Classics 5


Super Mario Bros 2

A very impressive game… for the time. Still reasonably fun and worth a playthrough if you haven’t, though playing the GBA version or on the Switch is probably preferable to avoid the game over issues.
Total Story Score: +1
Total Gameplay Score: +4
Cheats: Yes (savestates on game over)
Total Play Time: 1 Days // 2.5 Hours
Time Reviewed: 11-13-2021

Spoiler Pluses and Minuses +

Story Positives:

  1. Visual storytelling is pretty fun here and there, mostly the desert, snow, and cloud levels

Story Negatives:

Gameplay Positives:

  1. Intro. It does so much right so quickly and efficiently
  2. In-game tutorialization is fantastic and spot on. The initial drop, the enemy, the screen wrapping, it slowly introduces new ideas and new concepts as you go and it’s fantastic
  3. The game has good visual distinction as usual
  4. There’s good variance in playstyle between the four characters
  5. The level design in general has good escalation of themes and good back-and-forth style
  6. Mid-mission checkpointing is surprisingly good, putting you back to the last ‘load screen’ on death
  7. Aggregate: Music, for what little is there, is good and memorable // The game isn’t super replayable but it does have replayability

Gameplay Negatives:

  1. The controls are super squirrely, even more so than the Mario norm
  2. The penalty for failure in this game is just too harsh. Starting over at the world is fine, but having to start the entire game over upon losing continues is awful (especially since nothing indicates where the warp pipes are at all)
  3. Aggregate: No real tutorialization on death pits which is odd considering the game’s vertical nature // The Ninja Gaiden respawn is inconsistent and only occasionally an issue, but it’s there // The difficulty curve is a bit weird, it’s mostly smooth except when it’s not

Super Mario Bros 3

While there are, in my opinion, better Mario titles… the truth is almost all of them sit on the shoulders of this game. Very, very innovative for the time and a true giant of game design, if you somehow have not played it I highly recommend it.
Total Story Score: +2
Total Gameplay Score: +27
Cheats: No
Total Play Time: 1 Days // 4.25 Hours
Time Reviewed: 11-16-2021

Spoiler Pluses and Minuses +

Story Positives:

  1. Visual storytelling (especially in worlds 5 and 8) and…
  2. …visual continuity (especially in worlds 5 and 8)

Story Negatives:

Gameplay Positives:

  1. Tutorialization is on point, as per Mario standard
  2. Itemization (inventory on the overworld map, mostly optional overworld interactions to gain power ups)
  3. Itemization mk. 2, especially for the end of stage guarantee 1 ups
  4. Itemization mk. 3 for excellent general distribution throughout stages
  5. Music is the usual Koji Kondo excellence
  6. Visual distinction is generally good
  7. World 1 doesn’t have any stand-out levels really, but it’s a good tutorial world overall and a good Intro
  8. World 2 continues the trend of good stage design across the board
  9. World 3 remains fun, if difficult (as the gloves are officially off) and has a huge variety of stages throughout
  10. World 4 isn’t super well designed in terms of challenge or layout but it’s just… fun. It’s a good, gimmicky breather world and likes to play with its concept…
  11. …leading to another plus for World 4
  12. World 5 has good climbing gimmick early on…
  13. …good ‘sky’ gimmicks in the latter half…
  14. …and actual difficult stage layout and design, some of the earliest proper challenges in the game
  15. 7-6 is fantastic in its innovation and design, between the wrapping and the ghost platforms
  16. World 7 is legitimately fantastic in its concepts, innovation, combination of themes, and general design. There’s avoidance levels, vertical platforms, wrapping avoidance, enemy gauntlets, mini levels littered with plant types that reward items, etc…
  17. …which is why World 7…
  18. …gets three positives
  19. World 8 has some limitations in its level design but is still generally good across the board
  20. Overworld design with routing and layout, with multiple paths and shortcuts (mostly for continues)
  21. The Outro is awesome. Bowser’s castle has multiple paths forwards depending on your route and the final boss is unique and fun
  22. Generally good spritework and brickwork
  23. Enemy Variety is, as usual for Mario games, great…
  24. …with a wide variety of enemy attack styles and movements
  25. The power ups are great, if limited, and offer nice Kit
  26. At all times the game is utilizing its terrain in service of level design…
  27. …constantly and in innovative ways
  28. Replayability (one of the more replayable early Marios)

