I can’t avoid it for much longer. Out of the five Super Nintendo launch games (of which I’ve covered the first four already), Super Mario World was and is the star of the show.
So what can I say about a game that for over 25years hasn’t been said already, most likely not a lot! so let’s look at the wider pool of the launch titles, namely F-Zero, Gradius III, Pilotwings, and SimCity.
F-Zero and Pilotwings main selling point was to capture your interest based on the spectacle of seeing mode 7 in action. Gradius III on the other hand tries to promote the use of multiple sprites on screen at one time (remember the NES really only could put up with 4 before struggling), which then falls to the dreaded stutter of framerate due to the sheer overkill of on screen action. SimCity on the other hand plays it totally safe with it’s direct PC to console port, which then suffers from the control method rather than the capabilities of the machine.
Then we come to Super Mario World, which just seems to knock it out of the park from the moment you start the console up. In it’s rawest form, this is just an evolution of things learned from SMB3, taking the level count from SMB3’s 90 to SMW’s 96 (and yes that does still come as a surprise!), adding new dynamics, revising old ones, and just streamlining the formula that little bit more…. and Yoshi! don’t forget this game introduced that lovable green gulper with a slight hankering for allowing fat plumbers to ride gratis.
Ahhhhh everybody loves Yoshi, Mario’s dinosaur pal. When Mario jumps on Yoshi’s back, you feel more powerful at the cost of some slowdown on the movement front. Yoshi can eat most enemies and fruit (and some other surprising things). Providing new ways to deal with hazards in ways that don’t exist in earlier Mario games.
And of course one of the first things you find out about in the game is the ‘hidden’ switch palaces which when the giant button is pressed, activates the appropriate coloured ! blocks within the game, it’s a great idea! Modifying the levels to allow for replay ability and allowing for a different exit route to occur…
Yes, different exit routes. Unlike SMB3 where we had most of the map visible from the first moment, SMW is an evolving map, taking a route dependent on your actions. But giving you enough hints to replay to discover more.. As yellow markers indicate 1 route, Red indicate 2 or more routes, Ghost Houses always contain a 2nd route (and most importantly a way to save your progress, a first for the series) and then we come to the keyholes hidden in levels..usually with a key nearby providing a new puzzle element to bring the two together to find a hidden exit, which always leads to a more interesting path.
And then when you discover your first Star…. well that’d be telling, especially with what comes after that..
Yet the game isn’t a perfect Mario game, I always found the cape a pain in the ass to use, fun, but a pain, especially when trying to fly. Sure it works like Racoon Mario from SMB3 but that makes me think.. “Well why did you change it?”.
The Boss battles, and very meh.. similar to the ones from SMB3 again (using a cheeky bit of transparent textures before hand in the castle to showcase the consoles abilities,) they lay on the Mode 7 rotational technology again to make a seesaw platform to take down your first koopa kid. And as before, it’s 3 jumps and your done with the world.
In this case given the variations to the levels, it’s a shame that the designers didn’t think further on how they could twist the boss room portions a little more. A run-a-thon away from a wand zapping Iggy Koopa could have been fun, or twisting the route map to force you to uncover the hidden boss loction to escape the forest area could have played further on your need to revisit levels. But no matter, we still have a great game here.
Overall this game is a must play, even if you’ve completed previously, it’s well worth a look again. Even if only to work out that 2nd goalpost in Donut Plains again..
The game isn’t perfect, though. The cape is fun to use but is very similar Super Mario Bros. 3’s raccoon tail, which also granted the ability to do a spin attack, fly after a running start, and slow down Mario’s fall speed. Many levels in Super Mario World can be skipped over entirely with clever use of the cape or a Yoshi, but you can’t fly over the tremendously dull boss battles. Here’s my strategy guide for the boss battles: jump on them. Done!
Still, what keeps me coming back to Super Mario World is difficult to articulate. The game just feels good and modern in a way that a game almost a quarter-century old shouldn’t. It holds up. Play it if you haven’t, and play it again if you have before.