2017 was a hell of a first year for the Nintendo Switch. Launching in early March of 2017, it arrived alongside The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild. The Switch was off to a hot start as many were dazzled by the ingenuity and freedom of Breath of the Wild. Some 7 months later, Nintendo released Super Mario Odyssey. It was considered by many as yet another home run smash. And since today is March 10, or MAR10 Day, I can’t think of a better time to look back on what made Super Mario Odyssey such a terrific entry in the longstanding Mario series.
A GAMING GENERATION DEFINED
For many kids back in the 1980s, Super Mario Bros. left a lasting imprint on those lucky enough to have grown up with it. Super Mario Bros. 3 is considered one of the best NES video games of all time. When the Super Nintendo launched in North America in the late summer of 1991, Super Mario World carried on the tradition, living up to the lofty standards set by Shigeru Miyamoto and friends. Super Mario 64 brought Mario and company into the 3D realm. Mario 64 is a nostalgic and highly memorable adventure for many who played it back in the summer of 1996 when it first came out. There have been many more Mario entries since but none of them have captured our attention and gaming hearts quite like Super Mario Odyssey.
THE ODYSSEY BEGINS
Bowser has captured Princess Peach once again, and intends to marry her against her own will. Mario meets his newest ally, Cappy, and the two are off to all sorts of Kingdoms to procure enough moons to power their airship.
Whether you play it docked or in handheld mode, Super Mario Odyssey is a beautiful looking game. With plenty of diverse locales, each Kingdom is unique and a world of its own. Cascade Kingdom lives up to its name — you can almost feel the raw power of the water!
Who could forget seeing this for the first time? It was an incredible moment that blended the real world with Mario’s world. Even better? Taking temporary control of the T-Rex by firing Cappy at it, which is the brilliant gimmick of Super Mario Odyssey.
Speaking of blending, there are special old school 2D sections spread throughout the Kingdoms. They’re bite-sized but incredibly fun, evoking warm fuzzy nostalgic memories of yesteryear.
The Sand Kingdom is such a fun little place to explore. It has been said that the director of Super Mario Odyssey, Kenta Motokura, was inspired by his trip to Mexico and his fondness for that country. Traces of that culture can be seen throughout the Sand Kingdom.
The majority of the bosses in Super Mario Odyssey consist of the Broodals — vicious anthropomorphic rabbits who also serve as Bowser’s wedding planners. One of the nice things about the Sand Kingdom is that you get to battle bosses of both varieties: Broodal and non-Broodal.
It blew my mind the first time I saw New Donk City. That’s mainly thanks to the shocking appearance of real human beings. It was only further proof that Super Mario Odyssey wasn’t afraid to think outside the box.
New Donk City was so fun to explore, whether at night or in the daytime. It was unlike any other Mario level or world I had previously explored.
I gotta give props to Nintendo. I was so pleasantly shocked to see this T-Rex cameo. I thought Cascade Kingdom was it as far as T-Rex appearances go. Glad to have been proven wrong!
Seaside Kingdom might just be my favorite Kingdom of the bunch. I tend to not be the biggest fan of water-based levels, but this one totally and completely does it for me. Maybe it’s because a good half of it takes place on the beach, offering some variety and varied nuances in gameplay that make it much more interesting to play than if it were completely underwater. For example, being able to bounce off two walls in an effort to collect coins and reach new heights is remarkably satisfying.
Super Mario Odyssey is everything I wanted in a 3D Mario game and then some. The addition of Cappy added a ton of layers to the gameplay. Whether you were flinging Cappy and then jumping off it as a makeshift platform or using it to take control of the various enemies, this mechanic breathed much needed new life into the Mario formula. I’ll never forget the first time I spotted that T-Rex napping on the hill of Cascade Kingdom. Even more memorable was the first time I became Mario T-Rex, complete with a ridiculously oversized mustache to boot!
All the throwback 2D Mario sections were a blast to navigate. It took me right back to 1987, playing Super Mario Bros. with my uncle, brother and our friends late into the night. These bits always somehow felt organic rather than forced. It was just the right amount of nostalgia rush blended with the newfangled 3D Mario gameplay that is so smooth and easy to pick up, but hard to put down.
Along with The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild, Super Mario Odyssey helped to make Switch’s first year, 2017, a roaring and smashing success. I can’t wait for a sequel to both games. These two games alone are reason enough to invest in a Nintendo Switch, not to mention the dozens and dozens of great 3rd party titles and Indie hits. I had an absolute blast playing through Super Mario Odyssey, and I feel Nintendo was able to completely capture the magic of what made all those Mario games from so long ago so very damn special indeed. Not only that but they were able to add to the legacy, adding in enough new elements to make this entry stand on its own two feet. Bravo, Nintendo. Bravo! I eagerly await Mario’s next adventure on the Switch. Until then, I think I’ll head back to Mushroom Kingdom yet again for one more romp.
Man, Super Mario Kart. Where do I begin? The Super Nintendo is loaded with awesome games; my memories with this system run long and deep. Super Mario Kart not only ranks as one of the very best, but it also gave me and my gaming buds countless epic memories. It was a brilliant idea — take Mario, his chums and throw them in a crazy, zany go-kart world. It was instant Nintendo magic. And the rest, as they say, is history. As clearly evident by the success the Mario Kart franchise would go on to enjoy, Nintendo caught lightning in a bottle.
THE NIGHT IT CAME BACK HOME
On April 9, 2006, I reacquired Super Mario Kart by trading my copy of Halloween 4: The Return of Michael Myers (Limited Tin Edition). Only 40,000 were ever made. My girlfriend at the time bought it for me in 2004. Two years later, I turned it into Super Mario Kart, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles IV: Turtles in Time, Streets of Rage and Streets of Rage 2. The tin edition was going for roughly $25-$30 at the time. It goes to show you how great the retro gaming market was back in 2006. I made the deal with a nice guy off DigitPress. While I’m a big fan of the Halloween films, I couldn’t pass up on this golden opportunity to get four of my favorite childhood video games in one fell swoop.
THE NEW KINGS ON THE BLOCK
It was 24 years ago that my brother and I made the best trade of our gaming lives. Exchanging Death Duel for Super Mario Kart instantly made us kings of our neighborhood. All the kids living nearby came flocking to our place weekend after weekend, month after month. Being the only ones who owned the game, our quaint little home morphed into a madhouse as we had friends coming and going nonstop. Even now, whenever I close my eyes and listen closely, I can still hear the incessant chiming of my childhood doorbell. As a kid I would lay there in bed on lazy Sunday mornings trying to enjoy my peace and quiet. No such chance of that. By 8:45 every Sunday morning, like clockwork, Ben and our other friends were banging down our door. We were truly the new kings on the block.
FLASHBACK TO CHRISTMAS 1992
Christmas ’92 proved to be one for the record books. In addition to my mom buying me King of the Monsters, that same year our uncle bought us Death Duel. I remember the ad from EGM. It looked cool and all, but honestly, my brother and I were a bit disappointed. Of all the games on our wish list, Death Duel certainly wasn’t even in the top 20. We tried not to complain though as our mom always taught us to be grateful and that any gift was better than none at all. Still, Kevin and I went home that night talking about how awesome it would be if Death Duel magically transformed into Super Mario Kart instead (the game that topped our Christmas wish list). It was rare that my brother and I both wanted the same game — he was a “mainstream” guy while I was more fond of the obscure underdog titles. However, Super Mario Kart transcended all of that. It was just that kind of game.
And then, as we were talking, an epiphany struck us. We suddenly recalled the ad for Death Duel in EGM. We pulled out the latest EGM issue that we had bought weeks earlier and madly flipped through it in search of our great loophole. Ah, there it was. Not suggested for children under 14. I was only nine and my brother was 11. My brother wouldn’t be able to play Death Duel for another three years! And five for me! Not that we couldn’t break the rules but when the rules benefit you, why not follow them?
After showing the ad to our mom, just as we predicted she would, she promptly called our uncle to explain the situation and asked if he kept the receipt. Luckily, he did and since we hadn’t opened the game yet, it was ripe for a swap. So later that week my mom took me and Kevin to exchange Death Duel for Super Mario Kart. I remember thinking that it was the greatest trade in the history of mankind. I still laugh thinking about this Christmas memory. Who knew a silly ad could bring about such a dramatic turn of events?
Rather ironic that I originally acquired Super Mario Kart via trade, and then 14 years later reacquired it by trade. I’m hanging onto my copy this time for sure!
My brother and I played the crap out of Super Mario Kart that Christmas season and well into 1993. It was such an addicting game. My favorite character was Yoshi. My brother loved using Koopa. One of our friends, Ben, liked using Bowser or Donkey Kong Jr. Ben liked them most because they had the size to push others around. We were the only kids in the neighborhood who had Super Mario Kart, so our neighborhood friends were banging on our door like bloodthirsty zombies. I remember many Sunday mornings where the doorbell chime woke us up at 8:45! Kevin and I quickly became the kings of our block, all thanks to Super Mario Kart.
