Review: Super Mario Bros. Deluxe (Game Boy Color)

In this review, we stomp on Goombas in the Game Boy Color game Super Mario Bros. Deluxe. We find out how well this adventure game plays.

This game was released in 1999. This game contains the original Super Mario Bros. game for the NES. Because of the similarities, this review will focus on the differences and the added features.

One difference is the fact that there are multiple different modes. These modes include Original (1985), Challenge, Vs. Mode, “For Super Players”, and vs. Boo.

The Original (1985) version is a lot like the original Super Mario Bros. game. There are some small differences, though. For one, there is an overworld graphical representation of the levels. This also reveals how many levels there are in the game an what the level/world configuration looks like in a clear manner.

Another big difference is the save system. You are able to save your progress as you move along the different levels. While that may sound like it makes this game easier, the thing to keep in mind is the fact that loading your game means your score resets. So, something to keep in mind when using this feature.

One final noteworthy change is the fact that levels with different routes now contain sound for every correct corridor you take. This affects a limited number of levels, but it is a very welcome thing to have once you enter those levels. An improvement that gets a thumbs up from me.

While some of the changes are good, there are some drawbacks from the original. The screen space is much more limited on the platform. As a result, the visible playing field is also reduced. You can’t see all the way up and down on the field. The space will move up and down accordingly. Also, to be fair, the programming of the camera is also pretty well done. In addition to the camera automatically adjusting, you can also manually adjust the camera with the up and down arrows as well. Even with these accommodations, the playing is also somewhat limited as a result. It’s a minor downside in the end, but it is a downside.

At first, another noticeable difference is the fact that you can go back a short distance. While this seems like a big improvement at first, this is more of a result of the screen size accommodation. The benefits become more limited as you’ll notice that the boundary advances in critical areas to more closely resemble the limitations of the original NES version. Still, the boundaries do seem a little more liberal than the NES version (note that it’s easier to get the free life and take the pipe in 1-1 than in the NES version).

Beyond that, you get pretty much the same game with some minor tweaks (i.e. a top 10 score and minor ending cut scene).

This is pretty much where the NES version ends and where the “Deluxe” part begins in this game.

The next mode of note is the challenge mode. Challenge mode gives you a menu of every level in the classic Mario game. The levels that are lit up are available for you to try. The darkened levels are not available. The levels you can select are the levels you completed in the Original Mario game. Note that if you used a warp pipe to skip levels, the level in question as well as other levels you have skipped in the process remains locked.

In every level, you get to try and not only beat a set goal in points, but also locate 6 red coins. Some coins are sitting around in plain sight. Other coins are hidden in boxes where a single coin is normally. Some are even located at the end of the string of multi-coin boxes. Look everywhere because you never know where they are located on the first run. The locations are fixed, though, so you can eventually memorize the level’s coin locations. One helpful feature is the coin tracker on the top. If you see a coin get skipped over as you get another, you know that the location of the missing coin is behind you. This coin feature is somewhat similar to the red coin feature found in Super Mario 64 which was released earlier.

Another mode is the version of Super Mario Bros. “For Super Players”. You can get to this by selecting the Luigi icon. This mode features the levels from the original Japanese Super Mario Bros. 2 for the Famicon. These levels are also the same levels featured in Super Mario Allstars for the SNES (the game Super Mario – The Lost Levels). The title is not joking, the levels featured in this mode are for expert players who have no real problem beating the original levels. I personally felt like I accomplished a big achievement by making it to the second half of the game, personally.

The final mode is the vs. Boo mode. In this mode, you are actually racing a Boo to get to the end of the level. While a lot of the features are taken from the original Mario game, there are a number of added new features.

These features include smaller spring’s and switch boxes.

While the small springs are pretty self-explanatory, the switch blocks are a little more complex. Throughout some of the levels, there are red and white blocks. If you hit the red switch block (denoted by a face), all red blocks disappear into dotted outlines. Meanwhile, all white dotted lines become blocks. Generally, a white mode will make your run easier while the red mode will make your run anywhere between more annoying to impossible. Boo will occasionally switch things back to red.

An alternative switch is the countdown switches. Unlike normal switches, Boo can’t control the countdown switches. Instead, you get a countdown from 3 before the switch flips from red to white or from white to red. You can speed things up by hitting the numbered blocks.

Finally, there are countdown grey switches. These switches are found on the last few races. These switches can change a spike block into a harmless block. touch the spikes and you either get hurt or die (if you are small, you die, but powered up, you shrink to small).

