Super Mario Bros. 2
  • Genre:
    • Platformer
  • Platform:
    • NES
  • Developer:
    • Nintendo
  • Publisher:
    • Nintendo
  • Released:
    • US 10/01/1988
    • UK 04/28/1989
    • JP 09/14/1992
Score: 80%

This review was published on 11/12/2012.

Super Mario Bros. 2 is a side-scrolling platform game released for the Nintendo Entertainment System and the sequel to the classic Super Mario Bros. game. The truth is that this game is actually Doki Doki Panic, a Nintendo game originally released in Japan on the Famicom Disk System. Nintendo made a few modifications to it and released it for the NES in the West as Super Mario Bros. 2. The real Super Mario Bros. 2 never got released outside of Japan for the NES. It's a little confusing, but that's the gist of it. Being that this game wasn't originally a Mario game, it lacks some of the fundamental elements of the first game and it perplexed many people. It's due to this reason that many refer to this as the black sheep of the series, though there really isn't anything wrong with it. While it may not provide the traditional Mario experience people were expecting, this is still a quality game that deserves its recognition as a classic.

Image

The Super Mario Bros. 2 box exclaims that Mario is back, bigger and better than ever before. This time the story involves Mario having an eerie dream where a mysterious voice informs him that the land of dreams, Subcon, is being terrorized by some jerk named Wart. Mario wakes up from this dream and informs the rest of the gang about it. Apparently, they all had the same dream. The gang later decides to go on a wonderful picnic, where they stumbled upon a cave that took them to Subcon, the same world they saw in their dreams. Oh man, that was an intense plot twist. Naturally, the gang waste no time in attempting to save Subcon from the horrible Wart. Looks like it's time for Mario to bust out the wart remover. I give Nintendo props on coming up with something slightly more original than saving the Princess again, but this seems needlessly convoluted for a Mario game. It's a good thing the game itself gets straight to the point, leaving the instruction booklet to do all of the exposition. I'm surprised Bowser wasn't involved in this one. You'd think conquering a dream world would be right up his alley. Maybe he's still recovering from being burned alive in a fiery lake of lava. Yeah, that could be it. In any case, that's the story of Super Mario Bros. 2.

Image

The first thing players will see after the title screen is the character selection screen. This is the first Mario game, more or less, with multiple playable characters. There are a total of four playable characters, and each character has slightly different abilities that have a great impact on game play. Mario is the generic first choice for those who want a jack of all trades, master of none type of character. Luigi, on the other hand, has access to a significant maneuver that can totally change the game: the flutter jump. This allows Luigi to slowly hover down to the ground as he jumps, which allows him to get through some of the most difficult platform segments in the game with considerable ease. Luigi's drawback is that his jumps are very slow, and this can be a problem in situations where speed is necessary. Next up is Princess Toadstool, the very same person Mario risked his life to save in the Super Mario Bros. game. The tables have turned, because Toadstool may very well be the best character in Super Mario Bros. 2. Toadstool's main skill in this game is to use her skirt to float in the air for a short period of time. I'm using the word short very loosely here, because the game actually allows Toadstool to stay up in the air for quite a long time. This toots is a force to be reckoned with. Toadstool's only drawback is that she picks things up slowly, but that's hardly an issue. The last character is Toad, who sucks. Toad's strength is that he picks things up quickly, but his weakness is that he doesn't do too well in the jumping department. In a game mostly based on jumping, Toad sure got the short end of the stick, in more ways than one. Super Mario Bros. 2 handles the concept of multiple playable characters fairly well, because every character plays differently.

Image

Super Mario Bros. 2 changes the fundamental game play mechanic of the Mario series by not allowing players to stomp on enemies to defeat them. Instead, enemies can be picked up and thrown as projectiles to defeat other enemies. Defeated enemies can bounce onto nearby enemies to cause a chain reaction of sorts, which is a pretty cool advanced technique to use. Items such as vegetables can be plucked from the ground and thrown as deadly projectiles, too. Characters can pick up enemies or objects by pressing the B button while on top of them, and pressing the B button again will throw whatever is being held. Normally objects are thrown at an angle, but they go farther if thrown when the character is moving. Objects can even be picked up in mid-air, lending a fair amount of flexibility to this core function. Being able to pick up and throw things is the defining mechanic of Super Mario Bros. 2 that pervades every aspect of the game. Almost every object in the game, whether it's animate or inanimate, can be picked up and thrown. Every puzzle and boss battle in the game can be solved by picking up and throwing stuff. It's safe to say that you'll be picking up as much stuff as you'll be jumping on platforms in Super Mario Bros. 2. The main drawback to the mechanic of throwing stuff is that players are totally defenseless if there are no nearby objects to throw. Thankfully, the game rarely puts players in such a nefarious position. It's kind of a bummer that enemies can no longer be defeated by stomping on them, but the freedom of being able to pick up and throw virtually anything in the game certainly makes up for it.

