Mario Clash
  • Genre:
    • Platformer
  • Platform:
    • Virtual Boy
  • Developer:
    • Nintendo
  • Publisher:
    • Nintendo
  • Released:
    • JP 09/28/1995
    • US 10/01/1995
Score: 70%

This review was published on 05/30/2016.

Mario Clash is a platform video game developed and published by Nintendo for the Virtual Boy. Specifically, the same team that made the Virtual Boy itself worked on this game, which was spearheaded by Gunpei Yokoi, the man that was behind the Game Boy. Creator of Mario and Zelda, Shigeru Miyamoto, also contributed to the development of this game. Mario Clash was originally released in Japan on September 28, 1995, and North America on October 1, 1995. The game was planned to be packaged with the Virtual Boy in North America, but that unfortunate honor ultimately went to Mario's Tennis. Initially, Mario Clash was called Mario Bros. VB and was going to be a straight remake of the original Mario Bros. arcade game from the early 1980s. Instead, Mario Clash was molded into a sort of reimagining of the original arcade title. As for how good the game actually is, it's all right, but gets repetitive rather quickly.

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Somewhere in Mario's world is a tower so tall that it reaches the clouds. This skyscraping structure is known as the Clash House Tower. One day, a mysterious blimp with a skull marking flies above the tower. Not long after that, an army of unsavory characters disembark the blimp and invade the tower. Who are these guys and what do they want? Nobody knows! There's a good chance they work for Bowser, king of the turtle-like Koopa tribe, though. The baddies erect a skull bearing flag to notify surrounding territories that the tower has now become their territory. Mario, Italian plumber extraordinaire and gallant hero of the Mushroom Kingdom, is called onto the scene to deal with the situation. His mission is clear: he must eliminate every single bad guy within the tower's whopping 100 floors. Such a task would be daunting for anyone else, but not for the cunning Mario.

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Obviously, you control Mario in this game and you'll be clashing with many egregious enemies. The left directional pad is used to make Mario walk around and face different directions, whereas the B button can be pressed to make him jump. Holding down the left shoulder button while moving around makes Mario run, which is pretty unorthodox, but it does free up the A button for something else. This something else is throwing Koopa shells at whatever Mario is facing. The same effect can be done by using the right d-pad, which is quicker because, unlike the A button, it changes where Mario is facing and throws the shell at the same time. And yes, the Virtual Boy controller has two d-pads on it, because one just wasn't enough. Weird controllers aside, the controls to Mario Clash feel a bit sluggish. They're not as inflexible as the original Mario Bros. game, but their unresponsiveness will undoubtedly result in many deaths, especially since Mario dies in one hit when he's not holding a shell.

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Objectively, the objective of each level is to kill all non-Koopa enemies. However, you can't kill these enemies by simply stomping them like you would in most Mario games, as they have spikes and other harmful things on their bodies. To beat these foes, you must throw Koopa shells at them. Koopas are the only enemies you can actually stomp, and doing so causes them to retract into their shells. Once a Koopa has been stomped, you'll automatically grab its shell by simply walking into it. Then, you can throw the shell in one of four directions, where it'll travel as a projectile for a short distance. Catching the shell before it falls will make it more powerful, causing the next throw to go farther. If the shell lands back onto the ground, then it can be retrieved and thrown again, though the Koopa will eventually come out of his shell after enough time has passed. In the event that you kill all the Koopas, more will spawn from the nearby pipes, but only two will ever be out at a time. This is the main mechanic of the game, so you'll be tossing lots of shells.

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Each level is comprised of a single floor. All floors have a nearly identical structure, consisting of a single screen that's divided into a background and foreground section. Mario and his enemies can travel between the background and foreground by using the pipes on either side of the screen. It's possible for Mario to toss shells from the foreground to the background and vice versa, which is necessary to defeat most enemies. The 3-D effect is actually pretty decent here, because objects that get tossed towards the screen look as if they're about to hit you in real life. Unfortunately, the only real differences from one level to the next are the type of enemies, the layout of the platforms and pipes, and whether the environment is covered in frustratingly slippery ice. Once you've seen all the possible enemy types and platform layouts, the game becomes monotonous.

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You have the option of starting on any of the first 40 floors, but you have to get to the rest on your own. It's unclear as to why this feature is available right from the outset, but it's certainly convenient. While there are technically 100 levels, the game will do the typical arcade thing of looping back to the first level after you do them all, except with a higher difficulty. As a result of that, the real point of the game is to get points. Simply killing enemies does that, but there are several ways to enhance your point acquisition. For example, killing multiple enemies with a single shell gets you bonus points. Also, eliminating enemies will decrease the mushroom counter at the top of the screen, and once it reaches zero, a mushroom will show up. Touch the mushroom and you'll enter Fever Time, which doubles your points and allows you to kill enemies easier. On top of that, there are occasionally bonus levels that have you grab coins for even more points. As to the purpose of points, they give you extra lives if you get enough, but they're mostly for bragging rights.

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While not a bad game, Mario Clash has the problem that many early arcade titles had in that it gets repetitive not long after you begin. This style of game play was no longer the acceptable standard in 1995, which is why Mario Clash had such a mixed critical reception upon release. Mario Clash is almost like a tech demo, because it successfully demonstrates the 3-D capabilities of the Virtual Boy, but does little else.

Word Count: 1,105

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