Since her first Nintendo, Jennifer Branton has been an avid gamer who fairs best in Survival Horror and RPG's.
Awakening From A Dream
What the Western world got as our follow up to the iconic Super Mario Bros, was one of the most confusing entries to the early NES Mario franchise, and notably there were some really strange games when it came to Mario's golf outings and tennis.
Where the rest of the world got what would later be released to the US audience as Super Mario Bros: The Lost Levels, a by far much more challenging version of the first Mario game that I used to play and get my butt handed to me on a constant basis and still haven't mastered on the 3DS, this lack of faith in the American Mario player must have been a given as what aspiring Mario fans got was something passing as Super Mario Bros 2: Mario Madness. The game was a re-skinned game that was in development at the time Doki Doki Panic, not to be confused with any of the current Doki Doki games that also don't have anything to do with this game. Way to take down two franchises with one crappy game, Nintendo.
Super Mario Bros 2: Mario Madness was a strange leap down the proverbial rabbit hole for a game who's original was one of early platformings very best. The game opens with curtains and what appears to be a stage, just as later argued in Super Mario Bros 3, that 3 was just some sort of stage play about the Mario adventures so far. In 2, Mario meets up with Luigi, then still Princess Toadstool, long before changing her name to Peach, and a Toad for a picnic when they discover the new magical entryway to another realm.
Mario and his friends embark on an adventure through a strange land encountering new types of enemies along the way, many of which find there way into becoming a later subspecies of later Mario installments.
Another thing Super Mario Bros 2 did for the franchise was set the standard of having different environments instead of the stagnate version of the Mushroom Kingdom seen in the original. Sure in the original we introduced water, and nighttime, but Super Mario Bros 2 had the range of what would be known in every Mario game since, including a desert land, and frozen wintry world.
Moving About In A Strange World
Game in Super Mario Bros 2 is very different from the original title. While Super Mario Bros, on the Nintendo was a spin off arcade games where Mario, arguably the same one that was once a carpenter and mistreated his pet Donkey Kong to the point where the ape kidnapped his owners girlfriend, Pauline; was a side scrolling platformer with some jump elevation, most of Super Mario Bros made the player go down through pipes which lead to sub-levels, Warp Worlds, and coin caches. Mario rarely ever went up unless it was to the top of the screen to scale and plop down on the end of level pole with persistence and gain as many points and extra lives as possible at completion.
The layout of Super Mario Bros 2: Mario Madness is unlike anything ever seen in a Mario game again- and at this point in Super Mario Odyssey, Mario has fought Bowser on the moon.
Mario or whatever player you desire, can climb vines, super jump, and use potions to get to another reality where coins or other items could appear. Also side scrolling in 2D, this Mario world explores jumping down vases instead of pipes, and darkened versions of the setting when using the potions to pick up some extra coins rather than Coin Heavens used in every other game in the franchise.
The movement of the characters is as strange as the enemies that await Mario.
Most enemies have set patrol routes, similar to the Goombas and Turtles, of the first game and will not jump down from a higher ledge to go after Mario if you are standing under or just out of reach, but there are some colors of enemy types that Mario can easily lure to walk off a ledge to their own demise as the AI won't respond to turning around before walking off.
Mario can also pick up TNT block and drop them near a group of enemies and the jolt is enough to drop everyone on the screen.
Another way to kill enemies is picking them up by standing on them, something that Mario can later accomplish with shelled enemies varieties in later installments, but for Super Mario 2 this was a first. Enemies can be briefly ridden, and chucked at other enemies on screen which will knock the pair both off screen- unless there is a miss. Then the thrown enemy will resume the patrol route of wherever it was tossed.
The oddest part of the this setup is the variety of the vegetables that can be plucked from the ground and thrown at enemies to kill them.
Who says no good came of vegetables?
Mario can earn hearts to restore his health after defeating enough enemies. The same as the earlier installment, it doesn't take much for Mario to get killed by bosses and a sometimes as little as one hit from a minor foe could be enough to kill Mario.