Image

Levels in Mario 2 come in a variety of shapes and sizes. There are a total of 7 worlds with 3 levels each. That might sound like this game is shorter than the previous one, but the individual levels are much longer. This is one of Mario's first forays into themed worlds, featuring grassy plains, ancient deserts, a dreaded ice world, and even a unique sky world. Each world carves out its own identity, bringing new gimmicks that go along with their themes. For instance, the desert world introduces a new mechanic that allows any character to dig into the sand. It's done in the same way you pick up items; stand on top of a patch of sand and press the B button. Digging has never been more fun. Then there's the ice world, which introduces the age old mechanic of slippery ground that everyone hates. The ice levels are still pretty fun, because they mix it up with creative designs like having players jump on top of whales to cross the sea. All the levels in this game are imaginatively designed. There are parts where it's possible to hijack a magical flying carpet to fly sky high for a little while. What would you call this, Grand Theft Tapestry? The enemies in Super Mario Bros. 2 are just as much as part of the levels as anything else. One of the most memorable foes has to be Phanto, guarder of keys. This thing may seem like a normal mask at first, but it will come alive and chase players if the key it guards is taken away. It's kind of reminiscent of the traps in Indiana Jones. Countless other Mario mainstays were birthed in this game, like the Shy Guys and Snifits. Super Mario Bros. 2 excels in fun level designs and memorable enemies.

Image

Power-ups are now treated differently due to the inclusion of a life gauge. Rather than acquire power-ups such as Super Mushrooms and Fire Flowers, characters can get hearts to restore their health. The iconic Fire Flower isn't even in the game, although the Super Mushroom does make its appearance as an entirely new kind of power-up. This time the Super Mushroom will extend a character's maximum health by one point for the duration of a single level. This is extremely useful, because characters normally only have 2 health points. The problem is that Super Mushrooms are much harder to find in this game than in the rest of the series. In order to find Super Mushrooms, one must locate a red potion which reveals a door wherever it's thrown and the door will take players into an alternate area. If the door is placed in the right place, then a Super Mushroom will be found on the other side. There is no other way to find the right spot to throw a potion besides trial and error, and the potions themselves can be elusive. Super Mushrooms are still a pretty good item despite that problem, because they act as worthwhile reward for exploration. Stars also make a return in a modified manner, being that they now require players to collect a certain amount of cherries. Cherries aren't hard to find, though they aren't always around. A Star's functionality is the same as it was before: it grants temporary invincibility. There are a variety of other items, like the POW blocks that destroy all enemies on the screen, clocks that briefly stop time, bombs that explode, and much more. Items in Super Mario Bros. 2 are a little awkward, to say the least, but they aren't half bad.

Image

Bosses in Super Mario Bros. 2 are quite a bit more complex than they were in the first game. For one, this game actually has more than one type of boss in it. In fact, it has a whole slew of bosses. Don't get too excited, though, because the bosses do get recycled a bit. The first boss that needs mentioning is Birdo, some sexually confused creature that shoots eggs out of its mouth. Birdo is fought by using its own eggs against it. Sometimes Birdo will shoot fireballs instead of eggs in the later levels to mix it up. You'll be seeing this boss a lot, because Birdo appears at the end of almost every level in the game. It may be more accurate to refer to Birdo as a mini-boss, because the game does feature bigger, more challenging bosses at the end of each world. These bosses all have their own attack patterns and require slightly different methods to defeat. It always involves throwing stuff, of course. For example, Mouser likes lobbing bombs at you, so you defeat him by returning the favor. Perhaps the most impressive boss in the game is Tryclyde, a three headed snake that spits fireballs out of its mouths. This guy requires careful strategy to bring him down, as a stack of blocks must be manipulated to create a makeshift shield to guard against his fiery breath. The same blocks that act as your shield must also be thrown to injure this great reptile, so this is one interesting boss fight. Fighting Birdo can get a little repetitive, but Super Mario Bros. 2 offsets that by also offering a large cast of unique boss battles.

Image

In an era where sequels to great games would sometimes take great risks, Super Mario Bros. 2 reigns supreme. It's true that this game does not provide the traditional Mario experience many were looking for, but that doesn't mean it isn't providing something else of value. Super Mario Bros. 2 experiments with unique game play elements and it succeeded in expanding the platform game genre beyond what was originally established in the first Super Mario Bros. game. Nintendo shows us that it's possible to make a good Mario game where he doesn't stomp on enemies, and that game is Super Mario Bros. 2.

Word Count: 1,999

Tweet