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Hacks & Homebrews: Super Mario World

You have to love the internet. Where else can existing games be taken apart and reassembled according to one’s own twisted designs? Want to play as Shadow in the original Sonic the Hedgehog? Go right ahead! Think the first Streets of Rage should have a larger cast? Add to it! Yes, emulation has opened the door to the creation of many a Franken-game, and what we’re looking at today is one of the more…inspired, attempts at bringing such a concept to the Genesis.

Super Mario World is, of course, a game that needs no introduction. The original SNES pack-in, it was the reason to own the system upon its debut in 1991. Well, it appears that someone thought it would be a good idea to bring Nintendo’s star franchise to Sega’s 16-bit wonder, and while a good deal of work is still needed to make it a worthwhile play, the potential is most definitely there. Released as a cartridge in Hong Kong, a few copies still pop up on eBay now and then, but it’s mostly accessible as a download.

A Plumber on Hedgehog Turf?

The first thing you’ll notice when you boot up the Super Mario World ROM is that there are two title screens. The sprites used are clearly from the SNES version of Super Mario Bros. from Super Mario All Stars, as are many of the maps. Why then, the inclusion of the original 8-bit title screen for choosing the number of players? Moreover, the allusion to Mario World makes no sense, since there is nothing of that game at all here.

When the game begins, you’re treated to some colorful, detailed graphics. Overall, I was pretty impressed at how much of the Mario charm was retained on the color-deficient Genesis. Things aren’t as bright as on the SNES to be sure, but it’s close enough. What the visuals emphasize the most is just how capable the Genesis was in the right hands.

Not Everything with a Mustache is Mario

The visuals may be near-SNES quality, but the whole game takes a hard turn into “what the hell happened here” territory as soon as you begin playing. For some unknown reason, the creators of this hack decided that Mario shouldn’t jump on his foes. Unbelievably, stomping on Goombas and Koopas actually hurts you! Now, call me old school, but isn’t the whole point of a Mario game to jump on foes? Mario without his stomp is like Sonic without his speed- it just doesn’t work. It would appear that the developers (and I use that term loosely) were shooting for originality with this hack, and instead chose to base the game off of Capcom’s NES classic Chip & Dale’s Rescue Rangers. Our now stompless hero can now grab boxes and sling them at his foes, or even hide inside them Solid Snake-style. Furthermore, he can also shoot fireballs without a flower (there are practically no power ups in the game at all, aside from a med kit that restores your energy), but it can only be used a certain amount of times. Again, change is usually a good thing, but why even bother to use the Mario property if you’re going to alter or eliminate every fundamental thing that makes the franchise what it is?

 

Mario has still retained his basic run and jump sprites, and now also sports a crouch that comes in handy for evading flying foes and fire blasts…wait, there aren’t any! So what we have instead is an animation that serves no purpose, while the ability to stomp on foes has been taken out? Right. Distancing the hack from its roots even more, the fire rings in the castle stages have been replaced with Zelda-esque gems. The gems have basically replaced coins as the item to collect throughout the whole game, yet they have no function at all. You don’t rack up a score while you play, so what’s the point? As with the crouching animation, they seem to have been left in out of either pure laziness, or to make the game appear more complete than it really is.

As for the two-player option, it’s essentially as broken as the rest of the gameplay. Luigi must suffer from the same buttocks condition as his brother, because he can’t stomp anything either. I got a bit excited when I saw that I was able to pick him up (just like in Rescue Rangers) but my hopes were quickly dashed when it became evident that there was no reason at all for the move. I guess only the empty boxes that litter each stage have the ability to hurt enemies, since tossing the other player into an oncoming Koopa or Goomba does nothing but make you lose energy.

Something Old, Something New

The levels are comprised of the same environments you find in Super Mario Bros., though there are a few new additions (as seen in the third screen shot below), and are varied, but are scarcely populated with enemies. A few Goombas and Koopas are found but they’re no trouble to avoid. None of the pipes are accessible, so we see yet another aspect of the series taken away for no apparent reason. Why not let us warp around and replace the coins with gems like everywhere else? Heck, toss a Goomba in a couple of those pipes to spice things up. Playing more like the first Sonic than a true Mario game, you can essentially hold the D-pad right and jump occasionally to get through the first few stages quite quickly.

In another blow to everything Mario, you can jump clear through blocks! No longer are you able to smash brick blocks with your adamantium-like cranium. No, now Mario has been given the ability to phase through solid matter! So bad is the collision detection, that you can basically jump through the blocks without ever touching the floor, all the way across the underground levels or any one with a rock ceiling. You sink as though in quicksand whenever you pass through a block, making the “floating” trick something to be abused regularly.

So, we have a rushed hack-job that has butchered the heart and soul of the series it’s trying to cash in on, and instead stole its main gameplay mechanic from an 8-bit game that was easier than counting your toes. What then, did those crazy Hong Kong pirates do to make the game even worth looking at? Well, they added in some weird, funky levels that haven’t been seen in the series up until now. Taking the mushroom theme a bit further than should be healthy, the new levels are filled with psychedelic colors that are bound to cause a buzz. There are some new enemies here as well, including monkeys in barrels that hang from vines, and some nasty bats that zip down to nail you without warning. Another mark against the character’s heritage is that you will now die from falling in water. Yes, Mario has also lost the ability to swim. Maybe I should just refer to him as something else from now on. Angelo, perhaps? Paulie?

To be truthful, the boss battles with Bowser were the high point of the game and were actually more fun that I thought they’d be. He jumps from level to level, shooting fire at you, while you scramble around trying to grab boxes to sling at him. Every few jumps, he gets steamed and charges, forcing you to jump to the platform above and below you. This is by far the best part of the game, and had the creators spent as much time on everything else, a decent little homebrew game may have been possible.

Bowser takes more than a few shots to kill (about eight), and when he dies, he just disappears into nothingness. It’s funny that they would implement an animation for when you hit him with a box, but none for when he dies.

Argh! A Pirates Life for Me?

Considering it’s a free download that requires either Gens or Kega to run, I’d say the Genesis hack of Super Mario World is worth checking out, if only to see what could have been. I truly hope that someone out there decides to make more of this, as the basic core game is already there. All that’s needed is some more time and thought, and a little inspiration. The latter obviously was in short supply when this hack was created, and I guess the entire wad was shot on the boss battle.

I’ve seen some other hacks out there, involving Sonic and other franchises, but they were mostly single characters inserted into already-complete games. Super Mario World actually attempted to go beyond that and make an entirely new game with a familiar franchise. They fell well short of their goal, but it proves that something of this nature can be done. Maybe someday we’ll actually see a finished product.

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1 Comment

  1. 16BitKing says:

    They have this game plus another mario game for the genesis as of march 10th 2012.they both cost over $250. but well worth it for a serious collector.

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