Do you remember that day you received your first video game console? How about that time you discovered a secret stage that none of your friends knew about? Those days of being so excited for the latest iteration in a long-running series, only to be disappointed or have your expectations exceeded beyond your wildest dreams. That is what the Video Gamer’s Experience is all about. Now lets take a trip down this electronic memory lane.
To this day I don’t know what convinced me that I needed a Nintendo Entertainment System (NES). Was it a random commercial or magazine ad? Did my parents say something about the video game console and it caught my ear? Did I see someone playing the system during a family get together? No matter the reason, the main present for me on Christmas 1989 was a NES. Thankfully, my parents were blessed enough to pick up the Action Bundle that featured the system, two controllers, the “Zapper” light gun and a game cartridge featuring not one, but two games. After watching my dad hook up the console to our television (an action I would perfect years later when upgrading and moving consoles around the house to play on a bigger screen became the norm), I hooked up the Zapper and looked to shoot some virtual ducks in “Duck Hunt”. To say my first shooting experience was a sad sight would be an understatement.
Though I got better at “Duck Hunt” the more I played that day (and beyond), nothing grabbed my attention more than the other game bundled on the cartridge, “Super Mario Bros.”. For the next year, I would rent and own a variety of games – some great (“Punch-Out”), some bad (“Tag Team Pro Wrestling”) some ahead of its time (Excitebike) and some too difficult for the youngster that I was to complete or beat ( “Batman”, “Battle Toads”, “Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles”). But none of them compared to “Super Mario Bros.” So color me surprised when I discovered at the local video store a copy of “Super Mario Bros. 2”. Once so happy to try this sequel out, I couldn’t help be disappointed when I turned on my NES and found a game that made me audibly say, “This isn’t ‘Mario’.”
It’s a good thing my parents only rented the game because the “Doki Doki Panic” re-skinned game featuring “Mario” characters quickly left my console, never to be played again. Unlike the great mystery of how I became interested in owning an NES, there’s a good chance “McDonalds” had a hand in what would become my next experiment with the “Super Mario Bros.” franchise. During 1990, in a cross-promotion between the fast-food chain and Nintendo Entertainment of America, each McDonalds’ “Happy Meal” featured a toy from the console’s next big thing, “Super Mario Bros. 3”.
Seemingly unfazed by the “abomination” that was “SMB 2”, I planned my fifth birthday around getting “SMB 3”. Fate (or my parents – whatever sounds better) made it so that “Mario” could redeem itself before I opted to give up and return to the original game to get my real “Mario” fix.
Did I Complete “Super Mario Bros. 3”?
The aforementioned feeling of utter disgust that came with playing that blasphemous attempt at pacifying the American audience with a game not too difficult (something American video game fans would become accustomed to during the NES and SNES days) quickly disappeared when the world of “SMB 3” revealed itself. Unlike the original “Super Mario” where the story of a plumber named “Mario” went from world to world, castle to castle in hopes of saving Princess Toadstool from the evil clutches of dragon-man Bowser, this epic, almost surrealistic journey through a new world would see Mario save kings and queens alike from Bowser’s offspring and the big daddy himself.
In the original “SMB”, the player would have an opportunity to power up Mario with flowers and sparkling stars, squash walking mushrooms, avoid flying hammers and even swim with the jellyfish. Not much changed between “SMB” and “SMB 3 from a structural perspective. But the worlds, powers, and even the reason for Mario to travel made “Super Mario Bros. 3” one of the most fascinating experiences around.
Sadly, my skills still weren’t up to par during that time. By the time I moved onto Sega’s “Genesis” console, I had abandoned hope of every seeing the final victory screen. Like its predecessors, “SMB 3” was re-released on the “Gameboy” handheld system. I purchased the new “advanced” version of “Bros. 3” for the 2002 Christmas holiday with the hopes of doing what I couldn’t over a decade ago. It would take me several weeks thanks to being busy with high school, but on one faithful afternoon, I witnessed Mario be congratulated for restoring peace to the world (instead of being laughed at by the princess like in the NES version). A victory twelve years in the making.
Did “Super Mario Bros. 3” Live Up to the Hype?
The original “Super Mario Bros.” set the standard of what a platforming video game could and should be. Featuring a variety of worlds, secret areas and changing abilities that could mean a quick death or a long run toward the finish line, “SMB” was the stuff legends were made out of. As mentioned earlier, “Super Mario Bros. 3” looked to expand upon everything that made “SMB” so fantastic. First there are the powers. Unlike the first game, Mario found himself with the ability to fly with a tail, dress up as a bear, and even jump in a large, mechanical shoe to squash the un-squashable enemies returning to this world. Mario could catch and kick turtle shells, go behind walls that once appeared to be nothing more than 2D background shapes, and if you wanted to, you could play as Mario’s brother, Luigi.
But what’s a bunch of powers in a world similar to the original. Actually, there’s very little similarities to the worlds seen in the first “Super Mario” (with the water stage from “SMB” being expanded into an entire world). Using an overland map, the player can (somewhat) pick a unique route to reach each world’s final stage. There are so many different locations featuring unique environments. Hands down, my favorite world has to be “Giant World” where everything but Mario (or Luigi) is huge … HUGE!
There are some frustrating moments/levels though (like the battleship stage), but wanting to see what you’d experienced next makes almost impossible to stop trying. To top the growing world and super powers list, somehow “SMB 3” improves on the one area the first game wasn’t lacking – game play. “SMB 3” feels slicker, yet tight. The controls seem more responsive and prevent agonizing deaths caused by controller-to-game delay. There are even bonus stages where a player can get some extra power-ups or lives to help them in their journey. Isn’t it nice to be rewarded for your hard work.
If there’s one flaw that comes with playing “SMB 3” today it’s the graphics. While a big step forward in the graphics department when comparing “3” to its ancestors, the once bright and vibrant world doesn’t look as vivid or amazing as it did all those years ago. Blame spoiled eyes in this age of HD, but to see a game that once looked like heaven appear almost mundane by today’s standards (unlike some of the 16-bit games that would come during gaming’s next generation) is a little disheartening.
Should You Play “Super Mario Bros. 3”?
With a ton of hype and having to follow one of the industry’s greatest, most revolutionary achievements, “Super Mario Bros. 3” had a lot going against it, but exceeded all expectations. From expanding on the platforming foundation set by its predecessor, “3” was made to deliver a familiar, yet unique experience that would stand the test of time. Mr. Miyamoto, Mr. Tezuka and their crew accomplished their goal while gracing the world with another classic video game. It’s hard to deny “Super Mario Bros. 3” is an absolute masterpiece that should be played by any gamer.