Retro Video Game Review: Super Mario Brothers 2 (Nes)

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When the original Super Mario Brothers game appeared on the Nintendo Entertainment System, often bundled with the console at initial purchase, it was a smash hit. The colorful graphics and richly imaginative world blew away the previously prominent Atari library of cartridge, and its perfect blend of challenge and fun ensured that it would quickly lay claim to classic, perhaps even legendary, status.

With the success of an original title like that, how does a company follow up? What mindset do they take to release a proper hit sequel?

In Nintendo’s case, they took a rather bold and audacious move by completely reworking the look and mechanics of Mario Brothers, rather than strictly sticking to the tried-and-true formula. Gone were the antics of rampant coin-collecting for extra lives, and in was the frantic vegetable-picking to dispose of new-world baddies.

Other innovations abounded as well, such as being able to choose from a selection of four different characters: Mario, Luigi, Toad, and Princess Toadstool, each of which had distinct abilities in regards to running speed, jumping height, and picking speed. In addition, the conclusion of each level opened a slots game dependent on tokens you collected; this became the manner of potentially gaining extra lives, rather than a hard-and-fast coin count.

The title was released with much fanfare and acclaim, with an inspired image even gracing the cover of the first issue of Nintendo Power. While the franchise would return to a closer resemblance to its roots with Super Mario Brothers 3, and achieve even more success than ever before, the second game in the series still remains a quirky, quality NES choice.

Graphics: 8/10

Judging the appearance of this game is a difficult endeavor. The graphics are a step above the original, yet not spectacular in their own right. The strength of its looks, though, lies in the incredible richness of the creativity involved. Players spend the entire gameplay session in a very surreal, dream-like environment that is pointedly uniquely separate from any other Mario world. This sense of whimsy certainly adds to the enjoyment.

Sound: 6.5/10

Some of the tracks, especially that of the first level, are earworm-worthy; they are inordinately catchy, bouncy, and stick in your brain for years to come. This is actually somewhat of a detriment, sense many of the sites feature music that quickly becomes annoying. The sound effects are effective, but fairly standard. The truest detriment against this title’s soundtrack is the fact that it is inferior to the classic melodies and bloops of its predecessors.

Gameplay: 8.5/10

The entire experience is an interesting study on dichotomy. On the one hand, it introduces elements of play that the first title never touched; for portions, you ride magic carpets, or carry items. However, the novelty of these originalities wears off, much like the magic of the music: By the eighth world, discovering yet another key you have to tote around while its invincible guardian flies around trying to kill you becomes a frustratingly arduous chore, rather than a joy. But despite its flaws, as a whole, playing through SMB2 is a rewarding experience in a joyful little creative world. Oddly enough, what prevents this video game from earning a higher score is its letdown of an ending. Spoiler alert: Mario discovers that the entire ordeal was just a dream. While this explains the bizarre nature of his adventure, and why it is so different from his others, it still comes as a disappointment for gamers.

For a look at other odd sequels and NES games, look for NintendoLegend.com.

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