Characters And Abilities
Super Mario Bros 2: Mario Madness is the first of the Mario franchise that doesn't offer multiplayer. The first game didn't have true multiplayer, as we know it today in later installments where two characters can be onscreen at the same time, instead as seen in Super Mario Bros and Super Mario Bros 3, the controller would be handed back and forth as one player would play through as many levels as they could before losing a life and then the second player would play through the same set of levels on their own character.
Super Mario Bros 2 does allow for a selection of characters though and for the first time before that of 3's item inventory, the player can switch off characters between every few chapters.
2 had its playable characters given different skill sets, something completely different than the set up of the original game and even the Lost Levels with Luigi being only a green version of Mario, Player Two.
This game gave Luigi an identity for once, and set up fro the idea of him being Mario's awkward and geeky brother, bashful, and all gangling limbs. Luigi's awkwardness makes him the highest jumper in the bunch which works great for levels where there is a lot of vertical platforming, something not seen in the original game. Some levels, particularly in the desert sections, need for a character to move straight up for long sections and Luigi's powerful jump is perfect, only he is flailing in midair and very hard to control and milk the landing.
Playing the wrong level as Luigi, creates nothing but frustration as you over jump time and time again as he goes all rag doll in the air, legs quaking and wobbling.
Mario on the other hand, who has average ratings at everything in 2, isn't always the ideal choice either as he really has to work on the high jumps.
Toad, one of the royal subjects of the Mushroom Kingdom that later goes on to be one of the quasi in-group of the rest of the Mario games, seems to be the only of his kind in the early games until you later realize there are many Toads, so if the same one that is companion on this quest is the same Toad in later Mario Karts, it is hard to say. Toad is an excellent jumper, strangely given his short stature of being half the size of the rest of the players.
Princess Toadstool is a natural when it comes to needing a little glide before landing. In many of the sections of the game where characters need to long jump horizontally in sections of the game over quick sand, ground enemies, or hop from enemy to enemy that can be ridden, Princess Toadstool is the best choice for her graceful hang-time of a few seconds longer than the male players. She is also good and jumping, but has one of the slowest movements in the game, even compared to Luigi who jitters like he has developed Parkinson's on his quest.
Pokeys, Shy Guys, And Bobombs
Where Super Mario Bros and most of its later installments have to do with Bowser somehow kidnapping Peach once again, Super Mario Bros 2 has some rather unique enemies and bosses. Keeping in mind the game was scripted to be Doki Doki Panic featuring a completely different cast of playable characters that would be able to be switched out every few worlds in the same manner as what in the final version took place for Mario and the gang. The overlord of this game is a creature named Wart, a huge Frog type thing. Other encounters put Mario up against Rats, snakes,crabs, and what would later go on in the series to be a variety of Birdos, that for some reason spit eggs at Mario which he can catch and throw back.
Birdos come in variety of colors like some of the ground enemies and some will even spit fire rather than eggs, so be prepared.
The manual for this game is extremely confusing if you come across it as its explanation of the bosses changes names, genders, and spellings of the enemies often such as in the case of Ostro interchanged with Birdo.
One boss of 2, FryGuy, went onto be used again in later games such as in Super Mario 3 when the Sun is chasing Mario through an area of the Grasslands, and later appears in the sky in the desert. In 2, FryGuy looks more like a ball of fire than a sun, as he is later depicted.
Super Mario Bros 2 is the first time you come across the variety of Shy Guys, a masked little cloaked thing similar to the size of the Goombas that are set on a patrol route. They come in red, pink, blue, and green and based on their color, they may either turn around when they come to a ledge, or walk right off. Mario can ride them for a short period of time and they can also be thrown at other enemies. If they don't knock an enemy out though, they can land and resume their patrol. They aren't very smart AI and don't actively chase Mario as he moves.
Shy Guy variety are found in later games from the Mario franchise to Yoshi's Island and its sequel as one of the main enemy types.
Sniffits are another type similar to the Shy Guys only they can shoot projectiles at Mario as he passes. They are a little more aggressive and will try to engage you and some will even vertically hop up to a higher platform in the sand levels. Mario can take a few hits from a Sniffit, but you will lose a mushroom after a hit and go back to "regular sized" characters.
