Guest Blog by Todd @The Top Loader
The name Mario in this day and age is common place. You see him everywhere, kids clothes, hats, toys. In a world full of Grand Theft Auto's and Rockstar Games, he is a modern day Retro Pimp, and he deservingly flaunts his star power all over town. But back in my day, oh man I didn't just say that did I? Well I am getting older, but you know what so is Mario just in a different way.
Back in my day Mario - he was was a high flyer even before he reached the great heights of Super Mario 3. Mario was his name and platforming perfection was his game, and by the time Super Mario World hit the shelves he was already well known amongst us kids for his perfect gaming formula.
Super Mario World; a classic game in this day and age. Released in Japan in late 1990 playing it these days I know every secret, every hidden key and have a good read on the many hidden warp pipes in any given level. There is nothing new to experience, yet I still play this game decades after its initial release. At least once a year. I could play this game blind folded, and die multiple times but without the blind fold I could easily fly through this game (even without the cape). With 96 ways to exit all of the levels (and not the 96 levels the back of the box would mistakenly tell you).
With a world so vast, bright and colourful. Everything on screen feels so alive. With each area interlacing so seamlessly with one another, and surrounded by the best level selection Hub I have seen in any game. It was exciting, mysterious and it just felt fun. I will never forget walking into the Forest of Illusion for the first time and having no idea where I was about to end up.. as on the surface it seemed to have no path to follow. I still make a smirk remembering back to my 11 year old self trying to work out how to get out of the area. I truly felt lost in the woods walking around in one big circle as the main path forged itself into a circle (if you finished the levels in the normal fashion). The game forced you to think outside that linear box of normal straight forward thinking of merely getting to the end pole, which is what we were all used to in previous Mario games. The key here was to find the keys which in turn unlocked the hidden paths and to find your way out of the area. And If you had managed to go that far into game without finding any keys by this point it would turn out to be even more confusing for you. Completing the levels and then finally the Castles would make for more major changes as you would watch the World change its landscape right before your eyes, and in in many ways Super Mario World changed the gaming landscape for Platformers forever.
I first heard of Mario during the later eighties because incase you haven't guessed - I'm an eighties child. Born in 1982, I grew up in a world relatively new to gaming. Yeh you all know - No internet, and never knowing what was in the pipe line (pardon the pun but it was a given). Younger generations must be sick of the No Internet phrase us older generation of gamers constantly harp on about, but hey it's said for good reason. We never knew what we were about to get or what would be released on any given day. Sometimes less truly is more and nothing was ever spoiled early. It truly was an exciting time. Information on games were usually heard in the school yard (gaming magazines were few and far between) and discussions amongst all the other kids was a collaborative process - of sharing information we had collected - with each other, in a world before social media. Arguments would naturally happen on the occasion, usually came down to who was cooler - Mario or Sonic .. but really as we all know now >> it was more about if you preferred Nintendo or Sega.
Super Mario 3 for the time was - state of the art - and surprisingly it didn't take long for Nintendo to release its spiritual successor - Super Mario World. These two games are always constantly compared to one another in the gaming communities due to the obvious similarities. Consider the similarities of the world map special power ups along with the Ghost Houses oh and don't forget those Koopalings. With all of these elements present in both games it certainly can be easy to see when put side by side why these games are always both seen sharing the same spot light. Taking the best elements of Super Mario 3, Nintendo amplified them in this brand new World. Power ups in this game were dwindled down to only a few, which was OK with me since I found myself only ever using the cape... and to be honest I only ever
found myself using only a few in the previous game. Learning to fly without any wings sure was hard at first, but with a little practice and lots of patience of getting the correct rhythm of pressing - left to right and then left again kinda like learning to cross the road but on a D-pad. That sensation of finally working it out has never left me as I can still glide and swoop through levels the same way I did 20 years ago with ease. The cape actually has never been used again in a Mario platforming game (save for Mario Maker). Sure he could fly in other later games like Mario 64 and New Super Mario Wii. Personally, it never felt as good as his cape and felt jut a little bit empty in comparison.
Super Mario World and its predecessor may have many obvious similarities, and in retrospect Super Mario 3 may stand tall on the same podium as Super Mario World. But there is one extra additon to the family that separates it from any other Mario game before it. From Miyamoto's mind he dropped an egg .. and the creation of the single best addition to any game formula that I have ever seen was born. Yoshi.
