Mario Bros.-e – e-Reader
Platform: Nintendo e-Reader
Release Date (NA): 2002 – 2003
Rating: 6 out of 10
Never heard of the e-Reader? Want to know more? Check out my review/description of Nintendo’s e-Reader.
Among the e-Reader’s various functions, it serves as a vehicle for adapting a few NES titles for play on the GBA. For all intents and purposes, this is a faithful port of the original Mario Bros. For those who don’t know of Super Mario Bros. immediate predecessor, it’s a fairly typical arcade-style game with simple controls and lots of repetition, similar to Pac-Man, Space Invaders, and games in that vein.
Mario Bros.-e can be played by one or two players, the latter possible via the use of a linking cable. Making use of the GameCube’s Game Boy Player add-on or the link cable to connect a GBA as a GameCube controller, it can also be displayed on TV. The way in which all these seemingly trivial devices fit together is marvelous and at last justifies all the money I’ve dumped into various quasi-obscure cords that no one ever bought, or if they did never used and eventually lost.
Two player mode sees both Mario and Luigi working cooperatively to clear the subterranean “phases,” as they’re called, and depending on the skill level of the players involved, the second player can either be a huge help or another obstacle to negotiate. Before the days where Mario could defeat his enemies with a jump on the head, he had to first hit them from below and then kick them. Some of the initial difficulty for Mario Bros.-e is no more than resisting the urge to jump on the bad guys! The stages are all almost alike with only a few changes in the looks of the platforms. Enemies make their way in through the pipes, walk off platform after platform, before they hit the bottom and re-enter a pipe so that they man then again make their way down. Somewhere during all this, Mario must bump the flexible platform below his adversary, and then go up and kick the baddie to fully defeat it. Enemies start out as little more than turtles, but soon move on to crabs (which take 2 hits), flies (which spend some time in the air, therefore immune to hits from below at times), and other assorted foes such as the icicle (which if left undefeated will freeze a platform, causing Mario to slip and slide). Green and orange fireballs also begin appearing at random and can be particularly annoying as it seems the goal is to stop Mario from staying in one spot and carefully timing jumps from below.
Coins are awarded for each enemy disposed of and contribute the the overall point total. Points are important, but I’m still not 100% clear as to what extent. It seems that the first 20,000 points awards the player an extra life, but when or if another 1-up is granted I’m unsure. Coin gathering bonus levels are peppered around, and the player has the opportunity to collect 10 coins in a set time limit. All coins count towards the point total but getting all 10 is especially desirable as it earns the player a healthy bonus. The last enemy left in any particular phase changes colors and becomes extremely fast, as well as somewhat intelligent. Some of these hyper-foes will even change direction mid-platform to chase Mario! Bad guys which aren’t destroyed in a timely manner or bumped again after being incapacitated will also return to motion, this time a little bit faster.
As the levels wear on, things start getting difficult and fast. This starts happening early on, and while at first I considered it a major drawback, I came to see the practicality of it. Since the GBA or e-Reader is unable to save progress on these early games, it makes sense not to fill the beginning of a game with a ton of easy levels that one is forced to play through every time. A large POW block is placed near the bottom of each phase; when hit by Mario it causes all onscreen creatures to take the equivalent of one bump from below. In some cases this will be enough to flip critters over, in others it will merely make them faster until a second hit can be delivered, and in still other cases it may have no effect at all, depending on whether or not the baddies are on the ground or in mid-air. Once the POW is used 3 times, it is gone, forever. As far as I know there is absolutely no way replenish these last resort abilities. The increasing occurrence of fireballs along with more and faster enemies coupled with limited opportunities for extra lives will clearly illustrate just how hard these old arcade titles are.
I’m sure the graphics and sound have been upped a notch to match the GBA’s more advanced technology, but there’s almost no way to compare the images of a 3 inch screen to a large TV. Controls are a little bit strange, and those who have come to know and love Mario’s jumping acuity (myself included) will struggle with how directional jumps are handled. Instead of being able to jump and press left or right simultaneously to jump in the desired direction, Mario must already be otherwise moving in the appropriate direction when A is pressed to jump. The idea is somewhat analogous to a running jump, and probably a better reflection of how an actual human would have to jump. Nonetheless, it does take some getting used to and can provide a serious hindrance to precision movement. This mechanism is present on the NES version as well. Once a player acclimates to both this oddity of gameplay as well as being unable to jump directly on enemies, Mario Bros.-e becomes much more enjoyable.
It’s always fun to take a glimpse back to the humble beginnings (or 3rd appearance in this case) of some of video gaming’s most beloved characters, and Mario Bros.-e doesn’t disappoint. It works well on the small screen due to its simple structure, and while the game can prove to be an archaic challenge at first, given a little time it morphs into an addictive piece of video game history. This title isn’t of course the reason to have Nintendo’s e-Reader, but it is a welcome perk.
Reviewed by The Cubist
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