One of my favourite games of all time has seen yet another release, but are there any features here to subtly improve the gameplay over previous versions? Surprisingly, there are.
1. Single pad multiplayer
When I first owned this game in 1995 I only had one Super Nintendo controller. This meant that to play cooperatively with a friend one of us had to get up after each turn, pull out the controller, rotate it, and stick it back in the second controller port.
The VC software allows you to emulate this laborious task and switch which player the gamepad controls with just a touch of the screen. This means that even if the gamepad is the only Wii U controller you own (or if you want to get into some Super Mario World in the kitchen or backyard) you can just pass the thing back and forth for awesome lazy co-op times.
2. Customisable buttons
Given how much the Super Nintendo button layout has stuck around, you might be forgiven for thinking there’d be no way the ability to reassign buttons could improve Super Mario World. But you wouldn’t be forgiven by me, because you’d be dead wrong! There’s at least two ways this feature can improve your experience.
The first relates to the spin jump, that most baffling of World’s maneuvers. Is there a purpose for it beyond drilling bricks and dismounting Yoshi? Part of the reason it’s so weird is its relegation to the A button, meaning you need to take your thumb of the Y and B buttons to execute it – a clear no-no for all serious Mario players.
On Wii U you can simply reassign that spin jump to RZ or RL and bust it out with your big ol’ index finger New Super Mario Bros. U style. Now that I’ve played this way I can actually see the hidden benefits in this crazy tornado leap. Spin, Mario, spin!
Secondly, it’s well established that two buttons side-by-side à la the NES controller is ideal for 2D Mario, and now you can play Super Mario World that way for the first time. Simply reassign the buttons onto a Wii remote so 1 and 2 act as run and jump, and then make B your spin jump so you can activate it with a mash of your undecurled fingers. There you have it, no wasted buttons, no awkward angles. Perfect.
3. Seventeen per cent more frames motherlickers!
Okay so this only applies to my fellow PAL region battlers. Like all Super Nintendo games the original Super Mario World ran at 50 HZ on our consoles, while our cousins in the land of the purple buttons enjoyed the full 60. The Wii virtual console release f the game was one of the few that was partially ‘optimised’, meaning the crappy PAL borders around the outside were cut but it still ran at the slightly lower speed.
Finally with the Wii U VC release the game is running on a PAL piece of hardware, on a television, at the level of smoothness it was always meant to run. Yeah 2013!
4. Save states
I know, I know, you could view them as a cop-out. Some douchebag kid is probably making save states right now so he or she can pass Cheese Bridge without getting game over, and that sucks.
Now that we’re responsible adults though, we don’t always have time to get to a ghost house or fortress each time we play, so the ability to save the game’s progress anywhere is definitely a plus. You can even reset the game so somebody else can play on their own file, and your main game save state will stay safe. It’s a small change, but it does help make playing the game in small chunks more manageable than it would be on SNES or Wii.
Also if you’re that punk kid making save states so you don’t lose your mid-level progress point on Cheese Bridge: play the game the way it was meant to be played! You’ll thank us when you’re older! Adults like us have 25+ lives by the time we get to Cheese Bridge, and you know why? It’s because we memorised the whole damn game while getting game over repeatedly when we played through it the first time!
It doesn’t impact the actual gameplay obviously, but having an online community attached to a favourite old game is unexpectedly charming. People are reminiscing together and highlighting their most fondly-remembered bits with screenshots, or else they’re pointing to some chuckle-inducing glitch or perceived imbalance, or else they’re crafting heartfelt doodle homages of varying quality.
Also you get to remind veterans and tease youngsters by posting images and hints to secret areas out of context.
Obviously the pure experience would still be to hook up your Super Nintendo to a CRT a play through that way. But given the modern inconvenience of controller cables, archaic outputs and the dwindling availability of cathode ray tubes, it’s nice to now a somewhat compromised and further digitised version of an old classic can still have some new fun injected into it.