It’s one of the most popular (if not the most popular) retro games of all time but we’ve not had much experience of it as none of us had a SNES when we were growing up. So who best to tackle Super Mario World and give an objective opinion? Our Andy (UKNESBoy) of course! So here are his thoughts and don’t worry, we’re ready for the vitriol…
Those of you who follow me on Twitter may have noticed this before however for those of you not in the know, in the 16-bit wars of the mid 90’s I was purely team Sega. The Mega Drive reigned supreme in our house and many an hour was spent on the console with no regrets. The one thing as a result of not being Team SNES was missing out on games that people speak of to this day, ones that stand the test of time and define a generation. Games such as Legend of Zelda: Link to the Past, Super Metroid, Chrono Trigger, Secret of Mana to name but a few. Hope is not all lost, for it is better to have played later in life then to have never played at all, and today is no exception. One game not on said list was arguably one of the biggest games on the console – Super Mario World. It will be reviewed today by someone who has never played the game before (if ever such a person existed).
That’s right: me.
With all the chat and the highly regarded opinion this game holds, let’s board that hype train and see if the reputation and legacy of the game matches up to common opinion.
Super Mario World was released on the SNES in 1990 and is a side-scrolling platformer akin to its predecessors on the NES. Anyone with knowledge about said earlier Mario games will understand the storylines involving rescuing the Princess from the evil Bowser and Super Mario World follows that trend again. There is nothing wrong with following said path that has been tried and tested as long as it is done well. In the game you complete each level going from left to right in order to reach the flag pole and progress through the stages. Not all levels follow such linear routes – there are levels where finding the hidden exit unlocks a new part of the overworld that was previously hidden. But on the whole it is the same standard which gamers growing up with the Super Mario Bros series on the NES are accustomed to and familiar with.
As noted just now, although there is a lot of familiarity with Super Mario World that indeed brings a level of comfort, the game introduced new features and indeed characters, with the introduction of Yoshi the dinosaur. This was in part to the new technology and hardware that being on the SNES brought, without being restricted previously on the NES. As you go through the level riding Yoshi you realise that he can eat things such as fruit or in fact enemies which may cause him to be able to spit the remains as a fireball. In terms of power-ups, the familiar Super Mushroom and Fire Flower make a welcome appearance but one key new item is the cape which allows Mario to fly and glide. In terms of new features you may notice on screen that at the top in the centre is a box that allows you to store a power-up such a mushroom, so that if you get hit it automatically releases or you can in fact release it manually at any time. Another new feature within the game is the ability for Mario to spin jump that helps break boxes on the ground and can kill enemies such as Koopa Troopas immediately.
Upon booting up the game you’re treated to cheerful upbeat music which is not recycled from previous Mario games, and the option to select one of three file saves. Although this has been used in Zelda games back on the NES, the fact that on a Mario game you can have three different save files is a nice aspect and means more than one person can get involved with the adventure. After each level the game saves so you can pick up from where you left off should you need to do other things than play video games (though who would do such a thing is anyone’s guess). After starting the game you’re treated to the opening un-skippable scene that welcomes you to Dinosaur Land and that Princess Toadstool is missing again (goddamn it! – Ed) and looks like Bowser had something to do with it, as big a surprise as any in a Mario game. After this, you get to pick the level you want to start with and away you go, with that familiar song playing in the background.
It is awesome to hear that music, and throughout the various stages you come across even more wonderful music tracks, none of which were used in previous Mario games but very recognisable even if you hadn’t played the game before and music that does indeed get stuck in your head long after you have finished your play session. In terms of graphics, the game was released in 1990 so although it doesn’t seem like the game took full advantage of what the SNES hardware could produce and output, the game looks more refined to its early predecessors with bright visuals, clear graphics and designs that when released in 1990 were of high quality. If you look back at say Super Mario Bros from 1985 to Super Mario Bros 3 the difference in graphical quality was apparent, which makes one wonder what the game may have looked like had it been released later in the SNES lifecycle. However, it is important not to dwell on such trivialities as the game looks resplendent as it is.
So all in all, with its enhanced graphics, its memorable music and tight controls, is Super Mario World as amazing as people say it is, and is worthy of such praise after nearly 30 years? Well…..yes and no really.
As noted previously, the music is very memorable, the graphics do look good and the level design is also impressive and elegant. However, if the question was is it the most definitive Mario title I would have to respectfully disagree and say that Mario 64 would be the title to be the most definitive. Yes Super Mario World introduced Yoshi and the cape power-up that adds an exciting feature to the platforming world and toe-tapping music and 96 levels (crikey – Ed). But at its core is a platforming game that although done well, didn’t push the boundaries that something like Mario 64 did. It isn’t a question that Mario 64 had more powerful hardware or pushed Mario into 3D gaming, it just brought new aspects to the table that reinvented the franchise and didn’t let it become stale. The passage of time though and the hype surrounding the game in effect may be its own worst enemy when it comes to playing the game for the first time. Having played the game for a number of hours, I really wanted to love this game and share the same views that countless people prior to myself have had.
But if we are being honest here, as honest as at the start when I said that I was a Mega Drive and not a SNES person, then as much as I liked Super Mario World and rate the music and graphics, it is with a heavy heart I didn’t love the game. Super Mario World is as good a platformer as something like Super Mario 3 and has a lot going for it but at its core, is a 2D platformer where Mario has to rescue the princess which is something difficult to forget along the way. The difficulty of Super Mario World can be intense at times and the latter stages of the game finding the secret exits can prove to be troublesome. But if you have the time and patience to put into game and not get on board that hype train, you will find one of the best platforming games of the 16-bit era and a game that really did build upon the legacy of the NES Mario games.
All screenshots from Moby Games