It’s time for another one of the Christmas games. I believe this makes 5 completed and 4 to go. Mighty No 9, Shantae, Mario Kart, and Klonoa have been completed along with this one and the ones left are Frogger, DBZ, and Mario Party. Not bad…not bad at all! I suppose Mario Party will probably be next, then Frogger, and then DBZ, but expect some game interruptions in the middle of those from the New Year’s batch. Anyway, this Mario game is pretty solid. It’s definitely shorter than some of the other Mario games and not quite as polished, but certainly a good game all around.
The “plot” involves Mario, Peach, Toad, and Luigi saving a kingdom from the tricky Wart. Wart will send his army of Birdos to stop you, but the heroes won’t waver. They’re just too heroic and determined. You know, it’s almost odd just how skilled these guys are. Mario’s just an ordinary man right? How can he jump so high and perform all of these feats? Well…just stick around for the ending. Lets just say that it makes everything clear and will answer all of your questions.
Mario’s gameplay has remained mostly untouched over the years, but this was one of the few games that tried to change the formula up a bit. At first, it seems like your usual 2D adventure with lots of jumping and running. The main difference is that the characters can grab things and that’s how you defeat enemies. Jumping on them won’t hurt the villains, but once you’re on top, then you can grab them. Throwing villains into each other will defeat them and you can also throw chairs at them. (They’re basically chairs) You use objects to defeat all of the villains. The backgrounds are also fully in 2D so if you run off the screen on the left, you’ll usually appear on the right. It opens up a lot of possibilities in the stages so keep your eyes peeled.
Attacking enemies with throws instead of stomps is a very different approach for Mario. It’s pretty fun and I enjoyed it, but I wouldn’t want this to be the staple. Jumping on enemies is a lot more satisfying and it’s just so central to Mario that it’s hard to let it go so easily. Mario Advance’s large roster (For a Mario game anyway) also makes it interesting for long time Mario fans. That’s because there is really no reason to play as anyone besides Peach. Remember how overpowered she was in Super Mario World? That’s the case here as well. You can cheese a lot of levels by using her float ability along with the super jump. For example, there was one level that involved a lot of precise little jumps. I just chose Peach and floated over the obstacles. You could scale a few jumps with one and that made the levels a lot easier. Did you jump too far? No worries, you can float back a little. Playing with Peach makes everything a lot simpler. I can’t say that there’s any reason to play Toad and for Luigi, getting used to his jump would take a bit of time.
The level designs are pretty solid. Having your second heart is crucial for making the obstacles more bearable. It is annoying to run into an area that’s a dead end though because it becomes your new re spawn point and getting back up can be very difficult. That happened to me once on the last level, but for the most part, the check points are usually next to a heart, which helps a lot. I do like the fact that when you die, you always return to the last room that you were in. Having fewer checkpoints would have definitely made the game a whole lot tougher and more tedious as well since some of the levels were a little long.
There are 20 levels in the game so it’s good that they weren’t standard length or you’d really breeze through the game. As it stands, the length is decent. While it is less than most Mario games, you’re still getting a good value for your dollar and you can add in some replay value for grabbing all of the Red Coins and the Yoshi Eggs from the bonus mode. You can also play the classic Mario Bros game on the side to see how high of a score you can get. That game’s always entertaining and I like how the GBA Mario games always seem to include it. Why not right?
The graphics look pretty good. I wasn’t crazy about these sprites compared to Super Mario World, but they get the job done. The bright levels all age really well and I was a little surprised not to have any fire worlds this time around. Bowser should have made a surprise appearance at the end, that would have been really cool. The soundtrack is solid as always and it’s always fun to hear the old Mario tunes. Nintendo’s always done a good job with that and this game is no exception.
There is one part of the game that’s rather unnecessary and just slows the whole thing down. After completing a level, you can spin a roulette for extra lives. The problem is that it pops up after every level even if you don’t have any coins available. That just results in the game over sound effect and a lot of extra loading time. It should really only pop up if you are able to use it at the moment. Otherwise, what’s the point? It also feels rigged since I only won it once, but that’s another story I suppose.
Overall, Super Mario Advance is a solid game. I still consider it to be one of the weaker Mario titles, but if you compare it to something else then it still ages really well. The bosses are a little more limited since around 80% of them is just Birdo over and over again, but it’s a well designed fight. It’s certainly tougher than the modern Mario games that come out and the difficulty helps to extend the game’s length. It’s nothing unfair, but a good challenge that’ll keep you at a level for a while. The game doesn’t have much plot, but Mario’s never been about that. The gameplay is the important part and the game does that well. I certainly recommend it and it’s a game that anyone can get into.