THE GO KART RACERS
There are a total of eight racers, but really four different types. They come in four pairs which vary in terms of strengths and weaknesses.
Mario takes a break from stomping goombas, but this is hardly R&R! He’s sort of a jack of all but master of none type. He doesn’t have the highest top speed and his acceleration is only average. However, he doesn’t have any glaring weaknesses. Also, due to his slightly bulky build, he’s able to hold his own a little bit even when bumped by the heavyweights Bowser or Donkey Kong Jr.
The man who lives in the shadow of Mario. I always liked Luigi because I enjoy cheering for underdogs and sidekicks. He basically has the same abilities as Mario but he lacks the size to adequately counter a Bowser bump.
The damsel in distress is out to get hers! She’s top of the line when it comes to acceleration, but only average when it comes to top speed. Look at those demon-possessed eyes. Yeah, I would advise against cracking any sort of “kitchen barefoot” jokes here.
Yoshi has always been my go-to kart driver. Come on, a dinosaur in a go-kart? You just can’t beat that. The beauty (Princess) and the beast (Yoshi) share the same qualities and both are especially ideal for Donut Plains and the battle mode. On the flip side, they rather stink when it comes to Vanilla Lake.
For the first time ever, you can control one of gaming’s most iconic villains. I remember this being a huge deal in my gaming circle back in late ’92. Using a special customized XXL go-kart, Bowser is as nasty as ever. Because of his enormous size, he’s slow to accelerate but once he gets going, there’s NO stopping that immense momentum… until you bump into a barrier, that is. That’s gonna suck. A lot. But as far as top speed is concerned, Bowser is king.
Donkey can shove the competition aside and is the only one who can truly withstand the impact of a Bowser bump. Both struggle with Donut Plains and the battle mode, but they excel at Koopa Beach.
Koopa was my brother’s favorite back in the day. He lacks in top speed but makes up for it when it comes to control. Koopa steers corners extremely well, which means you can stay on the gas pedal a little longer than most other racers when rounding corners.
Toad is similar to Koopa but rumor has it Toad has the slight edge in terms of acceleration (being just a hair better… again, just a rumor). Both of them are cornering champions though and perform well particularly on Choco Island. But look out for Bowser and Donkey Kong Jr.!
The mushroom is a classic, basic and useful card to have in your back pocket. When you’re at the beginning of a long straight path, or right before a jumping strip, press A to give yourself a short and sudden burst of speed. Remember using this to scream ¼ across the tracks of Ghost Valley 1, or Mario Circuit 2? It never gets old! ^_^
Ah, the green shell. The shell for real men. It shoots out straight, so that means you have to aim it with skill. Of course, some luck factors in as well, but the green shell is largely based on positioning, timing and skill. Misfire and it will ricochet off walls until it finds a victim. Don’t get in its way! Also, you can drop it behind you. It makes for a defensive tool if timed properly. Nice!
For less skill and a much higher rate of success, the homing red shell will quickly stir up words not quite appropriate for this site. Once in a blue moon you can avoid the red shell. For example, power sliding around a corner can free you of the red shell’s death grip. But the wise and discerning player will only fire the red shell when their target is right there for the taking. A banana peel or green shell can nullify it, however…
The banana peel isn’t the best offensive tool in the game, but it can be surprisingly effective when you’re neck and neck with the competition. You can also launch a banana peel about 10 yards ahead of you. While a fun sight, it’s rarely effective. Its best attribute isn’t its offensive capabilities, but rather its defensive potential. It has the ability to act as a defensive buffer to a red or green shell.
Although it doesn’t quite enjoy the glamour among Mario Kart fans as the vaunted lightning bolt does, the star has always been my personal favorite. It’s a combination of various powers: your speed is increased, you’re immune to track obstacles and enemy weapons, but best of all, anyone you touch instantly spins out. However, if you fall into water, lava, or off an edge, you’ll lose the power.
The game’s most infamous and adored power-up, the lightning bolt is both devious and dangerous. The fact that it’s so rare only increases its legend. Releasing the lightning bolt affects all seven competitors. Doing so shrinks them down which decreases their speed, but best of all, it allows you an opportunity to sadistically crush (literally) the competition. The lightning bolt is no doubt a game changer!
The coin is often viewed as the worst item of the lot, but it’s not useless. It’s definitely a no-brainer item though, since as soon as you get it, you should press ‘A’ to use it. It adds two coins to your count. Coins affect your overall top speed, with 10 being the max. So while it may not be as sexy as the other items, it’s handy when you have few or no coins.
Mr. Ghost is only available in Battle Mode, sadly. I wish it was available in the two player GP mode as well, but I guess one can’t have it all. The ghost not only snatches your friend’s current item but it also makes you “invisible.” Stealing your rival’s red shell or star in particular tends to lead to a curse word or two being uttered. And let’s face it, that’s probably half the fun of the battle mode
The feather allows you to make a great leap of faith. It’s particularly handy for Ghost Valley 1 and a few other tracks. Sure, you can jump with the L or R button but this turns you into the second coming of Michael Jordan. You can also use it to leap over an incoming shell (which is super satisfying) or a well-placed tricky banana peel. You can also use it to cut corners, too. Good stuff.
You get the items by passing a question mark tile. Let the randomness run its course or if you’re in a rush then press ‘A’ to stop it. It was (and still is) a fun gimmick that made Super Mario Kart extra awesome. The racing itself is fine, but the weapons add an extra dosage of strategy and fun.
MARIO CIRCUIT 1
This is by far the game’s easiest course, as well it should be. It eases you into the mechanics. There are no major tight corners. Instead, you get plenty of straight away paths. Not a lot of frills or thrills here, but that’s fine since there are 19 other tracks that are much more gimmicky. Mario Circuit 1 is plain but a memorable beginner’s track nevertheless.
DONUT PLAINS 1
To the casual observer, at a cursory glance, this track may appear to be a tranquil setting with a beautiful pond. However, experienced kart drivers know behind the serenity lies a deceivingly semi-tough course that can eat up unsuspecting novices. Some corners have loose dirt and debris strewn about. Ease up on the gas during these points or else pay the price.
GHOST VALLEY 1
Ah, Ghost Valley. The mushroom super jump bit, the feather trick and its unique elevated wooden track make this course unforgettable. Oddly enough, whoever built this course from long ago randomly inserted a jump bar in the middle. Remember the first time you used the mushroom right before the jump bar? Talk about a “holy shit” worthy moment indeed.
BOWSER CASTLE 1
Bowser’s got some of the trickiest tracks around, but his first one is fairly straight forward. It has some memorable features that help make it stand out. Midway through there are three zipper bars for you to drive over, granting you a quick speed burst. It was always a rush to turn the corner tightly and hit one of those zipper marks right on the, er, mark. And watch out for those annoying Thwomps!
MARIO CIRCUIT 2
I’ve always enjoyed the Mario Circuits because they have sort of a ‘pure’ untainted kart track feel to them. At the same time, there are just enough tiny gimmicks here and there that keep things interesting. This one is most notable for its famous great big jump bump at the end. Sabotaging players here was wickedly fun. Try dropping a banana peel just to the right of the second marker on the left side for computer opponents. Yeah, you know what I’m talking about
CHOCO ISLAND 1
A slippery dirt course way out in the desert, the infamous piranha plant calls Choco Island home. The terrain is dominated by bumpy surfaces and mud slicks so don’t get too pedal happy here. Be weary also of the mud bog that lies somewhere in the last quarter of the track — try using a mushroom here and see what happens!
GHOST VALLEY 2
While the first Ghost Valley track will always be the best one in my book, all of them are special in their own unique way. This one has a zipper for the final stretch of the course, with a small jumper off to the far right side… allowing you to take to the skies with a mushroom. I like how the small jumper is randomly placed there.
DONUT PLAINS 2
Try using the mushroom to skip the edge of the pond! This course is a perfect place to show off your great power sliding technique. Donut Plains 2 is littered with monty moles up the wazoo. They pop out of holes in the ground and even magically jump out of the grassy areas. If one latches on, you have to shake it off. I shake it off, I shake it off! But I keep cruising. Can’t stop, won’t stop moving. It’s like I got this music in my mind saying it’s gonna be alright. Er, sorry. [I don’t know this guy. Security! -Ed.]
BOWSER CASTLE 2
This place can be a little confusing at first. Luckily, Bowser’s kind enough to place some arrows to guide you along. You can choose different routes to take. Alright, the routes are basic, but having a choice is still nice. If you have a feather, you can pull off a really awesome trick but it requires absolute precision. It’s not as easy as the jump in Ghost Valley 1…
MARIO CIRCUIT 3
There are a dozen square question mark blocks waiting for you just after the start / finish line, which may allow players to get an early advantage right out of the box. There is a serious hairpin turn in the middle of the track, and just for the hell of it there’s a nifty turbo plate in the final straight away leading up to the goal.