Gameplay Negatives:

  1. Aggregate: No save feature whatsoever in a fairly large game // Difficulty curve is a bit weird. It’s a full smooth curve other than the dip for World 4, with a few spikes in 6 and 7 // Mario squiddidy is very minor here, but it’s here

Super Mario World

Honestly, what can I even add to this one? This is one of the best ‘first video games’ ever made, and a perfect game for someone to enter the hobby. If you somehow haven’t played it, I massively recommend it.
Total Story Score: +2
Total Gameplay Score: +40
Cheats: No
Total Play Time: 1 Days // 5.75 Hours
Time Reviewed: 11-17-2021

Spoiler Pluses and Minuses +

Story Positives:

  1. The post-castle cutscenes are cute and, honestly, still get a grin out of me
  2. General tone of fun, adventurous romp

Story Negatives:

Gameplay Positives:

  1. Tutorialization is… really the best it’s ever been in gaming…
  2. …with constant effort throughout over half the game…
  3. …to constantly introduce, escalate, and explain via very careful level design
  4. The Intro (all of Yoshi’s Island) is, as usual for the Mario series, excellently designed to wean new players into video games as a concept and Mario World in specific
  5. The Star World isn’t designed to be super challenging, but super interesting. Every stage encourages the player to think
  6. Almost all of the special stages are, really, quite legit. Gnarly and its verticality and usage of different climbing gimmicks…
  7. …Tubular and its turning the balloon gimmick into a shmup…
  8. …Way Cool and its ‘maze’ of the platform and having to navigate it via the toggle blocks…
  9. …Awesome and its very careful application of enemy placement and utilization while still giving you tools to deal with it…
  10. …Groovy and its useful and fun presentation of elements…
  11. …and finally Funky, which is a short but sweet victory lap
  12. Donut land and its multi level presentation of multiple paths and of course the ghost houses
  13. Vanilla Dome continues its excellent grouped level design
  14. The bridge segments are probably the hardest, best designed levels in the game…
  15. …easily deserving a second positive
  16. While most of the castles aren’t noteworthy individually, each one serves as a form of a tech demo and advances how you can interact with the game
  17. The Forest of Illusion doesn’t have much cohesive theme going for it, but several fun stages and it plays with the multiple exits thing quite a bit
  18. Choco-Ghost House is probably the best Ghost House in the game; challenging and with three concurrent gimmicks
  19. Mid-mission checkpoints are consistent, well placed, power you up, and stick across levels
  20. Music! While not some of the best, there’s very memorable, catchy tunes in this one
  21. General graphics. While not the best, across the sprites, background, and animations it’s worthy of a positive
  22. Enemy variety is the usual Mario excellence
  23. The game controls quite well, especially for a Mario game, and in general feels like you’re actually in control the entire time
  24. The sunken airship level is great. Love the fading Boos, and love the continuity it adds
  25. Ghost Houses are generally fun, interesting, and encourage you to think in new and different ways… with all but one of them having multiple exits…
  26. …deserving of a second positive
  27. Larry’s castle is probably one of the better non-special stages in the game, with lots of good theme mixing and variety of challenges
  28. Terrain usage is consistently considered at all levels of design
  29. The core mechanics of this game are incredibly solid
  30. Difficulty curve never really stops doing at least something to engage and keep the player moving forwards
  31. The game does a really good job of distributing items throughout every stage across the entire game
  32. The cape is an amazing bit of tech, putting a ton of the control in the player’s hand and offering tremendous utility and tech while also having a very high skill ceiling
  33. A second positive for the general power ups which includes the aforementioned cape
  34. Yoshi is surprisingly well designed for his first entry. He can be recovered, he can double your jump height, he has the different shell and color power ups, and the variance on how you can get hit on him…
  35. …leads to two positives for Yoshi
  36. The Outro does some good stuff, with the multiple paths through Bowser’s Castle, and the fight itself being both unique and well designed
  37. Chocolate Land is, as with previous levels, very well designed in its general layout
  38. Bowser’s Valley has a lot of possible paths forwards, and some well designed interesting stages
  39. The game is in general replayable…
  40. …but between the ability to continue, the multiple paths through the worlds, and the many exits, secrets, and special stages… the game deserves a second Replayability possible
  41. Usual good visual distinction

