The Nintendo Issue

The Nintendo Issue
The World in a Chain Chomp

Kyle Orland | 19 Apr 2011 13:49
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Again, it's important to remember how rare this kind of enemy variety was in the context of the games of the time, which had limited storage space to waste on countless enemies with unique attack patterns. Even Super Mario Bros. 3 is guilty of this, throwing in perhaps too many Goombas and Koopa Troopas than are strictly necessary in some parts. But the slight variations on the familiar forms made the game world feel like a truly diverse ecosystem, one where spotting the rare, fire-spitting Nipper plant in World 7 could make you feel like the star bird-watcher at the Audubon Society.

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Remember, too, that Super Mario Bros. 3 came along well before games were suddenly all-but-required to include a save feature. The limited lives and the prospect of starting over from the beginning of a world made each power up and coin-filled secret area in the game all the more worthwhile.

Exploring each level with a fine-tooth comb wasn't just a matter of wandering through a high gloss virtual movie set, as with so many of today's games. Exploration was a survival strategy - a way to build up an edge for the punishingly tough levels you knew were coming. Even if you used the common trick of bouncing on Goombas endlessly to get 99 lives in level 1-2 (and really, who didn't?), knowing the location of a hidden raccoon leaf could spell the difference between spending minutes or hours on a tough level.

That basic difficulty would invariably fade with countless playthroughs and developing reflexes, of course. But there was something about the world of Super Mario Bros. 3 that drew you back in long after you're able to speed through all 90 levels in a couple of hours (or use warp whistles to polish off the game during a shortened lunch break). Even if you're good enough to dash through the game like that, chances are you won't play the game like that exclusively. That's because just running to the end of the level means failing to appreciate so many little touches that make the game special.

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