Before leaving Mario behind for a while, I wanted to take a look into one of the most confusing situations involving a game's trip from Japan to the US, or rather two games.

After the major success of Super Mario Bros., Nintendo released Super Mario Bros. 2 in Japan. The game was meant as a continuation of the first more than a typical sequel, so that it would be challenging for people who had already mastered the first game. The graphics were basically identical, but it introduced a couple of new mechanics and seriously hard levels. However, Nintendo of America decided they didn't want to release it stateside, since it looked too similar and would be too hard for western audiences.

As it happens, Miyamoto and co. had recently released a game called Yume Kōjō: Doki Doki Panic, which was received well in Japan, and for the release of what would be called Super Mario Bros. 2 in the west, Nintendo just re-sprited parts of the game to add in familiar characters and items, and changed the way some of the characters handled. For a full list of changes, the Mario wiki has you covered:

Interestingly, as the reworked Doki Doki Panic was selling well in the west as Super Mario Bros. 2, it was then RE-released in Japan as Super Mario USA.

Down the line, when the Super Nintendo came out, with the release of Super Mario All Stars, the west finally got a peek at the original Super Mario Bros. 2, where it was called "The Lost Levels" instead of its original name, to prevent confusion.

So, now that the history lesson is over, lets dive in, first with the Japanese version. From here on I'll just call them SMB2J and SMB2A so you know which one I'm talking about.

SMB2J is hard, as I mentioned before. For this piece, I played the original on a Famicom emulator, and that made it a bit harder still, since the Lost Levels rerelease added a few things to make it easier, most notably being able to save your game. I used save points, a lot. I normally don't care for emulator save points because it makes things so much easier, but for this game I didn't consider it cheating.

In terms of game mechanics, a few notable things changed. There's only a one player game, but you can choose between Mario and Luigi. For the first time, Luigi handled differently, being able to jump higher but handle a little more loosely. Also, the poisonous mushroom was added, which will kill you if you're small, or shrink you if you're Super Mario. In addition, the wind. Anyone who has played this game hates the wind. You know how to time your jumps, but then wind throws you further or prevents you from jumping as far.

When you beat the game, if you haven't warped, you will go into a "fantasy world" called World 9. It's a "What if" world, where the overworld is flooded, or you have to beat bowser to get to the flagpole, etc. Unfortunately it just keeps going in a loop and doesn't allow you to get to worlds A, B, C, and D. On the famicom version, you have to beat the game 8 times to access these. In the Lost Levels, they just continue on past world 9.

So what did I actually think? It's hard. It's good, don't get me wrong, but if I was a kid looking for something to play on a Saturday afternoon I doubt I would have picked it up, because it's nearly the same gameplay as SMB and the frustration would have made me leave it on the shelf. I can definitely see why Nintendo of America didn't want this. As an adult, though, I totally dig it. As long as I can use emulator savepoints! There are some truly challenging things that have to be pixel perfect to pull off.

SMB2A, on the other hand, brought some major changes to the series. Luigi's gameplay changes remain, because the character he was replacing from Doki Doki Panic had the same abilities. The Princess (my fave) couldn't jump as high or run as fast, but she could float, and Toad was a brute, able to throw enemies farther than anyone, and pick things up faster. And wait, what? Jumping on enemies doesn't kill them! You just ride them until you pick them up. You can only kill enemies by throwing objects or other enemies into them.

Another thing you notice is that all the enemies are different. You're thrown into a place that's obviously not the mushroom kingdom, with new unpredictable enemies. But once you get the hang of things, you feel right at home. Miyamoto obviously borrowed some physics from SMB, which helps the transition.

Even though not originally a Mario game, this is the first Mario game to have worlds based on different climates (unless you count wind). The ice world was frustrating, but I can still remember the pattern of those flying guys with pitchforks when you're running down that long path of ice cubes, sliding all over the place. This trend of worlds in different climates is something that continues on to this day in the Mario series, and many other games.

SMB2A is probably tied with the original SMB as my second favorites of the series, behind Super Mario World. Even if SMB3 went back to the old style game mechanics, leaving most of SMB2A's behind, I still find it quite appealing. Maybe that's part of why I like it as much as I do: It's truly unique in the Mario series, and hasn't had a chance to get diluted at all.

So many major gameplay changes, all the enemies were different, but we still accepted it as a Mario game, because it's incredible. This game felt totally fresh, and everything just worked. The plot explained it all away as a dream at the end, which makes it fit into the chronology easily, but not everything was left in dreamland. Pokeys, Shyguys, and especially Bob-ombs have become a major part of the Mario series, and it's all thanks to the original SMB2 being too hard.

I'm glad that as an adult I get to play both these games, but I'm definitely glad that 8-year-old me got the American version.

GregoPeck   Super Member wrote on 01/23/2015 at 08:30pm

I'm aware of the history of SMB2, but I don't know if I've ever even tried "The Lost Levels." From what you describe, I'm sure I would absolutely hate it. The reason is because Mario games often get me too frustrated. Honestly, though, SMB2 (American version) didn't really do that to me. I really loved that game. I think the Princess was also my favorite. Her ability to float made things a bit easier.

The history of the game reminds me of the Final Fantasy (SNES) history and how the Japanese and American versions differed. It's cool, though, that in both game series, both versions of the games were later made available.

Timogorgon   Member wrote on 01/24/2015 at 06:52pm

Another fun article, I look forward to more!

Did you play through both games completely? I guess these games are short enough that you could bust through them in an afternoon (especially if you're using warp zones!)

Travis   Admin   Post Author wrote on 01/24/2015 at 10:05pm

I did, without using warp zones. I did them in the span of about two days

jdodson   Admin wrote on 01/25/2015 at 01:03am

That's great. I've said before Super Mario Brothers 2 is my most beloved Mario game. That said, Super Mario World may very well be the best as it's so freakin' polished. I've played the lost levels on the SNES Mario All Stars Kart and I never really played more than one or two levels. Like you say, kid me wasn't into the grueling difficulty as it wasn't that much fun then.

Travis   Admin   Post Author wrote on 01/25/2015 at 06:14am

When you play it with emulator save points, it becomes like Super Meat Boy. You have unlimited tries to pull off nigh-impossible feats.

AdamPFarnsworth wrote on 01/26/2015 at 04:17pm

I have really great memories of SMB2. But I had a friend who's parents were friends with my parents, so when the families got together, all the kids would go into the tv room and play this the entire time. It was simple enough for my younger siblings to enjoy, and great enough to keep all of our attention for an evening.

jdodson   Admin wrote on 01/26/2015 at 04:33pm
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