Maybe a bad decision, but I’m not really caring right now, as I’m playing Super Mario Maker, Super Mario 3D World, and EarthBound on the Virtual Console. Look out for a review of one of these games in the coming weeks!

Until then, check out the rest of our video-game related reviews and articles!

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