Gameplay Negatives:

  1. Aggregate: The overworld movement is honestly just too slow and drags the game down on backtracking // The bosses are underwhelming at best, and pathetic at worst, glorified tech demos // Outrageous is aptly named. It’s an enemy bonanza, with parts of the stage being obscured, while having very few recovery mechanics throughout, all on top of careful platforming requiring either the spring or Yoshi to progress

Innovator Point: Yoshi Drums

Super Mario 64

Iconic, significant, and important… but the game is only sub-par upon re analysis. The good is great, but the frustration just drags it back. Despite my issues, it’s still a net positive, and if you haven’t played it I still recommend giving it at least a go.
Total Story Score: +3
Total Gameplay Score: +13
Cheats: No
Total Play Time: 2 Days // 15.83 Hours
Time Reviewed: 11-19-2021

Spoiler Pluses and Minuses +

Story Positives:

  1. The tone, music, and humor in dialogue
  2. The stages have good, varied Visual Storytelling within them
  3. The Outro is yet another good example of a simple but enjoyable ending

Story Negatives:

Gameplay Positives:

  1. The minigame of the Mario face alteration at the beginning needs to be mentioned
  2. The Castle courtyard is a wonderful tutorial. It’s a nice, big, open, mostly safe space to just play around with the concepts the game was introducing; physics and 3D platforming
  3. The music is, as usual, awesome
  4. The ‘stage select’ for each course gives hints in the star name for how to obtain it
  5. Bob-Omb Battlefield is exactly what it should do as an Intro; It sets up movement, enemies, tech, stars, coins, red coins, etc.
  6. Whomp’s Fortress is very vertical and does a lot to encourage the player to figure out the different ways to navigate the 3D space
  7. Boo’s Mansion uses its space and camera very efficiently…
  8. …and further has an excellent aspect of visual continuity which at all times helps to inform where you are in relation to what
  9. Lethal Lava Land has good recovery, multiple interesting stars, and the mid-mission checkpoint of the volcano
  10. Bowser in the Fire Sea continues the trend of good platforming and interesting jumping puzzles
  11. Dire Dire Docks still has a few irritations (the whirlpool comes to mind) but between the usage of the underwater mechanic and some fun pole hanging puzzles, it’s enjoyable
  12. Wet-Dry World is unique, interesting, and fun with its gimmick and layout
  13. Tiny Huge island still has issues, but honestly between the gimmick and the visual continuity it’s still fun to go through (unless you’re getting 100 coins)
  14. While there aren’t many power ups in this one, Mario himself is given substantial kit in terms of his moveset and a lot of it is anchored on the Z button, using good shortcutting for the most part
  15. Tall-Tall Mountain is a nice escalation from Thwomp Fortress; very vertical, very climbing focused, and with multiple types of platforming and maneuvering required to ascend
  16. Most stages do something very right; they show you something very specific as part of the initial stage direction, so you are ‘inclined’ to certain areas or avenues
  17. Tick Tock Clock is a great example of what a difficult stage should be, short and dense with the changeable speed walking into it
  18. The difficulty curve if you’re just going for 70 stars is quite smooth, with each ‘floor’ serving as an escalation of mechanics and encounters
  19. Outro positive for Bowser in the sky as well as the final boss fight
  20. The hub (overworld) is reasonably well designed
  21. The game goes out of its way to allow you to route your own way through stars, leading to good mechanical replayability
  22. Aggregate: Bob-Omb 1, raising the ship, penguin slide, King Thwomp, Bowser’s Sub, Tall Mountain Slide, climbing the Volcano // Checkpointing, when it’s there, is nice
  23. Aggregate: Snowman’s Land has some interesting concepts and stars // Yoshi Drums periodically // The power ups aren’t that great and aren’t that frequent but when they’re there they’re well designed
  24. Aggregate: Cool, Cool Mountain and Jolly Roger Bay both don’t do much really exceptional, but both serve as guides and tutorials for their respective concepts and still have aspects of decent design to them