KOOPA BEACH 1
The good news: there aren’t any tight turns. The bad news: the sand surface isn’t the best for traction. Your kart has just enough buoyancy that it can travel safely across the water… except for the deeper, darker blue parts. Touch that and you’ll be swimming with the fish! [HAR HAR HAR -Ed.]
CHOCO ISLAND 2
Strange, suddenly I’m craving Coco Puffs. Choco Island 2 has a much bigger patch of chocolate goo waiting for you in the middle than the first Choco Island. There’s also a very narrow road which is the perfect place to drop a green shell or banana peel. Avoid the heavy dirt off-road sections — they slow drivers down to a crawl.
VANILLA LAKE 1
Brrrr! It’s a good thing the engine of your go-kart is so hot because you’re going to need that warmth as you race around this slick frozen lake! It’s probably the shortest track in the whole game. Vanilla Lake 1 is filled with annoying ice blocks that really impede your progress if you can’t skirt around them successfully.
BOWSER CASTLE 3
Bowser’s castle tracks just keep getting fancier and fancier. This one gives you three different lanes to pick from. The inside and outside lanes have a turbo tile to zip you past the competition. But the middle path has two question mark tiles. It does require, however, a well-timed leap to acquire…
MARIO CIRCUIT 4
This is a fairly long track that’s packed with corners of all sizes and shapes. It’s also home to many pesky pipes looking to block your path. Nothing beats the thrill of successfully blowing past them on your way to the finish line. On the flip side, nothing’s worse than being clipped by a centimeter, slowing you down to finish in second place (or worse). D’oh!
DONUT PLAINS 3
Graced by two rickety old bridges, literally. One of them is missing some wooden planks and the second bridge is really FUBAR… requiring you to leap safely across. It’s so narrow too that you’re likely to get bumped if another racer is nearby. You can knock others into the pond, but keep in mind that it goes both ways! And to top it all off, the bloody monty moles are back.
KOOPA BEACH 2
It’s time for another bash at the beach! This beach is loaded with some serious greenery that will slow down anyone who drives on it. As it was with Koopa Beach 1, watch out for the dark blue patches of water. They’ll drown you faster than you can say “CRIKEY! FLOPPING CHEEP CHEEP!”
GHOST VALLEY 3
The trickiest of the three Ghost Valley tracks, this one is filled to the brim with gaping holes. Carefully navigate your way through or you’ll pay a dear price. Just like the two previous Ghost Valley tracks, the feather can prove to be a difference maker here.
VANILLA LAKE 2
A very slippery course that’s more lake than land. Advanced players know how to jump around the edges of the lake to shave a precious second or two off their time. To complicate matters, this track is filled with ice barriers that can bring you to a complete and fatal stop. Winter Wonderland this ain’t!
It would only be appropriate for the final course to be the toughest. Rainbow Road, in that context, certainly doesn’t disappoint. There’s no room for error with narrow paths galore and some very difficult to avoid Thwomps. Oh yeah, those plain Thwomps from Bowser’s castle tracks? Yeah, they’re now enhanced with an electrical force field. One touch and it’s Spin Out City. Rainbow Road separates the boys from the men.
BATTLE ZONES OF DEATH
Select from four battle zones in the 2-player battle mode. The first course is basic and pretty much wide open, while the second one has more nooks and crannies for players to take cover. The third one, surprise surprise, is the slipperiest of the four. The fourth, as you can see above, is the nuttiest.
The battle mode is real simple. Each player has three balloons strapped to their go-kart. The first to pop all three balloons of the other player wins. This led to some serious cutthroat battles. The Ghost icon was a bitch! Great memories…
We also had a blast with the Time Trial mode. Getting the best time meant bragging rights. It was a gloat worthy accomplishment any time you beat out your brother, friend or even your own records. Not only could you be recognized for the best total time but the game also took account of best single lap time. Nothing was better than breaking both the single lap and total time record simultaneously.
Ah, the performance chart from the game’s manual. The SNES had some great instruction manuals, bursting with both color and useful information. Kind of sad to think about how today’s kids will never fully grasp the simple joy of studying a game’s manual in the backseat of their car going home from the video rental store. Life today is better in a lot of ways, but I can think of a few things technology simply cannot supplant.
Super Mario Kart has a simple but effective ranking system. If you ranked at 5th or worse, you had to then replay that course. The point system is as follows:
1: 9 points 2: 6 points 3: 3 points 4: 1 point
I’ve always felt that this scoring system worked really well. Take a look:
Classy, elegant and yet simple. Gotta love it. The music that plays here is awesome and to this day remains stuck in my head.
Nothing is more exhilarating than a photo finish race. Check out how crazy close Donkey Kong Jr. came to my Yoshi — 1’17″52 vs. 1’17″53!
I love the set-up screen here. Super Mario Kart just oozes with class and brilliance. You start out by earning the Gold Cup on all three races of the 50cc class. Then do the same in 100cc. Doing so unlocks Special Cup. Earn the Gold Cup there and you’ll unlock 150cc. 150cc is no joke!
MUSHROOM CUP OVERVIEW
Few things satisfy like using a mushroom to burst past your top rival during that finish line finale.
Power sliding around a tight corner to zoom past the competition is simply the best. And if you have the star, using it right after power sliding around a corner really puts you ahead of the pack!
I liken the green shell to that of a bow and arrow. When aimed properly and used effectively, it proves to be both fatal and satisfying. While the red shell is a more effective weapon, the green shell is the one that allows players to show off their mad skills and ability to project accurately. Here I am setting up poor unsuspecting Koopa in my line of fire. Let’s see what happens to ol’ turtle face…
Release the sucker at just the right time and BAM! They spin out in a frenzy dropping coins every which way as you speed on ahead. Was there anything better than this? Even a mere child can use the red shell successfully. But the green shell now, ah ha. That, my friends, is entirely another matter. The green shell is for true Mario Kart masters
SEND IN THE CLONES
Surprisingly not, there came an inevitable flow of Mario Kart clones on the Super Nintendo. Shockingly however, most of them came out in Japan only. The most blatant clone is SD F-1 Grand Prix. Think Super Mario Kart meets the animatronic rejects of Chuck E. Cheese’s. As far as clones go though, this one is quite good. It has slightly better visuals than Super Mario Kart (October 1995 vs. September 1992). However, to no one’s surprise, it doesn’t play as well. The same can be said for all the other clones below. They’re all very competent and fun in their own right, but they’re NAGASMK (not as good as Super Mario Kart). SD F-1 Grand Prix is my favorite of the clones.
Definitely the least blatant clone of the lot, Battle Cross is what you might get if you threw Super Bomberman and Super Mario Kart into a blender. Who didn’t dream of that crossover at some point during the early-mid ’90s? Battle Cross is a single screen racer featuring six drivers and various weapon power-ups strewn across its nine wacky tracks. It does suffer slightly however from “It sounds better than what it actually is” syndrome. It’s pretty good but ends up feeling a bit “lightweight.” Still, it allows up to five human players and when approached with the proper mindset it can be a rather fun affair. Just temper those expectations going in.
Battle Racers took Bandai’s famous Kamen Rider-related characters and dumped them into a Mario Kart-esque game. I love the gorgeous sunset effect as seen above. It’s a very solid racing game but as stated before, it’s simply NAGASMK. Still, it’s worthy enough to warrant a look.
Finally, we come to the lone American clone in this lot. Street Racer features a four player split-screen mode. That alone makes it something to write home about. Well worth adding to your SNES collection, Street Racer has got its own bizarre personality and world. Give it a shot.
HONEY I SHRUNK THE KARTS!
The rule was simple. If you were “IT” you could pick any driver. The other person had to select Bowser (or Donkey). Why? They were the slowest to accelerate. The goal? Tag big ol’ Bowser (or Donkey). We found Vanilla Lake 2 to be most conducive for this makeshift mini-game. I can’t tell you how many hours we wasted on this. It was so cool because we felt like we had discovered an extra ‘secret mode’ to the game, which only increased its already excellent longevity. When shrunk, the small courses suddenly loom large, and what healthy child doesn’t love a spot or two of tag? It only added to the game’s brilliance and was a testament to just how stellar the game was. GP and Battle Mode are great and everything… but for sheer laughs and kicks, try out this miniature game of tag! It was classic childhood innocence sprinkled with that impeccable Nintendo magic that made it a winning combination
WHAT THE CRITICS SAID
Super Mario Kart was considered a universal smash hit. While today many are divided on where they stand — some feel it has stood the test of time while others think it hasn’t aged too well and that later renditions have rendered the original a bit obsolete — back in 1992 practically everyone was blown away. Along with Capcom’s Street Fighter II, Super Mario Kart was THE two player game to have on the Super Nintendo. Those two showcase titles were responsible for moving Super Nintendo systems by the truckload back in 1992. EGM gave Super Mario Kart ratings of 9, 9, 8 and 8. GameFan rated it 97, 96, 95 and 90%. Super Play scored it 93%. In EGM’s Top 100 Games list printed in issue #100 (November 1997), Super Mario Kart ranked in at a lofty #15. Their “Most Challenging Moment” blurb made me smile because I completely agree with them. It was a heated argument back in the late ’90s on which was better: Super Mario Kart or Mario Kart 64. I do love me some four player Mario Kart 64 but come on, the tracks on the original game was simply superior. It’s a debate that continues to stir passionate opinions to this very day…
Nintendo Power Magazine published their Top 100 Nintendo games list in issue #100 (September 1997). By the way, I found it cool (and such a wild coincidence) how EGM and Nintendo Power Magazine reached 100 issues at almost the same time. Nintendo Power ranked Super Mario Kart #32 while Mario Kart 64 placed #4. They hit the nail on the head with their very first sentence. I owned both Mario Kart games growing up, and while I really enjoyed Mario Kart 64 as well, Super Mario Kart was my favorite.
