Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Super Mario Bros.

If you've never played this game, I suggest you give up gaming. Forever.

Platform: Nintendo Entertainment System
Published by: Nintendo
Developed by: Nintendo EAD
Genre: Platformer
Players: 1-2
US Release Date: 1985
ESRB Rating: Everyone

Story: Who doesn't know the story of Mario? For those of you out there who remain unenlightened (read: ignorant), I will explain: Mario and Luigi are Italian plumbers (and, surprise! Brothers!) who are transported to the Mushroom Kingdom to save Princess Toadstool from the clutches of King Bowser, leader of the evil Koopas. Mario and Luigi must use all of their skills and cunning (which consists of running, jumping, and occasionally swimming) to outwit the Koopa king's army of minions and ultimately save the princess from whatever fate awaits her. Seriously though, does anyone else ever wonder what Bowser even intends on doing to/with the princess? Don't think about it too hard...you might hurt yourself.

This screenshot should be as iconic to you as a gamer, as bread is in the sandwich world.

Graphics: What can I say? It's the NES: 8-whole-bits of power coursing across your screen. While not much on the original Nintendo can compare to any of its successors, Super Mario Bros. definitely incorporates some quality visuals. While it's nothing too fancy, this early entry manages to effectively portray lush, green vegetation, bright blue sky, and fluffy white clouds as you sprint through the Mushroom Kingdom, slaughtering its denizens. Your transformations into Big Mario, Fire Mario, and Star Mario are all quick and only minimally flashy. Fire effects in Bowser's various castles are appropriately fiery. Goombas (the evil, mushroom foot soldiers of Bowser's army) are flattened to hilarious effect when you stomp on their heads. It's nothing special these days, but it sure did look nice back then.

Last time *I* jumped onto the top of a flagpole and slid down it, I didn't get 5000 points; I got blisters on my hands, and was later arrested.

Sound/Music: I guarantee you've heard the Mario Bros. theme song blasting from some douchebag's cellphone while walking through the mall at some point in your life. While I'm a fan of Koji Kondo's magnum opus, I feel the four other tracks he composed for Super Mario Bros. are deserving of much more attention than they have received over the past 25 years. From the light fanfare of the water worlds to the dark, menacing theme of Bowser's castle, Kondo's soundtrack remains appropriate throughout. I know I'm not the only one who can attest to getting sweaty palms when the timer hit "99" and those songs sped up to a terrifying tempo.

The sound effects of Super Mario Bros. are some of the most iconic in the genre of platforming: the "boing" of Mario's jump, the "boop" of stomping on a Koopa Troopa, and the gut-wrenching death-trill when an enemy or pitfall kills you. Simple as it gets, but just as unforgettable.

Gameplay: The basic premise of Super Mario Bros. is to rescue the Princess Toadstool from King Bowser by making your way to his castle. There are eight worlds, each consisting of four stages, to make it through before your final confrontation with the supreme Koopa. Each stage has a set time limit, and it's up to the player to get Mario through the hordes of enemies and past the various pitfalls before the timer reaches zero, which will cause him to inexplicably die.

Mario can initially perform two basic actions: run and jump. Fortunately, there are flashing blocks marked with a "?" littered throughout the Mushroom Kingdom that contain various power-ups. Should Mario collect a red and yellow mushroom, he grows to double his size and can smash bricks with his upraised fist while jumping. He can also take an extra hit of damage from enemies before dying. Fire Flowers will grant Mario the ability to throw fireballs at his enemies, and Starmen (bouncing, flashing stars with eyes) will give Mario temporary invincibility, allowing him to kill enemies simply by sprinting into them. Hidden throughout some levels are green and orange mushrooms that will give the player an extra life; the player can also earn extra lives by collecting 100 golden coins, which are found almost everywhere in each level. Levels where Mario must swim instead of walk on land occur at various points throughout the game, adding a small helping of welcome variety to the experience, but the gameplay objectives of these levels are virtually identical to their dry land counterparts.

There are a variety of enemies, power-ups, and secrets strewn throughout Super Mario Bros., and even a two-player mode (which consists of one player controlling Mario and one player controlling Luigi, each taking turns at beating a level). It's easy to see why this game served - and still serves - as the template for many of the games that followed it.

Son of a bitch, not again!

Overall: Super Mario Bros. is, without a doubt, one of the biggest landmarks in video gaming history. Without it, who knows if Nintendo would have continued the Mario franchise, which would have left us without many of the groundbreaking sequels and spin-offs the series inspired. Having been re-released countless times on countless systems, it is clear that Super Mario Bros. continues even presently as much more than a fond memory in the minds of many. If you're a gamer and you're a fan of any platformer, be sure to remember Mario's place at the roots of the genre; not as something archaic and defunct, but rather as the inspiration for many other great titles of today. Super Mario Bros. was not just the quintessential game of its time, but one of the quintessential games of all time.

Score (out of 10): 9.5

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