Sunday, February 7, 2016

Super Mario Bros 2 (The Lost Levels) (Famicom, 1986)

This was tricky to get working, but I did it. I've played the Super Mario All-Stars remake of this game a number of times, but never the Famicom Disk System original. This...is going to be tough, but it should be interesting regardless. I find this game more fun than the original Super Mario Bros; it's also more accessible than ever since you can get it on the Wii or 3DS Virtual Consoles. Just be prepared for NES-style horizontal button mapping that can't be changed.





I'm having so many early 80's flashbacks here...and I wasn't even born yet!

So far, this seems identical to Super Mario Bros, but it actually isn't identical at all. One big difference before the game even starts: Choosing Mario or Luigi results in two very different experiences. 

I choose Luigi, because I always played the Super NES version as him. He moves faster and jumps much higher than Mario, but he's a little harder to control. In other news, here we see one of the many poison mushrooms in the game. They actually damage you if you pick one up, which is a nefarious trick by the developers. They look a lot like 1-Up mushrooms in this version, which makes it even worse. Luckily (...) 1-Ups are almost nonexistent in this game, so the trick loses its potency quick.

LET THE LUIGI SOARRRRRR!

That koopa has NO idea that the fury of Valhalla is coming down on his head.

Not off to the best start, as I don't even beat 1-1 without taking a hit. 1-2 starts with you immediately facing a winged koopa, too. This game is much harder than the original and comes off more like an expansion pack than a new game, which is likely why it didn't see an American release back then. They probably regarded it as both too hard and not different enough.

The "fake" Super Mario Bros 2 that we got was much more appealing on all levels.

 World 1-2 has a warp zone, as is tradition. This one is well-hidden, requiring you to find this invisible block. It leads to...

...a beanstalk to the upper world, which leads to the warp zone:

I won't be using this, but it's interesting that you only have one option. It's much more difficult to skip through this game than it is in the first game. In Super Mario Bros you only need to do 1-1, 1-2, 4-1, 4-2, and World 8. In this game, you need to do 1-1, 1-2, World 3, World 4, 5-1, 5-2, and World 8, and the warp zones are a lot harder to get to.

Haw! I already have a fire flower! With it, Luigi dons his best Mario disguise.

It took me a while to notice that these little platforms are actually made of mushrooms. In any case, Bowser returns here as usual and does the same old stuff; they reused basically all of the assets from Super Mario Bros for this.

Speaking of reuse, Toad is on the scene to give us more bad news. Even though World 1 is over, the pain has just begun.

One thing this game does that the original didn't (I think) is introduce trampolines that bounce Mario clear off the screen. Once he leaves orbit, he'd do well to not come back down. This is the Dark Souls of Mario games.

Luigi makes a jump that only he'd be able to make, and with ease.

Supposedly Miyamoto was depressed during the production of this game, which explains the super-high difficulty to an extent. Most likely, the developers intended for this to be an "expert mode" version of the first game, something to pick up after you finish that one.

Even Luigi can't jump THAT high. Luckily, an invisible block is nearby. There are a lot of invisible blocks in this game.

A horrific scene ensues, as three goombas march in lockstep to their deaths.

Hammer Bros show up in World 3, which I believe was the case in the original as well. This time around there are two of them, and they catch me off guard. Here you can see our hero fleeing for his life.

World 3 is snowy and metallic, with Bullet Bills re-debuting.

At the end of 3-1 you can leap over the flagpole; what magical treasures await on the other side? Could it be...

...a portal to the OTHER Super Mario Bros 2?

...Lo Pan?

...baked goods?

...ERROR?

Nope to all of the above: It's a BACKWARDS WARP ZONE. You can either take it or jump in the pit.

"What a tweest!"

Water level. Nothing new here, same physics and enemies as in the first game.

There are some happy clouds in this game. Even the ones that are Siamese Twin'd to another cloud for life are happy.

Giant fire chains make their debut...and they're going clockwise. RUN, MARIO!

What may or may not be a wall of skulls (depending on whether Toad has taken possession of these lands) blocks my way at the end of 5-1. For a minute I thought I was trapped, because that's the kind of troll move this game might pull. Luckily, there's another hidden block.

