Hey it's you, you're back again. Grab a seat, I like shooting the shit about old video games with you. This time around I think we should talk about ports. Specifically, portable ports. I have plenty of portable ports that pertain to this publication. God I love alliteration, it's my favorite thing. Now, portable versions of popular games are nothing new. With Nintendo in particular, it's been happening pretty much ever since the Game Boy was created. But, they weren't necessarily ports. With the old brick Game Boy, a lot of developers tinkered with the games they were making portable versions of, creating a new experience. Whether it was due to hardware limitations or just wanting to be creative, there weren't all that many straight ports, especially as the 8-bit era gave way to 16-bit and the Super Nintendo.
But then there was a little something that Nintendo cooked up at the tail end of the 1990s. After a handful of redesigns of the classic grey handheld brick, Nintendo gave the world the Game Boy Color. By 1998 color systems were not eaters of batteries like the Atari Lynx or the Sega Game Gear, and Game Boy Color took off like wildfire. It may have only had three years to shine until the Game Boy Advance came out and wowed everyone with pretty graphics that you couldn't see without standing directly under a light bulb, but god damn it the GBC was a great little handheld and I personally loved mine.
This period of time was actually very interesting, from a "History of video games" standpoint. It could well be considered the beginning of the whole "retro is cool" scene. Today we have downloadables on consoles and Mega Man 9 and other assorted things made to look like games from 20 years ago and tug at your nostalgiastrings, but back in 1998 things were just a bit different. The Famicom, that red box of joy, was a mere high school sophomore of fifteen. NES games were old, yes, but its gamers weren't all that old just yet. More to the point, that new and shiny Game Boy Color had technical specs under the hood that seemed awfully similar to the old gray block of an NES. Why, maybe some of those old games could be remade and put on the go! That is exactly what was done, and many underrated NES games got a second glance in the limelight.
Blaster Master got an enhanced remake of sorts called "Enemy Below", and SNK's "If Zelda really was an RPG this is what it would be" Crystalis hit the GBC within the system's lifetime as well. Before those, however, Nintendo themselves decided to get in on a retro revival of their own, and chose the game that both launched their company into a moneymaker and saved video games as we know them. Super Mario Bros., the platforming classic, received a portable upgrade in the form of Super Mario Bros. Deluxe. This one gives quite a bit... but it takes away too.
Normally I would talk a little about the game here.. but really now. In all honesty, do I need to say anything about how the core of this thing works? It's Super Mario Bros., for god's sakes. If you are reading this and have not played the original Super Mario Bros. in some capacity.. what have you been doing with your video gaming life? It may not be the perfect platformer, but by god it's pretty close. For many people, Super Mario Bros. was their first videogame, and they have many fond memories of it. To share a few of mine, there's the fact that you can make Mario "Dance" on the beanstalks, or calling the flowers "Flower power" like Mario was a big hippie plumber, or wandering through 4-4 as a 6-year old wondering WHAT AM I SUPPOSED TO DOOOOOO? So already you know that you're getting a quality game for your money.. but hold on a god-damned minute. We've had ports of Super Mario Bros. before, and we would have them again in the future.
Why would you pay 50 bucks in 1999 for a Game Boy cart with Super Mario Bros. on it, when you could have gotten either the original or Super Mario All-Stars (with all the other NES Mario games in sweet sweet 16-bit) for way lower than that? Not to mention that it was only 20 dollars in 2004 with the GBA's Classic NES Series, and a mere 500 points via the Wii's Virtual Console. In short, why the hell would you buy this version? Easy answer; it has extras. There are so many modes and add-ons to this game, and while some are fluff, others are actual things to extend your play time.
Let's start with the main game, dubbed "Original 1985" by the selection screen. It's essentially all 32 levels of the original Super Mario Bros., but there are ever-so-slight differences. The most jarring is how they dealt with the screen ratio. A Game Boy Color screen is nowhere near the size of a television, so the game needed to be altered to compensate for this. Your visibility is much more limited now, but you can look up or down by holding the appropriate direction. This can honestly be a gamebreaker for some of the trickier jumps, but if you're a Mario veteran you likely know these levels like the back of your hand. There's also some bug fixes (sorry guys, no Minus World here), and the ability to press Select to play as Luigi before the start of any level. There's also save files, believe it or not. These are partly to save the things you do to unlock various extra bits, but they also make the game pretty easy by letting you save a bunch of lives and not have to do the whole game in one sitting like you would have had to do in 1985.
It's the unlockables and extra modes, however, that make this version of Super Mario Bros. shine. For starters, there's the Challenge Mode. Challenge Mode lets you play any stage you've beaten in Original 1985 Mode, only this time you need to hunt down five red coins, a hidden Yoshi Egg, and do it all in a set timeframe. As for extra modes, there's "You Vs. Boo" which has you racing a Boo through original levels and can get pretty damned tough when you're facing faster Boos. But the main thing that makes this package pretty cool is "Super Mario Bros. For Super Players." What is this? Well, it's the Japanese Super Mario Bros. 2, AKA the Lost Levels! Yeah, really! That's in here too! There are a million and a half other extras, including a sticker album that updates as you do certain things in Original 1985 Mode (like getting the fireworks or beating the game), a tarot card fortune-telling minigame that can get you more lives in the main game, things to print out with the Game Boy Printer... there's a lot of little things like that. It's those that make Super Mario Bros. Deluxe a real winner in my book.
Those other versions and re-releases don't have NEARLY as much stuff jammed into them as this little cart. The only real drawback is the screen resolution, and even that isn't so big of a deal once you get used to it. Bottom line; this is one of the best retro re-releases out there, and improves on a fantastic game in several extra little ways.