True to its name, Super Mario Advance 4: Super Mario Bros. 3 is a faithful reproduction of the original game for the Nintendo Entertainment System with a few "Advance’s" thrown in for added fun. While I have yet to document every feature addition, I will name several of the more prominent ones during the review.
Super Mario Bros. 3 was a truly fun and addictive title for the Nintendo Entertainment System. This adaptation of the game features both one- and two-player modes in both alternating and simultaneous play. During the normal game Mario and Luigi must battle through eight different worlds to save the Mushroom Kingdom from Bowser's children. You will face the entire original cast of enemies from Super Mario Bros. with several additions. For instance, in World 1: Grassland you will encounter a new kind of Hammer Brother - the Boomerang Brother - and the addition of flying Goombas, fire-breathing Piranha Plants, and Bone Koopas - the seemingly indestructible undead Koopa Troopas that plague the Fortresses. Some of these newly introduced monsters have become staples of Nintendo's Mario series - the Chain Chomp, Bob-omb, and heat-seeking Bullet Bills.
Nintendo had also seen fit to grant our dynamic duo some new abilities. Mario and Luigi can use the original Super Mushroom to become Super Mario or Super Luigi and the Fire Flower to become their fire-wielding counterparts, but those are old-hat in comparison to the new power-up items. A Super Leaf changes our intrepid adventurers into Raccoon Suit wearers that can fly short distances and float gently to the ground. A Tanooki Suit allows the heroes the same abilities as the Raccoon Suit with the added bonus of becoming an impervious statue - Statue Mario. A Hammer Suit does exactly what the name implies - turns Mario and Luigi into the "Super Hammer Bros." that can throw hammers and duck to become immune to fireballs.
The game play stays consistent throughout the game: walking, running, jumping, ducking, swimming, and flying are the required talents for the courses. The enemies are easily destroyed usually by jumping on their heads. A swipe of the Raccoon tail or a fireball will also dispatch most creatures. Quick reflexes when jumping over, through, and around various obstacles is a must. Most "puzzles" in the game simply require you to jump, fly, or throw something at the right moment. There are a few door mazes in the Fortresses, but those are thankfully few and far between. In an attempt to vary game play, Nintendo decided that certain Fortresses should contain dozens of doors with different puzzles to solve to reach the end. This seems disconnected from the rest of the game - running, jumping, etc. - and not at all like how a platform game should be played. Also, unlike the original Super Mario Bros. where the entire game could be completed without a single power-up, Super Mario Bros. 3 requires the player to obtain Super Mushrooms and Super Leaves at various points in the game. This strays slightly from the philosophy behind the original game - the only thing necessary to win is skill. In Super Mario Bros. 3, you must have skill and power-ups.
The courses and levels are varied in appearance and game mechanics, which seems to "spice up" the game a bit. For instance, in World 6: Iced World, many surfaces are covered in slippery ice making our heroes skid across them - sometimes into pits or enemies. In World 5: The Sky, many levels do not have a "floor" on which to stand. You must simply jump from cloud to cloud and floating platform to floating platform.
The game difficulty ramps up appropriately with World 1: Grasslands being fairly simple and with few puzzles to World 8: Bowser's Castle containing lava pits, cannons, bombs, mazes, laser shooting statues, and Bowser himself. A little variety in boss challenges would have been nice but not necessary. The only real difference is in the projectile it shoots and its jumping.
Now that I've covered the basics of the game, I want to point out some of the major differences I've encountered between this cartridge for the GameBoy Advance and the original cartridge for the Nintendo Entertainment System.
The first change from the original is the addition of an "Advanced" version of the arcade classic Mario Bros. Once powered-on, your GameBoy Advance will allow you to select between the two games. After playing a few rounds, I have determined that this version is the exact same one distributed with the three prior Super Mario Advance games. If you own one of those then you have already played this version of Mario Bros. You would think Nintendo would provide something other than what has already been done three times before. Though very fun and time-consuming, this feature is so unoriginal that I have lowered this cartridge's over-all score to reflect that.
