By Jose Anguiano – Cinematic Bandicoot
March 11th, 2023
After “Super Mario Bros” saved the video game industry, many copycat games emerged forcing Nintendo to dish out multiple cease-and-desist letters.
For the sequel, the company went in a different direction after players wanted more of the same.
To cater to their demands, Japan received “Super Mario Bros. 2: The Lost Levels” after four months of development – a game that marinated itself in unfair difficulty before “Dark Souls” made it cool for future generations.
Despite selling two and a half million units, Japan’s response was mixed to the point where Nintendo was afraid that Americans would also find it too hard.
Howard Phillips, who was hired by Nintendo of America as a consultant, confirmed this after giving the game a test run.
“This was not a fun game to play,” Phillips said. “I put down my controller astonished that Mr. Miyamoto had chosen to design such a painful game.”
Even worse, Nintendo was already working on so many projects and was forced to send several games to the cutting room floor, meaning there wasn’t any time to make a new Mario game from scratch.
Therefore, the United States received a completely different game – a reskinned edition of 1987’s “Yume Kōjō:Doki Doki Panic”.
However, due to the 1986 Microchip Pact, Japanese chip manufacturers reduced output, which led to a chip famine, which made “Super Mario Bros 2.” a rare collectible before release.
While it sold more than seven million copies, “Super Mario Bros. 2” did not escape the shadow of its predecessor that sold over 40 million copies.
American players were also mixed on the new direction. Some enjoyed it while others were put off similar to “Banjo-Kazooie: Nuts and Bolts” 20 years later.
Now that it’s been a couple decades, were gamers wrong to judge this as the black sheep of the series?
In a new kingdom, Mario is tasked with defeating a frog lord named Wart from taking over.
Like the first game, there is nothing special about the story in this 8-bit era.
What you see is what you get, although the damsel in distress plot is traded since Princess Peach is a playable character, but don’t hold out any hope for its authenticity until “Super Mario 3D World”.
With the NES out on the market for a couple of years at the time, the graphics did improve from the original.
Though the pallet swap is a bit of a cheat, it presents a livelier world with animated backgrounds rather than static storyboards.
It doesn’t sound like much, but something like flowing waterfalls can go a long way in keeping the player immersed in the world.
The enemy variety is also expanded upon. Sure, staples like koopas and goombas are gone, but the shy guys, bob-ombs and other wildlife are welcome additions to the vast enemies the series did not yet encompass.
Koji Kondo’s main world theme is the best music track in an otherwise more limited arrangement, which should not be the case for sequels that build upon the foundation.
But it’s the gameplay that receives the biggest change.
Going from a linear platformer to one that goes in all directions is an evolution in both graphics and gameplay as this adventure goes up in the clouds.
Choosing between multiple characters for each level is one of the highlights with Mario being balanced, Luigi jumping the highest, Toad being stocky, and Princess Peach floating in the air, something that would be carried over in future games.
Using vegetables to deal with enemies sounds like blasphemy on paper, but in practice it fits the quirky Mario style.
Some of the levels are as unfair as “The Lost Levels” like one where you hitch a ride on some birds to reach gaps wider than a moon crater.
Though there are better boss fights compared to the Bowser clones, most of them are against Birdo in a repetitive egg chucking duel that gets old really fast.
Regarding the change in direction, it does feel like this went through an identity crisis with everything that happened during production, although the ending justifies it better than other games that take drastic departures.
Going back to this after playing future titles makes it even more jarring after Nintendo admitted to the public about the pallet swap, even 35 years later.
“Super Mario Bros 2” is more memorable than its predecessor at the cost of its identity, but it still has a place in the franchise’s history.
A follow-up to the original was always going to be a tough act to follow. And though people still argue whether or not this is a real Mario game, the graphics and gameplay still have a lot of creativity to carve its own niche for a select audience.
Sure, the bosses are repetitive and some of the levels can be unfair in difficulty, but those are minor inconveniences in the grand scheme.
If you haven’t played this yet, give it a shot for curiosity’s sake, but if you have played it, share your thoughts on this game now that everyone knows about the development.
It’s still Mario in a wacky world doing what he does best, and if anything, it’s a lesson learned on branching out from your comfort zone to give players something new.
Pros: Ramped up difficulty, more creative worlds, challenging gameplay, different characters,
Cons: Unfair levels, repetitive boss fights, unmemorable soundtrack
Super Mario All-Stars
Like the first game, “Super Mario Bros 2” received an SNES upgrade in “Super Mario All-Stars” – music, graphics, and all.
“The Lost Levels” also received the same treatment, which led some players to dismiss the American edition as the imposter Mario game.
And like the first game, these ports are recommended over the original for adding onto the hardware capabilities, though tread carefully in “The Lost Levels” as it will drop you off a cliff at the slightest miscalculation of a jump.
Following the release of the Gameboy Advance in 2001, “Super Mario Bros. 2” was the first game to receive a handheld port built on the SNES edition titled “Super Mario Advance”.
This added voice clips and the ability to play the original “Mario Bros.” arcade game, which makes it a worthy remake.
As of 2023, it has yet to be ported to the Nintendo Switch Online Expansion Pack.
While not as beloved as the groundbreaking original, “Super Mario Bros. 2” left its impact on pop culture over the years.
The game was the first to be featured on the cover of the new magazine “Nintendo Power” and was created by the father of stop-motion, Will Vinton.
Luigi was updated from a pallet swapped version of his brother to his own character while Peach and Toad were playable for the first time.
The character Birdo became a staple in the series, though their history as one of the first transgender characters in gaming is still debated to this day.
The fictional title character Scott Pilgrim in Brian Lee O’Malley’s graphic novels named his band “Sex-Bob-omb” after one of the enemies, which also carried over to the 2010 film adaptation by Edgar Wright.
Both the American edition and the Japanese exclusive were ported to the Nintendo Switch in both the original NES and SNES editions.
Miyamoto reflected on the game’s reception saying, “It was fun because we made the game and were used to playing, and we weren’t sure if this would be fun for people who never played.”
From here, Miyamoto changed how Mario sequels would be made for the future.
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