After reviewing Sonic The Hedgehog 1 previously, I thought it would be appropriate to review the game that Sonic challenged in 1991, Super Mario World. Super Mario World is a platformer game released in 1991 and was the 5th game in the mainline Mario Series. The 4 previous games being Mario Bros and Super Mario Bros 1,2,3. This however in comparison to the previous games in the franchise was the first Mario game to be released on Nintendo’s 16 bit console the SNES (or Super Nintendo Entertainment System). Like Sonic The Hedgehog, Super Mario World was a pack in game with the system upon launch.
A pack in game is a game that usually comes with the system and is packed in with the system. Most game systems in the 1980’s and 1990’s would come with a free game with the system so that the consumer would have something to play on their brand new system. So the NES has Super Mario Bros, the SNES had Super Mario World and the Sega Genesis had Altered Beast for 1989 and 1990, then swapped to Sonic The Hedgehog. This trend of “packing in” a game with a new console stopped with the release of the Playstation in 1996, which would have demo discs packed in with the console. The demo discs however would have more than 1 game to try out, but the games would be incomplete and some games on those demo discs would never actually be released. It wouldn’t be until 2006 that a console would launch with a pack in game, which was the Nintendo Wii and Wii Sports.
So the story of Super Mario World is quite a simple one. Peach, the princess of the Mushroom Kingdom, has been kidnapped by Bowser, who is turtle like creature and King of the Koopas. But, as well as kidnapping Peach, this time he also kidnapped all of the Yoshi’s that lived on Yoshi’s Island. The way that Mario achieves this is by defeating the 7 Koopalings who are based inside castles, which were taken over during Peach’s and the Yoshi’s capture.
Compared to the previous Mario games, he is not just saving the princess, which I think was a positive move otherwise the story would have felt recycled. I know that saving Peach is the premise of most of the Mario games, but before Super Mario World it was the only objective. Also, Yoshi being added to the story was a very important move by Nintendo, as after Super Mario World Yoshi has been in most of the mainline Mario games and even had spin-off games centred around the Yoshi character. So, the additions to the story both kept the story simple enough for newcomers to the series, but also spiced it up enough for players of the previous games to make the story interesting. However, the simple nature of the story is what has made the story of the Mario universe so accessible for young and older audiences alike.
Super Mario World being a platformer, the objective is to reach the goal at the end of each stage to progress onto the next stage. The game is split up into 9 worlds, with 7 cores worlds and 2 additional worlds, Star Road and Special Zone. There were also levels called switch palaces, which would fill in transparent squares in all stages of that specific colour. The switch palaces would be of benefit of players, as the switch would make some stages easier especially in Castles and Fortresses. These switches also activate blocks, which when the player hits them would have a power up inside them.
The powerups in this game is what helps it stand out from other similar platformers. The powerups are Mushroom, Fire Flower and Cape. The mushroom is quite a simple powerup, which means Mario can take an extra hit before the player loses a life. The Fire Flower allows the player to attack enemies by shooting fireballs at enemies. This powerup is very helpful in levels where there are a lot of enemies. The Cape is quite unique, as it allows the player to fly. In a speedrun, the Cape is preferred because with good timing you can fly at a consistent height and even gain height. These powerups in my opinion have a modest amount of variety, Super Mario Bros 3 the previous instalment in the series had a wide spectrum of different powerups. I suppose Nintendo wanted to simplify this system as for younger players the larger amount of powerups might have been overwhelming.
Difficulty and World by World Analysis
The game’s difficulty is spot even though there are some exits there are very difficult even as a speedrunner of the game. The next section I will explain each world in detail each individual world because the world’s are quite different in terms of the layouts and difficulty. I won’t explain each individual levels as this review would never end.
Yoshi’s Island is a very simple world with a total of 4 levels and then a castle. This world also contains the first Switch Palace which is the yellow switch palace. It is actually impossible to lose a life in this switch palace because there are no enemies in this palace. The palace has a P switch which when you hit it the room fills with coins, which during the early parts of the game is very useful because when you collect 100 coins you gain an extra life. The other levels in this world are very easy and it allows newcomers to the game to learn the controls effectively without there being any difficult platforming. These early levels allow the player to also adapt and get used to the mechanics of Yoshi, as well as what is known as P speed.
