"I remember when men were men and mushrooms were the villainous scum standing between us and a kiss from the princess. Nintendo’s efforts to reinvigorate the classic with new modes is definitely appreciated, but that shouldn’t make you buy the cartridge. Instead, pick it up if you like the idea of stomping mushrooms on the road. In the end, that’s what it comes down to."
It wasn’t until I’d swallowed the spaghetti sauce that I realized my mistake. I didn’t know it at the time, but deep within the red pasty mixture resided a fungus chunk fashioned out of none other than one of the most-feared villains in the universe: a Goomba. The acidic burn began almost immediately, and I swear I felt claws ripping at my throat’s interior until I could taste blood and bile rising upward. I could have died. Truly, there’s nothing more frightening and intimidating than a rogue mushroom.
No one knows this better than Mario, the portly hero of Super Mario Bros. deluxe. He spends his days popping turds out of corroding pipes and his holidays rescuing princesses and dream worlds from the hands of turtles and vegetable haters. And though the epic tale that is his first side-scrolling adventure my have grown old for some, my experience with the deviant ‘shroom guarantees that I will retain a healthy respect for any fungus I encounter for the rest of my life. Thus, it was with some trepidation that I approached the portable version of what some have dubbed a classic. Would it live up to the original? And more importantly, would it fill me with glee as I got my revenge on hundreds of waddling mushrooms?
Stick Super Mario Bros. Deluxe into your unit, power it up, barrel through the menu selections, and you’re immediately greeted by the familiar ‘bleeps’ and ‘boops’ you’ve heard since you were old enough to leave diapers behind you in favor of boxers or briefs. A pale blue sky lines the distant horizon, broken only by the spotted green mounds, brush, and chunks of fence that lead up to the foreground.
This is no Game Boy Advance title, and as such the product ported is not the dolled-up Super Mario All-Stars, but rather the actual NES cartridge first released to us unsuspecting Americans. The backgrounds are as plain as ever. The same red brickwork lines the ground. You can squint at the same patterns, memorize their composition, then slap yourself in the face as you realize what a nerd you are. Then you can giggle at the ‘sproing’ sound Mario makes when he jumps and (if you’re the sort to be that immature) imagine that the rotund plumber had some problems with his bowels.
Yes, everything that made the original such a success is back, and that includes those fearsome mushrooms I’ve cautiously referenced already in the paragraphs above. In fact, you’ll meet your first one as you head toward the right. He slinks toward you, eyes glaring viciously from under thick, black eyebrows. The soft mound that serves as his cap looks deceptively comforting, despite his otherwise menacing demeanor, and thus you should ignore it. This mobile fungus is a destructive tour de force, after all. A simple brush against his slimy form and Mario will writhe in agony, even as his body flies skyward before a plummet to his death.
But wait, that’s only one life lost! Mario has three, and so it’s time for another attempt. This time, he gets the jump on his enemy, landing from above and squishing the bastard without a hint of the remorse one might expect from a ‘moral’ hero not centered on the lust for revenge. It’s here that the game plays with your emotions. As you move Mario toward the right, you’ll notice some question marks hovering in the air. Bump the first from beneath and you’ll watch a coin be added to his total. The second suspended chest, also adorned with a question mark, yields a mushroom.
After your encounter with its villainous brethren just a moment before, you may think this fungus has nothing but dastardly intent. However, it turns out you’re quite wrong. As you may recall from the instruction manual that accompanied the game’s NES release, Bowser has turned the people of the mushroom kingdom into vegetables, including the indignity of horsehair grass and (apparently) toadstools. Thus, this new variety of ‘shroom is actually beneficial to Mario’s health, and will cause him to double to twice his former size.
It’s from this anomaly that the game derives its original name, Super Mario Bros. (the ‘Deluxe’ added onto the end for the Game Boy Color release is just a wishful exaggeration on present-day Nintendo’s part). When Mario has doubled his size, he’s then able to sustain a hit from an enemy without dying, though he will shrink back down to his former stature. If, while large, the plumber grabs a fire flower, then he can throw its petals toward enemies (contrary to popular opinion, he’s not actually ‘spitting’). They serve as red-hot projectiles that will send even the toughest of mushrooms reeling.
As you progress through the overworld regions and the fearsome dungeons that fill the game, you’ll encounter dangers even more intimidating than animated mushrooms. There are the spike-backed turtles (try jumping on them and you’re a moron), the hard-shelled turtles and beetles (a stomp sends their shells careening wildly through the stage, bumping against anyone unfortunate enough to stand in the way and even ricocheting back toward you if they hit one of the many pipes or iron blocks in the area) and even flying fish. That’s not even including rogue clouds, scowling bullets, hammer-tossing turtles and vicious piranha plants hungry for plumber butt. Lording over all of these is Bowser, the villain responsible for ruining the Mushroom Kingdom. You’ll face him at the end of each fourth stage, armed only with your girth and perhaps fireballs while he spews a constant stream of flame and (in later fortresses) chucks enough hammers to fill a Lowe’s retail store. By now, it’s not spoiling anything to reveal that you’ll encounter this monster eight times before at last meeting Princess Toadstool at the game’s end. And then you’re done with your adventure.
Or are you? Remember, this is a port. Nintendo couldn’t very well call it Super Mario Bros. Deluxe without adding things in, and so they have for this release. The first ‘Easter egg’ is a challenge mode. The developers of this port hid various items throughout the stages, and you can access them after playing through the main game once. Now you are rated on your ability to find five hidden Yoshi eggs (though the dinosaur was created long after the original game’s release), to beat a high score, and so forth. The game keeps track of it all for you, and you get rewards such as stickers you can print if you have the Game Boy Camera, or even a calendar/horoscope-type thing (just in case you’re wondering if your dream guy will finally drop what he’s doing and rush into your loving arms).
Another bonus is a versus mode. If you have two Game Boy Color units, two copies of this game and a link cable, then you and a friend can race each other through levels to show who is the king and who should be encased in lead and thrown into the Potomac River. This addition is actually seems quite nice. Just as soon as I can find someone else with a copy of the game and the ability to link up with me (i.e. never), I’ll come back and edit this review to let you know how well it plays.
The most important secret of all, though, is so secret a lot of people don’t know it’s in there. Play through the game enough times and you’ll unlock what was formerly released here as ‘The Lost Levels.’ It’s the true follow-up to Super Mario Bros. in Japan, but wasn’t released here for years because some guy in a fancy suit thought Americans couldn’t handle true challenge. For the most part, the guy was right (shame on us). However, those looking for something new will no doubt delight in the sickeningly difficult stages (made worse by the Game Boy Color’s small screen). They’ll also get to meet a new type of mushroom, the purple mushroom! It’s every bit as evil as it sounds.
There are a few other touches for this re-release, including an updated title screen, a world map you get to view (but not affect) between stages, and even save files so you can continue your adventure when it’s convenient to do so. None of these changes really seem necessary. I remember when men were men and mushrooms were the villainous scum standing between us and a kiss from the princess. Nintendo’s efforts to reinvigorate the classic with new modes is definitely appreciated, but that shouldn’t make you buy the cartridge. Instead, pick it up if you like the idea of stomping mushrooms on the road. In the end, that’s what it comes down to. After my near-death experience with that spaghetti sauce, you can bet I’ll dedicate my life to the eradication of all fungus. Will you?
Staff review by Jason Venter (Date unavailable)
Jason Venter has been playing games for 30 years, since discovering the Apple IIe version of Mario Bros. in his elementary school days. Now he writes about them, here at HonestGamers and also at other sites that agree to pay him for his words.
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