We all know the story. The Super Mario Bros. 2 that the west got was a modified version of Doki Doki Panic, a game created by Nintendo in association with Fuji Television. This was done because Nintendo felt that their version of Super Mario Bros. 2 (what we now call The Lost Levels) was too hard for overseas players. Despite this disparaging explanation for why Super Mario Bros. 2 ended up the way it did outside of Japan, the game has left a lasting impression on gamers and the Mario franchise.
My lasting memories of Super Mario Bros. 2 are incredibly fond. Princess Peach floating, vegetable throwing, secret potions that produced doorways to a shadow world, and Birdo. Honestly though, who could forget Birdo? I mean, the creature shoots eggs out of her mouth.
The game is an interesting study next to its predecessor. The original Super Mario Bros. was a straight side-scrolling platformer. Super Mario Bros. 2 introduces a lot of vertical elements to it. This makes the levels incredibly more dynamic than its older sibling. The game also adds the ability to play as four different characters, instead of just the brothers the original allowed. Each character has different strengths and weaknesses, with Mario being the most well-rounded of them. Gone too are the simplistic (and repetitive) boss fights with Bowser, replaced by a sinister sixish grouping of villains.
In addition to Birdo, whom acts as a sub-boss in many worlds, Mario and his pals will have to fight off against Mouser, Fryguy, Triclyde, Clawgrip, Hawkmouth, and Wart. And while, I had positive memories of this game, I had completely blanked on Birdo’s pals. There is a reason for that too. It’s because aspects of Super Mario Bros. 2, including these boss fights, are forgettable.
The one boss fight that I found memorable, Hawkmouth, is memorable for a bad reason. That being that it starts out as a bait and switch, with the Hawkmouth being a benign doorway in every other level except the final one. Imagine the rage that coursed through my veins as I picked up the key orb and headed over to the Hawkmouth only for it to attack and kill me. I don’t view that as smart design but rather an unfair slap in the face.
The Hawkmouth boss fight isn’t the only bit of ridiculous play that I had completely forgotten about. There was one level where I worked my way across a decently challenging gauntlet of platforming only to come to a dead end. What to do? Oh you have to ride a vulture back across the map and then jump over a wall from the beginning of the level, one that appears as if it can’t be passed. I’m sure as a kid, I thought this design was fantastic. Today, I think it kind of sucks.
Thankfully, there aren’t a lot of instances like this though. And putting aside the few frustrations (including the characters seemingly rubbing their bodies down with Vaseline right before they jump on a vine or chain so they slip all over it), Super Mario Bros. 2 is still a blast to play. Like with Castlevania, I played this game on the NES Classic with save states but unlike with Castlevania, this was mostly so I could play it over the course of a few days as opposed to having to bang it out in one sitting.
Super Mario Bros. 2 isn’t a great Mario game but it is still a solid NES era platformer and I’m glad I revisited it. Now, on to Super Mario Bros. 3.