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Gaming in Retrospect III: Super Mario World on SNES
Over a decade ago, when I was headbutting bricks and jumping on humanoid turtles to rescue a princess that almost always gets caught again by the same dinosaur, I never would have thought I was playing one of the most critically acclaimed games of all time. Super Mario World (the fourth Super Mario Bros title) on SNES was my first Mario experience. I loved it.
Apparently, the world did too. Consistently named as one of the best games of all time even today, Super Mario World was one of the highlights of the SNES, which was practically the PlayStation of its generation. Undisputed, mainstream, and box office record breaking, the SNES was at its best when you took on the role of that mustachioed plumber with a penchant for red jumpsuits (or his equally mustachioed brother who prefers green).
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Notice that the title used was Super Mario World, and not the iterative title Super Mario Bros 4. While I could not speak for the first three Mario Bros titles – I never finished more than a couple stages of these in their respective consoles or emulators – I’m pretty sure that the title change was a good touch. Super Mario World was truly about the world that Mario had to circumnavigate (yes, he had to literally circumnavigate the world map to reach Bowser’s hideout – or he can use the secret Star Road). From the world map design that incorporates multiple forks for non-linear advancement and cool, often helpful secret stages to the level design that takes players through the sea, the clouds, and even molten lava pits and ghost houses, Super Mario World was as immersive as it was deceptively simple.
Super Mario World focused on gameplay, merely recycling a standard fairy tale plot made a bit more curious by making the hero a plumber. Better still is that as a platformer, Mario World was an epic struggle to constantly improve your hand-eye coordination, timing, quick thinking skills, and – perhaps above all – patience. Navigating levels was both fun and frustrating, and the levels became exponentially crazier as you advanced. The skills and power-ups Mario can use required a bit of resource management: you can keep a reserve power-up as an emergency backup or manually switch abilities. It was also full of secret tricks, levels, and alternate ways out of a stage or a portion of the world map. The boss fights were often similar to puzzle levels where you had to figure out a boss’ weakness by paying attention to your surroundings, the boss’ actions and reactions, and any possible weaponry you can use.
There is very little I can criticize Super Mario World for. Sure, it could have gone the same way Super Mario RPG did with the plot, but it was relying on a story that’s more a running gag than an actual seat-gripper. It could have been a lot less frustrating, but I’m the sort of gamer who thrives on ridiculously challenging learning experiences, so it actually worked for me. Super Mario World was so coherently, fluidly, and solidly perfect in and of itself, that I couldn’t ask more or less – and few games to this day have left a similar impression. [by G Dino]
Gaming in Retrospect is a series of articles detailing the games that author Gino R. Dino played back in the day. Games that made an impact on his views as a gamer.