Considering Mario & Luigi: Superstar Saga + Bowser’s Minions released on the Nintendo 3DS just two weeks ago, this review is coming at a pretty opportune time. Granted, I played through the original Game Boy Advance version and not the remake… but what I have to say should remain applicable. And, for the record, I purchased my copy before the 3DS remake was announced, like a week or two before actually. Needless to say the remake announcement surprised me and my uncle who works at Nintendo… Anyways, developed by AlphaDream and published by Nintendo, Superstar Saga was released for the Game Boy Advance in November 2003. A spiritual successor of sorts to Super Mario RPG and Paper Mario, it similarly blended humor, platforming, and role-playing gameplay with great execution. Continue reading Mario & Luigi: Superstar Saga [Game Boy Advance] – Review→
Within the first few seconds, Vs. Super Mario Bros. tricks you into thinking it’s simply an arcade port of the NES classic. By the end of World 1-1, it’s apparent that the stages have been altered. It starts when you can’t find the invisible block containing the stage’s 1UP after the first set of green warp pipes. You’ll no doubt second guess your memory throughout the game as the stages begin to grow more original. You have now entered The Twilight Zone Vs. Super Mario Bros.
Having played loads of Super Mario Bros. recently, I have its stage design burned into my memory. One subtle element of the original’s stage design is the way the developers mislead players in regards to the Warp Zones. Think about it. The first one, in World 1-2, is accessed by running across the top of the stage and avoiding the blatant exit. The remaining two are present in World 4-2.
Thinking you’re onto a formula, you run to the end of World 4-2 and sure enough, access another Warp Zone by running across the top of the stage and avoiding another blatant exit. That’s not the one you want though. Whereas the first Warp Zone transported you to Worlds 2, 3, or 4, this one merely progresses you a single world, to World 5. While this fooled me for me many sessions, I finally found the true second Warp Zone. Appearing much earlier in World 4-2, it allows travel to the remaining Worlds: 6, 7, or 8. That’s intentional.
I believe that sort of thinking was extracted to the entirety of Vs. Super Mario Bros. For anyone coming to it as I have, with the original, forefront in my mind, it’ll throw you for a loop. It appears to look and play the same from the first quarter, but that assumption is bucked within seconds. Because of the differences, it can be construed as tougher, at least for those who have played the original. Additionally, many of the changes are inclusions of stages from Super Mario Bros.: The Lost Levels – the original, much tougher, Super Mario Bros. 2. Plus, playing with a joystick just doesn’t feel right.
What can I say about Super Mario Bros.? I mean, it’s Super Mario Bros.Everyone knows about the 1985 classic. Everyone can recall Mario’s initial journey through the Mushroom Kingdom on his quest to rescue Princess Toadstool from the diabolical Bowser. Everyone has stomped on the heads of numerous Goombas, kicked several Koopa shells, and found the game shortening Warp Zones. Everyone has beaten it, ecstatic to see the princess instead of yet another Toad. Well, that is everyone but me.
After briefly playing Vs. Super Mario Bros. at PJ Gamers, one of my local arcades, I realized I had never beaten the Mario game that started it all. Never mind Donkey Kong, Donkey Kong Jr., or Mario Bros.Super Mario Bros. really kicked off the career of Nintendo’s mascot. Thus, I’ve spent the last week or so playing the game in hours-long sessions attempting to beat it. Finally, after discovering secrets and honing my platforming skills, I’ve gotten good enough to reach the end.
Among other elements, I feel two of the most important are the game’s precise controls and simplicity. They tied together in an interesting way after spending hours learning stage layouts and adapting to the controls. I’d often get reckless and misjudge a jump or run into enemies enough times to deplete my stock of lives OVER AND OVER AGAIN. It could get frustrating, but it was psychological – I was getting too comfortable with my abilities. In many ways, overcoming my careless tendency to hold down the run button was the key to my success.
My experience with the game was enhanced by playing it with a friend, switching off when we’d lost all of our lives. Like most things, playing this game was improved with a partner. The kicker was discovering the hidden 1ups that were necessary to extending our sessions and devising strategies for dealing with tough sections. Accessing the Warp Zones was the most fruitful of our discoveries. I wouldn’t have been able to complete the game without accessing the secrets we did and I wanted to be able to say I completed Super Mario Bros. so there, I said it.
After winning a mansion in a contest he didn’t enter, Luigi invites his brother to check out his new digs. After getting lost on his way, Luigi eventually arrives to discover the mansion is packed with ghosts and they’ve captured Mario. The ensuing evening highlights how Luigi’s love for his brother overcomes his lack of confidence. All told though, Luigi’s night is full of mild laughs and humorous encounters rather than deep frights.
To combat the ghosts, Luigi utilizes the Poltergust 3000 – a special vacuum designed by Luigi’s most recent acquaintance, Professor Elvin Gadd. This vacuum sucks in the undead inhabitants and when Luigi returns to the safety of Gadd’s shack outside the mansion, the professor seals the ghosts in portraits. Capturing ghosts was initially a frustrating endeavor but with practice it became easier, but it never felt “just right.” Navigating the mansion was occasionally a laborious affair as well.
The mansion is quite large and it’s full of distinct rooms that are inhabited by similarly distinct ghosts. The mansion was broke up into areas which were capped off with a boss fight against a more menacing foe. Luigi’s Mansion was fairly straightforward, but there were a few times where I wasn’t sure what I needed to do to progress. Also, backtracking was a massive part of the game. Towards the middle of the game, when the number of unexplored rooms was dwindling, I’d usually have to traverse multiple floors in a convoluted fashion to move on.
The problems I had with Luigi’s Mansion were minor, but were annoying nonetheless. Its gameplay also wasn’t so fantastic as to redeem these annoyances. I felt like my time with Luigi’s Mansion was worthwhile though. It was a very positive, humorous adventure that has me interested in its upcoming sequel.