I haven't shown many Bowsers because they're all so similar. As far as room traps/dangers go, the Bowser fights in this one actually seem EASIER than in the original game, even though their stages are much tougher. Is this a situation like Ocarina of Time: Master Quest where everything is harder than the original except the Water Temple, which is a couple rooms long and super-easy?

There are two new mechanics on this screen that weren't in Super Mario Bros. One, the red pirahna plant. This is a subtle new enemy included in this game. They move quicker and emerge more frequently than the green ones. The other new mechanic is the wind (shown here by the leaves), which pushes your character in a particular direction onscreen and affects the controls.

Whenever I have to jump on one of these fire chain blocks, I always feel like I'm going to take damage even if the chain itself is on the other side.

Bowser debuts in HAMMER BRO form here. Luckily, he loses the fire-breath as a tradeoff, so you can get right up to him and have his attacks fly over your head. He combines hammers AND fire breath later on (World 8).

World 7 is where the game starts getting very tricky. There are lots of hidden blocks with powerups, at least (and lots with poison mushrooms too).

7-3 is a particularly infamous level because you spend most of it offscreen. After bouncing off of a super-trampoline, you have to get across a number of massive pits before you fall down. 

 7-4 is very elevator-themed as the battle for the very soul of the Mushroom Kingdom grinds onward.

Fire breath returns here, but I THINK it's turned off for the Bowser fight itself. You only need to contend with it leading up to him. Also, is it just me or do these fireballs look backwards? Maybe this was originally going to be Mario's power, but it was a pain to program facing two different directions, so they just gave it to Bowser and left it the way it was (facing to the right).

 8-2 is my least favorite level in the game because of this jump. It's so painful to deal with, requiring precision and trampoline-mastery (lest the trampoline overshoot or undershoot). It's easiest to just get a running start and jump from the trampoline to the far right side, but without full momentum you often need to land on the pillar and then jump from there.

Like this.

Later in 8-2 you get a Power Star and can charge through a bunch of Hammer Bros, making it all worth it.

8-2 actually repeats infinitely around that point unless you skip the Power Star and bounce off of this turtle to hit the block above it, which is a vine leading to the exit.

On the surface, it feels like this game is just a complete copy of Super Mario Bros. However, the graphics are actually improved in a lot of places. For instance, the castles look a lot better than they did in the original game, and even the font at the top has more depth. 

Here's a shot of the original game for comparison on both fronts. The graphical improvements are almost unnoticeable without a head-to-head comparison.

Given how similar this looks to the original, a lot of people have gotten them mixed up:


 Indeed.

Another low-key new change that actually makes a big difference in the gameplay: You can bounce off of enemies to gain greater height and momentum. Something we take for granted in most Mario games, but it wasn't in the original Super Mario Bros. In that one you'd barely get any height from bouncing off of foes. This is the first one to introduce vaulting upward off of enemies as a reliable game mechanic, and it's necessary at times to hit some out-of-reach blocks. 

Hammer Bros on a flat plane are a nuisance here, much like the original game's 8-3. Luigi's massive jumping power neutralizes them a bit as a threat, though, since he can launch over them in a large arc.

There are a lot of hidden blocks in these wall sections, some of which are designed just to troll you when you try to jump over Hammer Bros. There's also a powerup...if you know where to look.

Now that Luigi is armed with fireballs, the Hammer Bros don't stand a chance. In the original game, it was key to get fire power here and cruise through to the end with it. In this one...

...that isn't happening, because it's nearly impossible to jump down to this lower floor at the beginning of 8-4 unless your character is small. Lame, lame, LAME.

There, jump easily achieved. Not cool, designers. Not cool at all. You HAVE to be down here to leap over the lava, too.

8-4 is one of those maze-castles where you need to know the proper route. Part of it is underwater, too.

The biggest protip for 8-4 (well, one of them) is right here. There's a hidden block right over the pipe.

GET THE SHROOM!

Bowser strikes twice at the end of the level. The first time you can actually run and slide UNDER him by jumping against the side of the floor just right. Your character ends up running on a floor plane one block below what they should be, and you can duck-slide right under Bowser.

After all of that, here's Bowser with hammers AND fireballs. There's also a fire chain overhead to further ruin your day. It's crucial to get here in big form (and not difficult with the above tricks) so you can run right through him.

Ta-ta for now.

Instead of Toad, our hero encounters a menacing door. Did Toad leave a gate to the lower dominions?

