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The Deluxe Treatment

Or "A re-release done right"

    I picked up my brand new Game Boy Advance SP yesterday. It is small and lighted and has a battery pack and is great and all that. But when I got it, I realized my Game Boy library was a little lacking. So I headed down to the local FuncoLand and picked up a severely overlooked Game Boy Color game by the name of Super Mario Bros. Deluxe (SMBDX -- $17 used! Cheap!) I've been playing it almost non-stop ever since, eschewing more modern games like then new Legend of Zelda and Rayman 3 to stare at a tiny, lit screen.

    Why do I do this? Part of it is nostalgia, for sure. Super Mario Bros. was the first video game I really played and coming back to it still brings back memories of a time when I didn't have 10-page papers due next week. But the nostalgia factor wore off after about an hour and my first play-through of the main game. What keeps me coming back is the fact that SMBDX is a re-release done right!

    SMBDX is like the Super Mario Bros. Director's Cut. It's what the first game should have been had technology and economics been aligned perfectly back in 1985. Not only do you get the original, 1985 version of the game (including the "harder quest" that the princess gives you when you beat it), but there is also an unlockable version of the 52-level, Japanese version of Super Mario Bros. 2 (a.k.a. The Lost Levels). That's two games for the price of one!

    But wait! If you order now, you also receive a challenge mode where you race through the levels of the original game looking for hidden red coins and Yoshi eggs (he's not playable). And we'll throw in a race mode where you compete against a Boo in 8 custom made levels absolutely free!

    How much would you pay for this amazing game? $100? $200? Don't answer yet, because we'll also throw in a Vs. race mode for people who want to compete with their friends. Not only that, but there's a picture gallery mode that links up with the oft-forgotten Game Boy Printer to make loads of Mario stickers! And, if you order in the next ten minutes, we'll add in the high score and save features that should have been in the first game anyway! Operators are standing by!

    (End commercial style ranting) As you can see, there is quite a lot of stuff to be done in this game. The challenge mode alone could occupy even Mario masters for weeks. But I'm not just ranting about this to let you know how great this old game is. I'm ranting to let you know how I feel about the current spate of Game Boy Advance Mario re-releases that Nintendo is chruning out at an alarming pace.

    When I first got my Game Boy Advance, I was suckered into buying Super Mario Advance. I beat it quickly and returned it within a week. What an insult! We get a prettified version of one of the worst classic Mario games (Super Mario Bros. 2 (us), ugh) along with annoying voice clips, a way-too-easy coin hunt mini-game, and a cheesy Mario Bros. rip-off. And then we get re-releases of Super Mario World and Yoshi's Island; two great games, to be sure, but they are 8 and 11 years old respectively. People like me who shelled out $50 to play these classics on their SNES need a little something extra to justify $30 for a portable version. Yet Nintendo just gives us the same old Mario Bros. re-hash that everyone is horribly tired of by now.

    Super Mario Bros. Deluxe didn't need re-vamped graphics, sound clips, or mini-games to get by. Back then, Nintendo knew that when a game is that good, the best reward you can give to loyal players is more gameplay. Throwing in 4 extra play modes that add up to over 100 extra levels of classic gameplay goodness is a wonderfully thoughtful present to fans of the series (much more so than any re-hash of the original Mario Bros.) But now that Nintendo knows that any Game Boy game that they release with Mario in the title will be a million-seller, they have gotten lazy and simply done straight ports that have no sense of history or gameplay value about them.

    At E3, Nintendo is expected to show Super Mario Advance 4: the much-awaited Game Boy Advance port of Super Mario Bros. 3. There is a small chance that they will add more to the game than SNES-style graphics and random voice clips, but I don't have my hopes up. I urge all of you not to settle for it. If Nintendo doesn't put any effort into their next cookie-cutter re-release, I say don't give them your $30. Go out to your local used game store and pick up the classic, NES version of the game (or Super Mario All-stars, in a pinch) to protest what is a horrible fleecing of Nintendo's loyal fans. If enough people refuse to buy these quick, cheap re-releases, then Nintendo will be forced to work hard and make their next re-release into something worth buying again. Then maybe we'll have another Game Boy Mario game that deserves the postscript "Deluxe."

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