The past year, we’ve been getting many interesting takes on the system launch. We have the brute force approach with Xbox 360’s launch last year, the high class approach, with the PS3, and the completely avante garde through Nintendo’s “Wii” system.
The greatest of system launches happened in 1990 with the advent of the Super Nintendo. We not only had a 16-bit processor that could rotate and scale sprites, but a new Mario Game to show it off. Super Mario World has been remembered as one of the genre’s best launch titles. The technical elements showed off the capability of the system, while still holding on to tried and true gameplay formats. The very fact that this was a Mario game allowed players to relive the joy of the first Super Mario game but with the added quantum leap in graphics, sound and gameplay.
The game starts with a single white on black Credit “Nintendo Presents” punctuated with a new gold coin sound effect, hinting at the experience to come. You don’t even have time to take it in when the game opens up on you like cartoon sledgehammer. Even the spotlight wipe used to introduce the play demo is an effect you would never see on the original NES.
When we first get past the colorful front end, and into the gameplay proper, we’re given a short blurb on the story of the game, and then we are transported to a map screen of the whimsical Dinosaur Island.
The game consists of 7 or 8 different areas within which are several different levels built around a theme. There’s a plains area, an underground area, a forest area, etc. The first of these, is a varied, Washington-like place called Yoshi’s island. The first location we can go to Yoshi’s house. It’s single screen level with all the functionality of a normal level, without any of the danger. This is indicative of Nintendo’s focus on a shallow learning curve. They want their games to be inclusive as possible, for the point of the game is to run around and explore magical worlds, not to die over and over again in some kind of post-traumatic stress nightmare.
From the outset, the game and what you can do with it is laid out from the outset. If you get past the first Yoshi’s island level, you can go to the yellow switch palace, which doles out thousands of yellow exclamation mark blocks to hundreds of dotted-line place-markers in game levels. So we know that if we look hard enough, we’re going to find secrets that will do amazing things and give us access to even more areas that we, the players want to look at.
In the second Yoshi’s island level, we get to meet the much celebrated Yoshi himself. Mario gets to ride around on his back while Yoshi eats enemies and sometimes spits them out to devastating effect. Eating a red turtle-like koopa trooper, for example, will allow Yoshi to breathe fire.
There is a lot of technical demonstration on Yoshi’s island. We get to see some much larger, more detailed sprites in the game, such as giant sized “Bullet Bills” that take up half the screen chasing down Mario. In the first castle, Mario can climb on a chain link fence, from which he can switch backgrounds, and the first boss character walks on a platform that sways smoothly over a lake of lava thanks to the SNES’ Mode 7 processing.
Iggy Koopa, the first boss character, can potentially be finished within the first 10 minutes of play. This is important because it gives the player a sense of accomplishment early in the game, that we’re going to get a rich, varied experience if we play through the rest of this. As we get into the second area, the donut plains, we are introduced into even more power-ups, such as the flying cape, levels two exits, and the first of the ghost houses that hinder players by hiding the level exits.
At the end of the thirty minutes, I had defeated two entire areas, battling through unique levels against all manner of fierce and not-so fierce beasts. Using the L and R buttons at the map screen, I was able to scroll around and see all the lush and varied landscape I had ahead of me on this journey.This game showed so much possibility in it’s first thirty minutes that I had all but forgotten that there was a princess to save!
A+ James Strocel