A 2D platformer and first entry on the SNES in the Super Mario franchise, Super Mario World follows Mario as he attempts to defeat Bowser's underlings and rescue Princess Peach from his clutches. The game features a save system, a less linear world map, an expanded movement arsenal and numerous new items for Mario, alongside new approaches to level design and art direction.
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Super Mario World is a game that holds a lot of nostalgia for me. Though I was born roughly 7 years past its inital releaes in 1990, or 1991 in America, it's one of the first video games I can remember playing. I had initially played when it was ported to the GBA as part of the 'Super Mario Advance' series. I was probably 5, maybe 6, years old the first time I picked it up. There's not doubt that I have many fond memories of the game as I've played it numerous times through the years. It's probably the first 2D Platformer that I fell in love with. After picking it up again on a whim through the Switch's SNES virtual console I still found myself having a fun time blasting through levels and saving Princess Toadstool from Bowser. In the 30 years since its first release, I'm sure there are many who share experiences similar to mine. However, looking past the nostalgia I found myself playing a game that is ultimately held back by a few flaws.Though before delving into my critiques of the game, I would like to start by going over the things that I like about the game.
If nothing else, it is pretty flawless in its presentation. The 16-bit graphics look as fantastic as ever. Every enemy looks unique and there's never too much going on screen to prevent you from knowing what's going on. Mario himself looks great, and the over-world map is easily my favorite in any 2D Mario game. It seamlessly blends the different worlds in Dinosaur Land together into an epic adventure as you embark on a quest to save the Princess. The game is also fairly flawless with its controls. The power-ups are easy to use and understand, and Mario's jumping just feels good. Other than a few spare moments where I felt like the game was eating my inputs, any mistake I made felt like my own. At its best, Super Mario World has some superb platforming segments that are a blast to run through.
The game also has a fantastic soundtrack. Koji Kondo's score is comprised of songs which utilize the same melody, and the SNES provided him with a capability to use more sound channels, leading to more complex arrangements using a variety of instruments. Each variation of the theme fits the level its in. Your typical level sounds chipper and upbeat, while the castle and ghost house themes fit the more ominous aesthetic of those levels. And if you're taking your time with a level, you'll notice how the pieces will speed up as the timer dwindles. I can remember being a kid panicking as soon as I would hear it begin. I also love the game's overall sound design. There's a level of satisfaction that's felt as each continuous stomp on an enemy yields an ascending note in a musical scale. And each effect, from the various "THWOMPS" as you pick up items or throw them around sound great. There's a level of weight and life as you can feel enemies and objects interacting with the world.
All that being said, the game does suffer from a number of flaws that prevents it from reaching a level of perfection. My main issue with the game, if boiled down to one specific thing, would be the power-ups. The main power-ups you will be utilizing through the game are the traditional fire flower, as well as Mario's cape, and his new dinosaur friend Yoshi. With the cape providing a level of near infinite flight for players, some of the levels can become trivial as you can simply fly overhead until you reach the end goal. There are a few levels where this becomes impossible due to various obstacles, and flying through those levels feels great. The thrill I felt from these levels makes me wish it wasn't so easy to just completely skip over large parts of the game. Though you could argue that it's up to the player to make that decision, that in itself limits the player to only using two other power-ups. If nothing else it might be nicer if there was a bit more variety. While this by no means ruins the game as a whole, it still feels disappointing as a player to have to provide challenge through self-limitation.
There's also a few minor issues that makes the game feel slightly unpolished. In order to maintain progress, the game will give the players an option to save after completing any Ghost House, Fortress, or Castle. While this is nice in theory, the game does not save any lives collected or power-ups the player was left with. If you start up a file that you're in the middle of then you will start as tiny Mario, no power-ups, and five lives. This feels at odd with the game's distribution of extra lives as any that you accumulate will disappear unless you refuse to turn the game off. Though there is a secret level early on where you can easily obtain any of the game's power-ups, that choice makes the maintenance of power-ups from level to level as a pointless endeavor as long as you don't mind backtracking to that area.
Despite its shortcomings, Super Mario World is still a great game. I never had a bad time playing it, I just wish it had a bit more polish to it. It's still hugely impressive as one of the launch titles for the Super Famicom/SNES, and is worth revisiting every once in a while if you want a fun game you can just pick up and play.
Again, similar to my Super Mario Bros. 3 review, it astonishes me that this is a 1990 release and also a Super Nintendo launch title. Somehow, they found a way to surpass even Super Mario Bros. 3. This right here? This is peak 2D Mario. Oozing with charm, incredibly tight control, a million secrets to find, awesome new gameplay additions, the list goes on. Oh yeah, and boss fights are (for the most part) unique and fun this time around! There's never a dull moment with this game, and I never found myself getting frustrated at all (except with Valley Ghost House fuck Valley Ghost House). A must play for anyone interested in retro games.