Little Screen, Big Mario


Super Mario Bros. Deluxe is weird. Nintendo took the original Super Mario Bros. and made it for the Gameboy Color. Go and read something like Jeremy Parish’s Anatomy of a Game series on the original release and you will realize just how much went into making one of the most played, remembered and game-changing[ref]Cringe.[/ref] games. To distill it down to the bare bones, practically everything in the original SMB had a distinct reason to be there.

We now have the original game portably in two forms where the game is its original form but putting the game on the Gameboy Color required more than a few changes. The first and most obvious change is that the screen does not display as much as the NES version does. What Nintendo did to make up for this was add function to up and down other than climbing vines and going down pipes. Pressing either moves the camera to get you more of the screen. Mario and Luigi can also go back left a bit, which becomes necessary in some of the tight jumps in World 8. None of these ruin the game, but it makes it different.

As someone who has played the original plenty of times I found this easy to adjust to, and even “blindly” making jumps into the next part of the stage without adjusting the height of the screen because I know it that well. I have to imagine those playing for the first time either got frustrated by this or taken the game slowly.

It does give me an appreciation for Super Mario Land 1 & 2 as the design quirkiness of them is made even more clear. SML2 Mario has a floaty jump that is so bizarre to witness. The decisions in Deluxe stem from wanting to keep the game as “honest” as possible and not make it its own new thing. Well, entirely.

It is more than just a port of SMB, however. There are a tons of bonuses and extras, well documented elsewhere. But what makes Nintendo giving this game out for free right now so interesting is that it is almost of a reminder of what sticking a game on a different system means. With all the the talk about how Nintendo should just stick their catalog and begin making games for smart-phones, Super Mario Bros. Deluxe is a nice reminder that even when a great game is tailored specifically for the system that it is going on[ref]And I need not mention that in this case it was going onto Nintendo’s own hardware.[/ref] the results can be less than pleasant. This is a reminder that even if the developer cares, sometimes things just cannot work.