Wednesday, September 12, 2012

NESquest #26 - Mario Bros

(Mario Bros, June 1986, Nintendo)

.....Seriously, why the fireshits do most of the Black Box games have box art with sprites or attire that aren't in the game? 

"One day I wish to be known as the biggest BAMF of symphonic, chamber, and choral music. Oh, and have my work introduce the first solo Mario game!"

Who would be eccentric enough to open up a game with Mozart's "Eine Kleine Machtmusik" for no good reason whatsoever? Shigeru Miyamoto of course! This edition of the Quest takes a nice long look at a NES port of the first solo outing for our favorite Italian plumber as well as the debut of the other member of the family in the original Mario Bros.


Originally released in 1983, Mario Bros was the creation of Mr.Miyamoto and Mr. Game Boy, Gunpei Yokoi, and was a spin-off to their earlier monumental title, Donkey Kong. There were alot more ideas bounced back and forth off of each other this time which in turn created tons of early Mario signatures. For example in Donkey Kong, if Mario fell from too far a height, he perished because Miyamoto thought he should be a normal "everyman" type. Yokoi insisted that Mario be able to fall from any height, his reasoning that video games are just an extension of your imagination so why not give him a few super human powers if htye had the power to do so? After all it begs another question, what young gamer wouldn't want to experience the rush of becoming a sort of super hero?

I somehow doubt Miyamoto and Yokoi researched a proper New York sewer for Mario Bros. Turtles, flies, and crabs would probably be the least of your worries here.

In early development, it was decided that the adventure would take place underground, so the trusty R&D 1 team went with a New York sewer. This seemingly random idea also transitioned the former Jumpman from being a carpenter to what we associate him with to this day, a plumber. Also equally as important, the creative team was hell bent on their new title being multiplayer, so a palette swap on Mario was done and the world was introduced to the other member of the Mario family, Luigi. Now alot of shit has been given to the Super Mario Bros film for a scene where their full names are given as "Mario Mario" and "Luigi Mario", but when you put two and two together, if they were dubbed the "Mario Brothers", what else would Luigi's name be? Certainly an assload less confusing than trying to figure out who Donkey Kong Country's DK truly is. I digress. 

Most of the time, you feel like you're running around in SMB3's ice levels anyway and then the shit *really* hits the fan

As for the game itself, memorable though it may be, it doesn't seem to weather the test of time as well as I thought it might. There are certainly worse games out there, but when thinking from a historical perspective and what this brought to the table, I certainly expected more. Mario Bros is definately a much better multiplayer affair and I would put good money on it causing some of the earliest broken friendships in gaming history as it isn't too hard to fuck the other player over be it coin robbing or flipping an enemy over right as another is above it. You are given a triple layer part of the sewers to work with and in order to advance, Mario must take out a set number of one of three types of enemies, none of which can be hit from above as in all later Mario games but rather flipped over from underneath. The Shellcreepers are the first versions of a Koopa and only need to be hit from below once. Sidesteppers are methed out crabs that have to be hit twice, becoming slightly pissed after the first strike. Lastly are the Fighter Flies, who besides bringing one of the most annoying sound effects ever to our 8-bit party, must be hit in a timed fashion the second they land on solid ground. When down to the final enemy of a stage, whichever baddie it may be flies into an "FTW" mode where it doubles in speed and can throw the timing off a bit, keeping the challenge fresh. Stand in one place too long and a fireball will insure your chubby Italian arse keeps moving. The fireballs come in red or green and try as I might, I couldn't figure out a difference between the two. Coins roll around the playing field but offer nothing more than a few points and a familiar sound effect. The coolest thing I found about Mario Bros was the POW button, as it becomes a sort of strategy when exactly to use the ever present, blinking, and taunting lifeline.

All we need is a parka and some baby seals to be an Ice Climber. Hey, maybe that's where Mario's hammer ran off to during this time...

The controls can be awkward and at times the jumping reminded me of Ice Climber, which is not a game I'd associate with that 'fun' word. Also in comparison to that basket of bile, every few stages present a bonus level where Mario is given 20 seconds to collect 10 coins, normally requiring around 19.5 seconds to pull off, so miss just one of those jumps and it's time to set the controller down and utter your favorite curse word. Like I needed any more reminiscing, later stages throw icicles onto the platforms to really hammer the unintentional point home. It's not all bad and has its moments but the negatives really jump out. My biggest complaint are the sounds. It starts strong with the out of place Mozart but once the action begins, there really isn't any music. One can't defend it as an atmospheric thing because of the sewer setting as an echo couldn't have been that tricky to throw in if that is what they were shooting for. The effects are also just lazy re-hashings of existing ones or some that were being programmed in soon to debut games. For example, when you get an extra life, it is the pause sound from SMB. No lie, I thought I hit the start button somehow and got my ass chewed off by a Shellcreeper when it first happened. When an icicle freezes a platform bust out with the unmistable sound the boxing glove makes as it rips through the screen when Punch-Out is started. Maybe I'm just bitching too much but little things like that can take me out of a game at times. 

To think when I was a young lad, I couldn't say his name properly so just called him "Loogie".

6/10 I know, I know, if it has Mario in the title it has to be good right? Wrong. For 1983, it held its own but as a half-assed port in 1986 considering what was out there and what was soon to come it isn't the super heavyweight some would assume it is. Not as bad as Ice Climber but not as good as Popeye or Wrecking Crew, Mario Bros can be fun but tends to wear thin rather quickly. It's kind of like coffee, drink a few cups and you're good to go but there is only so much of it you can stomach before really needing some water.

99 levels, zero way to save. I wonder who the first to sue Nintendo for unlimited Tylenol was?

No game barring Tetris has been ported as much as this one. Every single Super Mario Advance cart came with the same remake (Again, fucking lazy!) and if there is an old school console without the word Sega plastered on it, Mario Bros was present and accounted for. A sequel was made in 1995 using the same mechanics for the Virtual Boy of all things named Mario Clash and good ol' trusty Hudson Soft made a few renditions around the same time as the NES port. Mario Bros Special and Punch Ball Mario Bros, added a few new tricks to the old dog and to be quite honest, Punch Ball was awesome and outdid the NES port in almost every way. 

The first time gamers could utter "I'm about to throw my balls right on your face!"

Marvel comics ran this ad in many issues around 1984 and it was my first exposure to Mario Bros so thought I'd share. Anyone else remember the commercial where Luigi would sing the "Mario, where are youuuuu?" line?


  1. That picture at the bottom is pretty strange. "Atari presents Mario Brothers"... crazy.

  2. That commercial... is so horrible.

    Excellent write-up. I may have been an only child, but I used to get so mad at my older cousin for hitting me from underneath. Many tears...