Super Mario Bros. 2
Release Date: October 9th, 1988
Developer: Nintendo R&D 4
Leave it up to Nintendo to go from doing a lot of developing and publishing to only having a few games a year. Super Mario Bros. 2 is the fifth Nintendo game of 1988 (Donkey Kong Classics was a compilation and World Class Track Meet was a reskin), but at least it’s a good one! Super Mario Bros. 2 is itself a reskin of the Japanese title Doki Doki Panic and brought to the US because Nintendo thought we wouldn’t be able to handle the actual Super Mario Bros. 2 (they were right).
Mario has an odd dream about another world and when he wakes up, finds the doorway to said world. Mushrooms are a hell of a drug. Mario enters the doorway and that’s where we start level one, with the player falling a great height into this world. Of course, I say the character, because you can choose one of four at the beginning of each level. Just be careful, because you’re stuck with them until you beat the level or run out of lives. Your choices are Mario, who is balanced in jumping, speed, and pulling strength. Luigi, who can jump higher than Mario, but is a bit more reckless to control. Princess Toadstool, who isn’t strong or fast, but can float for a moment after jumping. And Toad, who can’t jump well, but he’s fast and can pull things from the ground very quickly.
Each level lends itself to one of the characters, though they can be beaten by anyone. In my playthrough, I stuck with Mario in every level, except for World 2, for which I used Toad. You have to traverse from one end of the level to the eagle head that blocks your way to the next. In order to open the portal to the next level, you typically have to defeat a Birdo in order to release an orb of some sort. Other times, you have to go through a gauntlet of enemies to find it sitting in the open. I started playing by taking turns with my wife. She went straight for the level warps, but I wanted to play it straight, so when she was done, I started over.
There are tufts of grass that can be pulled in each level. These typically give you vegetables that can be thrown at enemies to remove them from your path. Certain tufts will give access to a magical potion. By throwing these on the ground, a doorway to Sub-space will appear. This is a mirrored nighttime version of the screen you’re on. Any tufts of grass appearing will allow you to pull up coins and if you’re lucky, there will be a mushroom that grants you an extra hit point. The coins are important because at the end of the level, you are given a Bonus Chance at a slot machine. You need to either match three icons for an extra life, or go for cherries to gain one, three, or five lives. Once you get the timing down, it’s possible to reliably gain three or five lives from every coin. By the end of the game I had in excess of 70 lives.
Also throughout the levels are cherries. As you pick them up both in the main level and Sub-space, you can earn Star Man powerups for each five that you consume. You can also collect large vegetables, which will allow you to earn a stopwatch on the fifth one you unearth. Small hearts will also appear as you defeat enemies, although I’m not sure if it’s a static number of kills or not. You’ll also pull up plenty of bombs from the ground, which can be used to blow up walls to proceed in the level. Enemies are much more varied this time around with twenty-four non-boss monsters.
Worlds one through six have three levels each. The third level is punctuated with a boss fight. The Mousers throw bombs at you, which you must catch and throw back. Tryclyde and Fryguy both require you to pickup mushroom blocks and throw them at the enemy multiple times while avoiding their projectiles. Clawgrip throws rocks at you, which must be caught and returned, as well.
World seven is the last world and only has two levels. The final boss there is Wart, who created all the monsters in the world Mario and friends are now visiting. He hates vegetables, so you have to feed them to him in order to save the day. If you stuff him full enough, he croaks and you save the dream world!
The graphics and animations are good, but they end up being very fuzzy in certain situations.
Plenty of well-known Mario music comes from Super Mario 2. They aren’t the best in the world and I hear some recycled sound effects from Zelda, but it’s done well.
I actually get more frustrated about floaty movement than others probably do. If it wasn’t for learning I could time the slot machine, I probably would have gotten angry.
Some levels are downright hard if you try to play fancy and fast. If you slow down and move deliberately, it’s not that bad.
Fun Factor: 3.5
I had fun when taking turns with my wife, then I had to get through the damn thing for my own benefit.
Overall Grade: 3.1
Super Mario Bros. 2 earns a B. I don’t think this is one of the best NES games, but it is certainly a solid one. Definitely play it if you have a chance.