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Super Mario World

Year released: 1992
Company: Nintendo
Genre: Adventure

Super Mario Bros. is probably one of the most entertaining, innovative, and classic series ever created in video game history. Most of this claim is bestowed upon the first three games released on the NES - each one brought something new and interesting to the table. In 1992, Mario and friends made their maiden voyage on the Super NES with a game that was to push the envelope even further in terms of graphical quality, expansiveness, and overall fun.

Well, they tried, anyway.

I don't know exactly what it is that's missing from Super Mario World that prevents me from liking it in earnest as I do the other Mario games. The je-ne-sais-quoi that was bulging from the seams in the previous games no longer existed when the augmentation from NES to SNES took place. It pains me to do this (moreso than my rating of Metroid or Zelda), but I have to rank this game as just average.

The premise of the game is that of virtually all other Mario games: Bowser's up to his usual shenanigans, kidnapping Princess Toadstool (honestly, you'd think the Mushroom Kingdom would've thought of some way to protect her by now!) and throwing yet another gauntlet to the plumbers of legend to retrieve her. This time, the setting is different: rather than hop 'n' bop in the Mushroom Kingdom, this game takes place in a region known as Dinosaur Land.

And so, the game begins. Much like SMB3, the terrain is set up in a map-like fashion, with courses being linked together by roads which appear as more and more levels are cleared. Some areas have a fork in the road, but the only way to activate the fork is by finding secret exits in particular levels. Along the way, you can find a pal by the name of Yoshi, a dino-who-thinks-he's-a-horse whose insatiable appetite is one of the primary methods of attack.

The game is considerably easier than the NES games, largely because of the fact that you can return to a level you've already completed and reap the benefits therein. Plus, obtaining obscene amounts of extra lives is ludicrously easy, especially levels which contain Starmen or grey P-switches. Because of that, you've essentially got the game won once you've cleared Vanilla Lake. The real challenge lies in finding and activating all of the secret exits, but in most cases that's more reliant on luck than skill.

The technical areas of the game deserve some leway since this was the first game released on the SNES. The graphics are decent enough: This is the first time that Mario could actually be shown the way he's depicted in drawings - red shirt, blue overalls - since color restraints on the NES prevented it. Everything retains the same cartoonish look of before, from the enemies who seem more like they're strolling in the park than patrolling the area to the clouds with the smiley faces. They still managed to keep the playful atmosphere in the game.

Less praise can be said about the music, however. One underlying theme plays out through all of the levels, be it overworld, underworld, fortress, ghost house, or whatever. Seems like a good idea, but none of the music is developed to its own autonomy; they all rely heavily on that one theme, and so people get the sense that you're listening to the same song over and over again. Hop on Yoshi, and a percussion track is added to the music. Again, sounds like a good idea, until you find out that the percussion track consists of overbearing, lousy-sounding bongoes.

The play control remains somewhat decent. The use of B to jump and Y to run created a template that ran for the entire life of the SNES. The spin-jump was a nice thought, giving Mario a little resilience when, coming across enemies that can't be stomped. The real fault here is the flying mode. Sure it makes more sense to glide up and down, but it was so much easier to fly back when Mario was a raccoon. Here, mistime your flight once, and you'll lose a lot of altitude which you can't recoup. Besides, Mario games were never known for making sense.

Again, it's that one nameless element that makes this game less fun to play. None of the levels are "challenging" anymore since you'll always be able to stockpile a gazillion lives if you have to. Moreover, there's no one level that's all that fun to play, like there was in earlier games. Don't get me wrong: this game does hold your attention, and it doesn't take too long to beat, but it just doesn't stack up against the other Mario games, which I used to play all night. (Social life? Tried it once, didn't like it.)

I know not if Mario regains his shine in future games, although if Yoshi's Cookie counts, he seems to recover pretty well. Perhaps this game was an omen to all of us - that enhanced graphics and sound didn't and wouldn't always equal a superior game. It's a fairly good title, but certainly not among the greatest. The mediocre score does not mean it was a mediocre title in its own right, but rather it was mediocre in comparison to the predecessors.

Overall Ratings:

Play Control:
Technical Score: 12
Challenge: (Easy)
Thrill: (Boring)
Aesthetic Score: 16
Overall Score: 67%

You are now listening to the ending music to Super Mario World. Normally I eschew using ending themes as the background music, but it's the only good MIDI of the game out there.