An uninspired port saved only by the admittedly cool E-Reader support.
October 29, 2003 - Overshadowed by the re-releases of Super Mario World and Yoshi’s Island, Nintendo has finally ported Super Mario Bros. 3 (also known as Super Mario Advance 4) to the Gameboy. But is this nearly fifteen-year-old game worthy of praise? Maybe, maybe not.
Taken at face value, Super Mario Bros. 3 is one of the most uninspired ports ever to grace a video game system. Those who have played Super Mario All-Stars on the Super Nintendo will notice that little has changed, both graphically and audibly, in the game’s conversion to the handheld. The only obvious differences between the two are the inclusion of voice work for the Mario Brothers, a new “floaty” jump for Luigi (popularized in Super Mario Bros. 2), and a new opening sequence revealing how the trouble erupted in the Mushroom World in the first place.
Along with these changes, gamers with keen eyes and memories will notice a few other subtle changes throughout the game. For instance, the Boos (ghost-like creatures) now cackle mischievously as they follow Mario and Luigi through their lairs, a trap door now closes behind the player when facing the Boom-Boom mini-bosses, and the nice, hand-drawn close-up of Mario (or Luigi) and Toad in the card game sequences have been replaced by less effective in-game graphics. Players will also find that the ending has been sadly altered, as the cute joke Princess Peach plays on Mario has now been replaced with more regal (if more appropriate) dialogue.
What this means, of course, is that people who have already played the game hundreds of times have little to look forward to in this version. The game itself is a classic, and still plays well today, but veteran Super Mario Bros. 3 players have little reason the get excited.
That is, of course, if they do not own Nintendo’s E-Reader device and a second Gameboy. This gadget redeems the title, and reveals that Nintendo can still be creative when they want to be.
Nintendo intends to release various sets of e-cards in packs of eighteen that players can purchase for $5.99 (suggested retail price) a pack. Each set contains five demo cards, five level cards, and five power-up cards. The cards are swiped through the E-reader on one Gameboy, which then transfers the data through a link cable to the Super Mario Bros. 3 game pack inside the second Gameboy. For example, a scanned demo card will allow the player to view a replay of an expert at Nintendo playing a certain level, usually to learn a secret or trick.
The power-up cards are especially interesting, as they allow the player to scan in some of the best power-ups in the game whenever they want (like the rare Hammer Bros. Suit). Better yet, some of these items are borrowed from other Mario games, such as the feather from Super Mario World and the vegetable-throwing ability from Super Mario Bros. 2. Imagine being able to pluck and hurl veggies in every level of the main game (even boss levels), or soar through the sky and dive-bomb the ground with the cape. With the e-cards, all that and more is possible.
Most exciting of all, however, are the level cards, which actually add brand new stages to the game. Many of these new levels are even cleverer in design than the originals, and often incorporate objects and enemies from other Mario titles. One level has Mario running through a maze-like Ghost House with a giant Boo to fight at the end, while another features a run through a vegetable strewn desert, with Koopas decked-out in football gear charging in every direction. Better yet, these levels feature hidden coin challenges that, should a specific number of coin be found, will unlock special mushroom houses that hold new mini-games and items. In other words, these cards are a must have for those with the E-Reader, and those who don’t may choose to pay the stiff forty-dollar fee for one anyway, as many of these extras should not be missed.
As cool as these card packs are, though, it would be nice to see Nintendo release other types in the future. How about boss-cards that allow the player to fight special bosses not seen in the main game? Or better yet, character cards that allow gamers to play the game as other people? Being able to play the game as the graceful Princess Peach or the plucky Toad would indeed be fun, as would playing as Yoshi and Wario. Nevertheless, additions such as these may be just a poor reviewer’s dream.
In the end, Super Mario Bros. 3: Super Mario Advance 4 is both a failure and a success. Taken as a solitary game with no E-Reader support, it is an admittedly underwhelming port of an old game. But when the E-Reader is added to the mix, the game recaptures the spirit that made it such a hit almost fifteen years ago – innovative level designs and clever power-ups that no one had experienced up to that time. With the E-Reader cards, players can experience the fun all over again.