Saturday, May 2, 2009

Super Mario Bros. 3, or "How does a raccoon tail make Mario more aerodynamic?"

Some people love it. Some people... Love it? Face it. Super Seriously.  How does a tail help you fly?Mario Bros. 3 is a hard game not to like, assuming you're into 2D platform games. It is well-paced, takes you through a variety of environments, has a bunch of useful power-ups and doesn't fall all over itself to wedge in some sort of epic story.

The first time many gamers saw SMB3 was in the movie The Wizard. People far more talented than myself have already ripped that movie apart, but in short, it was a giant advertisement for Nintendo. Even a 10-year-old going to that movie saw it for what it was and didn't really care. All they cared about was the games.

Grass Land?  Really? What's next, Desert Land?  Water Land? ...Oh.In SMB3, you play as Mario... Or Luigi if you got stuck with the second controller. You're a plumber in a world full of walking fungi, anthropomorphic turtles and pipes scattered across the landscape for no adequately explored reasons.

King Koopa has sent his children to steal seven magic wands from seven kings of the various countries that apparently make up the Mushroom Kingdom. And for good measure, all the kings have been turned into animals. Where the Koopalings came from is anyone's guess. We may be better off not knowing who their mother was.

The heroes set off around the world, visiting the various themed lands of the Mushroom Kingdom. And after freeing the last king, you find out that, shock of shocks, Princess Toadstool has been kidnapped... Again. So the heroes head for Bowser's base of operations where you eventually face off with King Koopa and save the princess.

Welcome to Giant Land. Guess what our gimmick will be.The levels in the game are accessed via a world map with various paths which all take you to your eventual goal of the level's castle. The map allows you to skip levels if you so desire as well as act somewhat strategically as to which path on the map will be open to you. Also, it gives you access to various special areas – some stationary and some which spawn either randomly or when certain conditions are met.

The selection of power-up items to help you on your way has greatly increased since the days of the original Super Mario Bros. You have your traditional mushrooms, fire flowers and stars. New to the game is the leaf, which lets Mario grow a raccoon tail, allowing Mario to fly if you get a running start. Don't ask me what about adding ears and a tail to a pudgy, Itallian plumber makes him aerodynamic enough to fly. Just go with it.

There are also three suits added to the game. The tanuki suit (Gives you all the powers of the Sure, it will probably be another mushroom, but hey, never know when 20 of those will come in handy.racoon tail, plus lets you turn into an invincible statue for a few seconds,) the frog suit (Swim and hop,) and the hammer brothers suit (Lets you throw hammers at enemies, crouch down and be immune to fireballs, and just look like an all around bad ass.) One of the better changes to power ups is that you can also get them outside of the levels on the world map and store them up for when you'll need them. In fact, most of the suits are only found in large supply on the special bonus areas or mini games on the world map. There are also several power ups that effect the world map directly such as the hammer for breaking blocks on the world map. Last, but not least on the power up front, is the warp whistle. they allow you to bypass entire worlds.

In all seriousness, Giant Land is pretty awesome.The worlds Mario fights through are varied and fun. My personal favorite is Giant Land, where many of the enemies and obstacles are grown to huge proportions. Don't ask me why, but seeing Mario hop on top of Koopas that are four or five times his size is a few kinds of cool.

Aside from the normal level areas, the maps also have fortresses. Each one is controlled by a guy named Boom-Boom. He'll move around in predictable patterns and sometimes his arms turn into wings and he flies around. No, I don't know why he does that. I've always assumed that the Boom-Booms were some kind of creepy experiment Bowser set up gone horribly wrong. Or he's the Koopalings' "special" brother. Either way.

Hi. My name is Larry and I will be your boss for this level. Be happy I'm not one of those stupid Bowser clones.At the end of each of the first seven worlds, you board a Koopa brand airship and advance through a forced scrolling level which generally has no enemies present, but plenty of cannons and lifts. The ships look as though King Koopa's airship designers were really in to log cabins. Or Bowser bought out a few lumber yards before launching his conquest. At the end of each airship, you face off against one of the Koopalings - Bowser's offspring of indeterminate origin. They mostly employ unique attacks and attack patterns. But after you bonk them on the head 3 times, it's all over. The airship inexplicably disintegrates around you and you plummet to the ground, pilfered wand in hand.

If one of you so much as thinks about telling me that my Princess is in another castle, you'll find that magic wand lodged in your cranium.In 2 player mode, Mario and Luigi alternate levels, leading to great fun when you can stick your friend with a level you hate. Also, it features the ability to play your friend in a version of the original Mario Bros. arcade game. Honestly, any time I tried to play someone else, we'd always end up ignoring the main game and try and screw each other over in the mini game.

SMB 3 has been ported to the Super Nintendo as part of the Super Mario All-Stars cart, to the Game Boy Advanced and is available on the Wii virtual console. Its worth tracking down if you're one of the five people who haven't played it before. And the rest of you? Go play it again. Really. I'll wait.

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