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Super Mario Advance 4: Super Mario Bros. 3 - GBA - Review


Posted by: jkdmedia

Review Rating 9.5 Amazing

Mario has taken many forms over the years.  He strapped a water gun to his back and hovered in the sky in his latest adventure, Super Mario Sunshine.  You saw him grab an orange flower that imbued him with the power of fire on his first journey.  And you saw him don a cape and fly above the enemy-covered stages of Mario World.

Before Mario entered the third dimension and before he took his first flight, Nintendo created a game that's features would find their way into several future releases.  That game was Super Mario Bros. 3.

A small jump for Mario, a huge leap for game developers, Mario 3 took the famous plumber on an entirely new, colorful journey unlike any other.  Even to this day I look back and am baffled that no other game has attempted to mimic the gameplay or at least the levels, which are some of the toughest you'll find in a Mario adventure.  Mario Bros. 3 let Mario fly with the classic Super Leaf item, which turned him into a funny-looking raccoon.  (Maybe that's where Shinji Mikami got the inspiration for the city in Resident Evil.  One of those zombies could have been a plumber!)  Mario 3 gave gamers the power of increased swimming abilities with the Frog Suit.  And it let us become our favorite villain with the inclusion of the awesome Hammer Suit, turning Mario into a hammer brother!

Those features alone were engaging enough to bring in the masses, but no one expected the levels to be so outrageous.  Lost Levels, the title Japanese gamers know as Mario 2, was much more difficult than the original Mario Bros.  American gamers didn't get their hands on that until later though, so Mario 3 came as quite a surprise.  Most of the stages are short, but there are several of them, and each one has a very unique design, mixing a number of Mario staples like water and hard-to-reach platforms with several new level styles that'll defeat gamers time and time again.

The maze-filled pipe stages of World 7, the icy levels of World 6, or the sun-chasing level in one of the previous worlds – these are things that most gamers will never forget.  That bright, evil sun shining in the sky was a hint at the future of the series, which currently emphasizes the sun (Mario Sunshine).  It chased Mario around and attempted to hit him, causing instant death if no power-ups had been acquired.  Mario's only option was to run from the beginning of the level to the end.  He could also use a shell to take out the sun, but one barrier stood in his way: a whirlwind.  If caught in it, Mario would spin a few times and be shot backwards.  He could jump over it, but it wouldn't work if he didn't have enough speed.

That was another thing Mario 3 introduced: a speed meter.  As Mario ran, his meter would begin to increase, eventually blinking, indicating that he could now do something special.  The purpose was to let Mario fly.  He couldn't do it in his standard or super form; he'd need a raccoon suit to lift off and go deeper into the skies.  In many of the game's levels, Mario could find hidden passages, special items or reveal other secrets that could not be discovered just by staying on the ground.

Prior to playing the GBA version I wondered why Mario 3 was the game in the series that I had only played through once.  My memory returned after I slid off the exact same icy ledge four times in a row.  This game is tough!  I wasn't as relentless back then as I am today.  Now I'm thrilled to have a Mario game that is challenging enough to keep me from beating it and unlocking all of the secrets in a weekend. 

Most gamers were at least a little disappointed that Mario Advance 1, 2 and 3 lacked additional game content.  They all had the same multiplayer Mario game that was released in the early 80s, but the fun was limited.  That's what makes the extras in this game so shocking.  If you don't have the e-Reader and you're as big of a Mario nut as I am, you'll likely buy one after reading this.  With the e-Reader, gamers can unlock all-new levels in Mario 3, power-up items, and the so-called Super Levels.  The all-new levels are just that, so if you can afford the e-Reader, there's no reason why you shouldn't pick up as many level cards as you can.  (Note: one level card is included with the game!  It also includes the Super Leaf item, giving Mario the raccoon transformation whenever he needs it, regardless of whether or not you already have the item in the game.)

The Super Levels aren't described as new levels, so it could be assumed that they are harder versions of the levels you've already played in the game.  I'd confirm or deny this speculation, but I have yet to track down all of the level cards (they're sold separately mind you, and not every store carries every card).  No matter what they are, if you've got an e-Reader or plan to buy one for the new levels, you might as well check out these as well.

