i seem to be playing a lot of games with the number 2 in the title lately, most recently the NES and mario classic super mario bros. 2, aka doki doki panic. SMB‘s storied past is by now well known (and for those not in the know themushroomkingdom.net has a thorough comparison), and although i can’t but still harbor some feelings of it not quite being a “true” mario game i was looking forward to replaying this classic from my childhood.
after playing through all the levels i ended up having somewhat mixed feelings about the game. it’s still as big a kick as ever to get to play as luigi, toad, and peach, and in my mind that automatically elevates the game to a notably high level. the game’s production values are incredibly high, as you’d expect (supposedly miyamoto was a producer and designer for the original version, although i haven’t found any definitive confirmation of that), and the music, graphics, and characters, enemies, and boss fights are all memorable. the problem is that the gameplay is much less accessible than any other game in the series. this is due to the throwing mechanic, which while novel and utilizing realistic physics, takes some time to master. it works fine, but i can definitely see how throwing items while standing vs while walking, running, or jumping would be frustrating to newbies. also, the luck-based method for acquiring 1-ups, via a slot-machine-style minigame at the end of each stage, is annoying and much less satisfying than its predecessor’s method of simply collecting 100 coins. and the fact that luigi is so superior to all the other characters makes the character selection mechanic feel a bit underused.
all of these are minor quibbles for what is a classic game though. although i found myself feeling less nostalgic for this black sheep of the mario series than for the original game, i still enjoyed myself and am looking forward to playing its GBA remake (although i can already tell that version is going to be almost painfully too easy). i’m glad that so many great characters who made their debut here have gone on to become series staples, such as the shyguys, pokey, and the much-discussed birdo, although there are many more that i’m still waiting to see again, including mouser and the great villain wart. in the US we got to see luigi become truly distinct from mario for the first time, and it was great to have toad and peach in starring roles, although, again, i still have to lament the fact that it’s been far too long for that trio to reappear to team up with mario in a similar starring role. one can only dream …
mario’s (and luigi’s, toad’s, and peach’s) dream links:
– the aforementioned page at themushroomkingdom.net includes thorough comparisons of different versions, screenshots, glitches, sprites, and MIDIs
– gamesradar’s 10 things you didn’t know about SMB2: all of this stuff is covered at TMK (previous link), but it’s a nice overview
– a guy named cory godbey has been doing a series of cartoons for gonintendo.com, more than a few of which feature SMB2. this one is particularly memorable.
– PDF of the manual at replacementdocs.com
– maps at vgmaps.com
– some video footage of doki doki panic (featuring some really grating sound effects)
– and who could forget the great cover picture and coverage of the game in the first issue of nintendo power?