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VC Review: Super Mario Bros.: The Lost Levels

When the Virtual Console was initially announced, one of the first games to come to many minds was the original sequel to Super Mario Bros., a game that didn’t reach Americans until the early 90s, and then only in re-made form under the guise of “The Lost Levels” in the excellent compilation Super Mario All-Stars on the SNES. Super Mario Bros. 2 in its original, unadulterated form, is finally available on the Virtual Console for a premium price of 600 Wii Points. Is it worth picking up, or does it feel too familiar to bother with?

 


First of all, players will notice on the title screen that there is no turn-taking multiplayer mode. Instead, players choose between Mario or Luigi, each of whom work with different mechanics. Mario feels the same, but his brother is a higher jumper at the cost of slipping around more — Smash Bros. fans will recognize that this has been borrowed for the two brothers in that popular series. In the context of classic Mario platforming, this is, to date, the only game that has ever distinguished Mario and Luigi’s mechanics. Even New Super Mario Bros. didn’t utilize it. That alone gives old-school Mario fans something interesting to tinker around with.

The most blatant feature of this game, however, and the reason it never made it to America in the first place, is its unforgiving difficulty. Super Mario Bros.: The Lost Levels is unforgiving in its challenge. A new item — the Poison Mushroom — will hurt you instead of help you. Short cuts through stages will place you in areas that seem to be dead ends, finding invisible blocks are now required for some levels in order to progress, and some warp zones will even send you backwards. It is a hearty gauntlet for hardcore gamers — far from impossible, but certainly difficult, and easily the most patience-breaking Mario platformer out there. Fortunately, the game lets you continue at the start of each world if need be — coupled with the Wii’s savestate function for Virtual Console games, this tempers the difficulty to a tolerable level.

The sound is exactly the same, and the graphics are actually worse in many ways, since they try to be more detailed and thus lose the iconic artistry of the original 8-bit masterpiece. In these ways, the title feels more like a ROM-hack than a sequel. As fun as it is with its myriad of ridiculous obstacles to overcome, it lacks in the presentation department. The gameplay is the key focus here, and it’s engaging, offering up new challenges at every turn, but doesn’t feel like a substantial sequel. There’s not much to say about a game that feels more like a hack than its own title, and of such a familiar game.

 

 

 

Awards:

 


Hardcore Difficulty

 

 

Score: 3/5

 

 

Final Verdict:

 

 

Maybe Buy It

Super Mario Bros.: The Lost Levels is a worthwhile title, especially for old-school fans of pure Mario platforming. It delivers a solid challenge that hardcore gamers will thrive in, but more casual players will find far too frustrating to work through. it is truly brutal, especially for a Mario game. This game is worth owning for Mario fans wanting to own a piece of foreign history in its original form, but others will find it too difficult for its own good — this is precisely why Americans received a completely different title, and it’s warranted in this case. If you’re in the mood for a tough challenge and a piece of obscure Nintendo gaming history, pick this up and support imports for the Virtual Console. If you’re a more relaxed gamer who gets turned off by rock-hard difficulty, spend your points on something else.

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