A few years after the completely out-of-place Super Mario Bros. 2, we were treated to a new, proper, Mario game. One that felt more like the original game, which was already pretty good.
The story goes that somehow Bowser, the antagonist from the first game, has managed to somehow asexually produce seven kids. Each of which he sends out to a different kingdom in the Mushroom World to steal each king’s magic wand, turn him into some kind of animal, and then rule the kingdom, I guess. So the Princess Toadstool sends the Mario Bros. out to fix everything up (i.e. depose the Koopa Kids and return the wands to their owners).
They do this by utilizing their world-famous superhuman jumping abilities combined with their new powers of scrolling the screen right and left as well as up and down. Which actually becomes kind of important relatively quickly. Mostly because you get new powerups to play around with that let you do things that you could only dream about in other games.
Yeah, you have your mushrooms, your fire flowers, and your starmen, but you also have the Super Leaf that makes your Mario Brother grow an extra set of ears and a raccoon tail that lets him fly somehow. You also have at your disposal three super suits: a frog suit that lets you swim better, a Tanooki suit that lets you briefly turn into a statue, and a Hammer suit that lets you toss hammers like those crazy Hammer Bros. In short, four more kinds of awesome. There are a few more, but they range from the really lame (the anchor), to the normal lame (Jugem’s Cloud), to the kinda lame (the music box), to the almost kinda useful (the P-Wing), so I won’t bother going into them.
As you’d probably expect, the Mushroom World is a lot more expansive than the puny Mushroom Kingdom, so your view of the action is zoomed out a bit to a giant map that represents the Marios’ journey. Along the way there are, for lack of a better term, ‘points of interest’ that you have to clear. These could be your run-of-the-mill stages, power-up huts, minigames for powerups or extra lives, wandering enemies, or the like. Once you decide to take one of them on, you zoom in to a closer-up view with lots more details, and you get a finer-grained control over your Bro. It actually reminds me a lot of Zelda II’s overworld/action stage mechanic. Your goal is to clear a path to the castle to see what hilarious creature the king has been transformed into, then hop aboard the Koopa Kid’s ship, and then give the Kooplet what-for. Once you do that, it’s on to the next stage… Er, I mean Kingdom.
Once you finally clear the world of the menace that is Bowser’s Spawn, you get a stunning revelation that while you were out dealing with Bowser’s kids that he’s gone and kidnapped the unguarded princess.
So you have to trek through one final world to defeat Bowser, rescue the Princess, and win the day… again. It’s pretty hackneyed, I know, but that doesn’t really make it any less entertaining.
Super Mario Bros. 3 would actually be first game that I’d ever play that was an import. I remember that it wasn’t supposed to come out over here in the States for months, yet a friend of mine got the sole rental copy at the local game import shop. The cartridge, since the Japanese Famicom has a different design than the original NES, was about half as long as a US cartridge, and that meant that, even with the adapter, it was still shoved quite far into the NES, and would have been impossible to remove, had someone not had the foresight to attach a ribbon on the thing.
We played that game obsessively, and after a few days he was able to finish it, though I wasn’t around to witness it. For that, I’d have to wait until I got my hands on a copy. The problem was, though, that the game was wildly popular, and was out on rental just about everywhere I went. The odd (or sometimes very odd) friend would find it on a rental and let me play it for a few minutes, but I never really could make what you’d call ‘progress’.
That all changed when another of my friends found a copy of the game in the alley behind my house. Then the game got passed around a little bit and I finally was able to put enough time, effort, and determination into it that, several months after its domestic release, I was able to wrest victory from the gaping maw of defeat.
I think it was the waiting around and getting little tastes of the game here and there that made the final victory all the more palpable for me. And, in fact, it’s a feeling that I haven’t quite managed to attain since, which is kind of disappointing.