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Old 12-28-2011, 03:00 AM   #1 (permalink)
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Super Mario Bros. 3's Pocket-Sized Encore Performance

When writing for this column, I usually dig deep into the retro gaming vault and pull out a dusty old classic that didn't get the appreciation (or ridicule) it deserved when it was released. However, for this installment of Retronauts, I'll reminisce about a title that was impossible to miss in 1990. I honestly can't think of a game from my childhood that was more hotly anticipated than Super Mario Bros. 3 for the Nintendo Entertainment System.

What was it about this release that worked players into a lather months before it hit store shelves? Was it the unbelievable screenshots in early issues of EGM? The return to the classic gameplay of the original after a brief detour through dream land in Super Mario Bros. 2? Or was it just the unrelenting hype, with constant coverage in Nintendo Power and even a cartoon series? Whatever the reason, Super Mario Bros. 3 was an explosive hit when it finally came to America... and nearly impossible to rent for poor saps like myself who couldn't afford a copy. (Not that I'm bitter.)

After the excitement over the game died down a little, I finally got my hands on Super Mario Bros. 3, and came to the conclusion that the mountain of pre-release hype was totally justified. It was a quantum leap ahead of the original, and the crown jewel in a library already packed with outstanding software. It introduced features like the overhead map and raccoon leaf which would become staples in the series, while offering the impeccable gameplay and inspired level design players had come to expect from the beginning.

Put simply, Super Mario Bros. 3 was fantastic... so much so that I couldn't resist a second helping twenty years later. When I found a copy of the confusingly titled GameBoy Advance port (Super Mario Advance 4: Super Mario Bros. 3? Quick, add in a few more numbers before I realize what I'm playing!) at a pawn shop earlier this month, I was all over it like a raccoon tail on Mario's rump. After digging my trusty GameBoy Micro out of mothballs, I promised myself that I would play the game from beginning to end, without skipping stages or using the warp whistles that would take me straight to Bowser.

I've finished three worlds so far and have come to a few conclusions. First, the game has held up nicely after all these years. Debates still rage about which of Mario's classic adventures is the best, and while I fall squarely into the Super Mario World camp, Super Mario Bros. 3 is uncontested for second place. The Super NES-quality graphics from Super Mario All-Stars and a handy save feature are just the icing on an already scrumptious cake. Second, Charles Martinet is massively grating as Mario, and his Italian Pillsbury Doughboy impression has no place in this game. Hearing him squeal "Mama Mia!" after you've tumbled into a pit for the fourth time will make you want to put a hand in your GameBoy Advance and pull him out.

Finally, I'd forgotten that the levels in this game aren't just clever, they're cruel. It's smooth sailing in the first world, but all kinds of nasty surprises are waiting for you in the third. Thinking about sliding down that hill? Better think again... there's a pond with a hungry Cheep-Cheep waiting for you at the bottom. Also, beware the first fortress! Of the many doors you'll find inside, only one takes you to the boss... the rest just lead to confusion. I'm sure there's much worse in store in the later worlds, making me remember why I was using those warp whistles in the first place.

Oh yeah, there's one other thing! Super Mario Advance 4 offers e-reader compatibility, giving you dozens of new stages when you swipe cards into the reader. I'd love to try these, but I lost my e-reader a long time ago, and doubt I'd be able to cram that massive thing into my GameBoy Micro even if I still had one. I'll post a follow-up when I find some way to get these lost levels on my cartridge, but until then, I'll have to settle for a straight port of Super Mario Bros. 3... which come to think about it, doesn't really feel like settling at all.



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Old 12-28-2011, 03:04 AM   #2 (permalink)
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Re: Super Mario Bros. 3's Pocket-Sized Encore Performance

I loved this version of SMB3.
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