The Game Where Mr. Miyamoto Slaps You in the Face
Let’s start this article by saying that I am a huge fan of Mr. Miyamoto’s work. With his imagination, creativity, and backing of Nintendo, He is credited for saving the video game industry. It’s safe to say, that without Super Mario Bros., I most likely wouldn’t be writing video game reviews. Now that we have established this, let’s discuss the follow up to Super Mario Bros, not the Super Mario Bros. 2 you know, but the Japanese version, also known as Super Mario Bros.: The Lost Levels.
If you are like me, a father of a four year old, you might be starting out testing the waters to see if your child may or may not be interested in playing video games. Now, my son is part of what I like to call the tablet generation, so playing with a controller is quite a different take on how he plays games. So he asked me one day, “Dad, can you play Super Mario with me?” I thought, that is great my son wants to be a part of something I enjoy doing, but what Mario game should I play? 3D games like Super Mario 64, Sunshine, or Galaxy may but a bit rough to understand and hard to control for a four year old. So I thought, let’s go back to the basics. We tried Super Mario Bros. and he loved it. We played the whole game right to the end, and together we defeated Bowser (King Koopa as he was known at the time) and saved Princess Peach Toadstool. It was a great experience having my son play with me. He asks a few days later, “Can we play Super Mario again?” I said sure, but let’s try the next one. Instead of leaping into SMB 2, I put on the rose colored glasses and we decided to play SMB: The Lost Levels. This is from my perspective on how a game I played about 18 years ago, was still a tough game.
In the beginning, you play this game just like the last Super Mario Bros. You can’t go back per say, you can only move forward. Pretty standard. However, once you hit that first poison mushroom, you know that everything in this game is different. You can play as Mario or Luigi with each brother having different stats. Mario jumps not has high as Luigi, but he has better footing on the ground, where Luigi, is the exact opposite. There is no more 2 player mode and you and a friend or child will need to switch up. I actually played this on the SNES version, and found that with the additional save by level feature, I could switch between Mario and Luigi if I needed to go back in order to clear an area. I played Luigi most of the time, as you are going to need his jumping power to get through some of the levels.
What hurt me the most playing and beating through the entire game, was that the game itself and the mechanics felt like a punishment. Sure, you don’t have a lot of lead way in how the first Super Mario game was played, but I felt like I had at least two paths I could go on. In this game, for the most part (especially world 6-3 and 8-4), there was one exact way. In that exact way, the game was programmed for a very slim margin of error. For example, if I were to jump just a foot taller than what the game wanted me to do, I would not be able to move forward in that level. Not all levels are like this mind you, but some. In other instances, there always seemed to be a hidden block that would pop up right around the same time that you needed to jump away from an enemy. I found this very challenging, and yet I couldn’t get the thought out of my mind that I was being punished for trying new ways. Overall, in order to beat a level, you basically had memorize the exact way the programs wanted you to beat it. I will note however that I was able to use the game’s ability to “wipe” an enemy away from the screen most of the time, if I was able to move just right enough where the program would eliminate the problem for me. Maybe this is what the programmers thought would happen and how the game should be played, however I’m convinced that this was merely game and program limitations of the era. Additionally, playing on the SNES or Wii is the optimal choice when you want to play this game and not feel completely punished for playing it. The NES version has no level by level save feature. Therefore, if you lose all your lives, you lose hard and return to the start of the game.
Graphically, did it look exactly like the first Super Mario Bros, yes it did. However, I will not fault graphical capability or design as a flaw of the game. Many games and its sequels have similar graphical quality and do not hurt the game itself.
Overall, Super Mario Bros: The Lost Levels felt more like an annoying chore than a game I would enjoy. I even told myself, “I think this game is just as hard and unforgiving as I remember” It’s not that the game was challenging, it was the fact that I really did not have a lot of what I perceive as flexibility to accomplish my task to get to the flag. Unnecessary hidden blocks and random koopas didn’t make me enjoy this game, it unfortunately felt more like a punishment.
In a rare moment for me, I think this is one of a few times where I praise an American version video game company. If it wasn’t for the company to tell its parent company that Super Mario Bros 2 (Our Lost Levels) would not work in America during the 80’s, we could have seen the downfall of one of our favorite video game series of all time never exist, and Doki Doki Panic, would never become Super Mario Bros 2 (Super Mario USA in Japan).
But hey, sometimes you have to do something different and push the envelope of gaming. Sometimes it works out, sometimes it doesn’t:
Thanks for taking a read! See you around the Mushroom Kingdom!
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