Super Play Magazine published their own Top 100 SNES Games list back in April 1996. Super Play ranked Super Mario Kart as the third best SNES game ever created.
Retro Gamer Magazine printed a special article on the SNES back in issue #23 (March 2006), highlighting ten “perfect” SNES games. Super Mario Kart topped that list at #1. Speaking of lists, I’ve been working on my very own SNES list the past 10 plus years.Whenever I get around to publishing it, you’ll see I also have Super Mario Kart ranked fairly high
A “DY-NO-MITE!” COMMERCIAL
It’s crazy to believe it’s been nearly 25 years since Super Mario Kart raced its way into our hearts. Time flies. It’s almost been 25 years since my brother and I pulled off the greatest gaming trade in the history of mankind (well, at least of our lives). This was the kind of game that brought all your neighborhood friends over like ants to sugar. Hell, even that one guy you barely knew! Whether it was the intense battle mode, the heart-pounding GP race, or even the brilliant makeshift tag mode we created out of a simple code, Super Mario Kart provided so many rich memories for me and my friends. It features great graphics (although it had to be seen in 1992 to truly be appreciated), excellent sound and unforgettable music, and finely tuned gameplay that only the Big N could perfect. The racing just feels right, and the creativity of the weapons and tracks only added to the game’s zaniness and appeal. Nintendo delivered another legendary gem and proved there was indeed life for Mario and friends outside of the platforming genre.
I still play Super Mario Kart to this day. It’s one of my “go to” games whenever I feel like I might be heading into a gaming slump. It’s like that tried-and-true classic on the menu that you always order when you want to be reminded of how good food can taste. Super Mario Kart always reminds me of why I love gaming in the first place. It’s got an outlandish universe filled with classic characters, practical weapons and power-ups to use that never gets old, and memorable courses that are still as fun to race on now as they were then. Almost a quarter century later, Super Mario Kart still finishes in first place in my book in many categories. And it remains one of the finest Super Nintendo games ever created.
Regardless of later renditions and what else may come in the future, Super Mario Kart will forever be a true testament to how GREAT video games can be. It’s the best racing game on the SNES and one of the best Super Nintendo games ever. Thank you, Shigeru Miyamoto!
Today marks the 26th anniversary of Super Mario World (based on the Japanese release). November 21, 1990. That was the day the Super Famicom launched in Japan along with Super Mario World, and gaming was never the same again. It’s crazy to believe it’s been 26 years. I figure there’s no better time than now to examine one of the best Super Nintendo games ever created. And sure, there’s nothing new to be said about this game that hasn’t already been said the past 26 years but being a fansite dedicated to all things SNES, it would be a crime not to have a Super Mario World review. So Mario and chums — here’s to ya!
HE DEFINED AN ENTIRE GENERATION
If you were like me and grew up in the ’80s, then you too grew up on 8-bit Nintendo. Which meant you got to experience all the joys of the Mario games as a youth. All three titles were finely tuned and fantastic. Mario was beloved by all and went on to become a household name. Together, the faction of Nintendo and Mario dominated the ’80s. But as long as the universe has existed there is one undeniable truth. Time passes, and change is inevitable. As the ’90s approached and our old best friend, the 8-bit NES, began showing its age, the rumblings could be heard. There was a new “super” system just over the horizon. Double the bits, and hopefully double the awesomeness. It was the Super Nintendo. And it’s fitting that the system would debut with a 16-bit version of Mario. The stage was set, then, for continued video game domination. And once again, the fans were the winners.
NOW YOU’RE PLAYING WITH SUPER POWER
Confession time: I didn’t play through Super Mario World until 16 years after its Japanese release. I remember growing up watching my brother and his friends playing it, but I never really did. I’d just sit there and watch the older kids go at it. Even through just watching it, you could feel the energyin the room. The year was 1991. Things of the old guard were going the way of the ill-fated dinosaur. The future was now. Childhood favorites “The Immortal” Hulk Hogan and “Macho Man” Randy Savage were giving way to younger superstars like Bret “The Hitman” Hart and “The Heartbreak Kid” Shawn Michaels. Godzilla at the time seemed dead (to an eight-year-old with no knowledge of the Heisei series). And another dear old friend from the ’80s was gasping its final breath. As the 8-bit Nintendo faded off into the sunset, in came riding a brand new cowboy. And with it came Super Mario World. A fitting passing of the torch, the Super Nintendo made its debut with an old portly friend spruced up in 16-bit trimmings. It was nothing short of video gaming magic.
10 years ago (November 19, 2006) I sat down to play Super Mario World with the intention of beating it in mind. It was an absolutely glorious experience. What took me so long? This may shock you but I was a weird guy [was? -Ed.]. Sure I appreciated the Mario games growing up, but mainly I would watch my brother play them. I was always a big fan of the lesser known games and have been that way my entire life. But after returning to the SNES on January 17, 2006, I knew this was a second chance at gaming redemption. And I knew it was time to right a 15+ year wrong. I turned off the computer, plopped onto the sofa, kicked my feet up and finally booted up Super Mario World. And what followed was a week filled with some of the best single-player gaming moments of my life. It was a sheer joy to play through. Hey, better late than never!
THE STORY GOES…
New to the Mario universe is this magical cape. It possesses great power. You can spin attack the enemies with it, and you can also take to the skies.
Mario and friends came to Dinosaur Land hoping to catch up on their R & R. Instead of course they find themselves in a world filled to the brim with danger.
It’s a long and tough road ahead. But a wise person once said that an arduous journey begins with one step [That was me, clearly -Ed.]
Progress is made in a linear fashion although you can backtrack and even skip ahead, provided you know how! *wink wink*
THE ADVENTURE BEGINS
Indeed, Mario didn’t come alone to this rodeo. Yoshi, a rollicking reptile with an appetite for menacing meanies, will help carry Mario through some tight jams. Though he’ll quickly run for the hills the second an enemy hits back.
Gigantic Banzai Bills come flying at you in the very first level. You had to listen closely for the warning sound and either duck or jump. We all know what a great game this is, but I feel the visuals don’t get enough love for their time. Pardon the pun but shots like these point to the game being no slouch in the graphic department!
Yoshi wasn’t created simply for marketing cosmetic purposes. He gave you an extra hit and some added offensive firepower as well.
Remember how cool it was seeing those little platforms dipping when you stood on them too long?
One of the most bizarre enemies on the roster, this smiley cactus dude can be gobbled up by Yoshi piece by piece. Do you remember the sweet sound that accompanied it? Some morbid humor can be found when only its head comes crawling after you, smile fully intact (!)
At certain points you can switch over to the other side. Definitely added an extra dimension to these parts.
I’ll be saying this a few times because I feel it bears a little repeating: the visuals have a nice depth to them. Sure it didn’t blow you away back in August 1991 like F-Zero did, but it’s plenty solid in its own right.
Doesn’t that pillar looks thick like a redwood tree? The convincing sound of them crashing down only adds to its brilliance.
Iggy Iggy can’t you see.
Sometimes your words just hypnotize me.
And I just love your flashy ways
Guess that’s why they broke, and you’re so paid.
Another example of Miyamoto magic: knocking out a string of bad guys with a single shell. Completely satisfying.
The castle dungeons are filled with hazards galore and will put your hand
eye coordination and platforming skills to the ultimate test. With silky smooth control and stellar sound, Super Mario World set the bar, and set it damn high.
Big ol’ Morton is boss number two. This time it’s a more traditional boss battle, requiring 3 hits to eliminate him.
Yes Yoshi, I know. At long last the title most synonymous with Super Nintendo gets a review on RVGFanatic. Yoshi’s Island superior? Hmm, we’ll see about that… in due time…
I love me some Vanilla Dome. It’s not as “vanilla” as its name might suggest. Some sweet old fashioned platforming levels with a great atmosphere make it one of my favorite areas in the entire game.
On to the Twin Bridges we go, AKA section 4 of the game. Can you find the two secret stages in this world?
Next up is the Forest of Illusion. Almost every section of the forest maze includes multiple exits.
