Super Mario Bros. Deluxe (Game Boy Color) review
"History is a tricky thing. Much like the plot lines in Dream Team, it has a habit of repeating itself. Back in the Eighties the release of Super Mario Bros. on the NES set a trend for platform games that is still in evidence today - the whole coin collecting thing, for example, or the various different types of power-ups that can be bestowed upon your platform star. Fast forward to the end of the Nineties. Nintendo re-release the game on the Game Boy Color, and in doing so see the start of anoth..."
History is a tricky thing. Much like the plot lines in Dream Team, it has a habit of repeating itself. Back in the Eighties the release of Super Mario Bros. on the NES set a trend for platform games that is still in evidence today - the whole coin collecting thing, for example, or the various different types of power-ups that can be bestowed upon your platform star. Fast forward to the end of the Nineties. Nintendo re-release the game on the Game Boy Color, and in doing so see the start of another trend - this time the trend being the glut of Mario ports to appear on their handheld machines. History's funny like that....
Pretty much everyone must be familiar with the original Super Mario Bros. It set pretty much all of the rules when it comes to modern 2D platforming. It introduced some of the most iconic gaming figures ever to the mainstream. Many people think that it single-handedly reversed a slump in the videogame industry. As such, it's not really a surprise to see that the game was ported over to the Game Boy. There is a problem though - since this game was given away free with the NES for such a long period of time, it's a safe bet to say that everyone who is now, or has ever been, a NES owner will have played this game to death at one point in their lives. So for this sizeable amount of people, is there any reason to bother with Super Mario Bros. Deluxe? Surprisingly, the answer is a resounding yes.
The original Super Mario Bros. is included in this package in it's entirety, albeit with the tension-sapping inclusion of a rather liberal save function that allows you to record your progress after every single stage. It's a classic tale of a princess in peril, a dashing hero who sets out to rescue her, and the malicious turtle who's behind all the trouble. What really made Super Mario Bros. stand out was blatantly not the plot, but rather the fantastically simple, yet ruthlessly effective design. Every single one of the thirty-two levels was filled with tight jumps, hidden areas and dangerous bad guys, and everything was in just the place it should be. A game of this relative complexity and length was nigh on unheard of at the time, and as such it was a runaway success. The game will last you several hours before you manage to master it, and even then it will hold your interest, and you'll keep coming back - as the main 'pull' for Super Mario Bros. Deluxe, this is certainly a worthy title, and anyone who's yet to play the game should hunt down a copy immediately. But then, that was pretty much a given - had the original game not been great, then the series wouldn't have lasted long enough to have earned this port. No, the real story behind the GBC edition is all about what Nintendo managed to provide in terms of extras on the cart - this 'Deluxe' edition is more like an all round celebration of Super Mario Bros. as opposed to a straight up conversion.
Initially the most notable addition is the 'Challenge' mode. This is an entertaining twist on the main game that allows you to replay any individual stage that you have already cleared in the main game, this time in order to win three medals. The first medal is earned through finding the five red coins that have been scattered throughout the stage - it's not too taxing to be honest, as not much thought appears to have gone into concealing the coins in most cases - by and large it appears to have been a matter of simply replacing regular coins that appear in the main game. More care has gone in to the second medal - which is bestowed upon you if you manage to find the Yoshi egg that has been hidden somewhere in the stage. This is a far more engrossing task, as the eggs are by and large hidden in far more unusual locations (although hints are provided for the less stubborn gamers out there...). The thing that will undoubtedly draw you back for more the most often, though, is the quest for the third medal. Every single stage has a computer-set high score in Challenge mode. Your task is simply to beat that score. While initially this is a relatively simple mission, the later levels have ridiculously tight targets to reach - you really cannot allow yourself to miss a single point as you go. It's compelling stuff, displaying the same sort of 'just-one-more-try' addictive nature seen by classic battery-guzzlers such as the Game and Watch titles.
All this is well and good, but it is still based on the original game - and a few new features aren't enough to truly justify buying the game again. However, the impressive list of extras doesn't stop there. The Vs. Mode features a two player race through the levels in a style not dissimilar to that seen in multiplayer Sonic on the Mega Drive - the good news being that an entirely new set of levels has been created just for this mode. As you'd expect these levels are designed specifically as an obstacle course as opposed to a more traditional platform style level; there are still all the jumps and such that you'd associate with Mario, but they are less precise, allowing for swifter navigation. That isn't to say that things aren't difficult - the inclusion of features such as blocks that turn into spikes every few seconds, and blocks that fade in and out of existence all lead to a style of play where you must continuously be on the move, and the fact that the levels usually throw enough roadblocks and such your way to ensure that things are rarely ever as simple as heading right for all you're worth (especially true of the underwater courses) means that there is plenty of tension and difficulty here. The fact that it requires you to play in a different manner to the main game is very welcome, too, bringing in a nice does of variety to the mix.
