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super mario bros 3
games Posted 2003-11-03 06:04:01 by Jim Crawford
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?

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a new 2d game
Posted by Anonymous (Craig Timpany) on 2003-11-03 18:34:20
I'm sure they can release a new 2D game twice, it's just a case of finding something that gets even more hand-me-downs than a portable game console.

Cellphones or Shockwave?
re: a new 2d game
Posted by Jim Crawford on 2003-11-03 21:10:05
I'm sure you mean that cellphones or Shockwave would do the trick now, or in the next few years, if Nintendo was willing to sell to those market.

But Nintendo doesn't sell to multiple platforms concurrently, they do it over time. And in 10 years, I wouldn't be at all surprised if everyone (by which i mean "everyone who matters") has contact lens huds a la Fast Times at Fairmont High, with graphical power comparable to current console systems.

At that level of technology, 2D would be a purely aesthetic choice rather than a practical one, and it would probably be used about as often as black and white film is used in movies nowadays.
re: a new 2d game
Posted by Anonymous (Craig Timpany) on 2003-11-07 04:01:22
How many generations of cellphones before they can run this hypothetical Super Mario World 3?

Maybe more like 3 years later.
re: a new 2d game
Posted by Anonymous (Craig Timpany) on 2003-11-07 04:05:32
Well, ok, zero generations if you count the N-gage. (ick)

But I'm looking at the photo on your front page and thinking, "He's not counting the N-gage".
re: a new 2d game
Posted by Jim Crawford on 2003-11-08 03:06:59
There are a lot of phones out now that could run a decent SMB-style platformer... but these are not large markets, and there is no evidence that they'll ever become large enough to be worth diluting the must-own-ness of Nintendo's portable system by porting an A-list game to them.

And even if they did, Nintendo's too proud. Though they're currently making decent money, I suspect that they could be doing a lot better if they were making games for the Playstation 2.

But Nintendo's proven pretty smart about what makes money and what doesn't -- they aren't doing on-line gaming just yet, because it doesn't make money. They don't make bleeding-edge portable systems, because those don't make money.

I'm no financial analyst. Just give me more Shigeru Miyamoto games. I think I'm going to go play some more SMB3 now.
re: a new 2d game
Posted by Anonymous (Craig Timpany) on 2003-11-12 14:28:21
 There are a lot of phones out now that could run a decent SMB-style platformer

I assumed the reason for the N-gage's existance was that it had more CPU power than a regular cellphone could justify.

Judging by the recent news that other Symbian phones can run N-gage games quite happily, it seems I'm wrong.

 I suspect that they could be doing a lot better if they were making games for the Playstation 2.

I wonder how Sega's getting on?
re: a new 2d game
Posted by Jim Crawford on 2003-11-17 12:54:06
 I wonder how Sega's getting on?

I haven't really been paying attention since they tried to fuck me over with Super Monkey Ball 2, but last I heard, they were doing ridiculously poorly because instead of focusing on their strengths, they put all their money into into their sports lineup, and EA pretty much has a stranglehold on that market.

This is fairly old data, though:

Look, look, proof that I don't read insert credit just for Tim Rogers's articles.
more on smb3
Posted by Jim Crawford on 2003-11-22 03:56:55
A couple peeves with the new version I ought to point out:

0. The maximum life count is now 999. This has its pluses -- under normal circumstances, I end up with about 200 lives by the end of the game. If the max was 99, 100 of those would essentially be wasted and much of the satisfied feeling of accomplishment with each extra life would be gone. That said, there's also a tremendous aesthetic appeal to maxing out the life count, and it takes an irritating amount of time. In the NES version, I could use the 1-up factory trick in 3-9, get 99 lives, and be out with 50 "seconds" left on the clock. It takes five or six lives to get 999 lives this same way.

1. There are two different endings now. The original ending keeps the end theme from the original version, and the "credits" ending uses a similar but far inferior song. You get the original theme if you skipped one or more levels on your way to the end, and you get the "credits" theme if you finish everything. This puts me in the position of choosing to hear the inferior ending theme, or to skip a level. Again, an aesthetic dilemma.
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