Mario Monday - Mario Brothers

Monday, February 02, 2009

Again, I apologize for missing this last week, but it's back now to get your Monday off on the right foot!

Today we take a look at Mario's third appearance in the arcades, as well as the introduction to Mario's brother Luigi. The game of course is the appropriately named Mario Brothers.

Mario Brothers was the first time that Mario was referred to as a plumber and the new job description fit well in the game. In Mario Brothers Mario must rid the playing field of baddies they enter and exit the four pipes on the screen. Get it? The plumber has to clean the pipes. Zing!

This was the first time that Mario faced enemies that would later become recurring characters, such as the turtle (who would develop into the infamous Koopa Troopa). Of course the fireball makes a return from Donkey Kong, although with a new attack and role. Instead of being the primary obstacle the fireball appears at random and floats across the screen and dissappears. Fireballs of course would remain in the Mario games for years to come.

This is one of the few Mario games without a big boss. Where Donkey Kong was the arch nemesis in the first arcade game (Mario was the nemesis in the sequel), King Koopa would later become the main bad guy later on. In Mario Brothers the foe was stamina. How many boards could you clear? How many points could you rack up? How many coins could you collect? Could you outperform player two, playing as Luigi?

For the first time in Mario's history player two had a unique character to play as, Luigi. Luigi was nothing more than a color palette swap of Mario. Originally his mechanics and physics were an exact replica of Mario's. Nowadays Luigi tends to be a higher jumper and a slower stopper when running. Not the case in 1983. Luigi's character would develop in future years. So would Mario's attack abilities.

Stomping the bad guys and hurling fireballs was not an option yet. While in Donkey Kong the only way to take out a firey barrel was with a hammer, the only way to knock out bad guys in Mario Brothers was from below. The way to kill the enemies was by hitting the floor they walked on from below. This technique would carry over to Super Mario Brothers but in Mario Brothers this was the standard. Mario and Luigi would have to hit the ground from below and then run up and kick the belly up enemines. What was difficult was the crabs...or lobsters. They required two hits from below before being vulnerable. One hit would simply anger them and make them run faster, presenting a higher level of difficulty.

Also introduced in Mario Brothers was the POW block. Too many the POW block was first used in the American version of Super Mario Brothers 2, where you would pick it up and throw it on the ground, defeating all enemies on the screen. In its debut in Mario Brothers the POW block would stand in the air towards the bottom of the screen, where Mario would have to hit it from below to cause an earthquake and startling all the bad guys, sending them on their backs. It could also be used three times. I rarely used the POW block for its intended purpose. Instead I would use it as an emergency platform, keeping me safe from numerous roaming bad guys if things got too hectic for me.

The game also was one of the first games to utilize a real song as part of its soundtrack. Not that Mario Brothers had much of a soundtrack to offer but it did feature intro music using Mozart's Eine kleine Nachtmusik. I am sure Mozart would be flattered to know his classical piece was incorporated into a quarter sucking arcade machine.

As with all early arcade games Mario Brothers was ported to the early home video game systems with mixed success. As it was 1983 at the time of the arcade release the video game consoles were catching up with their ability to port arcade games, but it was far from perfect of course.

First, how about a retro commercial for the Atari port of Mario Brothers. It is interesting to see that even from the early stages of Luigi's character he was known to be a wussier version of Mario...

Luigi has not changed much has he?

And bring on the various ports!

Atari 2600

Atari 800 XL

Of course the NES version was the finest port of the arcade game, although even that was not perfect. Some of the music came out nicer on the ears than the arcade version but it was still missing something during the game play.

Mario Brothers has never gone away though. It made an appearance in Super Mario Brothers 3 in which it was slightly modified to battle mode of sorts. I got a kick out of stealing my sister's Star cards using this mode and taking her turn as a result. It has also been a staple in the Super Mario Advance series for Nintendo Game Boy Advance in which up to four players can play off of one cartridge.

Perhaps the least known version of the game came on Nintendo's most notable failure in the gaming industry, the Virtual Boy. Imagine Mario Brothers in a 3D environment and imagine you are viewing it through red tinted glasses. You get this...

Commercial for Mario Clash on Virtual Boy

Mario Brothers is not a pretty game but it is solid platforming arcade action at some of its finest. It is often compared to Joust as the premise and the play control is similar. I would imagine that if Mario Brothers was made today it would be more like Joust, using a flying Yoshi as Mario's mode of transportation. You heard that idea here first!

Next week's edition takes a look at Mario's biggest industry changing adventure. It should be no surprise to anyone what game that may be.

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