Once you get into Super Mario Bros. 3 proper, you'll notice the new music, sound effects, and graphics. These seem much more refined than those found in Super Mario All-Stars for the Super NES and way beyond what was available on the original NES cartridge. Although this does not add to any game play elements, these polished bits add to the depth of the game creating a more enjoyable experience. I don't think I was truly impressed, though, until I ventured into the final "tank" level of Bowser's Castle. The background image was of the castle walls with a thick fog surrounding them. No longer was I in a random "tank" level. I was now storming the walls of Bowser's Castle.
Throughout the initial play of the game I noticed some small changes to the mini-games. When entering Toad's Hut, the player no longer has to wait for Toad to finish speaking before selecting a treasure chest. Although this is fairly trivial, I remember being mildly annoyed by this when playing the original cartridge for NES. In the "Match-3" mini-game, entered by selecting a spinning spade icon on the map, matching three pictures upgrades the remaining spade icons to heart icons. There is now a chance for a 7-up with a Super Mushroom, Starman, and Super Leaf. If you match three again, the remaining heart icons transform into club icons. A whopping 10-up chance is available if you match the three "3" images. A final transformation brings you to a diamond icon that only has Fire Flowers. You cannot lose - thus netting you an additional 3-up. Toad's Hidden Huts are in the same locations and are unlocked via the same coin collection methods as in the original game. Also, the "Memory" game where you match two cards includes the same patterns as the original NES game. So those of you who were proficient then will be able to conquer the mini-game in one try - just like the old days.
Once you've actually beaten the game, you are able to peruse the worlds at will through a special "warp" screen. You may attempt any level at any time at this point. You can also visit special Toad Huts to obtain Tanooki Suits, Hammer Suits, and Frog Suits to go back and play your favorite levels with special abilities unavailable to you in the first run. Going back through the levels comes in handy for obtaining five special score stars. For every 1,000,000 points scored by the player, a star is added to the title at the game selection screen. You can obtain up to five stars. (Note: I have only completed the game through a "Perfect Clear" - that is having defeated every level of every world. I do not know if this special feature is available without performing this feat.)
If you purchase an e-Reader (sold separately) for your GameBoy Advance and you have a spare GameBoy Advance and Link Cable then you can collect various cards that provide you with special abilities, new levels, and demonstrations of levels by the professionals. Some of the cards add game play elements found in Super Mario World such as the ability to have enemies leave behind coins when destroyed with a fireball. There are several never-before-seen levels that can be added with these cards, and you can use some cards to instantly provide Mario or Luigi with a special suit or a 1-up. The addition of Super Mario World elements is welcome, as it enhances game play slightly (as with the use of the Feather to make Cape Mario) or simply shakes things up a bit. However, the price of the e-Reader and owning a separate GameBoy Advance, the limited number of games that support it, and the difficulty in obtaining e-Reader cards make this a little too unrealistic for the average gamer.
Also, if you insert your Super Mario Advance 4: Super Mario Bros. 3 cartridge into a GameBoy Player for Nintendo GameCube you may take advantage of the GameCube controller's "rumble" feature. I already disable "rumble" for almost every game I play because I find it distracting and uncomfortable, but some players may enjoy the added "depth" that this provides the game.
A final and very important outstanding feature is the ability to save your progress to the cartridge. Every time you clear a fortress, airship, warship, or tank the game prompts you to save your progress to continue later as many times as you'd like. I specify "as many times" because if you save your game on the world map or in a non-boss level then you may only continue from the save a single time. This prevents a player from using the save feature to continuously try to get perfect on a particular level or to make a complete run-through using the Hammer Suit (unless you're insanely good and don't get hit).
Overall, this game has brought back fond memories of playing on my NES with friends and family. For that experience alone, it is worthy of my attention. However, if you have never played the original Super Mario Bros. 3, are not a fan of platform-style gaming, or just have something against Mario and Luigi then this game is not for you. For everyone else, I recommend purchasing it at your nearest used video game dealer or wait for Nintendo to lower the MSRP to around $14.99. The current price of $29.99 MSRP is too high for a game that has had no original game play added in over ten years.
(c) 2004 Dustin D. Cook
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