Although at first this mode is only playable via the link cable, before too long you are able to unlock the option to play this alone, with a computer controlled Boo Ghost as your opponent. While this allows even the most solitary of souls to get a chance at this play mode, unfortunately racing against a ghost does remove a great deal of the tension from proceedings. While playing against a friend, the fact that either of you is fallible means that the race is always open - your opponent could be a hairs breadth from the finishing post, and a good few centimetres ahead of you, when fortuitous timing means that the platform he was running along fades away at the last second, giving you the victory at the last second. Things like this really add a frantic quality to the game, and this is absent from the single player experience. The non-corporeal nature of your opponent when you're flying solo means that all obstacles in it's path are irrelevant - Boo just moves at a relatively slow, but steady, pace across the top of the screen, floating through anything that gets in the way. While in many ways this turns the challenge up a notch, requiring a perfectly honed performance on your part, it also makes victory far less satisfying. The fact that Boo will take a set amount of time to complete the level means that you are left with a feeling of having simply beaten the clock, as opposed to an actual opponent. Still, it's good that even the antisocial Nintendo Massive can get a look in at the Vs. Mode.
The absolute gem in the list of extras, though, must be what is embarrassingly named here as 'Super Mario Bros. for Super Players'. That'll be the original Japanese Super Mario Bros. 2 to you and me, then. Although you need to achieve a fairly high score in the main game to unlock this title, it is well worth the effort, since it never actually came out on NES consoles over here, us Western heathens getting a reworked version of a game known as 'Doki! Doki! Panic!' in Japan (although it did later receive publication in the SNES compilation Super Mario Allstars). Unlike 'our' Super Mario Bros. 2, this game plays in an extremely similar vein to the previous instalment - right down to the graphical style. There are still eight worlds to conquer, the princess is still in another castle, and Mario still takes to the tunnels and pipes in his quest to rescue her. However, this game is hard. The difficulty level has really been cranked up from the first Mario game, and this is immediately apparent - on the very first stage you find yourself hitting a block and unveiling a mushroom. So far, so familiar - the 'shroom is a little bit off colour, but hey, Mario has taught us that all mushrooms are good mushrooms. Only it turns out that they're not - this version of Mario 2 introduces deadly poison mushrooms into the mix. It's a delightfully rotten trick, one that you're only likely to fall for the once before you learn your lesson, but it sets the tone for the game perfectly - even if you've pretty much mastered the first Mario tale (and to earn the sort of score that unlocks this game you're probably halfway there....), this game will still provide you with the occasional surprise, and will still be a tough task.
The fact that Nintendo saw fit to include that title on the cart really does do the overall package the world of good. To be honest, the game is probably a little too similar to it's predecessor to warrant an individual release (or to justify being the only reason to buy ...Deluxe), but as one of many extras it really shines. The fact that it is so similar can be ignored due to the fact that it's being paraded alongside it's older brother - very much as an extension of the main game as opposed to a sequel. As such it is possible to forgive the fact that it really didn't advance the series at all, and simply love it for what it is.
And if that still isn't enough to keep you occupied, there's a small army of smaller extras available on the cart. While there's not much that can really count as revolutionary, there are still several features that make use of Game Boy accessories such as the (now almost forgotten) GB Printer - for example: certain events in the main game (such as defeating a type of enemy for the first time) cause pictures to be unlocked in the photo album, which you can then print off at your leisure. If you don't have a GB printer, though (and in all fairness, not a huge number of people do....), the pictures are still available to look at whenever you like, and it's worth taking a glance at your album on a regular basis - many of the pictures stored there are of a high graphical quality, and sum up the classic Mario feel perfectly. It's nothing to really write home about, but even little things like this make Super Mario Deluxe feel like a truly polished, truly complete package.
In terms of presentation, almost everything in the game makes the transition to the GBC very well - there's barely any drop in quality to be seen, either visually or aurally. The sprites are still bright and bold, if a little bit blocky, all the tunes you remember from the original are rendered extremely faithfully, and the Mushroom kingdom still looks as full of charm as ever. However, the GBC screen is a little too small for the series, and rather than choosing to scale it down (presumably so as it didn't look too squashed), Nintendo chose to implement a 'look' feature, whereby things that would usually have been at the bottom of the screen on the NES are now just off the screen, and you must look down to move the camera. Fine in theory, but it proves extremely awkward on occasion in practice, due to the fact that you must stop moving to change the camera, and in several instances that is simply not a viable option, meaning you'll occasionally reach what you think is a pit, only to leap and find that it was simply a step down, and that you're now leaping over your desired platform and into the abyss like a suicidal ballet dancer. It's the only flaw that can be thrown at this port, but it is a pain nevertheless.
This game manages to be much more than simply a direct port of Super Mario Bros. - it's packed with enough extras to really put the GBA's Super Mario Advance series to shame, and to ensure that this is still worth picking up, even if you still own the original. This game has made the original Mario game an essential purchase all over again, and nobody in their right mind should refuse the call.....
Community review by tomclark (March 07, 2004)
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