Super Mario Advance 2: Super Mario World review
It's A Super Port Indeed
Ah Mario, your platforming gems are so often precisely that. After storming the NES with three SMB games, the plumber brothers returned onto the SNES with Super Mario World. It's no secret that the game was extremely well received and an excellent example of how to do 2D platforming. After the odd decision to port SMB2 for the first Advance Mario title, Nintendo decided that gamers on the go should get a taste of this SNES classic for the second outing. Yes, this game is still awesome and I'm here to tell you why.
The story is pretty typical of Mario games, where the princess has gone and gotten herself kidnapped again, which is why Mario and Luigi now have to run all over the place trying to find her. If you're looking for surprises or plot twists you'll find none here. But then this is a Mario platformer. You knew that already.
The game looks pretty good on the handheld. The various locations you visit all have their own charm whether it's lava filled caverns, serene green landscapes or ghost infested houses. The elements used in constructing these levels work well together to create visually appealing stages for the player to enjoy as they busy themselves with sending koopa shells flying. Character sprites in the game are fairly well defined and the animation is pretty solid for the different things happening on-screen. Powerup items also appear to look great as well with some nice little effects like the cape curling up in flight.
As for the music, it's the chirpy enjoyable kind of tunes a Mario game can be proud of. The team have matched up each track with a given location very well, so when you're in that haunted house the music playing reflects the mood accurately. Sound effects are good as well, giving you the bleeps and bloops of the Mario world to go hand in hand with the action.
The classic Mario formula is here and pretty much intact. You're tasked with entering level after level and must find your way to the goal to move on to the next. Unlike the original Super Mario World, you can freely choose between Mario or Luigi and there are slight differences in the way they play. Only slight, as all their abilities are pretty much the same. Jumping is going to be the main thing to use, as you spring into the air to clear gaps, ascend steps made of blocks or to crash down on enemies. The plumbers control very well in this regard, demonstrating an excellent level of responsiveness.
Powerups return in this game too. Super mushrooms that effectively give you a bit more power and a free hit and fire flowers that let you throw fireballs at enemies are here and act as they did in SMB3. The cape feather is an interesting modification of the raccoon leaf, bearing the same spin attack of the latter while altering the flying mechanics to be trickier but awesome. A clever system in the game allows you to "store" one powerup in reserve, allowing you to drop it into a level at any time, serving as a handy backup in case things go wrong.
Mario brings a few other abilities and goodies with him too to help. A different kind of spin attack that causes him to jump and effectively drill kick onto whatever he lands on is a cool addition that can be used for defeating certain enemies and ploughing through certain obstacles. Then there are the Yoshis of the island. By finding an egg and hatching it, players can ride these friendly dinosaurs and use their abilities. All Yoshis can swallow certain items and enemies. In addition, certain items and/or colour Yoshis grant access to powers like spitting fireballs or flight. Suffice to say, using them is a lot of fun that brings a new dynamic in how you approach some level challenges. Sadly a few areas force you to abandon them, like where you're forced to climb a vine or some areas simply deny them altogether, but usually you can use them in most areas.
The level design itself is fantastic. A lot of the challenge naturally stems from clearing the obstacles set in your path whether it's a series of gaps to test your acrobatic skills, navigating an underwater labyrinth defeating the clearly hostile sealife or nimbly dodging past the lethal traps of the castle in a given region. Enemies in the game comes in all shapes and sizes and present a very suitable enemy force to content with. Some will be simple to deal with, like the iconic koopas whose shells you can launch at others, while others will prove to be a lot more tricky like the ones wearing American football outfits who can withstand a simple stomp to the head. Sadly, the bosses aren't quite as unique as they were in Super Mario Bros 2 but they still provide a nice challenge with some interesting arena setups.
Some levels even opt for a more puzzle/exploration element, requiring a bit of thinking and looking around in order to safely reach the exit. As well as this you can find hidden secrets and extra paths scattered around a fair bit. As part of this are two notable aspects. The Yoshi coin hunt returns in this game, where players can search around for these special coins hidden in every level for lives or just for fun. This hunt is a bit easier on the player than in SMA2 due to not having to use door potions to find them and gives players a lot of extra content to work through. Then there are the secret exits. Quite a few levels have a second hidden exit that usually require additional effort from players to find, often as the result of exploring the level and figuring out how to reach a certain place or how to get pass an obstacle that at first glance may seem impassible. The game also helpfully tracks what exits you've found, making this an excellent extension on the lifespan of the game.
Taking cues from SMB3, the game has an overworld map from where you access all the levels. Unlike SMB3 which split them into eight separate maps, SMW opts to have a single large map with interconnecting different areas. So even once you've reached the final area, you can easily go back to the very start of the game. Replaying levels is also a simple task, letting you have just another go at that favourite level of yours. The paths open to you depend on which exits in levels you've reached, giving you incentive to find them all in order to reveal everything the world map has to offer. All this content will make the game last a very long time and it provides a healthy challenge as well. Those looking for difficulty will be glad to know that some of the special stages will really test your skills.
Much like the first Advance Mario game, this one also includes the original Mario Bros game as an added bonus. As opposed to the scrolling levels of the main game, everything here takes place on a single screen as you're tasked with defeating the enemies that come out of the pipes. Enemies are defeated by stunning them first by striking the ground beneath them from below and then kicking them away before they recover. You'll find a decent variety of enemies to worry about, like the flies that bounce along the stage and the fireballs that try to interfere with your attempts at progressing. Difficulty increases as you move through the levels, introducing harder enemies and boosting the speed of them. Since it's always a one hit kill here the game offers a nice challenge and proves to be an excellent diversion from SMW. Multiplayer options exist for the game too, allowing up to four players to dash about having fun in defeating the enemies or even messing about with each other. Don't take it too personally when your buddy bounces off your head.
So there you have it. If you have a GBA this really should be one of the top priority games to get. Not a lot has really been changed from the original SNES release, but that shows just how well the game has stood the test of time that it can easily compare favourably to more modern platformers.
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