Super Mario Brothers 2
Nintendo Entertainment System
- My video review along with memories and historical discussion of Super Mario Bros. 2
Why the hate? Why does my collective memory of the last 11 years of YouTube reviews on the subject of Super Mario Brothers 2 scream an impression of hate, betrayal, even bigotry to me? My impressions of the favorable reviews feel more like apologies of mediocrity rather than a defense or a declaration of greatness. The words “I mean, we always liked it…” jumps out as the most impassioned in a sea of clickbait…
First we'll be talking about that elephant in the closest; the strange, fascinating and deep story of two Super Mario Brothers 2 games. We will be focusing on my personal thoughts, be skipping the stuff I've been exposed to many times before, while expanding on the things I happen to have found compelling but have yet to hear others expand upon. Later on we will take a look at the game itself, again sans the junk you all know, forget about the controls... I'm not here wishing to sound arrogant, but we're dealing with a game everyone should know. The only hope of these writings being a special and unique thing compared to the countless others; well, it's just me... One nerds thoughts and memories of a very special game. Let's see how I do.
^ Since my article starts off with heavy backstory, let's sprinkle some eye candy in the mix with the games backstory
A little less than 10 years ago, should my memory serve me correct, a semi known truth regarding the origins of the sequel to the venerable classic Super Mario Brothers suddenly became viral. The Super Mario Bros. 2 much of the world knew and loved, coming out in 1988? Turns out there had been a game released in 1986 with the same Super Mario Bros. 2 title but a vastly different game. The messenger of this historic news? Well, I wish you could see the defeated, sad, and disgusted look on my face as I’m about to write this; The Irate Gamer… A broken down and defeated channel itself these days, he became known at the time with the help of several spotlighted videos from YouTube themselves. His “scandal review” of SMB2, netted nearly 5 million views, and a no shame imitation of the Angry Nintendo Nerd (that's the AVGN for those who have not been around as long as I have). After effects of video? We have a man who may not have even played the game back in the day, being responsible for the immediate downfall of a great games reputation.
The stigma survives to this day despite many who saw through the crap. There are devoted reply videos calling him out, even an entire blog dedicated to his every single mistake (for every video he ever made).
9 minutes of “Irate” (best described as mostly monotone and calm script reading with occasional awkward fake rage) video; which should be most noteworthy as the start of creators throwing terrible special effects at their videos to mask the “cowabunga piece of dog shit” smell, Not as a turning point in a games reputation.
^Mario finds himself in a colorful grass land, floating wood, a hidden shortcut through the level, and our first true vertical scrolling area
I believe it should be fairly clear what I think of the content from that YouTuber, and trust me I wouldn't require his Mario 2 review to come up with those thoughts. While most true gamers of the era I believe take little from most of those videos, I really feel far too many of those my own age have indeed took some influence from this “scandal” video. Is it that even the broken clock can be correct twice a day? Was he a terrible messenger but do you hold off fire because he spoke a painful truth?
Indeed the year of 1986 saw release of a virtual expansion/mission pack/add-on sequel for the 1985 Super Mario Brothers. Does that sting some of you out there? Is it yet another example of the many Japanese games you can’t understand didn't get released elsewhere? I happen to look at it as one of Nintendo of America’s shining achievements. Super Mario had become a truly smash hit upon its inclusion as a pack in with Duck Hunt in 1987 (’85 and ’86 saw limited release of the NES in the states) and Nintendo of America was very much interested in a follow up. But they wanted nothing to do with the carbon copy release from 1986.
^ A whole new world for Luigi - Who has now become more than just "Green Mario" to millions.
Why? Of course many point to that Mario 2 being too difficult… Well… I’ve given it quite a go myself… Harder than the first, but just like it and so many other games trial and error will make you victorious! Does harder make it worthy of some YouTuber’s remarks on the decision being based around hopeless or stupid American gamers? Absolutely not. In Japan, the Famicom and its games were marketed toward Japanese teens and young adults. In America? Children. See a slight demographics issue? Stop referring to hopeless American gamers in regards to Mario2, as well as a load of other games that didn't make it here. How often have I heard moaning about this or that JRPG not being released in America because we just couldn't handle the “complexity” of a role playing game… Hard to imagine anyone who thinks this ever played an American CRPG like Pool of Radiance. Western RPGs were non linear, utterly massive, complicated, hard… JRPGs to this very day? Point you along every step of the way, so so very easy in comparison.
