I grew up with Super Mario Bros 2 when it first came out. It is a departure from the first that featured running and jumping platforming, but also picking up and throwing things instead of jumping up to smash boxes. Pulling vegetables out of the ground, picking up enemies to take out other enemies. When the Super Nintendo came out, there was a 16-bit visual upgrade to the 8-bit classic. Now Mario’s second American en devour has been enhanced for the Game Boy Advance. Not only that, but a remastered version of the classic Mario Bros arcade game is also on the cartridge.
In the main game, you start each level and life by selecting a character from Mario, Luigi, Toad and Princess Toadstool. They each have their stats and perks. The game even shows you their stats. Toad is the strongest and fastest. The Princess is the weakest and slowest, but can hover in the air for a few seconds. Luigi has a very high jump and Mario is well rounded. From there you’re let loose on the game.
You can walk, run by holding a button, jump and there’s now a super jump. To charge the super jump, hold down to duck for a few seconds until the character starts flashing, then jump and you’ll fling high into the air. You can also get on top of objects and pull them up using the run button. There is grass to pull up from the ground that will reveal a number of objects, big and little vegetables. Pulling up five large ones will make a stopwatch appear to temporarily freeze all enemies. There are even shells to find or pull up that when thrown will slide forward taking out all enemies in the way. There are POW blocks that send enemies flying as long as they’re on the ground. The more enemies a shell, POW or thrown object takes out, the more points and then a 1-Up for an extra life. Sure you can find 1-Ups here and there, but this new points system makes it more fun.
Also underneath the grass, there are magic potions that when thrown, hit the ground to reveal a door. Inside is a night or negative version of the single screen that you’re on. Any grass that’s pulled up is a coin and after completing each level, you spend your coins on a slot machine that will give you extra lives for getting three of a kind or cherries. Its a very nice system. Not only that, but the negative dark world also has a mushroom that when pulled up, the character gets more maximum health. Each health heart is a hit. There are plenty of hearts everywhere to refill your health. Under grass, floating up from enemies, floating around in general. When the character gets down to one heart remaining, they are shorter versions of themselves that can’t jump as high. They can still super jump though.
Collect enough cherries to make a star man appear. Once you get the star man, you’re temporarily invincible. New to the enhanced version are five giant coins per level. Collect all five and get a 1-Up. These can be in out of the way places and they add replay value for veterans of the game.
Super Mario Bros 2 always had a diverse array of enemies. Typical pacing enemies, hopping enemies, ones that shoot, jump shoot, snakes coming out of pipes, sliding flurries, flowers spitting fire, ninjas that jump and so on. With this enhancement there are larger versions of enemies. They aren’t any more difficult, just larger and take longer to pick up. Its a nice variety. Some enemies are used for travel, such as an albatross that merely flies with your character on its back, a magical machine that you can drive, an ostrich to ride on across spikes, and a magic carpet that lets you control your flight across the sky.
In all there are 7 worlds, each with 3 levels except the final world. At the end of each level is usually Birdo, a boss that spits eggs and sometimes fireballs. Using the eggs to defeat Birdo is a nice little challenge. First timing your jumps to get on the eggs, then picking them up and throwing them. Later levels Birdo only shoots fireballs, so you need to take out the boss with mushroom blocks, bombs or anything else you can throw.
Some levels have locked doors that require keys, which are usually in rooms or pipes. When you pick up the key, it awakens a phanto mask that will chase you as long as you’re holding the key. It makes for a nice shake up in the pace of the game. Suddenly you can’t take your time, because phanto can fly through objects, walls and attack you from any angle. You need to run. There is no way to defeat him, only to dodge or leave the key behind!
At the end of each ‘world’ is a boss. In fact there are new bosses from the original Super Mario Bros 2. New to the game is a robotic Birdo boss battle that is different from the other major bosses, but similar to a normal Birdo battle. Just bigger. You’ll find the original world bosses are back. A mouse throwing bombs, a triple headed serpent that can be beaten with mushroom blocks, a giant fireball and so on. It all builds to the big boss Wart and his bubble burping breath.
The bright colors and backgrounds evoke a cheerful happiness. Walking on clouds, digging through underground tunnels, going down pipes to discover pastel crayon colored interiors. Super Mario Advance is truly a game for all ages. There are voice clips of Mario’s chipper little sounds. It makes the game still feel fresh after all of these years.
All of the enhancements make the game easier, more accessible and dare I say more fun. Lives are so plentiful and so is health and just interesting quirks that set it apart from the original and the Super Nintendo version. The only downside here is the camera. The Game Boy Advance can’t show as much of the screen as the original game. The screen isn’t as tall, so you need to hit a button to pan the camera up or down. The camera focuses in front of you, leaving you blind to attacks from behind. Its all to compensate for the smaller screen.
As for the original Mario Bros 2D, single screen, platforming arcade game, its still fun to this day. It offers graphical enhancements, but the same great gameplay. Its just a little slow paced until later levels when things can get frantic and chaotic. The premise is simple… to take out an enemy, get beneath them, jump up under them to knock them over. When they’re upside down run into them to knock them out. Then after it a coin will pop out of the pipe they originated from and roll around the platforms. If the enemy manages to wake up from being upside-down, it becomes a faster blue version of itself. Spinies move forward on the platform. Bugs hop. Crabs take two bumps from beneath to knock them over.
If you take too long, the game will send a fireball out at you that will slowly go across the screen horizontally. Take longer than that and the game will bounce diagonally aimed fireballs after you. Later levels have ice spikes that freeze the floor making them slippery unless you eliminate them. After a few rounds, there is a bonus round that has you collecting coins.
In all, this is a superior version, even with the step down in screen size. The Mario Bros Classic was a nice addition to keep the cartridge in your Game Boy Advance.