Nintendo decided to skip Super Mario 3, and go for 96 level Super Mario World, in the second installment of Mario on Gameboy Advance. On the surface, Super Mario Advance 2 is a port of Super Mario World for the Super Nintendo, they’ve done a good job of making this version feel fresh, new and worth your time. For those that have played the original game, nothing major has changed, but the difference is in the details.
You’ve always been able to play as Mario or Luigi depending on what player you are, but now the two brothers have major differences between them. Luigi can jump higher like he could from Super Mario Bros 2. Its nothing that radically changes the game, but it makes it play different. A short and tight jumping Mario and a high yet slippery leap from Luigi. The game still makes use of buttons for running, jumping and spin jumping with the R button. Spin jumps will break certain blocks so you can drill through them.
Since this is a portable game, you can save anywhere and you can have 999 lives which trumps the original game’s 99 lives. Like the previous Super Mario Advance, there are several new challenges, such as the game now keeps track of all 350 dragon coins in the game so its possible to collect them all. Once you get them all you’re rewarded to see a little scene where Princess Peach turns them into Princess coins. For every 1 million points you earn a star is added to the start screen. These are all silly little extras that give a reason to replay a game that is a decade old.
There are new intros and endings to the game to flesh it out. The story opens with Mario, Luigi and Peach out in a hot air balloon, where Mario and Luigi go off flying with their caps, when they return, the Princess has disappeared! This is the plot to almost every game in the Mario franchise, but now you see her disappearance.
For the uninitiated, the Super Mario Brothers games have always been a staple for Nintendo. Mario is their mascot for everything, but the series of their games have always been fun 2D platformers where the objective level to level is to make it to the finish line.
New to the series are cape feathers that open up a lot more gameplay elements than the racoon tail ever did. With the feathers you can fly, glide and even dive bomb to make the ground shake. Its tougher to use than the racoon tail, because once you’re in the air, you start to glide down, so to gain height you need to push forward so you’ll dive and then push back again so you swoop back up again. You can also swing your cape around to attack taller enemies.
The biggest addition is Yoshi, the dinosaur that hatches out that you can ride. He is a real game changer. You can still run and jump with him, but he can lash out his tongue to eat enemies! This was mind blowing in the original game. Eating different colors of koopa shells give them temporary powers until they inevitably digest them. Red shells let Yoshi spray three fireballs, blue shells grant Yoshi wings and yellow shells will let him pound the ground with each landing. Its such a nice way to diversify gameplay.
Once you find colored Yoshis in the special world, you can then find them everywhere in the game. Its a nice touch that keeps the game more accessible and fun. There are still dedicated colors of Yoshis at specific times, such as the blue Yoshis will always be blue.
Power ups that have been a staple of the series return with this game. There are super mushrooms to get big, fire flowers to throw fireballs at enemies and star men to become invincible and just plow through enemies. A nice touch to fire is that when a fireball takes out an enemy, it turns into a coin, thus rewarding you.
The world itself seems to be a prehistoric place and Yoshi isn’t the only dinosaur on the island. A lot of the foes are giant reptiles as well. Rex from Super Mario Land requires two bops on the head to defeat him. others will breath fire. There is a large new cast of creatures to hop on, but the classic enemies are here as well. Koopas still have shells, but this time if you knock them out of their shell, they can hop into an empty one. Goombas are no longer stomped flat, but instead you can carry them when they’re upside-down. All of these tweaks really add to the fun.
As for the graphics, the Super Mario World version has bold and bright colors, while this version seems light and dull. The sound seems flat compared to the original. There’s just something off with the audio. The trade off for worse audio is including voices for both Mario and Luigi that are more a kin to the Super Mario 64 game.
Super Mario World will always be at the top of the heap in terms of quick, fun 2D platformers. There are new challenges around every corner. The blocks in the game offer all sorts of diversity. Question mark blocks have always contained goodies like coins or power ups, but there are now flip blocks that let you spin jump to destroy them, but if you jump up from under them, it spins them to let you go through them until they stop spinning.
This game makes the best use of carrying and throwing in the Mario series. Holding the run button lets you pick up several things like shells and purple blocks, but you can launch them up or forward. There is an excellent use of keys that force you to carry them to a lock. The key holes grow large and turn into an alternate exit for a level. Carrying an item prevents you from flying with the cape feather.
Outside of the platforming is a great big wide world that’s all interconnected. You start out on Yoshi’s island, but then the game opens up to reveal the world. Pipes take you to different locales on the map and you can even take sneak peaks of different realms and find plenty of different routes. The map will change as you complete levels and there are all sorts of little details that make the game feel alive.
The world itself is broken into lands with each having its own theme. Vanilla dome is an subterranean world, the chocolate desert, the forest of illusion are just some of the places you’ll explore. Each of these lands has several levels with at least one ghost house, water level and castle.
These three things change the feel of levels outside of changing their gimmick. The ghost houses are dark, wooden and full of boo ghosts. Castles take away most blocks in favor of challenge. They also have a boss battle at the end. Swimming has been around since the original Super Mario Brothers, its this change in gameplay that still makes the franchise a step up above the majority of platform games. You can now float while holding an item, which is a nice change of pace. The floating lets you control your movement with the directional pad instead of having to tap the jump button for each stroke.
In terms of bosses, the koopa kids are back. Instead of airships, this time its only mere castles. For the most part, each koopa kid is a unique boss fight. These fights are diverse, such as fighting Lemmy on a tilting platform that forces you to bounce him off the lowest end. There are plenty of mini boss fights too. Ghost houses have big boos that take three hits with blocks to defeat. Reznor mini bosses can be found in some of the fortresses. They’re triceratops that ride a Ferris wheel while the ground starts collapsing into lava.
There are a lot of tropes from previous games, such as collecting one hundred coins earns you an extra life, but you’ll find most levels have five dragon coins. Collecting five in one stage will grant you an extra life as well. You can even get extra lives from sending a koopa shell into enough foes that you’ll score one. When you collect one hundred stars by touching the finish line rather than passing through it, you’re rewarded with a new way to get lives. There are even a few test your luck bonus stages in pipes. The game is ripe with lives, but if you ever find yourself running low, its easy to get to new levels and you can travel back to replay old levels with ease.
To hasten the game, there is a star world that now replaces a warp zone. This star world is a hub between a lot of the different lands. Getting through the levels requires a lot of skill and certain other things to be unlocked. There are four colored blocks in the game that when you visit their switch palace, you can change the blocks from hollow outlines into solid lines. This unlocks new places, new secrets and new ways to get places. Beyond the star world is the special world full of extra challenging levels for anyone tough enough to face them.
Super Mario World is still fun, even after a decade after its original release. All the tweaks and the novelty of portability make it worth owning an upgraded version.