The objective of these races are to beat the Boo to the end flagpole. Boo will have no impediments, but is slow moving. Running in a straight line will easily outpace Boo. Ultimately, it’s all about the obstacles and getting through them as quickly as possible. Even in the underwater race, there is a flagpole at the end (weirdly enough).

In total, there are 8 levels split between two worlds to choose from. While not a lot, there are a few races available.

There are a few other features such as photo galleries (with printing abilities) and even a basic fortune teller game.

Generally speaking, remakes and ports can go different ways from originals. Some ports add nothing, tweak little, and end up looking outdated. Other games transform the original beyond belief so it becomes it’s own game rather than an upgrade. Some manage to mail that happy medium between remembering where the original game came from and still add new features without really disrupting the spirit of the original. This game, in my view, manages to accomplish that last direction.

This game manages to take the original and leave it largely intact. There are a few tweaks to the original game to make it better, but it is otherwise left untouched. It then finds a way to build up around it to make the game more interesting by adding new ideas. With the original game alone, this would be a decent enough play and a nice tribute to the original game. It would have been a decent enough play by itself, but the added features make this a better game to play.

The challenge mode adds a very nice twist to the original design. While I’m not exactly motivated to get the target score, I am, however, motivated to find those coins. That is what makes the mode interesting more than anything else. To cap it off, I know where to look in the next round whenever I miss a red coin. This is great because the game never runs the risk of continually punishing the player whenever a single coin is missing. There are hints left behind that allow the player a better chance to improve on their previous performance.

I also really like the multi-route feedback. Even though it only affects a small number of levels, this is a big improvement to the original game. In the original, you could run through different routes and the only sign that you are correct is that the terrain changes. The chime to indicate that you are correct (or buzzer when you are wrong) makes such a difference and eliminates one of the complaints I have of the original.

Having said all of that, one complaint does remain the same: controls. The controls don’t change a lot and still have that “stiff” feel to them.

Another complaint is simply a technological limitation. The screen space and moving screen to try and squeeze in every element of play is a little annoying. While the moving up and down camera may not seem like a big deal, try completing one of the levels that contain flying fish. As they come down, you don’t have much time to react sometimes if the screen is up all the way. If it’s up all the way, you don’t have any chance to react if a fish jumps up from under you and messes up a critical jump. So, this, I found, annoying.

While it’s nice to see effort to add features to the game, some of the side-features really don’t add much to the game. The photo gallery is something you can breeze through in a few seconds. Unless you are an artist and want to try and draw some of the character in the gallery to hone your skills, or you want to print off some of the decals and make them into stickers, it’s hard to see features like this adding much to the game overall. It doesn’t detract from the game, but it doesn’t actually add anything either in my view.

Overall, this is a great example of how an old game can be brought to a new system. While the old style elements are left in-tact, small tweaks improve the gameplay and the additions built around it only add to the replay and life of the game. The added difficult levels helps satisfy expert players who want to test their general or even speedrun skills. If the levels are too hard, no problem, there are other modes to play with. While the game has its flaws (like the controls and limited screen space), the game is still a very solid one.

The graphics in this case is a case of something old, something new. A lot of the original sprites are largely intact. This keeps the original aesthetic of how the original NES game plays. Still, the small tweaks are a very nice thing to see. The waves are now animated, the ending scenes are better animated, and there is even a cutscene at the end that works fairly well to improve things. What is added in the new modes is actually very well done. They have a somewhat higher quality aspect to them while still melding in with the old style sprites. An overall great job here.

The audio is also a case of something old, something new. All of the old tracks are still in there, but in the new features, there are a few new tracks which also works very well. The sound effects are all there from the classic while there are a few new tweaks and new ones to make gameplay more interesting. An overall great job here.

Overall, this is a very satisfying play. While the limited screenspace and the “stiff” controls do spoil things a little, there is still a lot to appreciate in this game. The added modes that both expand on the original concept for average players as well as one mode that challenges expert players broadens the games horizons nicely as handheld games increase in power. The graphics and sound retain the old style all the while adding new features along with the new modes. So, I would say that this is a great game worth playing – both for gamers who never played the original as gamers who are all too familiar with the original NES version.

Furthest point in game:
Beat the original.
Died on 5-1 on the Super Players mode.
Found all red coins on level 1-1 on challenge mode.
Beat all 8 vs. Boo races.

General gameplay: 21/25
Replay value: 9/10
Graphics: 8/10
Audio: 4/5

Overall rating: 84%

Drew Wilson on Twitter: @icecube85 and Facebook.

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