Super Mario Bros. 2

      This time around, I'm going to be reviewing a classic NES game that everybody loves: Super Mario Bros. 2! Well, sort of. The Super Mario Bros. 2 that most people remember takes place in a dream world called Subcon where Mario and friends threw obliging turnips at Shyguys and Tweeters as they fought their way towards the evil frog king Wart. That game was originally released in 1988 and it was a huge hit in the U.S. and Europe. That game was also the focus of the very first issue of Nintendo Power, which featured claymation versions of Wart and Mario on the cover. The game that most people recognize as Super Mario Bros. 2 looked like this:


      While this game is a lot of fun, it is not the true Super Mario Bros. 2. Didn't you ever wonder why the vast majority of SMB2 enemies never reappeared later in the franchise? The truth is, the game released in the U.S. as Super Mario Bros. 2 was actually a port of Japanese game called Doki Doki Panic with the Mario gang replacing the game's original heroes. The real Mario 2 was released in Japan in 1986 and Nintendo decided it would be far too difficult for American gamers. So instead, they took an easier game and gave it a Mario theme. This was probably one of the first times that a Japanese gaming company royally screwed over The West, but it would not be the last. Japan has a long, ugly history of screwing over foreigners when it comes to video games. Japanese versions of games sometimes have extras not found in their North American and European counterparts, and they almost always come out at least a few months earlier. To make matters worse, there are hundreds of games that have never been released outside of Japan. When Final Fantasy VII came out, it was only the fourth Final Fantasy title released in America. In pulling shit like this, the Japanese have shown an open contempt for foreign gaming markets, markets which happen to be considerably bigger than their domestic market. I guess that's what happens when someone drops two atomic bombs on a country. The funny thing is, all of the in-game text in the original Super Mario Bros. 2 is in English. Go figure.

      For those out there who are content with the Super Mario Bros. 2 that they got to play, it may not seem like such a big deal that Nintendo lied to you. Well, a lie is still a lie even if it doesn't hurt you, and one bred in the sort of condescension that Nintendo had for its customers *should* hurt. Super Mario Bros. 2 is a hard game, but it is not impossibly hard. Of course, the most important issue here isn't whether or not the game is hard, it's whether or not the game is worth playing; I say yes. Let's take a look...


      On its surface, Super Mario Brother 2 looks a lot like the original Super Mario Brothers. OK, it looks almost exactly like the original. Very few of the sprites have been updated; Goombas, Koopas, Bloopers, Bowser, pipes, coins, Mario... they all look the same. There have been a few revamps though. The ground is rockier, the clouds are happier, and the shrubs in the background have all been redone. The Magic Mushrooms have been improved as well: they now have eyes. I don't really know what the point of that is, but it's something that has stuck with the franchise ever since. However, that's not all: there are also a few new enemies in the game.


      Remember how fucking annoying those flying fish were in SMB1? Well, now there are flying squid. The flying Bloopers move around just as erratically as regular Bloopers, but now you can jump on them. They're worth 1000 points if you stomp them and they're considerably less annoying than the equally valued Hammer Brothers. Another obstacle in Mario's path this time around are the Poison Mushrooms. Poison Mushrooms resemble Magic Mushrooms, but they hurt you if they touch you instead of making you bigger. Much like bricks, the color of Poison Mushroom changes depending on where you are. They're generally brown, but they're blue in underground levels and grey in castle levels. Another new enemy that you'll encounter is the red piranha plant. Whereas green piranha plants can't emerge if you are touching the side of the pipe, the red ones can. This is hardly a setback for a player with any moderate level of skill. Don't worry, they still can't pop up if you're standing on top of the pipe. There is one other new enemy that you'll face, and I've saved the best for the last....



      As if one King Koopa wasn't bad enough, some castles have a decoy. You can tell that he's a fake because he's slightly darker than normal Bowser and there's not a big obvious axe behind him. Other than that, Fake Bowser can do pretty much anything that regular Bowser can. Some throw the fucking hammers, others don't. Regardless, the Fake Bowsers are just as slow, predictable, and easy to run under as their boss.


