Mario Monday - Super Mario Brothers

Monday, March 09, 2009

It's baaaaaaaack!

Today we take a look at Mario's first big adventure, a game that would change the way video games would be played forever. With Super Mario Brothers, Mario did not just save the Princess. He saved an industry.

With the video game industry crumbling to its knees in the early to mid 80's, due to a complete over production of gaming software and, possibly more importantly, an over production of hardware consumers were starting to question whether or not video games were worth it? Atari took the brunt of the fallout as they had produced a number of systems themselves and were competing against a few other companies for hardware sales. Consumers at the time questioned why they should buy one system that does not play all of the games on the market. After all, this was a time when the same people were figuring out whether or not to go with the VCR or Betamax.

When the video game hardware sales plummeted it would be only a matter of time before some company decided to try it again with a new approach. Nintendo stepped to the plate in North America with a U.S. version of the wildly successful Famicom in Japan. The Famicom would change its name in the United States to the Nintendo Entertainment System. For the company to have any success in America they needed to have a new plan. The first part of the plan was to market the NES as a toy instead of a computer, which was customary for early video game consoles. The second was to have a game packed with the system that keep gamers interested.

The game was Super Mario Brothers. And it was a blockbuster hit.

Super Mario Brothers is a sequel to the original Mario Brothers game, but Super Mario Brothers is vastly different from the original. Mario's attacks are improved. While he could still bop his enemies from below he could now defeat most of his foes by jumping on top of them. He also received three special powers; super power, fire power and temporary invincibility. Mario would start out the same size as his Donkey Kong form, but when touching a mushroom Mario would grow to become Super Mario. Touching a fire flower would allow Mario to hurl fire balls that would skip along the ground and wipe out most enemies that got in the way. A star would give Mario temporary invincibility, allowing him to take out any enemies that failed to avoid him.

If only Mario had had star power in his older arcade games!

With an adventure that would span thirty two vastly different stages Mario would surely meet a new cast of characters. Trusty brother Luigi returns from Mario Brothers and plays the role of an alternating player two. Instead of Mario's Donkey Kong girlfriend Pauline, the brothers are now out to rescue Princess Peach (originally named Princess Toadstool). Playing the role of big bad boss is Bowser, King of the Koopas. Bowser would go on to become the main adversary for Mario for years to come.

Mario only faces Bowser, or clones of the evil king, eight times in the thirty two stages though. The cast of baddies leading up to each level ending boss was one of the biggest of the time. For experienced Mario Brothers players the most familiar foe would be Koopa Troopa. In the original Mario Brothers Mario could not jump on top of any enemies, including the turtle. Now Mario could jump on top of Koopa Troopa, causing the second generation turtle to curl up in his shell. The shell could then be kicked by Mario, and the shell could take out more enemies in its path. The Koopa Troopa also came in two shades; red and green. The red turtles were afraid of edges and there fore were smarter than their green shelled versions. The unfortunate turtles in green shells would march in a straight line no matter what, walking off cliffs without thinking twice. The red and green Koopa Troopas also could have wings, known as Para Troopas.

One of the more famous, and the simplest of enemies, would be the Goombas. Defeated easily by jumping on its head the Goomba became a staple in the Mario universe. On the other end of the difficulty scale would be the Hammer Brothers. Usually found in pairs these enhanced Koopa Troopas would stand on two feet, jump up and down between levels and hurl hammers at Mario. Piranha Plants also quickly asserted themselves as staple characters. These man eating plants would pop out of pipes at the most inconvenient times. However, if Mario stood right next to their pipe home, or on top of it, the plants would be shy and remain in their hiding spots.

Bullet Bill, Lakitu, Spinies and Buzzy Beetle would make up the rest of the land based enemies, but Mario's troubles would not stop there. In Super Mario Brothers Mario would also take to the waters in some under sea explorations. That is where he would encounter Blooper, a deadly squid, and Cheeps Cheeps, a fish that could also fly in some stages.

Koji Kondo may not be a name you would typically recognize but you surely know his work. Kondo is the composer for many Nintendo games and is most famous for his work on the Legend of Zelda and the Super Mario series'. Kondo's most recognizable tune is the main tune from Super Mario Brothers. Who doesn't know that music? Who hasn't done a version of the song ? Kondo never considered making a living by writing video game music but decided to try out Nintendo, who was looking for a music programmer in 1983. It was probably the best move he could have made!

One of the unique aspects of Super Mario Brothers was the inclusion of warp zones. these warp zones were found in difficult spots and could help you get past some tricky levels. But one of the coolest things about the game is a glitch; the Minus Level.

You can access the glitch of a level (Level -1) by jumping backwards through a wall that would usually be accompanied by the game's first warp zone. If you jump down the pipe before it becomes a warp zone Mario will find himself in a water level that will never come to an end. Observe...

Where former Mario games like Mario Brothers and the Donkey Kong games were originally arcade games and ported to the home consoles, Super Mario Brothers was the first to go the other way, being ported for the arcade. Nintendo had such a success on their hands with Super Mario Brothers that some arcades and pizza shops were pleading for an arcade version of the game. Nintendo delivered with a new version of the game based on their Nintendo Vs. Unisystem arcade cabinet, based on the NES. Vs. Super Mario Brothers was a more difficult version of Super Mario Brothers. The early stages of the game were altered slightly with different item locations, fewer 1-ups, more difficult enemies and some other slightly different obstacles. Later stages in the game were totally different from the game and would later be included in Super Mario Brothers 2.

Everybody and their mother has played Super Mario Brothers. Heck, even my mom has played Super Mario Brothers! In fact many people still play the game today on the Nintendo Wii or in its original form or through the emulation scene. Some people still modify the game with new graphics or new level designs.

The game is that popular. The game is that legendary.

What are your thoughts on the first of the Super Mario Brothers games? What are some of your memories? How fast can you beat the game? What are your favorite secrets?

UPDATE (3.12.2009): Following Up on Mario Monday

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