P speed is a mechanic where if you run in a specific direction for about 2-2.5 seconds Mario will run as maximum speed. When Mario is running at this top speed, he is able to jump much higher and also bounce off enemies to gain more height. Also, P speed allows the player to fly with the cape and if you time what is known as cape pumps (where you press left to maintain flight speed) you can fly above the screen, which can simplify quite a few levels both in a speedrun and non-speedrunning sense.If you get P speed whilst riding a Yoshi and Mario having the cape powerup, you can fly and glide with Yoshi to extend the jumps even further.
Donut Plains is where the game opens up quite widely. There are multiple levels which have what are known as secret exits. Secret exits are secondary exits that the player can find which will take the player to secret levels. In Donut plains there are 4 levels that have secret exits and these secret exits take you to the Green Switch Palace, Star World (which I will cover later) and the Top Secret Area. The wide array of secret exits and route to take makes Donut Plains one of the worlds with the most freedom to decide where you go. This world is also where in a speedrun the game opens up for the different categories. So for example, if you are doing the 11 exit category, you would take Donut Plains 1 Secret Exit to the underwater secret levels. Then you take that secret exit to the Secret Ghost House (the ghost house in the bottom of the above map). From there you beat the Big Boo in that stage and go to Star World.
The difficulty of Donut Plains is somewhat higher compared to Yoshi’s Island mainly because of the Ghost House levels. These levels can be hard to manoeuvre through because in these levels there are a lot of ghosts whose behaviour have patterns. These patterns can make these stages somewhat unpredictable for new players who aren’t familiar with the way the ghosts behave. Except from the Ghost Houses, there is also an autoscroller level which is Donut Plains 2. An autoscroller is a level, which the screen scrolls automatically and the player cannot influence the speed that the game scrolls the screen. The autoscroller in this world is relatively simple but it is very easy to make a mistake and lose a life.
Top Secret Area is the only level in Super Mario World which does not have any exits, it is in fact a level where you can regain your powerups. This stage can be accessed by getting the Secret Exit in Donut Ghost House. If you don’t have a powerup, all 4 blocks (apart from the centre block) will give you a mushroom. If you do have a powerup, the 2 blocks to the left of the centre block have Fire Flower powerups and the 2 to the right have capes in them. The centre block will have a Yoshi in there, however, if you already have a Yoshi the block will in fact have an extra life. Top Secret Area is a helpful resource for new players to regain their powerups and also get some extra lives.
Vanilla Dome in comparison to Donut Plains is somewhat more linear in terms of route. This world has 3 secret exits, but some of these secret exits do require switch palaces to access them. Vanilla Dome 1 requires the Red Switch Palace, which can be found by getting the Secret Exit in Vanilla Dome 2. Vanilla Dome also is where the game spikes in difficulty and is one of the tougher worlds. This is in my opinion, the 2nd hardest world behind Special World. Some of the levels in this world are unforgiving, such as Vanilla Dome 3 and Castle 3.
Twin Bridges Area is a very unique area as the top route can be accessed by taking the secret route throughout Vanilla Dome, whilst the lower bridge can be accessed by taking the normal route and beating Castle 3. There is only one secret exit in this world which is in Cheese Bridge (the first level on the lower bridge). This secret exit leads to one of the most difficult stages in the game called Soda Lake. This stage is notorious for being a difficult underwater stage where there are a lot of enemies on the screen, which causes a lot of lag.
Forest of Illusion is perhaps the most confusing world in the game as there are a lot of secret exits and some of them cause the player to loop back to the start of the world. This is only one of 2 main worlds which require the player to find a secret exit. The player needs to find a secret exit in Forest of Illusion 3 to leave the world and go to the 5th castle. This world also have a very famous and difficult levels for non-speedrunners, which is Forest of Illusion 2. This level is a very long underwater level and the level is also a maze. The maze elements makes the stage very interesting, but it makes completing the stage hard because on top of the length of the stage there is also a secret exit, which goes to the Blue Switch Palace (the final Switch Palace).