That’s demographics again for you. Pool of Radiance was released for computer systems in America, where games were targeted at 20-45 year old adult nerds. How many out there have found many Japanese teens conquering such games? It simply had nothing to do with gaming ability or intelligence, just age. Don’t take a truth and distort it into a lie. I’ve found no videos or articles referencing the age issue, time to ponder…
Of course the big one is actually hidden right in plain sight, much like how the Irate Gamer’s “research” – I mean Wikipedia copy/pasting, led him to his “scandalous” conclusions. Never mentioned in regards to the creation of the American Mario 2 are the origins of Mario 2 in Japan… Why so soon after the original? Why the same game engine? Why were the new levels more difficult? Everyone reads right over the simple but explosive answer; Mario 2 in Japan was a launch title for the Famicom Disk System.
^ Toad; No longer a troll pointing you to another castle. Princess Toadstool; While not to last long, no longer kidnapped... GIRL POWER!
It never had a cartridge release for the Famicom. Nintendo NEEDED a Mario game for this add-on. How many out there understand the purpose of the disk system add on? Of course Nintendo would make some money off this device, but the hook for those purchasing was that the games on this system would be… wait for it… CHEAP! I believe we’re talking in the range of five American dollars. So has it become a little clearer why Nintendo of America… Wait, let’s go ahead and just say Nintendo now… A little more clear why neither of them wanted the highly anticipated sequel of Mario in the rest of the world to be a $40 cartridge version of the $5 floppy disk quick release launch title for an add on in Japan? Anyone out there like to alter their opinions a bit with that simple revelation many looked over? Sometimes a simple fact can lead you to a whole lot of other facts… When you ponder things you look deeper. You can’t just “research” Mario 2 to come to this understanding… You would have needed to have interest in a floppy disk add-on for a system you never owned or even heard of back in the day. Something I happened to have interest in. And that’s just one of many things you do to “earn” the label of being a gamer… Sorry, the self title does not really count…
After Super Mario Brothers, creator Shigeru Miyamoto began work on an idea for a vertical side scroller. For now we shall leave out what Miayamoto called the prototype of this game. An opportunity in the form of a paid licensed game was given to Nintendo. This game would end up with a long name with longer company names; most shorten it to Doki Doki Panic. This would be the big piece in the whole “scandal”. When compared to each other; Doki Doki Panic and Mario 2 USA are nearly the same game. Some changes here and there, biggest of all the character sprites are now Mario characters, not the characters form the license. So while some may accept Mario 2 in Japan was probably not the greatest idea for the rest of the world, the thing that seems to get everyone down is that we also got a rom (disk?) hack in the end.
The following bit of information some have taken note of; Before Miyamoto got the licensing deal and made Doki Doki Panic, what was his idea for his prototype? It happened to be his very special idea for Mario 2, and it was worked on before the disk system game. He presented it to Nintendo, they rejected the creator of Mario’s idea for the next Mario and told him to work on creating new levels for the original Mario game engine in preparation for a quick Mario Launch title on their yet to be released disk system.
^ Top 2;More vertical platforming, move from one side of the screen to another for new strategies, Bottom 2;Sadly no swimming levels for unskilled gamers to bitch about, though I love that the ice levels are there; forever taunting would be "gamers" from becoming good.
In reality Miyamoto himself spent very little time on the new levels for the disk system Mario 2. That licensed deal presented itself and Miyamoto felt that was his chance to create his new game with someone else’s money. This was Doki Doki Panic, a cunning way for Miyamoto to make a game he wanted for free. Later on when America says we can’t release that crap disk system game? Who do you think Nintendo went to for ideas about the new game? The creator of Mario. The one who had an idea for a new Mario vertical side scroller in which Nintendo rejected, but he got made through a special tie in license deal, was the same man who said they should redo the artwork for Doki Doki Panic with Mario characters and release it as Mario 2… Ya know, the thing he wanted to do in the first place…
Indeed, there are people who know that bit of information. For some reason they kind of roll their eyes, like it’s a desperate stretch for people to say our Mario 2 was indeed the REAL Mario 2. Well, obviously the whole saga was complicated, but yeah, Miyamoto working on our Mario 2 as his Mario 2 in the first place kind of is a big deal. That does not mean don’t discuss the drama, the story was always worthy of being told. Unfortunately the one who picked up on it and the many after him never really dug super deep into it all.