I’m generally not the biggest fan of underwater stages in platformers, but there’s something about the underwater levels in Super Mario World that does it for me.
Even the exit gates serve an extra purpose. Depending on how high you can hit it, extra points are awarded. Miyamoto left no stone unturned.
Getting the switch block is like carrying around a precious golden egg. Every movement you make is done with extra precision and calculation. Every change in direction, even the slightest shift as you navigate your way through, is critical.
Festive though they may be, with Bowser there’s no such thing as fluff. Everything has its own purpose. This one? Mainly the sole purpose of killing you.
A more up close and personal look yields some pretty interesting yelps between the two.
Indeed, Mr. Roy thinks he’s the most interesting Koopaling in the world. Why just ask him if you don’t believe me.
Roy’s quite the drama queen. Talk about someone who knows how to ham it up.
At the end of each successfully defeated castle, there’s a little cutscene. Post Roy’s is one of the best. Poor Mario gets charred for all of his hard work!
Said it before and I’ll say it again. I love the way this game looks. More importantly, I love the sense of soul, spirit and adventure that the Nintendo staff carefully infused it with.
Welcome to World 6, Chocolate Island. Here you’ll find dino critters of all shapes and sizes.
These little cheese-esque hills descend, so unless you wish to be lava soup, keep Mario moving!
Finally, we arrive at Wendy’s castle. And what a castle it is. All sorts of traps lie in wait to snag Mario for good.
Back in the glorious late ’80s to mid ’90s, I ran with a group of folks who were my brothers and sisters. Our monthly family friend sleepovers were in a word, legendary. My gaming group gave me countless memories. One that sticks out occurred in 1993. There were about 20 kids that night. My older brother, myself, Sushi-X and his brother Zack were assigned the mission of buying burgers for all. So we hit up a local Wendy’s. The guy we affectionately called Sushi-X (for his intense love of Street Fighter which matched that of the EGM persona) ordered 30 (!) Big Bacon Classics (now defunct). Behind us was a lengthy line of folks. The ones immediately behind us, an elderly couple, shook their head at one another and bickered, “I told you, Hank! We should have gone to Red Lobster!” They stormed off and a couple of the other people behind them left as well. Standing off to the side of the cash register, I watched in bewilderment as Sushi-X single-handedly drove off the customers. We brought the loot back home and crowded around the Sony TV in the living room to watch Saturday Night Live and enjoy our burgers. There was such an abundance of Big Bacon Classics that 10 were left in the fridge for a midnight snack. Every time I drive by a Wendy’s these days, I can’t help but think of that Sushi-X memory and the night of our epic bacon feast. Thanks for all the memories, Game Crew and Dave Thomas
Before you can pass through to the Valley of Bowser, you must contend with this evil Sunken Ghost Ship.
My grandpa used to tell me all the time that money doesn’t grow on trees. I used to tell him “You’re right. They don’t, because they grow out of thin air, and I know this because Super Mario World told me so.” Then, he’d look at me sideways and say, “Son, you’re a special boy.”
Once you’ve escaped the Sunken Ghost Ship you’re ready to brave it all and step into the deadly Valley of Bowser. I hope she’s worth all the trouble, Mario.
You’ll need Yoshi in Valley of Bowser 4 if you wish to nab the key to the Star Road.
The battle against Larry is highly reminiscent of the one with Iggy, way back in the first world. Defeat him and then face the KING.
Isn’t it great how those red glowing eyes peer on in the background there? OK, so they were added in by yours truly. Still, one of my favorite moments in the entire game. It’s just so incredibly atmospheric.
EXTRA EXTRA: READ ALL ABOUT IT!
WHAT THE CRITICS SAID
Super Mario World earned high marks just about everywhere. In EGM’s 100th issue (November 1997) it ranked #11. EGM gave it scores of 9, 9, 9 and 9. EGM reviewer Martin Alessi wrote, “I’ll take 96 levels of Mario over 20 of Sonic any day!” Nintendo Power placed it #16 on their Top 100 list in issue #100 (September 1997) and later bumped it up to #8 in issue #200. Super Play Magazine had it at #4 in their own Top 100 SNES Games list (issue 42, April 1996). Super Play scored it a massive 94%. While fans have long debated whether Super Mario World or Super Mario Bros. 3 is superior, Super Mario World is an exemplary example of the platforming genre done right and then some. It was the perfect game to debut with the Super Nintendo 26 years ago. And it still holds up incredibly well to this very day. You can pop it in now in the year 2016 and still be in awe of its smooth gameplay, crisp control and various nuances. It was a masterpiece then, and remains so to this very day 26 years later.
Early Sunday morning, November 19, 2006. 10 months into my SNES resurrection and two days before the game’s 16 year anniversary, I at long last powered up Super Mario World. I had never beaten it before. Early that Sunday morning I shifted my way through the darkness, determined to atone for past sins. In the riveting book The Kite Runner,Rahim Khan’s piercing words over the telephone haunts Amir. “There is a way to be good again.” I happened to be reading through that novel when I was going through this game for really the first time. As sad as it may sound, it was exactly how I felt about finally playing and beating this masterpiece. “There is a way to be good again.” It was my gaming redemption.
Going through Super Mario World for the first time in 2006 was a bittersweet feeling. I wished I hadn’t waited so long to finally beat it, yet I was thrilled at the opportunity to redeem the gaming missteps of my youth. As I waded my way through every castle, fortress and hill valley, it was almost as if I had taken a time machine back to the early 1990s. This game reaffirmed my love for this classic genre, as well as for this amazing system. Over the past 25 years the Super Nintendo has given me a bevy of memories. Somehow, it was always playing in the backdrop of my youth. Getting back into it in 2006 was the greatest decision of my gaming career. Thomas Wolfe was wrong. You can, indeed, go home again. And as I ventured back to the roots of my childhood, I recalled all the characters (i.e. Sushi-X from my Game Crew) and favorite games. It wasn’t just about reminiscing, though. I had another mission firmly set in mind… to travel down the gaming roads I never did back in the day but should have. And these pathways have opened up a whole new treasure chest of gaming memories for me to carry on forever. Super Mario World is a rare gem of an adventure I shall always cherish. Gaming redemption never tasted so sweet.
You can’t talk about Super Nintendo’s very best without citing Super Mario World. It’s a timeless adventure that exudes excellence from top to bottom. A quintessential platformer, Super Mario World deserves its rightful due place on Super Nintendo’s Mount Rushmore.
Today, April 13, 2016, marks 24 years since The Legend of Zelda: A Link To The Past graced the North American gaming world. Widely regarded as one of the best SNES titles around (if not THE best in many circles), it’s also considered one of the best video games of all time, period. When I got back into all things Super Nintendo over 10 years ago, I did so with two main goals in mind. The first was to relive my childhood. And the second? To right the wrongs from my past. In many ways it was the closest thing to having a time machine. There were so many SNES games I wanted to play back in the day but never did.Along with Super Metroid, A Link To The Past was atop my list of games to play and beat. I finally played through Super Metroid and finished it on February 10, 2007. It was ah-mazin’. Looking at my collection for the next game to play, I knew it had to be A Link To The Past. So it was. On February 20, 2007, I began my trek to Hyrule, and what a trek it was…
LEGEND HAS IT…
It’s a calm and cool night in Kakariko Village. Just like any other night. On the surface, at least. But dig a little deeper… put your head to the ground… stand entirely still and listen to the howling of the wind… the leaves dancing on the twisted tree branches… something is happening. Something is coming. Nightfall quickly approaches and the stars are out tonight in full force. Suddenly the wind whips the weathercock viciously, the elders cease work on their farms and quickly rush inside to take cover. A loud rumbling can be heard from the far distance, getting closer and closer with each passing second. An ominous banshee-like scream cuts through the night sky like piercing sirens.
Link arrives but oh woe is he, for the young lad is too late! The moon completes its destiny, shedding tears of pain all over Hyrule, transforming the landscape of the peaceful villages. People turn into monsters. Crops die. Dogs turn into ducks. And so forth.
And the prophecy is coming true…
WAIT A SECOND!
[You got it all wrong, ya git! -Ed.]
Right. Let’s start at the very beginning… the first Zelda on the NES, then…
[NO, NO, NO!Let’s try this one more time -Ed.]
Alright, I’m sober now. Let’s do this for real…
Although The Legend of Zelda appeared first in the series of Zelda adventures, it actually takes place many years after the third game. In this time, Hyrule had declined, becoming a rustic land with only a few remaining signs of its earlier glory. The land was overrun, and Ganon was to blame. At the heart of the conflict lay a missing piece of the Triforce and Princess Zelda.
When Princess Zelda discovered that Ganon had acquired a piece of the Triforce, she broke the Triforce of Wisdom into eight pieces and hid them. She knew a hero was needed to challenge Ganon, so she sent her nurse, Impa, to search the land, even as Zelda herself was captured. During her quest, Impa long evaded Ganon’s reach, but in a forest glade she too fell into his clutches and would have been killed if not for the heroic actions of a passing youth named Link. Once the villains had been driven away, Impa told the young man about Zelda’s secret. Then, unable to hold back her tears, she told him how the Princess had been taken captive.
