A Disappointing Console Debut For Nintendo's Plumber

In today's Speak-Up on Kotaku, P4w4rr10r decides he's a video game reviewer from 1986, taking on some game about a plumber on the Nintendo Entertainment System.

Review: Mario Jumps His Way Into Oblivion
In March, Nintendo will drop Super Mario Bros. in the States, a side-scrolling platformer for the brand new Nintendo Entertainment System. It is a sequel of sorts to the Nintendo arcade game Mario Bros, itself a tired rehash of the popular (though overrated and now run into the ground by needless sequels) Donkey Kong cabinet from a few years back. While much hype has surrounded this title, calling it a big-budget action game in the vein of Joust and Lode Runner, in the end it offers very little content and not enough to keep the player coming back for more.

Ideal Player
Very young children, or those with lots of patience for trite and uninspired gameplay. Those who own an NES and can't pony up the coin for the far superior platforming experiences offered by much more powerful arcade games.

Why You Should Care
Super Mario Bros. is one of Nintendo's pack-in games for the Nintendo Entertainment System, already available in some US markets, to receive a full stateside release next month. The success or failure of this home video entertainment system rides on Mario - and frankly, that doesn't bode well for Nintendo.
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So who is Mario? How does this game play?
Mario is a generic, run-of-the-mill protagonist, seen before in the successful Donkey Kong series. He is largely forgettable and nowhere near as lovable or iconic as industry standards such as Pac-Man Mario is controlled using the "d-pad," an inferior, streamlined version of the trusty arcade stick, and the only two gaming buttons on the NES's anemic control unit: A and B. The controller feels weak and flimsy, and its rectangular shape does not lend itself well to prolonged gaming sessions. If you want a run down of how the game plays, picture this: a little mustachioed guy runs to the right and jumps. Yup, that's pretty much it. No strategy, no precision or skill required. With much-anticipated platforming titles like Joust 2 on the horizon, I'm pretty certain Mario will be forgotten fairly quickly.

Ouch. What about simultaneous play?
While Nintendo hyped the NES as a family system, even including 2 control units in the package, Super Mario Bros. does not include simultaneous play, instead forcing players to take turns attempting the repetitive levels. We can assume the NES control deck simply doesn't have the horsepower to animate two characters at once and process the controllers' commands, another strike against this home system. Why anyone would want such a stripped-down, streamlined experience when a quality arcade is just down the street is beyond me. It didn't work for Magnavox, it didn't work for Philips, and even arcade giant Atari has had limited success in the domestic gaming computer. It's been almost 15 years since the Odyssey was released, and I think it's safe to say home consoles are dead in the water. While they might be okay for the casual crowd, arcades are where the hardcore gamers should seek their fix. But enough of my rant, back to Mario!

Well, how do the graphics hold up?
They're... serviceable, for lack of a better word. The blue sky background looks blue alright, but lacks some of the saturation we've come to expect from graphical powerhouses like Galaga. Some of the foreground colors appear washed out, and graphical glitches abound. An odd flashing seems to appear at the right side of the screen when Mario moves too fast for the microchip to keep up. This definitely gets annoying, ruining any immersion the player might have had. Assets are consistently reused - the bushes appear to be identical copies of the clouds, albeit green - and enemy design is bland and unimaginative.

I don't really care about the lack of multi-play or the graphical weaknesses. How much single-player time does this game pack offer?
This game is short. Very, very short. We fully expect skilled players to clock You read that right! While less skilled players will obviously take a bit longer to complete the game, once it's over, there's not much to keep you coming back for more.

So Mario's a dud. Does that mean the NES will be a flop?
If Nintendo's titles continue to offer this kind of lackluster experience far shy of what a powerful cabinet can offer for just a quarter per play, you can bet it's DOA. Steer clear of these home entertainment consoles if you're a serious video game enthusiast. They will only become viable when the blistering speed and raw power of arcade cabinets are finally cheap enough and small enough to be stuffed into a console unit - a moment that may not come in our lifetimes.

The Bottom Line
Lacking compelling gameplay, stunning graphics, and sufficient content, Super Mario Bros. is best avoided. By this time next year it will be buried, forgotten, and surpassed by far superior arcade offerings.

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