Considering that a large portion of the GBA owners are kids, this is probably the first time many of them will play Super Mario Bros. 3.  They've been bombarded with 3D titles and other high-tech stuff, so it might not look that spectacular, but this a moment that they should forever cherish.  I am one of the lucky people.  As I aged, so did games, not just in content but in technology as well.  It's like being a kid 50 years ago and being able to see the transition of movies from black and white to color.  Or like being a kid when Star Wars came out.  It'd be impossible for a 12-year-old to look at Mario 3 or any 2D game the same way that my generation does.  Still, this is a masterpiece that can sit on the same pedestal as Mario 64, a title that many kids will remember as one of their first experiences with a game.  There's no need to try and sell this game to adults – they already know and love it and will surely buy it.  Kids should do the same.

Reviewer's Scoring Details

Gameplay: 9.5
In Mario Bros 3, the fun is only a hop, skip and a jump away.  All of the lovable gameplay you grew up with is back.  If you didn't grow up with it, now's the time to start catching up.  When you've played through Mario 3 for the first time you'll wonder why you didn't do it sooner.  You'll feel like you were an incomplete gamer up until that point, because this is the pinnacle of 8-bit gaming.


I'd go over the reasons why again, but most of them were already covered, and the rest are given in the Concept section (see below).  If you're the type of gamer who likes quick conclusions, then let me make this easy for you: Mario Bros. 3 is a must-buy.

Graphics: 8.5
Mario 3 has excellent graphics.  The backgrounds are colorful, the characters look cool, and everything has been upgraded to look more like a 16-bit title (this was originally released on the 8-bit Nintendo Entertainment System).  It's not as much of a showstopper as Mario World, which was developed specifically for the SNES.

Sound: 8.9
Of all the Mario games, this one has my least-favorite soundtrack.  But when a series sounds as good as Super Mario Bros., the "least favorite" is still very good.  The soundtrack consists of remixed Mario tunes and some really funky tracks that would be out place in any other series.  In Mario 3, they fit right in.

Difficulty: Medium/Hard
It gives me great pleasure to be able to say that this game defeated me.  Not entirely – no game can keep me down forever, muahaha!  Ahem, really though, this game is tough.  I died more times than I care to admit.  The boss battles are relatively easy (except for the last one – blast you Bowser!), but the worlds leading up to them provide quite a challenge.

Concept: 8.9
While this upgraded port receives an 8.9, make no mistake: when Mario Bros. 3 was released it would have received a 10 from me.  I wasn't reviewing games then, but that didn't stop me from praising these titles in my own way.  (Calls up friend): "Hey, you've gotta check this out, Nintendo just released a new Mario game and it's perfect!"

The various "suits" that Mario can wear are brilliantly brilliant.  The levels are challenging, and above all else, they are always fun to explore.  You've got side-scrolling levels that you can backtrack in; levels that constantly move forward (thus preventing you from going back); outrageous castles; and a few levels that force you to climb to the goal.  It wouldn't be crazy to assume that many of these are what led to the design of Mario 64.  There are tons of subtle similarities.  Playing Mario 3 has made me want to play through Mario 64 and Mario Sunshine all over again!

I wouldn't want to see Mario in a frog suit on GameCube (he can swim just fine in Mario Sunshine without it), but I would love to see him wear the Hammer Suit in a future Mario game.  I'd also like to see Nintendo go back to the little/big Mario style, where you start out as a small Mario but, after obtaining a mushroom, become the normal sized character we normally see.  The Fire Flower may not have been introduced in this title, but it's still a classic Mario element that should have never been abandoned.

Multiplayer: 7

Overall: 9.5
Mario 3 is like gold to any Nintendo fan.  Whether you've taken the journey before or have yet to play this unforgettable classic, you can't stop yourself from being consumed.

This was the first Mario game to introduce Mario's whole family.  His whiney little kids took control of each of the game's worlds, and it's up to Mario to defeat them.  This was also the first Mario game to introduce mini-games.  I doubt that anyone realizes that.  To be honest this is the first time I realized it.  The mini-games were much more primitive than the ones we're used to these days, but the memory-type card game was pretty cool.

Super Mario Bros. 3 is rated "E" for Everyone should buy this game!  The mixture of gameplay mechanics was unprecedented for the time, and even to this day it would be hard to find a game with more variety crammed into it.

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