Mario Crossover more than fan service

2 May

Super Mario Bros., World 1-1. You walk forward only to find a goomba shuffling toward you. There are two options available:

1.) Take the safe way out by jumping over it and continuing ahead.
2.) Eliminate the problem by jumping on its head so it won’t bother you anymore.

25 years later, you have a new option:

3.) Stab it in the face with your sword, or shoot it in the head with your assault rifle.

Super Mario Crossover appeals to the player’s sense of nostalgia by returning him to the Mushroom Kingdom with five of the NES’ most famous faces to fight by Mario’s side.

It’s more than fan service, though. It sheds a new light on an old game in subtle ways that make it the best version of Super Mario Bros. ever made. And you can play it right now.

The first thing you’ll want to do in Super Mario Crossover is play as your favorite character who isn’t Mario. When you can play as Link from The Legend of Zelda, Bill from Contra, Simon from Castlevania, Samus from Metroid, and Mega Man from…Mega Man, Mario just seems bland and uninteresting. The prospect of shooting, slashing, whiping, bombing, axing, sliding, and double-jumping your way through familiar levels will make you wonder why you ever liked Mario to begin with.

It’s interesting to experiment with the traditional rules you’ve come to accept as the way things work in the Mario universe. Bricks used to be pesky platforms, vulnerable only to attack from beneath by a powered-up plumber. Now, they’re practically made of paper with the variety of weapons you have, even without power-ups.

To balance out all this firepower, it takes more than a single hit to gun down goombas. In fact, the only attacks that kill in one hit, other than stomping on heads, is Mario’s fire balls.

Getting from point A to point B is another big change in Crossover. Some of the characters jump a lot higher than you’re used to, but that’s because only Mario can get a running start. Platforms were added to the end of most levels so every character can earn that extra bonus for reaching the top of the flag pole.

Some make up for their sluggishness with unique abilities like ducking under Koopa’s fireballs with Bill or being able to attack spiked enemies from above with Link’s sword. You’ll have so much fun playing around with your new techniques that you’ll often hear the character-specific tunes that signals when you’re running low on time.

One area where the newcomers are noticeably lacking is in their swimming prowess. They others just jump real high and slow with only their weak attacks to defend themselves. Mario shines in the water, enough so that you might think to give him a try. Again, only Mario can do the breaststroke. This seems to be a running theme.

Crossover makes you appreciate Mario’s unique abilities you never knew he had. You always just assumed he could run, swim, break bricks, and kill things in one hit, but when those abilities are replaced with flashier ones, they become more distinct. It helps that you can see Mario in his new light with some modern adjustments.

You can journey backwards and respawn at checkpoints to take away the sting of death. Even cooler is the ability to change characters in between levels and lives. It may be to encourage you to try out all of the new characters right away, but it also allows you to power-up characters and hold them in reserve so you can come out swinging, even after dying.

So, whether you want to wreak havoc in your favorite levels with your favorite 8-bit heroes, tear them to shreds with Bill’s ridiculous spread shot, or just run through them with a new respect for your old friend, Super Mario Crossover lets you experience something old in a new way. Just don’t be surprised when you find yourself considering playing as Mario in a game that finally lets you light Koopa up with a machine gun.

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One Response to “Mario Crossover more than fan service”

  1. Kevin May 2, 2010 at 8:50 PM #

    I’m loving the game and I agree that Mario’s abilities are often taken for granted.

    The only nitpick I have is that the physics are different from the original. For example, the mushroom at the beginning of 1-2 used to richochet off the brick so you could run into it. Now it gets stuck between two pillars. The piranha plants now extend for longer periods of time. Numerous other small changes throw off the timing that gamers have committed to muscle memory in the past 20 years.

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