Trouter is a fish type thing, which jumps out of the water sections and Mario can often jump across. He can also pick them up and throw Trouters. They are very different then the other types of fish that Mario will encounter in other installments and don't give chase, only leap out of the water at Mario. They appear in some other games in sections where there are CheepCheeps.
Flurrys are rather cute little enemies that Mario will encounter in the Winter sections of the game. Tiny little snow creatures, Flurry looks rather cute, like a series of snowballs on legs that walk a set patrol path across the ice at Mario. Contact with them can kill the character or take the character back to regular size if they used a mushroom.
Flurry isn't very smart and can easily be lured off the ledges, or slip on the ice. They are seen in later games with Winter levels, especially one of the enemies seen in Super Mario Bros 3. Flurrys are nothing to worry about though as Mario can easily jump over them as long as he doesn't lose traction on the ice. This world is best used with Princess Toadstool as she can jump and glide and get a better and more precise landing than any of the male characters.
Pokey will later become a staple to any game that later has desert levels. The cactus enemies come in varying heights and if Mario lands on them he can ride them across quick sand. He can also detach the head section and throw them at other enemies. Each time Mario pulls off a section, whatever is the top becomes the new head, even if its the last section of the body so be advised, Pokey will keep coming as long as there is a body left. But never fear as they are one of the most harmless enemies in Super Mario Bros 2.
Spark is just a radiating ball of electricity that can shock Mario if he brushes against him. Spark is used again in many later games, in some where he even takes on the characteristic of chasing Mario, similar to the movement of Phantom in 2, who is just a mask that is tasked with guarding keys to doors to move Mario into another section of the game. Phantom will lunge at Mario and keep as long as the key is in Mario's possession. Mario can throw down the key and Phantom will stop his pursuit.
Autobomb is a robotic device that patrols in one direction either delivering Bobombs or the occassional Shy Guy or Sniffit at Mario. While Autobombs themselves are not dangerous unless Mario gets hit with its payload, they can also be ridden across the screen but not picked up and thrown. Bobombs, the small walking bombs that are ejected, go on to play a big part in the Mario franchise as one of the top enemies around the battle ship areas. They will later come in various varieties as well and can be picked up and thrown back at other enemies before they explode.
Shaping Environments For Later Installments
For a game that wasn't meant to be about Mario, Super Mario Bros 2 despite its odd game play mechanics, strange story, setting, and that ending where it was all a dream- the reason that Super Mario Bros 2 to many goes down as the possible worst thing that has ever happened to the Mario franchise; the strange game brought many new elements to the emerging franchise.
2 unlike Super Mario Bros gave the idea of having seven levels, later expanded to eight for some games. The game would start off in what would be usually the Grasslands area, just as two where it would later progress to desert, a water level, a winter wonderland, and firey hell.
2 explored the idea that Bowser didn't need to be the enemy at the end of every level and that Mario could have others to fight along his quest before meeting the final boss.
2 had several memorable enemy types that set the frame work for other varieties that were later imported into the Mario universe.
While the game play of 2 was less than exciting and the ending that it was all a dream of Mario's was disappointing in a world of no saves players either powered through the title all in one sitting or did what my brother and I did and left the game running sometimes for days until completing it and hoped the power didn't go out while we were at school.
Super Mario Bros 2 even when I replayed it some years ago on the 3DS doesn't feel like a Mario game. Because it isn't a Mario game, not so much by the nature of what it was intended to originally be, but I have concluded it was more of the testing ground for how the Mario universe could be expanded upon and provided data for what over types of enemies and game play mechanics could work in side-scrolling 2D platforming games. By the time Mario was able to be 3D and now even more open world like Odyssey everything we learned about how Mario could be played instead of its humble beginning romp through the Mushroom Kingdom changed.
We really have Super Mario Bros 2 to thank for the changes that would later come in future installments of the game- and even as terrible as this title was, it is still memorable and has the replay value if it ever comes to the new Nintendo service when it launches later this year.