Instead of taking place in the Koopa Kingdom, Super Mario Advance has our four heroes traversing the seven worlds of Subcon. Before beginning each level you will be able to choose whom you want to control. Mario has average strength and average jumping. The princess is very weak, but can float great distances. Toad is the worst at jumping, but is very strong, which means heíll be able to whip vegetables and enemies in no time. Luigi has average strength, but can jump the highest and the furthest when running. Each individual player will have a preference, but mine lies with Luigi. Although heís the most difficult character to control, once mastered heís the best character for all situations.
In this land the enemies are no longer vanquished by simply jumping on them. Upon hopping on top of an enemy you can actually pick them up by pressing the B button. You can then throw them at other enemies to get rid of them. Throughout each level youíll encounter bunches of vegetation that can be plucked out of the ground and thrown at enemies as well. Some of the new vegetables are super-sized in this new version and have the potential of taking out an entire group of enemies. Unlike the original game, Super Mario Advance has a scoring system. The more enemies you take out at once, the more points you will earn and eventually you can even earn extra lives. Also scattered about the levels are magic potions. Wherever you throw the potion a door will magically appear. When you enter the door you will be warped to subspace, which is basically a shadow of the real world. Any clumps of vegetation that you didnít pluck in the real world you can now do so here and earn coins for each one. Strategically placing the doors will yield a magic mushroom in subspace, which will add a heart to your energy bar, making it more difficult for you to perish. In addition, if you find any jars in the normal world that you canít go down into, thatís a signal for you to travel into subspace and then you will be able to enter the jar and warp to a new world.
Another item that makes an appearance in the game is the cherry. By collecting enough cherries you will cause a magic star to appear, which will give you invincibility for a short period of time. Stopwatches can be found that will freeze all enemies for a few seconds and magic keys will be needed to open locked doors. At the end of each level you will be able to play the slot machine with the coins you found in subspace. Matching up 3 of the same icon or yielding a cherry will yield you 1-Ups. You can speed up this procedure this time around by betting all of your coins at once and letting your luck ride with just one pull of the slot handle. New to Super Mario Advance are the red Ace coins. Five of these are hidden throughout each level and you will need to collect them all to achieve a 100% rating at the end of the game. As you can see, this Mario game plays very differently from any of the other games in the series. This is probably why Nintendo chose to release it at launch since itís so different and appeals to a wide range of gamers.
Itís obvious that Super Mario Advanceís graphics are based off of the SNES remake. Even so, this version is better visually with vibrant colors and extensive use of parallax scrolling. The jars are now more exciting with a ferris wheel showing off mode-7 capabilities. There are also giant vegetables and enemies to show that the game can handle large sprites with ease. While not the graphical highlight of the system, Super Mario Advance does a decent job with the visuals.
The music is instantly recognizable from the previous incarnations of the game. Nothing new or special here, but the sound effects have been enhanced. The game is loaded with voice samples for each character. Whenever you jump, lift, or obtain an item the characters will make a noise or say something. Yes, this can get annoying after awhile, but I thought it gave the game a personality that it lacked before.
Nintendo tried its best to support the 4 player multiplayer aspect of the N64 and with the GBA itís no different. In fact, both of Nintendoís launch titles support the link up feature. With Super Mario Advance you can link up to four players with one cartridge to play Mario Bros. in battle mode. In this scenario each player will be competing for coins. The first player to collect 5 coins or to be the last Mario standing will win the match. The first player to win 5 matches will win the battle. Enemies must first be flipped over and then knocked off the platform. When this happens a coin will appear out of one of the pipes near the top of the playing field. So, itís quite possible for you to do all the killing of the enemies and for another player to collect your hard earned coins. Luckily you can hit another player from below the platform, which will cause him or her to move slowly for about 3 seconds. You can also jump on top of another player and pick him up and throw him.
Of course the POW block makes a return. This time itís not at the bottom of the play area, but at the top, which makes it more difficult to hit. The easiest way to hit the block is by powering up your jump by holding down on the control pad, but itís dangerous to do so since all of the enemies appear around that area. Upon hitting the POW all enemies on the ground will flip over. If they were already turned over, hitting the block will flip them back over and they will begin to roam again. You can imagine the strategy involved here. You could cause some major damage to competing players by hitting the POW block just as they are about to knock an enemy off, thus doing some major damage. Instead of instantly being killed as in the original Mario Bros., each player starts off as Super Mario. Upon getting hit by an enemy they will shrink back down to regular size. Another hit will remove them from the round. One last interesting item in this mode is the trashcan. At the bottom of each stage is this trashcan that opens and closes periodically. If you manage to fall into it or are thrown in by your rival, youíll be trapped for a few seconds. Upon being released from it you will emerge with a weapon, such as an egg or a turtle shell. You can then use this weapon against enemies to help you collect coins. All told, this multiplayer mode with one cartridge really does add some replay to the game and provides great entertainment, especially if four players are competing all at once.
The Mario Bros. Classic mode requires each person to have a copy of Super Mario Advance in his or her GBA. In this game all of the players are on the same side and the goal is to try and clear the playfield of enemies. It plays just like the old Mario Bros. game, except now 4 players can partake in the action. Cooperation is the key to completing the levels in this mode since it can become very hectic with 4 players jumping around.
When all is said and done, Nintendo has brought together two classic Mario games, added some new features, and called it Super Mario Advance. For players who have never had the opportunity to try Mario 2, this game is a perfect addition to their GBA libraries. Likewise, itís a great game for those that enjoyed the classic games and want to have some fun with the multiplayer modes. If you never enjoyed Mario 2, then youíll obviously want to pass on this latest version. Itís unfortunate that Nintendo didnít release an all-new side scrolling Mario game. Perhaps they spent all of their creative energy on the upcoming Wario Land 4? Nevertheless, remake or not, Super Mario Advance provides for hours of high quality entertainment, and that is what is important.