Link’s heart burned with passion, and he pledged to defeat Ganon and rescue the Princess. He set off at once, knowing only that he had to collect the eight pieces of the Triforce of Wisdom. At every turn in the path he met waves of monsters from Ganon’s unholy army. They challenged him in battle.
Link’s first task was to find the hidden dungeons where Zelda had secretly hidden the divided Triforce. Many of the entrances were disguised, and only by using all of his wits and the scraps of hints that he picked up along the way was he able to succeed. Inside each dungeon he met countless enemies, for Ganon’s minions had taken hold of even the most remote chambers.
In the end Link was able to gather all eight pieces of the Triforce of Wisdom, then he scaled Death Mountain and gained entrance to Spectacle Rock. Ganon’s great maze dwarfed any that Link had previously encountered. In a hidden chamber, he discovered a magical Silver Arrow and, taking the prize, he came face-to-face with Ganon himself. The battle between youthful hero and villainous miscreant raged across the chamber, unaffected by the cuts of Link’s sword. As Link began to tire, he tried a last desperate strategy, putting the Silver Arrow to the test. The bowstring sang and the arrow flew straight. Ganon was destroyed!
With the defeat of Ganon, Link’s mind turned to the purpose that had driven him here — the rescue of Princess Zelda. One final chamber stood before him. Link pushed ahead. Here Zelda greeted him and the pieces of the Triforces of Power and Wisdom were reunited.
With the destruction of Ganon and the power of the Triforce restored, peace reigned once more in Hyrule. Princess Zelda now ruled the land, and the country prospered. It seemed as if the shadow of Ganon had been destroyed forever. But Link remained ever vigilant. Wherever Link roamed, he looked for signs of Ganon’s return, for he could not believe that he had truly banished evil from the land.
THE LEGEND CONTINUES
Zelda II: The Adventure of Link takes place several years after The Legend of Zelda. An older, taller and perhaps wiser Link has seen the country prosper. But peace is a fragile commodity in Hyrule and history has a way of repeating itself.
Marked by the sign on his hand, Link was destined to become a hero. But in the peaceful days following his first quest, he became restless. He combed through the forests, crossed the deserts and delved into the caverns of Hyrule, looking for clues to explain his feelings of unease. In time he became aware of a whisper that passed between the birds, beasts, and even the blades of grass: there was a new magic in the land… a new magic nameless and terrifying.
Lying as still as a marble, Princess Zelda slept the dreamless sleep of enchantment. When Link found her in the North Palace, he saw at once that she was spellbound. His greatest fear had come to pass. By refusing to reveal the secret power of the Triforce to a wizard, Zelda had brought on her own downfall. But not all was lost. If Link could somehow unlock the mystery of the Great Palace, then he could save Zelda and the Triforce of Courage to boot.
Again Link took to the fields and forests, but these places had become wild and dangerous, inhabited by enemies of old. Link found himself relying on his wits and swordplay at every step. Creatures he had never before seen also waylaid him: spiders called Deelers that dropped from the trees, tall Geldarms that rose from the sands of the Tantari Desert, and of course the Moblins, armed with spears and hatred.
Link’s mission? Enter each of the six palaces and restore a missing crystal to a statue. Together the statues created a magical lock on the Great Palace. Only by replacing the six crystals could Link open the final door. In each palace, however, he had to battle a Statue Guardian of great strength: Barba the Dragon, Ironknuckle the Knight, Carock the Wizard and many other nasty surprises awaited our youthful hero.
Link came across many strange looking statues and structures. Some had switches that only the brave, OR the foolish, would pull.
As he closed the palaces off one by one, Link crossed the whole of Hyrule, from Ruto in the northwest to Death Mountain in the south, from the Island Palace in the Stormy Straights to Maze Island in the Far Eastern Sea. He helped villagers whenever he could, but he never lost sight of his ultimate goal. Finally, after uncovering the secrets of Old Kasuto, Link pushed on to the Great Palace where he met the Thunderbird.
Once the Thunderbird was vanquished, Link thought that Zelda and Hyrule would be saved, but it was not to be… not yet. Exhausted from his journey, Link had one more enemy to defeat — an enemy so unexpected that he did not know what to do, for the enemy was his own shadow.
THE LEGEND GROWS
Back in the mists of time, before the era of The Legend of Zelda and The Adventure of Link, Hyrule was a land of fabulous palaces and magic. It was also a troubled land, and the divisions of Light and Dark were tearing it apart. The origins of this conflict lay even deeper in the shadows of time, with the coming of the Triforce and the greed of Ganondorf, King of Thieves.
To comprehend Hyrule and Link’s desperate quest, one must first know the ancient legend of the Triforce. In the Golden Land, where it was placed by the creators of the world, the Triforce beckoned to people. Ganon and his band of thieves long searched for the secret entrance to the Golden Land, eventually stumbling upon it. Then Ganon defeated his fellows for possession of the Triforce.
In a period known as the Imprisoning War, the King of Hyrule brought seven wise men together to seal the door to the Golden Land, for Ganon’s evil power had been spilling forth, causing corruption and darkness. The once peaceful land became a place of dreadful rumors of the coming of a magical enemy. At this time the Master Sword was forged, but there was no hero valiant enough to wield it.
Before the wise men could seal off the Golden Land and the Triforce, Ganon’s army surged into Hyrule and besieged the castle. The knights of Hyrule fought heroically, but the power of the Triforce controlled their enemies, giving them inhuman strength. The battle raged back and forth. Many foes fell in the tide of battle, but too many knights perished as well. It seemed that they were beyond hope.
Then, at the end of the day, the wise men finally succeeded in blocking the door to Ganon’s Realm. With the power of their master removed, the enemies fled or threw themselves into the moat. Hyrule was saved and over the years the Golden Land, which then became known as the Dark World, faded from collective memory.
While the people of Hyrule forgot about the Dark World, the master of that evil land had not. Ganon brooded in his prison, surrounded by reminders of his fall. He grew ever more bitter as the dark years passed like the wailing of cold wind on a winter’s night. Ambition burned in his eyes. He vowed to one day return to power.
Many centuries passed with Ganon and the Triforce safely locked away. Then the disasters began: plague, drought, quakes and fire. The King sought sage advice and a wizard named Agahnim stepped forth, ending the strange disasters. He became a powerful advisor to the King, but he kept his true plans to himself…
It seemed like a Golden Age, but it wouldn’t last.
Once Agahnim had consolidated his power, he began to abuse it. First to fall victim were the ancestors of the seven wise men. The wizard imprisoned six maidens in crystal cocoons, never to be seen again. Then Princess Zelda herself was captured as she sent a telepathic plea into the night. The Hylian gift that enabled Zelda to send her message also allowed Link to hear her.
Having received Zelda’s message, Link felt compelled to save her, but his uncle forbade him to leave the house. Link’s uncle thought that the lad’s courage outweighed his common sense, yet he knew that something had to be done to save the princess. Turning away from Link, he gripped his sword. He knew a secret entrance into the castle, although he didn’t know the way out.
Link couldn’t tell how much time had passed since his Uncle had left — a minute? An hour? The only thing he knew was that Zelda had spoken to him. He could bear sitting around no longer. Taking a lamp to light his way, Link stepped out into the lashing rain and headed toward the castle.
As Link floundered about in the storm, he heard a second telepathic message from Zelda telling of a secret route into the castle. When he found the entrance, he also found his uncle inside, wounded and unable to carry on. Link took his Uncle’s sword and promised to return…
KEY ITEMS AND ABILITIES
Here are some of the cool things Link can do. You’ll be doing lots of this, and as you’d expect from Nintendo, the control is crisp and feels spot on. So far, so good!
And here are some of the items you must find in order to complete your quest. Some have multiple uses, some are one and done, while others act as teleporting devices! Nice.
The Magic Bottle is an awesome item. You can carry up to four and these babies can hold magic potions (recovering health, magic power or both), fairies (which if you have activated when you die, the fairy will escape the bottle and revive you there on the spot), etc. Can you find all four? Here’s my favorite of the four. A hobo trying to just see the light of tomorrow. I love how totally atmospheric this is and it gives Hyrule a real pulse.
Like I said earlier, many items serve multiple purposes, which speaks to Nintendo’s ability to make such playable games. The hookshot also acts as a potent offensive weapon!
Here, Link shows off the powers of the almighty Firerod.
The Goriya can be a tricky foe at first, but his pattern is actually simple, particularly in large open spaces. The green ones are a push over but the red ones are defiant with their scorching fireballs. Be sure you have a set of arrows on you and be prepare to move your feet.
Hmmm, I wonder what happens when you drop a bomb by damaged walls? Oh look this is just too hard. Back to my Rampage games, then.