      What else is new in SMB2? Unlike the original game, there is no 2 player mode. Instead, there are two different one player modes: Mario Game and Luigi Game. In each mode, you play as a different plumber. Luigi can jump higher than Mario, but he skids a little bit when he stops moving. Don't play as Luigi... he sucks. Two new hazards, if they can be called that, appear in the game. First, there are green springs. Green springs allow Mario to bounce higher and further that he could ever go before. You might be wondering how high they could possibly bounce the fat little plumber when red springs already send him to the top of the screen. Well, green springs send Mario so high that he goes off the screen and doesn't come down for five or six seconds. This sucks because it's hard to gauge exactly where he'll land when he finally falls. To make matters worse, there are several levels where your entire goal is maneuver Mario from one green spring to the next while dodging bottomless pits. Not cool. The second obstacle that Mario faces is the windstorm. Windstorms will push Mario back if he's moving at regular pace. However, if Mario is running, he can use the wind to make longer jumps than he normally could. I don't know what the wind is supposed to accomplish. If you're already holding down the B button and running through the level with reckless abandon, the wind isn't a drawback. Yet if you're walking through the level, you'll have plenty of time to adjust Mario's speed. I guess someone on the R&D team had a leaf fetish.


      Three words: what the FUCK!? Mario 2 pioneered the backwards warp zone, something you don't see very often. Or ever, really, because it's ridiculously mean. They exist in Super Mario Bros. 2 for the sole purpose of messing with your mind. SMB2 defies many of the conventions of the first game. You thought pipes could only come out of the ground, not the ceiling? Surprise! Thought you'd never see Hammer Bros. in an underground level? Wrong again. Thought flame bars only exist in castles? Not anymore. This game is a lot less formulaic than its predecessor; just when you think you've got everything figured out, the game throws something unexpected at you. Perhaps the biggest curveball is the improved game physics. Now Mario can bounce off enemies to reach higher platforms.


      Despite the new enemies and gameplay changes, the basic setup of Mario remains the same: there are 8 worlds each comprised of 4 levels. If you make it all the way through World 8, you rescue the princess. This time around, she looks slightly better. She congratulates you with a poem that's *almost* spaced correctly and not particularly exciting. However, Mario 2 is not out of surprises quite yet... If you beat the entire game without warping, you'll be reset to one life and taken to World 9. World 9 is a set of four incredibly difficult levels that will keep repeating over and over until you die. When you finally do fuck up, you get a special game over screen with a message from the design team. But wait, there's more...


      If you manage to beat the regular game eight times, you can hold down the A button when you press start to access Worlds A-D, four bonus worlds of mayhem. If you include World 9, SMB2 has 20 more playable levels than the original. That's a pretty sweet deal. The game is definitely a lot more challenging than the original, but it's not impossible. I wouldn't rank it anywhere as close to impossible as the NES Battletoads game was. There are some very frustrating maze levels and D-4 has one part that's almost impossible, but I think Nintendo severely underestimated the prowess of American gamers. At the same time, perhaps it wasn't a terrible idea to release a totally different game in the US. The real SMB2 is little more than a custom hack of the original game; it is the Mario equivalent of the second quest in The Legend of Zelda. Capcom essentially released the same Megaman game six times on the NES whereas the trilogy of SMB, the U.S. version of SMB2, and SMB3 offer a diverse gaming experience with interesting style and gameplay variations.

      The Japanese version of Super Mario Bros. 2 actually was released in the U.S. once, as The Lost Levels on the ill-conceived Super Mario All-Stars collection for the Super Nintendo. As a video game purist, I find Super Mario All-Stars to be a travesty. The cartridge features 16-bit remakes of Super Mario Brothers, SMB3, and both versions of Mario 2. All four game are classics in their original forms and there was no need to retouch the graphics and rescore the music. By doing so, Nintendo inadvertently stripped the games of many of the qualities that made them classics in the first place. Thankfully, the company seems to have realized that their 8-bit games don't need to be fucked with; the Classic NES series on the GBA offers pure unadulterated nostalgic bliss. Below you'll find the ROM of the original Super Mario Bros. 2 for the Famicom Disk System. It should run on all FDS emulators as well as any good NES emulator. I generally don't distribute ROMs, but this one is a bitch to find. If Nintendo had any plans to re-release this game outside of Japan as part of some Mario collection for the Gamecube or something, I'd feel guilty. Since they don't, I don't. Now go play it.

UPDATE - 10/01/07: Due to the release of this game on the Wii Virtual Console, the SMB2J ROM is no longer available on this site.

Super Mario Bros. 2 (Japan) DISABLED
Super Mario Bros. 2 Packaging (Front)
Super Mario Bros. 2 Packaging (Back)


Posted by: Syd Lexia