That's all I have to say but I will actually say more - it just sounded more dramatic that way. This game was released as the fourth game in the Mario franchise and nobody could of predicted the master stroke added to the already exceptional core game play, and all that came about in the shape one little green pixelated dinosaur and sometimes blue, red and yellow depending of the type of Yoshi you have. Landing on anyone of these coloured Yoshi's back instantly enables you to stretch out his overly long tongue to scoop up some enemies that are placed in your way.. or to enable other abilities like Fire, Flying and Foot Stomping you know - the three F's forget the three R's kids, this is the school of Mario.
Nintendo cleverly coloured coded these abilities depending on the unique colour of shells you swallow, or the type of Yoshi that you are riding. What makes Yoshi special (and constantly sort after during game play) is that he acts as a safe guard to enemies if you do get hit, similar to how the sonic rings make you safe for that little bit longer. Yoshi, Mario and the cape together as one create the ultimate combination of power that make you feel temporarily invincible, and is so well balanced that even if you lose one the elements it still feels fair and warranted. It even gives you a chance to chase down Yoshi when hit to regain the power - if your fast enough. I can only assume this is the reason why there are less Power-Up items this time round as Yoshi comes across feeling as the honourary 4th Power-Up of the game. Yep, he's unofficially official in my books. He feels so natural here that it's easy to forget he wasn't in any Mario games before this one .. but what's actually even harder to believe is that it took till the release of New Super Mario Wii before Yoshi got his long awaited (and deserved) come back from the brink of extinction OK, enough with the puns pal.
In The original Mario games on the NES there obviously was no Yoshi to be seen, heard - or any kind of joy riding to beats of some surprisingly catchy drums to be had. The addition of Yoshi is reason enough for it to be a better game than the often celebrated Super Mario 3. But Mario World added more than just a Yoshi and its colour coded schemes. It also introduced hidden Star Roads with integrated mini paths that made you play connect the red dots to form a star shaped world - Star World. Yep, you guessed it... or .. you didn't << one of the two I guess. These levels were more puzzle themed where you had to work out the secrets within the secret levels.. which in turn unlocked the - final ultra hard hidden stretch of special levels (they sure hid alot in this game), no wonder the back of the box got confused with its level count. I'm surprised they didn't hide the games on the shelves at the stores too.
The final stretch of special levels sure was hard for me as an 11 year old. But what it did was teach me to be patient (huh good luck) and learn what you are playing to be a better player. Learning the levels with memorization in mind was satisfying and unforgettable once finally beaten within the natural progression and understanding of working out each level. The more times I played them, the easier they became as I worked them out. Certain games or levels you come across in life can sometimes seem hard at first (or impossible), but quite often they are not ashard as you might originally think. See games that seem "hard" aren't actually hard, and just like the Forest of illusion they just need to be worked out.. the path may not
always be clear but if you look close enough it is there. Super Mario World taught me that since it was the first game I ever completed with it's 100% ratio, or Blue 96 in this games Yellow case (or if you a living in a NTSC's house of origin it would be a - 96 with star but my Australian, European mirrored version has Blue 96).
Mario was the hero in that pre polygon world of my early school days - and taking this world buy storm. In my country of origin - Australia - we got the Nintendo consoles later than most. I grew up with the Atari branded consoles and commodore 64 (with all those floppy discs), and as the stream of cartridge based consoles came out Nintendo was always associated with Mario. When you thought of Nintendo , .. Mario always came instantly to mind. Nintendo in Australia at the time of the late eighties/early nineties were not as dominant compared to what other larger commercially valued players were doing at the time. I never knew this until years later when the internet told me how the very popular Sega Master System was not so very popular globally like I always assumed it was. Here in the land down under Sega's little 8bit machine was equally (if not more) popular than the now classic NES hard to believe but true. Even Alex Kidd - who was a big name player when it came to computer game mascots.. fell short of mass popularity compared to Mario. He was a rising star and not the type of star that you would collect in one of many of his games. No not that kind.
Super Mario World still shines bright today, and sits proudly on my shelf encased in an acrylic plastic box. It's hard to believe a game of this quality was released as one of the Super Nintendo launch titles. Let me ask you - How many games that come out on first day release are still talked about decades later? Which then of corse begs the question Does my favourite game of all time have flaws? Yes of course! I'm sure it has at least one flaw in all that coding, I'm sure of it (maybe it's hidden with another key). It doesn't have to sit at the top of any all time best games - count downs on youtube because to me, it is a masterpiece and that's what counts. I don't come back to every game in my collection as often as this game, because this game has legs, short fast running legs, and just like Mario I do not see him slowing down any time soon because he sure does know how to shoot for the stars, and in the end you truly do come out feeling like. You are a super player.
Guest Blog: @Tod McDonnell
Retro Game Reviews. Mega Drive, Super Nintendo, Sega Dreamcast and more
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