So what about the game itself? This is not exactly a review on the gameplay of Mario 2… I mean, I sort of assume anyone reading this knows how the game controls, what it looks like, what it offers you… I feel insulted when a review mentions controls everyone should either know or be forced to look up, not a requirement for a review of a well known game.
My video will certainly get more into my opinions on the game
, along with my feelings and memories from it. I felt this writing should instead focus on my rather in-depth thoughts about facts nobody else seems to mention when discussing the games back-story. This was to let everyone know that for me, childhood NOT ruined. My problem with many reviews of this game is that I feel too many have placed Mario 2 with a heavy handicap because of its history. Most seem to just think its okay, might say everyone loved it when referring to the past, or some out right attack the game… But rarely does anyone stand up and say "SHUT UP ABOUT DOKI DOKI PANIC – THIS GAME IS GREAT!"
^ Dr. Mario brews a potion to send him to sub-space; A parallel universe with power-up mushrooms. Collect coins here for your best shot at gaining extra lives via a slot machine end level. For self titled "gamers", enter certain pipes in sub-space to warp ahead levels.
On a rare review that says it’s great, you’ll find it’s more of the “defender” type video… Which is when everyone else beats up on Back to the Future but you happen to think it does not deserve THAT MUCH hate.
In a way all of this is my defense, but let me state clear that I am not saying it does not deserve “that much” hate; I’m screaming that it deserves NO HATE! None! It is time to stop making note of the Doki-Doki story and instantly dismissing Mario 2 because of it! Now, let’s get into this fantastic classic of a game, Super Mario Brothers 2, which came out on the NES in 1988.
Perhaps the biggest enemies in Mario 2 USA’s score has little to do with it’s crazy story but more to do with the sequel to Mario 2, Mario 3, as well as the original Super Mario Bros. itself. Mario 3 was an instant classic. We knew it, everyone felt it, to this day it’s often listed as the best NES game of all time, the best Mario game of all time, sometimes even the best video game of all time. And yeah, I remember being guilty as a kid of sort of forgetting Mario 2. To this very day the 3rd is my favorite Mario game. It was long my favorite NES game, though it has competition these days. Long before the whole “scandal” I had sort of lost connection with Mario 2, forgotten how great it was because who could ever forget how great Mario 3 was?
Today you also have a strong desire by many to give all the credit in the world to the original Super Mario Brothers. Now, very few are crazy enough to dare say the original was better than the 3rd, they’re not that daring… But hey, it was the first, it was a big deal, we all loved it at the time, it changed gaming for better and worse for a long time… Mad props given to the original Super Mario Brothers! Mario 2 with its back-story of drama gives the perfect reason for many to not only list Mario 3 as the best, but give the original the credit they feel it deserves by placing it as the 2nd best of the era.
But the thing is the original has not exactly aged as well as some would lead you to believe… We knew it as kids… It had issues… I did love it… I do love it… But I remember getting Mario 2… It made what was at the time our shoebox of NES games around half full… So we’re talking like 5 or 6 games… Mario/Duck Hunt in there and a few others… Mario 2 came… I think many have forgotten just how much we loved Mario 2… The game came, then we watched the Saturday morning cartoon, further diving us into that world.
For us Mario 2 was real. Even if the ending of the game itself was terrible. The overused and lazy “it was all a dream” ending crap… Cause that makes the player feel oh so great about the time he just spent on this game… No, BAD ending! However, great game! Unique and challenging bosses, the toughest in the series. While Mario 2 Japan may have been a tougher game, Mario 2 USA is easily the hardest of the 2D Mario games that we got. Play as Mario, Luigi, Princess Toadstool, and Toad, who all have their own abilities and weaknesses? I'll give a "hell yeah!" on that.