Nope, it's just the room Princess Toadstool was being kept in. She's noticeably better-looking here than in the original game.

"Our only hero"...you're damn right! Mario didn't do shit!

Luigi: "Whoa! Mario! It's-a not what it looks like!"

AH! JESUS! Where'd all of him come from?

"VENI VENI VENIAS, NE ME MORI FACIAS" they chant while flames begin to rise from the Earth.

Time for Fantasy "9 World". You get one life to do this one; luckily it's a fairly easy world. You can also get more lives by grabbing coins, and there are around 50 of those in every level.

Most of it is underwater, with weird neon colors for everything and a lot of non-underwater enemies showing up.

This is so weird. I wonder if this is a take on the "Minus World" from the original game.

9-3 is the castle, and it doesn't look like any other castle. It's outdoors and very bright.

Bowser confronts you here in the narrowest passage possible. How the heck are you supposed to get past him?

Backpedalling a bit, there's a spot where you can easily jump over the ceiling.

I was hoping Bowser would walk into the lava while trying to follow, but he stops at this point.

9-4 is very short and very easy, and holding right while pressing Jump rapidly is all you need to do to clear it.

We get "Arigato!" spelled out in Japanese with blocks, and that concludes the game...sort of.

World 9 repeats over and over until you run out of lives, upon which you get this message. There are also Worlds A, B, C, and D after this, and they get VERY challenging. World D might be the hardest single world in any Mario game, though some of Special World in Super Mario World could dispute that.

Regardless, I won't be doing the letter worlds because of their unlock requirement: You have to beat the rest of the game EIGHT TIMES. I'm good over here. In the All-Stars version, I think that requirement was removed; I remember the letter worlds being right after 8-4 from the very first time I played through the game. It was a used copy, so perhaps the person before me did all the grind-work...that or it didn't exist anymore.

In short, there are three endings to this game: Use warps as you progress, and the game ends at 8-4. Get there without using warps, and the game goes on to World 9, ending at 9-4. Get to 8-4 after beating the game eight times, and it continues on to World A through D (skipping 9), ending at D-4.

Very odd game, but also a very challenging and fun one. I enjoy playing this more than Super Mario Bros, and I'm no masochist who loves difficult games. It's simply more creative and interesting than its predecessor. Definitely worth a Virtual Console buy.



And now for something completely different:

The importance of commas, with Toad!

"Feed my children!"

"FEED, MY CHILDREN."


6 comments:

  1. This was entertaining, but just to clarify: You don't need to beat World 3 or even play it if using warps. There's another warp zone in 1-2 that gets you to World 4.

    To beat the game with warps, it goes 1-1, 1-2 >warp> 4-1, 4-2, 4-3, 4-4, 5-1, 5-2 >warp> 8-1, 8-2, 8-3, 8-4.

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  2. Always a trip to see the original 8-bit version of this.

    I think this one is more appealing than ever in the post Mario Maker world. These are like really well done challenge levels.

    Backwards warp zone or death... classy.

    I've always felt the same way about jumping on fire chain blocks!

    Yep, Toadstool's sprite got an upgrade. Love that ending text too.

    Seven Toads at the same time... truly nightmare fuel.

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  3. This was a blast to read and is the first post I've seen covering Lost Levels from a "this is fun" angle rather than "this is too hard." The creativity of the game came through. Seeing the original Famicom graphics for the first time was a great thing as well. The 9-1 color scheme is reallly great.

    I think the flames do look like they're coming from the right...the brighter part is on the right side, the way it is on the bottom in typical candle illustrations.

    I thought the image of Luigi bedding Toadstool would give me nightmares but the 7 Toads jumping out at me from the background was even scarier.

    "I think this one is more appealing than ever in the post Mario Maker world." Excellent point, Brayn!

    Luigi, our only hero! YEAH!

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    Replies
    1. That image of Luigi and Toadstool has a very big reason to exist, and it'll be clear in the not too distant future. Stay tuned.

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  4. Most likely, the developers intended for this to be an "expert mode" version of the first game, something to pick up after you finish that one.

    The Japanese box art has a little ribbon on it with the words "FOR SUPER PLAYERS," as though the game were so hard they thought you deserved an award just for picking it up.

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  5. This site and the resources you provide is really nice keep it up. Console games

    ReplyDelete