What’s up, everyone, Mike here with another visit to the Videogame Shoebox and this week, we’re going to take a look at one of my favourite games to have come out on the original Nintendo Entertainment System or NES. There’s a lot of great games on the NES that I love but for now we’re just going to concentrate on the one and only, Super Mario Bros 2.
I say one and only because in the Mario series of games there really has been nothing quite like it ever since. Other games in the franchise have tended to stick to the traditional Mario traits of running sideways, jumping on bad guy’s heads to kill them and collecting coins and mushrooms but this game decided to ignore most of that stuff and what it did keep, it changed.
For starters, you can choose your character! Before every level Mario, Luigi, Toad and Princess Peach are all options and they each have different attributes such as Luigi’s wiggly-legged extra high jumps and Peach can even hover in the air for a short time. For the most part you can get through the game by just picking one and sticking with them but some secret areas and warp zones are much easier to get to with some of the other abilities.
“That’s not too crazy, Mike” I hear you say. Well how about the fact that this game has a health system? Heart containers which deplete when you get hit and fill up when you collect hearts from defeating multiple baddies. Not to mention you can sometimes find magic potions and when you throw them on the ground a frickin’ door appears and when you go through it, you’re in a dark version of the screen you was just on AND if you put the door down in the right place there will be a mushroom that you can collect and that will add an extra heart container!
Coins can only be collected in the dark world and you will NEVER collect 100 for an extra life as they serve a different purpose. When you reach the end of a level any coins you’ve found act as tokens in a weird one-armed-bandit pokie machine and when you win you get extra lives.
By the way, there are no goombas. This did act as the introduction of the Shyguys, though! You have to pull vegetables out of the ground and chuck them at enemies to defeat them and jumping on their heads does nothing. You can even pick enemies up and throw them at each other.
Oh! And this is not the Mushroom Kingdom.
“Blasphemy!” I can feel you exclaim. “What possible explanation is there for all of these changes?!”
It’s really quite simple, this was not developed as a Mario game.
Ok, here we go. Grab a drink or a snack and get comfortable because this is going to be a bit of a history lesson.
Super Mario Bros 2 was released in Japan for the Famicom Disk System in 1986. Following the success of the Super Mario Bros 1, this second game was very similar to the first albeit with a more advanced engine providing weather systems and more complex platforming which resulted in a much harder game.
The huge video games industry crash of 1983 hand’t really affected Japan and plenty of games were still developed and released during those years. Meanwhile, however, the NES, which is basically the international version of the Famicom had been delayed for years until the industry was recovering in the rest of the world.
Not wanting their increasingly popular series to be known for frustration and therefore inaccessibility in a market that was just barely recovering internationally, nor to be stylistically outdated by time localisation and conversion to the worldwide format would be completed, Nintendo refused to release the game outside of Japan and instead requested a newer, friendlier Super Mario Bros sequel for non-Japanese gamers.
That game would turn out to be what we received and know as Super Mario Bros 2.
It started as a prototype called Yuen Kojo: Doki Doki Panic which was only minimally altered to create our favourite vegetable chucking platformer and Super Mario Bros 2 as we know it was eventually released in Japan as Super Mario USA.
The Japanese version would also eventually get released worldwide as Super Mario Bros: The Lost Levels. It was included as part of Super Mario All-Stars, a complation cartridge of Super Mario 1, both 2’s and 3 for Super Nintendo. Later versions would also include Super Mario World which I’m sure the Shoebox will get to one day!
Super Mario Bros 2 will forever one of those games with an interesting development story and the unfortunate task of being developed for a world that was recovering from a crash of an entire industry. Judging by the fact that Mario still exists to this day despite that fact that games starring the moustachioed jumper are fewer and farther between, something in those early days must have been done right and Super Mario Bros 2, or Super Mario USA, is definitely done right.
That’s it for this visit to the Videogame Shoebox, join me next time when I’ll be dusting off some more cartridges. Be sure to let me know in the comments or on Twitter @MikeNotridge any games that you’d like to see get a retro-regression-session on here.
I’ve been Mike Notridge, and I will see you, next time.
What’s in your Videogame Shoebox?