Use your net to capture bees and store them in a bottle. They can be unleashed to help you battle Ganon’s minions. Did I mention how awesome the bottle is? And recall how items can serve multiple purposes. Did you know, in addition to the sword deflecting the magic of Agahnim, that the net ALSO works? Try it!
Hyrule is filled with cool legends and urban myths. Is the Tale of the Good Bee for real? Only weary travelers know for sure.
That little swirly spot is the mark of the Magic Mirror which allows you to go from the Light to Dark World. I love this shot. Just look at the billow of smoke blowing from the chimney, the little swords adorning the exterior, and hey, what would happen if you smash the stake down with the magic hammer?, Could you drop off the ledge into that opening down there… where would it lead? Hmmmm…
RAIN OVER ME
The opening scene, with the rain lashing down on Hyrule, is considered one of the most awe-inspiring gaming moments in 1992. It was simple, but it has stuck with many SNES players.
Your first goal is to head to Hyrule Castle, but you’ll need to find an alternative route…
One of the many great things about this game was that it wasn’t just a pure action game. You had to use your wits to progress throughout the game, making it all the more rewarding when you finally do conquer it.
Rescuing Princess Zelda is no easy job. First you must come to blows with the Ball and Chain Trooper. His demise comes with the prize of a big key. Congratulations, you’ve saved the damsel in distress and the game is over! Of course, wouldn’t be much of a game, so the silly lass gets kidnapped again. That wacky Miyamoto…
After you retrieve the three pendants (and solve a host of puzzles while killing tons of enemies), make your way to the Lost Woods and see if you can’t find the mythical Master Sword. Be careful, the Lost Woods is home to weird creatures, thieves hiding behind bushes, and to make matters worse it’s filled with fog and lots of false swords. Can you find the Real McCoy?
The mist clears and the surrounding thieves quickly scramble for cover. No normal being can so easily extract the Master Sword like that. Whoever this Link was, they knew better than to mess with him. And with that, the adventure is only beginning…
THINGS TO FIND AND DO
In each dungeon a Big Key must be collected in addition to a host of other keys. I love how the Big Keys are kept in these large treasure chests. Therefore, it’s rather satisfying whenever you locate these bad boys.
Other treasure chests hold not keys, but valuable goodies. Link like, oh yes, Link like a lot.
You gain an extra heart for each boss defeated, but 24 hearts are scattered throughout Hyrule in the Light and Dark World. Collecting four gives you one full heart. Some are hidden underground, others high above ground. Be creative! Push and pull any weird looking tombstones, trees, etc. Can you find all 24 hearts?
There’s one! Random games can be played, at the price of some Rupees, and you just might find a piece of a heart in the process.
This is one of my favorite mini-games. It took me like 100 tries before I found the piece of heart! Worth it? YOU DAMN RIGHT!
Along the Swamp Ruins, Hyrule historians surmised that the civilization must have cultivated crops and practiced an early form of irrigation.
[They what? -Ed.]
Oh look, in layman terms this is another underground dungeon, but rather than being just another level, they lavished some feeling of history behind it to create its own unique world; such is the love that Miyamoto devoted into the game.
Before you arrive here you must get by the intricate stonework and maze-like garden of the Dark Palace, which features a unique monkey motif. Due to the passage of time the garden has become unpredictable and thus can prove to be difficult to navigate…
The only way to enter this dark catacomb was to flip a switch up top. But how can Link get up there? Hmmm. Talk about monkey business…
The very ominous looking Eastern Palace, with twin gargoyle heads adorning the courtyard, is even more frightening inside. Link entered the stark domain where he soon encountered materializing skeletons and slumbering giants. Here lies the almighty Bow, but it’ll awaken the deadly Armos Knights…
Nowhere in Hyrule was it safe. Agahnim’s guards patrolled the castle walls and even on the Sanctuary grounds.
Many strange places call Hyrule home. Few adventurers dare make the trek in some of the more suspicious looking entrances. Thieves carved out this opening in a huge, old redwood stump, then tunneled into the earth to create a cave. Rumor has it, no one who has entered has come out alive. Children are advised to stay far away. It’s even said that a man-eating goblin lives deep underground…
Speaking of ghouls and goblins, the Hyrulian Cemetery was full of legends and rumors. One of which was that the tombstones didn’t always hide bodies, but treasures. Will you go tramping around and risk the chance of disrupting the slumber of the dead? Who knows what spirits you might unleash… or what treasures you might find!
The lightning laser guards Agahnim’s Tower. Man, if only I could find something to break that pesky magical seal…
Link can see all over the land of Hyrule atop the pyramid, but an odd sense of clot overcame the young warrior. So he did not linger around for very long. But he also sensed, somehow, that he’d return to the pyramid sooner rather than later…
A tricky section, this. Rather than floors you have intricate catwalks. Torches could be lit via the Lamp or Firerod, and then Link would have to make haste to the next position where he could relight the flame before it flickers out. You could also use the Magic of Ether to briefly light the way or push a block created by the Cane of Somaria. Or, you could just study this picture.
Across the land of Hyrule there are several fortune tellers. Villagers whisper that these mysterious cloaked figures are not human, and that to enter their shops is to take your own life by the throat. In a quaint cottage near one entrance to the Lost Woods you can find one of them. For a price, she would stare into a magical crystal ball and tell what fate lies in your future. Some people took the predictions seriously and visited often, while others felt it was a waste of money and claimed their crops never grew again after the visit. Link did not believe in such silly superstitions, and knew that with each fortune telling he also had his health fully restored. So, how bad could the fortune teller really be?
Many trees litter the landscape of Hyrule. In the Light World they don’t present any sort of threat. But in the Dark World some timbers are rumored to speak. Explorers claim they’ve heard weird chants and believe these trees to be Golden Land sentries who were petrified by Ganon’s magic. Link came across hostile trees and could feel the power of Ganon growing by the step.
This mischievous monkey, known as KiKi, has strange powers and is in love with rupees. In exchange for a set amount, he promises to do a huge favor that will right your quest. But can he be trusted? Will he steal your money and scamper off high in the trees? If you say no, will he summon his primate pals in a revolt? It’s your call…
Life in the Mire is a nasty place. The Swamolas, believed to be the cousins of the Lanmolas, hid below the muck and slime, surfacing only to snatch a meal [Sounds a lot like my ex-wife… -Ed.]
The chickens are innocent harmless creatures, that is, until you attack one repeatedly. Then, it calls upon its buddies to revolt against you. Useless? Perhaps. Fun to mess around with? You betcha!
In the Dark World the Ghostly Garden was filled with evil, from the bomb chucking Hinox to the squirming blobs.
Don’t be fooled by the Hinox’s grin, he is one of the tougher regular baddies in the game. Thank goodness then that they only patrol the Dark World!
The electro-blobs can cause havoc in packs, especially in close quarters.
Can you find the blacksmith’s partner? Without him your sword cannot be tempered.
Finding the partner will require some wit and cunning skill. Nicely done.
Sahasrahla the village elder proves to be very helpful throughout your journey.
Zelda can communicate telepathically with Link through various panels found on the walls of the various dungeons. She offers handy tips to further your progress.
Fairy Fountains are a Godsend, re-energizing weary travelers to full strength.
Can you rescue all six trapped maidens?
Steve, the handsome hero, once again [Yeah, ONLY in video games -Ed.]
YOU AIN’T THE BOSS OF ME
Many boss battles take place throughout the adventure and I won’t spoil all of them, but here are some to feast your eyes on.
The Armos Knights look intimidating, but they’re a cakewalk. Three well-placed arrows will dispatch of each one, but the last one is double tough. Defeating them earns you the Pendant of Courage.
Moldorm guards the Mountain Palace and can be very tricky. If you fall over you must start over. I suffered this such fate several times before I got the best of old Moldy. Once you upset him, he starts slithering really fast. It’s almost disturbing in a “It shouldn’t LOOK LIKE THAT!” sort of way.
Blind the Thief is very sneaky. Finding him is half the battle. Good luck with that, friend.
Agahnim guards Hyrule Castle and has captured Zelda, the swine.
[Zelda or Agahnim? -Ed.]
Hmmm, both, really, come to think of it.
Hint: He can only be hurt by deflecting his magic. Why not try out the bug-catching net?
Oh Lord… this doesn’t look too good…
Vitreousguards the Misery Mire. It sees all, har har har. Watch out for the lightning this vile creature emits, and once the giant eye comes after you like such, hack away. Like most of the boss battles, it’s easy but nonetheless very satisfying to kill.
The fall of Vitreous sees you rescuing the sixth and final maiden. Finally, the location of Princess Zelda will then be disclosed.
Ooooh, that’s one nasty looking bugger.
The Helmasaur King is a big bad boy all right, and guards the double tough Dark Palace. He starts the battle out wearing a gigantic mask. The first step is to remove it, somehow…
Can you destroy the evil Ganon and save all of Hyrule? The quest awaits.
