Kickin’ It Old School – Super Mario World

I’ve been playing Super Mario Galaxy lately, and while it’s a good game, there are a few things that I have a problem with. There’s the usual complaints like the camera controls are awkward and the fact that you get 1-up’s with every alternate step, though the only time I really don’t like that is when they award you 5 (and later, 20 (!!!)) 1-up’s simply for having the skills necessary to turn the game on. Since some of the later levels can be described as, at best, difficult, and at worst, so frustrating they make me want to hit a toddler in the face with a brick, you kind of need the extra lives every ten feet, so that’s all fine.

What I mostly don’t like is what happens after it ends. Without getting too spoilerish, once you get all 120 stars, you have to get them all again to get true 100% completion. As in, playing the whole game again, beginning to end, like you hadn’t done so before. What the hell? I don’t want to do that all again, not so soon at least. Why aren’t all the levels in the game open to you from the start the second time around, like a New Game + kind of a thing? The earliest levels are just so easy now, especially in relation to the aforementioned brick-throwing-episode-inducing ones of later in the game, that I just don’t want to play it again. The game has stopped being fun for me. It feels like work. You get every star, beating some pretty tough levels to do so, and what’s your reward? Do it again. Great. I’ll probably revisit the game in a few months when it’ll seem new again, but for now, I yearn, I pine, I ache for the simpler Mario games.

So thank heavens for the Virtual Console so I can turn off Galaxy and turn on whichever Mario title I want (except Super Mario Bros. 2, screw that mess) with just the push of a button. I picked Super Mario World to be reminded of the days when you could just sit down and play a game, have fun, and be given a decent reward for doing so in the end. Those were good days.

Super Mario World (SNES, 1991)

Again, my formula for a good sequel: classic gameplay + minor additions – stupid B.S. that ruins both the sequel and the original. That’s what you get from Super Mario Bros. 3 to Super Mario World. It’s as good a sequel as you can hope for, with the right alterations in the right places while still maintaining what made the series great in the first place.

Let’s start with the world map. Instead of 8 different maps, it’s one big one with 7 different regions. You can backtrack to any level you want, any time you want. Nice and convenient, though it can be a bit time consuming. There are 72 stages for you to beat and a number of them have an extra hidden exit, so there’s no shortage of things to do in the game.

Each region in the game ends in a castle in which you battle one of the 7 Koopalings. Who? See kids, the Koopalings were Bowser’s children before he disowned each of them in favor of Bowser Jr. Or maybe Mario really killed them when he beat them in these castles. Maybe that’s why Bowser is so pissed at him now. Anyway, there are also smaller fortress levels that are guarded by 4 rhino’s called Reznor’s, or maybe they’re a group collectively known as Reznor. I don’t know, that’s not really explained well. Reznor must be defeated by hitting the platforms they’re on from below while they rotate over a lava pit with a steadily disappearing bridge over it. It can be a little tough if your timing is off just a little bit.

The levels are your regular Mario staples of above ground, underground and water levels, with some differences between them. Each region has its own theme, most of which revolve around food (Donut Land, Cheese/Butter Bridge, Soda Lake, Chocolate Mountain, etc.) for some reason. There’s also a Star World which leads to Special World, the completing of which will net you your cool reward, but more on that later.

The power-ups remain mostly the same from the rest of the series as well. You get the big mushroom, the fire flower, the star, and the ability to fly, although you now get a cape to fly instead of the utterly bizarre raccoon suit from SMB 3, which is a step in the right direction. With the cape, you can float across the whole stage by pressing the D-Pad in whatever direction is backwards. You can store an item in a box at the top of the screen that will descend when you take a hit or push select, which is a cool little addition.

The final boss battle was different, as instead of dodging Bowser or letting crash into a lava pool, you actually fight him directly. Bowser hurls Mechakoopas – wind-up toy Koopas basically – at you from his Koopa Clown Car, the helicopter thing that has become something of a staple for him in the series. After he sends out the Mechakoopas, you send them right back to him. The battle is in three phases, and was pretty tough for 5 year old me.

Beating the aforementioned Special World gives the overworld a more autumn-like color scheme and changes a few of the character sprites, most notably the Koopas, who wear giant masks and the Piranha Plants, which look like jack-o-lanterns. The Gameboy Advance re-release saw many more characters changing, adding the likes of Chargin’ Chuck and Spinies. It seemed unnecessary to me, but then again I hate re-releases that change even the slightest thing, so maybe I’m not the best one to pass judgment on them.

So what’s the difference between this and Galaxy’s reward for beating every level? World’s reward was cool, satisfying and it didn’t feel like work getting to it. I don’t care if saying that I’d rather play 96 levels rather than 240 makes me TEH CASUAL NOOB~! Playing 120 levels, again, and with tweaked (for the worse) controls this time, is the opposite of fun. Super Mario World, meanwhile, continues to be a classic game 17 years later, though it’s not the best ever. Was Super Mario World advertised by its own major motion picture starring Fred Freakin’ Savage? No. Therefore, it will always be in second place to Mario 3. If Mario 2 had its own movie starring an 80’s icon, I’d think much more highly of it. Dead serious.

Next Time: Super Smash T.V.! Only, it’ll be the Genesis version, just to switch things up a bit. I feel like I’m neglecting that poor blast processor.

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