Posted 2003-11-03 06:04:01 by
So the GBA port of Super Mario Bros. 3 is out. It's wonderful, as if you needed me to tell you that. It's both better and worse than I expected, though.
On the “better” side, this is a perfect port. There are no control scheme issues and no screen resolution issues. The latter is probably more due to the huge status bar at the bottom of the original than clever redesign of trouble spots, but either way, it plays perfectly. Admittedly, there are a few changes that make things a little easier, mostly added blocks that make it harder for you or the mushroom you're chasing to slip off into the depths. Some people will dislike this, but I'm not one of those people. Fun is paramount over challenge.
On the “worse” side... remember back when I posited that maybe Nintendo was leaving SMB3 for last in the Super Mario Advance series because they were doing something extra special with it? Well, I was right, but none of it is accessible out of the box. There are dozens of new levels and several new power-ups available -- as e-Reader cards.
The e-Reader is pretty cool. You slide the card through, and it scans the block of what looks like white noise printed on the edge. Each card stores about 2.5k, which is about how much space a SMB3 level takes up. Neat idea, huh? They're also selling some older NES games in e-Reader format -- they take up four to eight two-sided cards each. A little awkward, but cool.
Unfortunately, the e-Reader plugs into the cartridge port of the GBA, and it doesn't provide another cartridge port. That means to play these new levels, in addition to the game, the cards, and the e-Reader, you need two Game Boys Advance. And a link cable.
The cartridge stores the levels you've scanned, so you don't actually need to own all this, but still, it considerably raises the bar for playing the new levels. If you don't go through the trouble of procuring all that extra stuff, SMB3 is just a straightforward port of one fourth of Super Mario All-Stars.
Which, I must reiterate, still makes it one of the best games ever made. If you've never played this game before, you owe it to humanity to pick it up.
I have two more things to say, both of which are only arguably on-topic. One: the GBA SP is awesome. Lit screen aside, if you've never opened and closed one outside of captivity, you're missing out on one of life's great pleasures. The clamshell design has enhanced my enjoyment of SMB3 by quite a bit. No bullshit. Maybe I'm just easily amused.
Two: there's a lot of talk on the gamefaqs forums -- and elsewhere, I'm sure -- about what the next Mario game to be ported in the Super Mario Advance series will be. For all I know, the same kind of bickering is going on over at Nintendo of Japan. “Super Mario RPG!” “No, Yoshi's Safari!” But let me just throw in my two cents here: please make a new game!
Unfortunately, I don't think this is going to happen. Nintendo's business plan at this point seems to be to put their big effort into new, flagship titles for their console systems and then port them to portable systems ten years later. That way, you see, they can sell the games several times. They're unlikely to want to put their really good design minds on portable games, because all signs point to there being no market at all for 2D games in 10 years.
As for putting second rate designers on the task... I don't think it will turn out so bad. I'm almost certain Super Mario Land 2 was a fluke. The same team went on to make Wario Land 3, right?