^ The mini-boss. First trans-gender video game character? Featured at the end of almost every level with new patterns/speed/attack in later levels.
No Bowser? No repeat and rinse “our stupid sex hound of a princess has allowed herself to be kidnapped again!” - Bowser should be dead! He and his 7 other clones were burned to death in lava. Our princess was found, found in another castle… Mario and her are getting it on; time for some new adventures! For people that look at Mario 2 as a black sheep compared to others? Sort of made a load of sense to those of us who had the first game. I will go ahead and remind everyone that none of you liked defeating “Bowser” only to find Toad saying that you've just been PUNKED! The same boss, altered speeds, maybe a platform or two in your way or to use…
Mario 2 usually features one mini-boss per level with various patterns and speeds that most certainly get harder and harder as the game goes on. Along with he…she… Umm, the mini boss, every 3 levels or so you’ll be faced with several full boss battles; hardest battles in the 2d Mario games. But great. When it comes to big man Wart, dramatic change in music, slight puzzle solving skills, fun till the end; Simply a load of fun…
^ Along with the mini-bosses every few levels you'll face the hardest boss battles of the 2D Mario games.
All I could have hoped for was that upon the death of your character you were allowed to change to another. You obviously just died, perhaps someone else’s abilities could now be of use? As it is; it’s simply a random choice you make at the start of the level, and you're forced to use that character until you win the level or get a game over. In regards to extra lives in Mario 2; There’s only a couple hidden in the over-world. Your best bet for extra lives is to enter sub-space; collecting coins to use at a bonus stage ending all levels. Sorry to say with that slot, you’re unlikely to strike it big. With no continues and a game that is always ramping up the difficulty; it’s possible for the best of us to get a game over with this game.
My exploit, stumbled upon by myself as a kid (much like any warp zones in games were found through exploration by some of us; not hour long movie advertisements from Nintendo, nor a shameful magazine published by themselves) is that the slot machine is not random. It always does the same thing. With Ninja reflexes and timing you can guarantee an extra life with every coin collected, raking in well over 20 by the end of the game. Cheating? Not to me. To me using warps at 30 years old is cheating… Figuring out how to use a game that is cheating you? Another notch for the gamer title, I hope.
^ Cue heartpounding end boss music! Still considering what endings are the worst; Games with no ending, a simple text ending, or THIS "it never happened" crap...
I’m sorry I forgot how great you were, Mario 2… You’re simply amazing… Problem is Mario 3 is simply the best, better than all the rest… Mario 1, a trend setter indeed; Give it props! But just because it deserves your praise does not mean you’re demeaning it by saying Mario 2 was the 2nd best NES Mario game… I would be sure to bring it above a few other Mario games from other systems as well. Saying the original Mario is the 3rd best, thus “the worst”. Give me a break; everyone knows it’s not bad, and that it was important. These are not 2 hour long movies with stories; where embarrassing things had to be written for a sequel to get made at times, leading to movies rarely doing one better with a sequel… These are simple side scrollers where often times the sequels were better than the original. A common thing with video games, it’s okay, people will understand. The original Mario does not need extra praise; I just ask people really take into account everything, but mostly just playing the game… You shall have fun, I guarantee it, because it is a great game. So great, in fact, that it was later released on the Famicom as Super Mario USA...
The music is great; the scenery/background changes through the levels are mostly superb. The only area I don’t exactly think looks great are the desert areas. Wouldn't you know Nintendo decided that was going to be the one level they reused multiple times later on? Oh well. From green hills, deserts, slippery ice (my fav), night, back to desert… Well, it was all a blast. Vertical side scrolling is fun and challenging, I’d like to know just where is everyone protecting Mario 2 for the historical vertical platforming? Miyamoto is simply a genius, and he made us a fantastic and memorable Mario game that should never be forgotten!
*All pictures taken by Shot97 using my original Mario 2 and Nintendo Entertainment System. From a glorious CRT television and shown in its original 4:3 aspect ratio (unlike NES emulators)!