Chocolate Island is another world similar to the way that Forest of Illusion is because the player must take a Secret Exit to progress through the game. Although, one of the secret exits is a unique timed exit and the level where this exit occurs is in Chocolate Island 2. The way that you access the secret exit in this stage is my entering the pipe on the 2nd screen at 249 on the stage timer. This secret exit will take the player to Chocolate Secret which is actually on the same map as Valley of Bowser. This world is somewhat easier compared to Forest of Illusion even though the required secret exit/s required can be difficult to find.
Valley of Bowser is a very tough and difficult world is progress through, but then again it is the final main world in the game. The levels here are very difficult and can be very confusing to navigate through. However, unlike Chocolate Island and Forest of Illusion you don’t need to find a secret exit to get to in this case the final boss. Bowser is quite unusual as there are two ways to reach him, which are through the front door and the back door. The front door will require the player to complete 2 rooms, one from 1-4 and one from 5-8. All the rooms are very different and some rooms are much harder than others. After beating 2 rooms you then have to survive the dark room. The dark room is very difficult because if you don’t hit the light in the beginning of the room, then seeing where you are going in this screen is extremely difficult. However, if you take the secret route via Valley of Bowser 2 and Valley Fort, then you skip the 2 rooms that the player would have to complete when entering the front door. You also get a checkpoint when entering the back door, whilst going through the front door, if you die on Bowser you have to complete the entirety of the Front Door stage.
The Bowser fight is quite difficult if you don’t know what to expect from this boss. The problem with Bowser is that the movement of Bowser in the Koopa car is a swaying motion and throwing the mechakoopa up to hit Bowser can be difficult because if you don’t hit bowser on the head then you don’t do damage. The hardest part of this fight is the 3rd and final phase, where Bowser bouncing and slams the ground. Hitting Bowser during this phase is very difficult because it is very easy to hit the sides of the car, which if you do you would have to wait for Bowser to throw more mechakoopas down for the player to throw up to hit Bowser.
Star World and Special World are both optional worlds that the player can access by completing secret exit paths. Special world is accessed by getting the secret exit in the Star World 5 stage (the middle bottom stage). Star World has a normal and a secret exit, although the normal and secret exits would be both required to get all 96 exit during the game. Star World is actually quite a simple world with no stages are really difficult. However, Special World is a really difficult world with the 2 hardest stages in the game, Mondo and Tubular. These 2 stages are notorious for being extremely difficult for both speedrunners and non-speedrunners alike.
Overall, the game’s difficulty is pretty much spot on in terms of the difficulty spike. The order of the worlds is consistent with the way the difficulty spike rises as the player gets further in the game. The switch palaces offer some relief for the player should they be able to find these palaces and in some cases the switches are need to access the secret exits. Also, the length of the game for a platformer is on average about 4 hours for a non-speedrunner, which for a platforming game is quite impressive.
The music in Super Mario World was composed by Koji Kondo, who had composed music for the previous 3 Super Mario Bros games. Kondo at the time was also extremely well known for composing the music and the sound design for The Legend of Zelda. The music is absolutely fantastic and there isn’t a single track on the soundtrack which I can criticise. There is however one problem with the soundtrack which is one of the only gripes I have with the game as a whole. The problem with the soundtrack is that there isn’t enough variation with the soundtrack and considering the amount of stages in the game, there is a lot of repetitions and recycling of music. If there were a few more themes then there wouldn’t be a single issue with the game.
The major positive with the soundtrack is that when Mario jumps onto a Yoshi, there is a variant of all of the stage music especially for when Mario is riding a Yoshi. If Mario jumps off a Yoshi, then the music switches on the fly between the two variants of the themes. The music working in tandem with what is happening on screen is something that at the time was not seen that often, as normally the game would switch between the two versions of the MIDI, but there would be a delay between loading these two themes.
Super Mario World is still as fun to play today as it was when I was a child. The game looks and plays perfectly apart from the occasional dropped input. The soundtrack is fantastic and the controls are fluid and responsive. As good today as it was back on release.
Copyright ©2016 Liam Piper. All Images Used Under Fair Use