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Super Mario Advance [Game Boy Advance]

2 Ratings: 4.0
The 2001 Game Boy Advance 2D Platformer video game

In 2001, Super Mario Bros. 2 received another release (this time based on the All-Stars remake) as part of Super Mario Advance (which also contained a remake of Mario Bros.). Super Mario Advance was developed by Nintendo Entertainment Analysis and Development,[9] … see full wiki

Console: Game Boy Advance
Genre: 2D Platformer
Release Date: June 10, 2001
1 review about Super Mario Advance [Game Boy Advance]

Doors to Doom

  • Oct 21, 2011
Rating:
+3
The legacy of Super Mario Bros. 2 is an odd one. On the one hand, it helped permanently define the Mario canon - the ability to pick up and throw enemies is in there in large part because of Super Mario Bros. 2. Birdo, Shy Guy, and Pokey also received their first introductions in Mario 2. It was Mario 2 which first cast Luigi as the tall, stringy, high-jumping brother of Mario. Yet, there are very few games in the Mario series which polarize gamers as much as Mario 2. The game is easily the dark horse of the core Mario series, and it isn't even a real Mario game at all. It's a Japanese game called Doki Doki Panic in which Mario characters were photoshopped over the main characters, which tells you why it's so different, even by the standards of a series known for taking some very extreme gameplay risks.

For the launch of the Game Boy Advance, Nintendo took a page from Sega's notoriously bad video game release strategies. They looked at their Mario lineup in search of a game to shrink and release as a flagship title for their new portable console. Here are what I imagine to be the thoughts of the executive who made that decision as he was making it: "Hm... We've got the game that set the standard for platform games as we know them... The series black sheep that lots of people hated where we just copied and pasted Mario characters into a different game... the Citizen Kane of video games... Mario's first, classic foray into the 16-bit world... The sequel starring that dinosaur and Mario as a baby... Yeah, the black sheep everyone hated. That's a perfect launch title!" And so we got Super Mario Advance!

To be fair, the first Super Mario Advance was more of a slight remake and less of a straight port. Nintendo appeared to realize a few of the things people hated about the original game and tried to include more traditional Mario elements in Super Mario Advance. It's a scattered effort at best. There are invincibility stars, but they float upward from nowhere at a few random points in the game. There are giant vegetables and enemies, and throwing things at bad guys in just the precise spot results in strings of enemies being taken out. There are a few graphic upgrades, and a few levels have very slight redesigns - most notably the opening screen, which now takes place in daylight instead of a black surrealist fantasy.

Seriously, Super Mario Advance is Super Mario Bros. 2, exactly as you remember it in pretty much all the ways that count. Mario and gang still visit a new place called Subcon - which hasn't appeared in the Mario series before or since - to rescue it from a villain named Wart, who is also absent from every other game in the series. He still travels through doors instead of drainpipes (imagine! Mario traveling through a DOOR instead of a DRAINPIPE! How absurd is THAT?! HA HA!). He still uses thrown vegetables from grass patches to dispatch his enemies. You can still romp through the levels as either well-rounded Mario, high-jumping Luigi, strong Toad, and floating Princess Peach.

This was the brunt of the majority of complaints among the anti-Mario 2 contingent. Now, I actually loved the gameplay and design. My main problem with Super Mario Advance - the redesign of Mario 2 - is that it kept the annoying screen-switching. There are many points in the game where the screen stops progressing until you reach the side, when all the action will suddenly stop and the screen will shift. To be fair, the shifting is very quick and easy, but when you're rapidly going back and forth from one screen to another, it does get unbearable.

I never was able to really understand what the Mario 2 crowd had against Toad. For those not in the know, even people who loved Mario 2 hated Toad and avoided using him at any cost. But I actually favored Toad - sure he can't jump for beans, but in a game where the most important aspect of combat is how fast you can pick things up and run with them, I found that his great speed and strength were worth a lot more than Luigi - the most popular character - being able to soar like a phone bill after I call Japanese game designers to scream at them for being lazy. But after playing Super Mario Advance, I'm starting to sympathize with the anti-Toadies. In the original Super Mario Bros. 2, Toad was QUIET! In this version, he won't shut the hell up! Which would be annoying enough as it is, but he speaks in what sounds like high-pitched gravel!

The game's layout is more straightforward than I remembered, but there's more of a search element to it, which didn't become common in Mario games until platforming went 3D. I love the aspect of potions that take the characters into alternate universes to find coins and mushrooms, but it would be a great help if the mushroom locations were more obvious since the alternate universes last for just one screen. You'll be seeking out exits and keys a lot, and they sometimes run hand in hand. I like this because it suits my exploratory gaming style, and it helps that for once, there's no clock to worry about. But I think one of the big reasons people hated this game so much is because exploration wasn't the option it once was in other Mario games. Instead of exploring by choice using special items you picked up and used creatively, you have to explore in order to have a foggy idea of what the hell you're supposed to be doing. And instead of uncovering cool, unexpected secrets, you have to uncover the right path you need to keep going. Thou shalt not force repetition onto the gamer!

The levels, as a result, are pretty boring for a Mario game. Sure, you might stumble into a secret path, and they contain plenty to see, do, and sometimes experiment with. But these levels are probably the most ordinary in the 2D Mario games. There's also the problem of very quick enemy regeneration, which isn't nearly as bad as it was in the original Mario 2 but can still throw you off. When you dispatch an enemy, don't go off the screen in the direction you're not supposed to be traveling in because that bad guy will be back in place within a microsecond. The occasional enlarged enemies, veggies, and POW blocks make things a little bit more interesting, but I'm starting to wonder if they have a purpose beyond making the game a bit more Mario-ey. They pop up in some rather odd places, and we all know what that usually means in a Shigeru Miyamoto game. Is it possible that Shigs was simply screwing with us this time, and something strange like that is meant to totally be taken at face value?

Finding keys can be a real pain. Not because finding them is difficult, but many of them are locked in rooms with floating demons called Phantos. They are masks that come to life when you pick up the key and harass you until you reach the door it goes into, which is sometimes a long ways away. If you die just before the door, it's dispiriting to have to go all the way back and grab the key again!

The graphics and sounds have both undergone a real buffing up. The graphics are more colorful and lively than ever, enemies are more details, sprites are larger, and animation is more complete. The sounds, on the other hand... The bouncy music is one of my favorite tracks throughout the series, but except for the occasional underground music (which is also really good) it's close to the only track the game plays throughout. I know the voices were intended to enhance the game, but they are some of the most annoying things on Earth. Especially Toad's voice and the aforementioned high-pitched gravel. Also, I never felt any particular need to hear Birdo talk.

The controls are excellent and pretty simple for performing some tasks that will be deceptively complex. The sliding is still a bit more defined than I'd like, but every character feels different, but not so much so that you'll have trouble switching from one to another.

Super Mario Bros. 2 may be my favorite game in the Mario series besides Super Mario World. I realize people don't like it because it's such a radical departure, but we've become accustomed to radical departures in the Mario series since then. Paper Mario, anyone? The Mario and Luigi series? Yoshi's Island? Super Mario Sunshine? Super Mario 64? Super Mario Galaxy? Look at that list. Can you really look me in the eye and tell me that disliking Super Mario Bros. 2 just because it's so different is a decent excuse anymore?

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