Gameplay Negatives:

  1. Hazy Maze Cave. First of all it’s visually disinteresting, it’s full of small corridors which compounds the camera issues which already are problematic, made worse by the fact that the camera controls literally don’t work in half the areas, with bad initial stage direction and a near total lack of visual continuity on top of the absolute jank of the arrow platform…
  2. Shifting Sand Land is substantially worse designed than virtually every other stage to-date. The core ideas aren’t bad but the prevalence of the instant-kill quicksand and the unusual physics interactions with weird ledges in the quicksand and the pillars makes the level more frustrating than it has any right to be
  3. The controls in the game are imprecise, at best
  4. The camera ranges from being irritating to being actively antagonistic…
  5. …and are some of the worst camera controls I’ve ever seen. The camera by itself is not good (getting stuck on things, awful random angles) but the controls or lack thereof are even worse
  6. Blast to the Lonely Mushroom is the worst star in the game. It’s a cannon shot into nothing with no possibility of recovery after a small to medium trek to the spot to attempt it again with no actual method by which to see your arc other than trial and error which, of course, involves dying each time
  7. The 100 coin stars are a bit arduous and a bit too many, take away healing potential, and have no checkpointing built in, which also completely kills the pacing and, worse, means it’s quite easy to lose a lot of progress for no good reason to a small mistake…
  8. …and for this reason (most especially the checkpointing issues) it earns a second negative
  9. Rainbow Ride is easily one of the least designed stages in the game. It’s random geometry in a boring skybox with clearly-made-for-2D platforming on top of relying on the long, slow, boring carpet ride which is very easy to screw up and lose all your progress on for no less than three separate stars…
  10. …leading to a second negative for Rainbow Ride
  11. Aggregate: The snowman in Snowman’s Land is a dick, compounded by the penguin being a dick and the controls in general // In addendum to the earlier issues, the underwater and flight controls suck

Codifier Points: 3D Platformers and Collectathons

Super Mario Sunshine

I am… surprised at how bad this game is. The things I remember fondly are still there and still good, but the entire game is marred by awful level design and near constant frustration. You can probably go ahead and skip this one.
Total Story Score: +10
Total Gameplay Score: -5
Cheats: No
Total Play Time: 2 Days // 9.83 Hours
Time Reviewed: 11-23-2021

Spoiler Pluses and Minuses +

Story Positives:

  1. Visual continuity really helps tie the whole island together
  2. The hub (Delfino Plaza) has fantastic flavor and really helps keep the whole vibe of the tropical island
  3. The game has wonderful NPC set dressing, in pretty much every stage too
  4. Visual storytelling across islands is great, and very well done per stage. The Bianco Hills and its rolling green and nice lake and windmill…
  5. …Ricco Harbor and the, uh, harbor, the workers, the docks, the fishing…
  6. …Gelato Beach and the lounging, festivals, and waves…
  7. …Pinna Park and the, uh, park complete with park-goers and plenty of rides…
  8. …Noki Bay (before and after the poison problem)…
  9. …Sirena Beach and its gorgeous sunset…
  10. Doodads! So many good doodads…
  11. …it deserves a second positive
  12. Pianta village continues the visual enjoyability
  13. The atmosphere of the tropical paradise is awesome
  14. The music almost always adds to the aforementioned atmosphere

Story Negatives:

  1. The Intro is stupid for three major reasons. The first is obvious (the hell is this nonsense?), the second is it’s totally unnecessary (of course Mario would help! Why wouldn’t he?!) and the third is it never comes up again
  2. The ‘big reveal’ scene where Bowser Jr. reveals himself is… not good. The reveal is lackluster, Peach doing nothing is weird, Mario doing nothing is cutscene incompetence, and the… ‘plot point’ of Peach being Bowser Jr’s mother is so weird I don’t even know where to begin
  3. Peach is just… way too airheaded in this one, to an extent that it’s actually aggravating
  4. The Outro is just… weird and bad and awkward, between the weird cheesiness that doesn’t fit the attempts at seriousness, the 1 minute 28 second death of FLUDD, and Bowser Jr’s randomness… no

