Title: Super Mario Bros.
Platform: Nintendo 3DS
Game Type: Virtual Console (NES)
NA Availability: Digital
EU Availability: Digital
Block Usage: 45
Do any of you remember your very first video game? I’m not talking just the first game you bought with your own money, or the first game you played on your first handheld, but your true introduction to the gaming world. The very first video game you ever played in your life, be it that old lunar rover game on Macintosh computers or the original pong.
I remember my very first game, because it was two-games in one. My first console was the Nintendo Entertainment System, and the game it came with was the double-pack of Super Mario Bros. and Duck Hunt. I spent endless hours learning and playing the original Super Mario Bros when I was small. Learning secrets, mastering levels, and all around just enjoying what the game had to offer. Of course, I didn’t think much of it then, since I was only around 5 or 6 years old.
There’s something special about revisiting your very first game all over again, which I did this week. Once I started getting some income again, I decided to start July’s month off with a retro review of the very first video game I ever played. Available on the Virtual Console section of the eShop, here is my retro review of Super Mario Bros!
We all went through this disappointment for 7 worlds straight
In the original Super Mario Bros, you realize that the story hasn’t changed all that much in the past 20-30 years. The Mushroom kingdom gets invaded and the princess kidnapped. It’s a typical Mario plotline. Princess Peach is kidnapped and you have to go rescue her from Bowser’s Castle. Except in the original, you have to travel through 8 different castles to find her, each one hopeful for being the one she’s in.
As all of you old-school gamers know, the plot is never explained to you in the game. However, if you check the booklet/manual built into the Virtual Console release, it will detail all of this for you. It was a nice little add-on for a time when few if any games even had storylines to go along with their gameplay.
The satisfaction of stomping your first Goomba
The original Super Mario Bros is a 2D side-scrolling platformer with very mild combat elements thrown into the mix. Unlike the newer games, there isn’t a big focus on combat in the original game. 90% of what you’ll be doing is platforming and avoiding enemies, rather than fighting them.
The progression of the game is through stages, one after another, each in specific worlds. The game has 8 worlds for you to go through and 4 stages in each. You have 3 stages that are comprised of outside, underground, and underwater areas, and the 4th stage of each world houses a castle and boss fight against Bowser.
Most of the Mario elements you know started here. You can jump and stomp on enemies in your path and break blocks by jumping up into them, which will either break, offer coins for your score, or offer power-ups in the form of Mushrooms to make you grow into an Adult form, Flower to give you the fireball ability, or Green Mushrooms to give you an extra life. These are all the means of helping you in your quest to reach the end of the level in the form of a flagpole that moves you to the next level.
Dodging fireballs was the only hazard about Bowser back in 1987
The main task you have to fight against in the game aside from the platforming is the time limitation. You have 400 seconds to finish each level. That’s about 6 minutes, give or take. Most of the levels can be passed easily within 2-3 minutes, but others that have puzzle elements can take longer. Even though Virtual Console offers restore points, it’s best to watch your time, especially in the castles.
In all honesty, despite the fact that the game is almost 30 years old for us in the West, the gameplay still holds up fairly well. The controls don’t feel too tight or restricting. While some of the platforming sections can require very specific timing, compared to some other hard-as-nails NES games, Super Mario Bros was and still is very friendly to casual and hardcore gamers alike.
Everyone’s favorite in-game cheat of skipping worlds
Part of this is how much you can exploit the game’s secrets. There are secret blocks and paths all over the game. Some of these can give you extra points or lives, while others will allow you to skip large portions of the game. World 1-2, for example, has a hidden room that lets you warp instantly to Worlds 2, 3, or 4. By knowing where these are, you can effectively only visit 2 or 3 worlds by the time you finish the game, instead of all 8.
What I will say is that you shouldn’t expect a long trek. There are 4 levels per world, meaning the game only has 32 levels to trek through, assuming you don’t use the warp zones. Each level will take you an average of 2-3 minutes to complete, so we are only looking at 1-2 hours of game time. This wasn’t uncommon back and then, and I can let that slide since the game only costs $4.99.
The controls aren’t hard, since the NES only had a few buttons on its controller. When you play on the 3DS or 2DS, you can use the D-Pad or Circle Pad to be able to move around the stages. Then we have the A button for jumping and the B or X button for running and launching fireballs.
The only other control you have to worry about is for switching controllers. If you choose to do a 2-player game with a friend or would just rather play as Luigi, you can hold the L and R triggers to pull up the Controller Function of the Virtual Console screen. Tapping Y here will switch controllers between 1 and 2. You cannot control Luigi unless you do this.
The Goomba with half a head was just the tip of the iceberg for these random graphical glitches
Visually, the game is just as smoothly pixel-like as it was back in 1987. The emulation on Virtual Console does a good job of recreating this, but there are a couple mishaps to be talked about with the presentation in general.
The first issue is with the visuals. In many areas, enemies will glitch and start to fade, disappear from view, and flicker back in. This isn’t just a random occurrence either. It is always the same enemies that do it at the same time. I made a restore point before one of these occurrences and all 10 times I loaded it, the same enemies glitched in the same way.
The second issue is with the audio, though this could also be an issue with the original game. The music distorts frequently when sound effects play in the game. I’ve had many cases where I would be collecting coins and suddenly the sound would heavily distort and the music sounds like it’s having a hard time trying to play.
The rest of the presentation is fine. There aren’t any other issues with how the game performs. Just the two issues with the flickering enemies and the distorted background music.
Super Mario Bros. is something that will always be a part of my gaming history. While the Virtual Console port does have a couple issues with sprite flickering and music distortion, this is still a fun platformer, whether you’re someone who grew up with it or are a new gamer looking to learn about how Mario first began.