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Super Mario World (SNES) artwork

Super Mario World (SNES) review

"SMW has too much going on for you to tire of it, to be finished with it. It goes on and on, and you can pick it up at any given time, and indulge in what seems like a never-ending journey of different routes, alternate twists and turns, new paths to the waterfall. "

It keeps going

My nephew and I sit down to play this game, and we toil at it, he, breathlessly; me, with a knowing grin because I know what is around each magical bend. I've been down these roads many, many times before, these donut and chocolate and Star roads, but I can still find the fancy that engages him. You know--the arresting kind of engagement that allows you to spill your grape juice on the off-white carpet because you were kicking as you played, and only worry if you hit the pause button in time to save yourself.

We are plunged along with Mario (or Luigi if you're alternating as second player) into the delightfully dangerous Dinosaur Land. Spiny-backed Bowser has returned as any proper nemesis should, abducting your Princess (again), and generally making a nuisance of himself. In his charge is a motley crew of trusted, twisted lieutenants who guard their leader's strongholds across the land.

Mario still stomps playfully on the heads of cutesy Koopas, Goombas and other colourful foes of nonsensical nomenclature. He still taps blocks that hang in midair to collect precious items. There are stars for invincibility, mushrooms for growth, flowers for firepower, leaves for flight through the creamy, shiny skies. But now, there's something else lurking in select blocks. And it's alive.

Sure there are still clinking coins to scour the environs for--100 will net you an extra life--and there are ''P'' blocks to step on to turn air into pale blue doors hiding secrets, and to turn coins to solid blocks and solid blocks to coins. But in certain blocks, there are rattling, cracking, hatching eggs--each, with a dinosaur inside.

Meet Yoshi, dinosaur extraordinaire, and man's new best friend.

My nephew and I love riding Yoshi. He comes in different colours and varieties. The blue Yoshi flies, the red one spits swallowed enemies out as flames, and so on. And no, you didn't read wrong. The little dinosaur can take hold of struggling Koopas and Goombas with his tongue and reel them into his hungry mouth only to spew them into other enemies at your command.

It's fun riding atop Yoshi, Mario looking like some rookie jockey out of a kid's dream--perhaps your own. Yoshi always has a smile on his snout despite the ponderous weight of Mario's rear quarters on his back, and when you take a hit while riding him and you get knocked off, he runs headlong into harm's way in a sort of blind panic--right over the edge of a precipice, if one is there. It's amusing to watch him literally go off the deep end, into some chasm. If he manages to stay out of trouble when you accidentally dismount, you can catch up to him again, and get back on.

With Yoshi, you will endeavour to not only conquer the 96 levels, but to find and conquer them. The game's sheer depth helps to make it the perfect next generation sequel. The previous Mario instalment, and best selling classic, Super Mario Brothers 3, lifted this series to another level by giving Mario the power of flight; giving the player the overhead map to move around on, and to select sublime stages within wondrous worlds. But SMW does much more. It gives us dark ghost houses haunted by bulbous wraiths, some with fishing poles, some without. Some move only when you aren't looking, like the boogeyman under your bed, and the monster in your closet.

Monsters hide out in the clouds even on sunny days, and toss spiny enemies down that you can't jump on. If you can find something--like a movable, blue block--to toss up at him, perhaps you can catch a ride on that cloud, and ride it to gold pieces in the sky and a key to a secret world. You can finish levels by cutting the moving tape (replacing SMB1's flagpole level-ending exercise quite well), but the levels that are red on the map, rather than yellow, contain hidden keys and keyholes allowing for a second way to beat the level. Beating a level like this in both ways opens roads to other such levels, to secret fortresses, to pipeline shortcuts, to the famous Star Road, and from there, to the legendary Star Road Special. The levels revealed there are some of the most well put together sequences platforming has seen.

If there were any doubts as to whether SMW would justify the move to the massive power of the 16-bit SNES (at the time), Mario and his new little friend have dispelled them immediately and effortlessly in their new sprawling adventure that manages so nonchalantly to secrete something special in every corner.

Super Mario World is a special game for most SNES fans. Part of that specialness comes from the fact that the game was packaged in with the SNES in many cases. This wasn't the case for me; I acquired my SNES by way of a very lopsided trade-in. I gave them my Turbografx-16 and a whole slew of quality software in exchange for a brand spanking new SNES and a copy of Super Castlevania IV, which was the bonus game that I requested (a bloody good choice, that). I didn't happen upon a copy of SMW until quite a bit later, when a friend told me I could have his copy. He was done with it.

Now, years and years later, after spending hours and hours at a time hunkered over the little SNES controller, eyes glazed and yet focused on the fat little plumber on the colourful screen, I think to myself: How could he possibly have been done with it?

It just isn't possible, and I'm guessing the friend who gave me this game has reacquired a copy of it, or has a copy of Super Mario Advance 2 (the very same game, only in a smaller package) for his new Gameboy Advance. SMW has too much going on for you to tire of it, to be finished with it. It goes on and on, and you can pick it up at any given time, and indulge in what seems like a never-ending journey of different routes, alternate twists and turns, new paths to the waterfall.

Like most Mario games, it has a knack for capturing us and taking us away for hours, days, weeks at a time. The three on the NES all had that uncanny ability to make the real world disappear--but SMW is most ambitious in replacing the drab everyday with its own blue and white world of flying dinosaur friends and other childlike fantasy. SMB3 came close in terms of expansiveness; perhaps it could have been the first true Super Mario land--but SMW will be the world to you.

Masters's avatar
Staff review by Marc Golding (January 13, 2004)

There was a bio here once. It's gone now.

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Felix_Arabia posted April 05, 2010:

This is one of the great reviews we have on HG. I told this to Ken once over AIM, but he said he wouldn't be truly satisfied until I proclaimed this review's greatness to the public.

Public: This review is great. Read it if you haven't, though I'm sure many of you already have.
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Masters posted April 05, 2010:

Very nice of you, Felix. I just re-read it. Man. I used to write game reviews.

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