Gameplay Positives:

  1. Bianco Hills doesn’t do much, but it is a good, safe environment where each of the shines helps get you into most of the interactions and movement tech in the game
  2. The hub is fantastically designed, easily one of the best hubs in the series…
  3. …not just visually and audibly, but with regards to the tools and kit throughout that allow for swift and smooth navigation
  4. The music is, as usual, consistently excellent
  5. The game’s use of color and palette is really noteworthy
  6. The spritework is nothing short of stunning
  7. The game’s brickwork is even better…
  8. …really above and beyond, especially for the time
  9. The game is exceptionally visual distinct
  10. Visual continuity in helping to navigate
  11. Terrain design is, sometimes, built around the levels and movement
  12. The game retains the tight movement set and kit of the 3D Marios in general
  13. FLUDD surprisingly adds a lot to the overall kit and mobility of Mario’s moveset, functionally being the ‘power ups’ of the game
  14. As with 64, the game keeps shine hints in title and in the opening pan
  15. Noki Bay is just generally fun, with several interesting and enjoyable gimmicks between the unique boss fights, movable ruins, and enjoyable platforming…
  16. …leading to a second positive for it
  17. While few really stick out, the bosses were generally enjoyable

Gameplay Negatives:

  1. FLUDDless stages. They take away your tool… okay, that’s fine, but they don’t do anything to really add to it. Instant death, wonky physics, no checkpoints, all contribute to them just being more frustrating than they should be
  2. The red coin on the water shine in Ricco Harbor. The shine itself isn’t actually that bad, getting the red coins is fun enough and the timer is generous, but nothing indicates the different controls of the bloopers and, much worse, you can still die (easily) after finishing the coins
  3. The Sand Bird level is legitimately badly designed. It’s very easy to physics to death, doesn’t track your jump properly, is slow and boring, and any mistake results in death and starting over from the beginning
  4. Pinna Park’s ferris wheel shine sucks. It’s several fun, tight jumps absolutely ruined by a camera that’s constantly fighting you and an ease of losing all progress instantly
  5. Sirena Beach in general sucks, without a single enjoyable shine…
  6. …but some of those specific shines suck so badly they literally made me quit the game over it back in the day (manta ray, clean the beach, Bowser Jr)
  7. Pianta Village’s goopy inferno is probably one of the worst stages in the entire game. It’s frustrating, very narrowly railroaded into one intended path, the lava does the exact opposite of what it does in every other 3D game, and the bottomless pit can go to hell
  8. The chuckya secret stage, by itself, is just awful
  9. Lack of info in game on shine requirements
  10. Lives system. It’s normally excusable but here there’s so few lives, and restarting adds a crucial Seconds In Minutes problem to already frustrating shines, compounded by the game over sound
  11. Mandatory progression in the first 7 shines of each course. As usual, something bad that’s bad that’s mandatory is worse
  12. Low health Beedleeps
  13. 100 coin shines are even worse than in Mario 64
  14. Blue coins in general can go to hell
  15. So, so many of the 100% shines are just the worst, entirely too many to list here…
  16. …deserving of, honestly…
  17. …one of the worst 100% games I’ve ever covered, and a full 3 negatives
  18. The difficulty… ‘curve’ is one of the most insanely all over the place I’ve seen
  19. …which deserves a second negative
  20. While some of the game’s secrets and shines are well guided, the rest are… absolutely nonsensical or completely hidden. Worse, some of the primary shines’ hints are just absent
  21. The boat in Corona Mountain is so, so, so bad it deserves its own negative
  22. The Outro in general is lackluster at best. Corona mountain has that damned boat, there’s limited retries on the cloud, and the Bowser fight is disinteresting at best and literally buggy at worst