"Who says being different should lead to vituperation?"
Some people fear change. Who can blame them; sticking to a longstanding routine can usually benefit said person. While things can become monotonous pretty quickly, sticking to the safe route will almost always result in a journey with no unwanted deviance to it. In the world of gaming, several franchises had a long standing position of stagnation, though were highly successful in their own rights. Series such as Sonic the Hedgehog, Street Fighter II and Super Mario Bros. banked off the fact that they could release a similar experience multiple times within the same few consoles they were featured in, yet garner the interest to warrant each succeeding title.
There was one title though, within the Super Mario Bros. franchise, that stuck out like a sore thumb. Compared to the other titles in the franchise during its era, it took common convention and literally threw it out the window. Super Mario Bros. 2 on the NES decided to throw away a couple of key mainstays to the franchise, in exchange for a rather unique experience, one that has never been replicated since. Well, mostly because this is a near re-skinned version of a Japanese gamed titled Doki Doki Panic.
One constant throughout the Super Mario franchise has been the ability to dispatch your enemies by stomping them. It’s a mechanic that’s been often replicated, due in part to its sheer simplicity. In SMB2 however, jumping on an enemy does nothing but perch you on top of them. Pressing B while on top of them will let you pick them up, while a second pressing of the B button with heave them forward. You can take these enemies out by throwing them into each other, throwing them into a pit, or picking up various vegetables rooted into the ground, and heaving them into each enemy. It’s a bit of a quirky mechanic, but one that doesn’t detract from the franchise whatsoever. In fact, it enhances a lot of moments within the game. This mechanic makes boss battles less of a two dimensional affair by allowing another layer of interactivity to the battles. No longer are you just running under a boss and touching an axe to defeat them. Now you can use environmental pieces or obstructions thrown at you by the bosses themselves in your battle to defeat them.
Doki Doki Panic was based off of a four character roster, each having their own strengths and weaknesses. Upon translation, Nintendo incorporated four characters from the previous Mario title. Mario is your all-around character, who has no real weakness. Luigi is a lanky individual with the highest jump, though not the strongest character. Princess Toadstool makes her playable debut as the weakest of the four characters, but has the ability to float through the air for a few seconds, enabling you to reach a far off platform, or float past large pits. Toad, that little dweeb that always told you that the princess was in another castle, has the fastest foot speed, as well as the strongest of the four, but has the shortest jumping height.
Each character has their own unique look as well, which coincides with the drastically altered world that the gang runs through, when compared to the previous title. The amount of detail and enemy variation dwarfs any Mario title before it, with some bright, colorful and imaginative stages. While no previous enemies make a return, he ones present provide more of a life to them than you’d think. The bosses, even though they’ll usually follow a fixed pattern, have quite a bit of life to them, further enhancing the experience. Even the audio has a fitting feel to it, while retaining none of the iconic pieces that the series has become known for. Though the repetitious use of the music throughout the game is noticeable, the quality of the tunes are apparent.
Most people try to dismiss SMB2 for the simple fact that it’s nothing like the preceding title, or like most of the titles that succeeded it. As with Zelda 2: The Adventures of Link, the experience is drastically altered, but not in a negative manner. The Japanese release of Super Mario Bros. 2 was nothing like the one we got, but instead it was more like a “hard mode” of the first SMB title, with similar visual and audio qualities and little in the way of deviation from the established formula. While it’s still a classic and sorely missed upon its initial release, the quirkiness and change of pace that US gamers got with this re-skinned version of Doki Doki Panic, sufficed in its own right, giving gamers in the US a rather engaging world to pay through.
Change can be good, and Nintendo proved this, even if the source material had nothing at all to do with the Mario franchise. Super Mario Bros. 2 on the NES manages to carve out its own niche in the series for several reasons, none of which detract anything of importance. The naysayers and purists may be up in arms over the fact that this game exists, but on a console during a time where numerous platformer titles relied on the same mechanics to dispatch your enemies, Super Mario Bros. 2 was a more than welcome change.