MY FAVORITE LEGEND
Link to the Past has plenty of legends, rumors and urban myths. It gives Hyrule a real heart beat, a real pulse. It’s the magic that only Nintendo and Miyamoto seem able to craft. I love almost all of them, but I have to share this one… the good ole LEGEND OF THE FLUTE PLAYER.
Witnesses have seen animals gather around a fading flute player in a grove in central Hyrule. Others claim they can hear the faint playing of a flute hauntingly swirling from the grove north of the Swamp. They would run in the direction of the sound and then find absolutely nothing. Silence fell over as they approached the stump. Suddenly the music would play again and they ran for their lives, convinced that the grove was haunted by an evil, restless spirit. And ever since, everyone knows of the location simply as THE HAUNTED GROVE.
One day, Link ran into the Haunted Grove to escape some of Agahnim’s soldiers. There he found one of the strangest sights he had ever seen in all of Hyrule. A ghost-like boy sat on a stump playing a flute. Surrounding the boy was a host of animals. When Link approached, the animals ran away and the boy vanished. Try as he might, he could not catch the animals or the boy. Link later discovered they were ghosts…
Later in his journey Link came across villagers who indulged the youth on the legend of the Flute Boy.
In the Dark World, the mystery of the Flute Boy was slowly but surely unraveling…
The Flute Boy gave Link his shovel. Now if Link could only find the lost flute…
Link got to work, in hopes he would find the Flute and discover its magical powers…
I won’t say how the tale of the Flute Boy plays out exactly, but it’s pretty sad. I grew quite fond of the bloke. Blast it to all heck.
THE TRUE STORY OF ZELDA — FINALLY UNCENSORED!
Stop the presses! I’ve got the scoop to end all, er, scoops! Hidden in the vaults of Nintendo Headquarters I have managed, through my adventurous and plucky spirit, to secure the DIRECTOR’S CUT of how the story REALLY plays out!
Take a look below.
Yoinks! Looks like when the pressure was on, his Master Sword broke… [Oh dear -Ed.]
WHAT THE CRITICS SAID
EGM: 8, 9, 9, 9
Super Play: 93%
In their 100th issue, November 1997, EGM listed Link to the Past as the 3rd best game of all time.
EXCLUSIVE INTERVIEW WITH THE SHIGSTER
[Don’t call me that ever again -Mr. Miyamoto]
Credit Super Play Magazine (a UK Super Nintendo publication that ran from 1992-1996) and Onn Lee of Electric Brain fanzine for their conversation below with Zelda mastermind Shigeru Miyamoto! Circa November ’92.
Shigeru Miyamoto has the golden touch. He’s directly responsible for both the Zelda and Mario series of games developed at Nintendo’s ‘Entertainment Analysis And Development’ department in Japan, making him perhaps the most important games creator at work in the world today. When a piece of software sells 10,000 copies in Japan it is considered a hit, but many Mr. Miyamoto has been involved with have shifted millions, as well as become household names worldwide. It all puts him rather in the super-league. Here’s a conversation recorded with Mr. Miyamoto earlier this year.
What exact role do you take in the games development process?
SM: I don’t actually do any of the programming, but I am involved in organizing the programming teams. Instead of imposing deadlines, I find that constant encouragement of your staff is the best way to keep them going. Perhaps it’s one of the reasons for our success.
Are the Super Famicom and SNES versions of Zelda III the same?
SM: Because the SFC version completely used up all 8 megabits of memory, we originally estimated that we’d need another megabit to cope with the text being translated into English for the American game. That being the case we’d need a 9 megabit cartridge for America, but wouldn’t be using up all the space on it, so we toyed with squeezing in a few of the spare ideas left out of Zelda 1 to fill up the space. In the event, though, we managed to fit the English version onto 8 megabits anyway, so any ideas like that went out the window. So yes, both versions should be exactly the same.
When was Zelda III originally meant to be released?
SM: We were hoping to release it at the time the Super Famicom itself first came out, back in November 1990 alongside Super Mario World. We couldn’t make that, so after that a March ’91 release was planned, but the project dragged on beyond that, too. Eventually it became a Super Famicom first anniversary release instead.
How many people actually worked on the game?
SM: We started with just a handful for about a year, but then added more as things progressed. Basically the small team works out a rough draft plan, and the large team refines this into a game.
What kinds of things did you have in mind when planning the new game?
SM: We wanted to improve on all the shortcomings of the 8-bit games that had been imposed on us by the technical limitations of the Famicom. In the 8-bit Zelda the player had to imagine a lot of effects that the graphics couldn’t simulate. Also, back in 1987 Zelda had introduced lots of new features to games, like the ability to save your game and buy items, but in the meantime these had become the bog-standard components of any RPG. We knew that to keep ahead of the pack, Zelda III needed more.
How difficult did you want to make Zelda III?
SM: On average it takes about 40 hours to complete, but the fastest recorded time at Nintendo is five hours! We’ve actually tried to make it as easy as possible. The way the game is structured you can’t take alternative routes to finish the game, so we’ve made it that, for example, if you come across a blocked passage you will be able to progress further, even if you have forgotten a certain item. If mainstream gamers could cope with less linear adventures, though, we might have made it a lot harder.
Is it true that loads of brilliant ideas had to be dropped because of a shortage of memory space?
SM: No, we dropped the average ideas and picked the best!
And finally, how about the future?
SM: I can’t discuss new games at the moment, but we’ve got lots of plans, at least one of which is along the same lines as Pilotwings[And that, as one might guess, became most likely….Star Fox -Ed.]
Thanks once again to Super Play Magazine and Onn Lee!
Interesting that Shigs [Oh forget it -Mr. Miyamoto] mentioned the average of 40 hours. Here’s how I fared on my first go ever…
As you can see, Turtle Rock and Dark Palace gave me the most fits. Most Zelda III players complain about Turtle Rock and Ice Palace. Ice Palace wasn’t too bad for me. I had a night class at 7 PM and had an hour to kill. I decided to tackle Ice Palace and ended up beating it just in time before class started. Nothing beats that I tells ya! Ah, good times.
On Sunday evening, March 11, 2007, 19 days after I started Link to the Past, I dethroned Ganon and finally liberated Hyrule.It was bittersweet in some respect. Sure it was nice seeing the land blossom again and what have you, but a part of me wanted just one more dungeon to work through, one more boss to decimate, one more item to procure, one more heart piece to discover, one more mini-game to play and one more urban legend to solve. It was 30 hours of bliss, and the more I progressed the more the game grew on me, until it nearly consumed me, making me even all the more shameful I waited 15 years to finally play through this. Ah, to live and learn eh?
Every little touch in this game is just great. The hobo taking cover under the bridge, the tale of the quarreling brothers, the bedridden boy, the legend of the Flute Player, the witch, all the dungeons and bosses… there is so much to do and take in. And take it in you will. Not nearly enough games reach the level that Link to the Past did. And what a shame that is. This is more than a game — it’s an EXPERIENCE. Corny and cliche, but true. Take it from a converted fan of this genre, I am just beginning to discover the joy this type of game can generate. It’s not immediately satisfying perhaps, but it doesn’t take long before the quest takes over your every waking moment. After I beat the Ice Palace I ran to my night class. As my professor lectured on and on about BICS and CALP, I could only find myself thinking about what horrors the Misery Mire would bring, and counting down the hours until class would end. Is this the sign of a truly captivating game, or a truly sick man? Probably both.
Further proof of the latter… something disturbed me deeply regarding the theme of the Dark World. Play through that again and TRY TO TELL ME that the theme doesn’t sound like the infamous Saturday Night Live music skit DICK IN A BOX!
[Uh yeah, reminder to self: edit that out…. -Ed.]
Any complaints? Well, there is a hint of slowdown here and there, like the boss fight with Mothula f’rinstance. And while it’s relatively clear what you need to do next, a few of the puzzles are slightly, in my opinion, obscure and can be tough to figure out if playing guide-free. The incessant beep that plays when you’re on your last heart is annoying. These are minor quips though, quite frankly. Other than that, it’s hard to find a real flaw in the armor.
Zelda III was released in Japan on November 21, 1991, exactly one year after the Super Famicom made its debut. The American release was held back for six months. When it finally did appear it sold 250,000 copies in the first six weeks — faster than any other Nintendo game in history! If by some crazy chance you’ve yet to play Link to the Past, then I hope you make it a priority to do so. I still have a lot of classics I need to go through, and I can only hope they’re half as good as this.
Yes, Link to the Past is worth all the hype. You cannot call yourself a Super Nintendo fan, hell, forget that, you can’t call yourself a VIDEO GAME fan until you’ve played through this fine masterpiece. One of the best games on the Super Nintendo, heck, on any system ever. Magic, mystery, action, loads of multi-purpose items, puzzles, giant guardians, huge sprawling mazes, it’s got the lot! An epic hall of fame adventure you simply must go through at least once, if not twice, before you die.