Players: 1 Player Game | Release Date: 02/09/02 | Genre: Platform
The GBA is a great system. Its graphics are crisp (despite the darkness problem), its sound is superb (despite the mono speaker), and (save a lot of third party titles) the game library is phenomenal. But perhaps the best thing that the Game Boy Advance has going for it is the wondrous ability to transport a gamer back to his early days, the glory days of the SNES, even while on a boring bus ride or - not that I condone this (innocent grin) - a crappy class.
Enter Super Mario World: Super Mario Advance 2, the latest addition to Nintendo's ever-growing list of classics remade into handheld games. It's astounding how true to the original it is. It plays like the original, looks like the original, smells like the original, feels like the original. Simply put, SMA 2 rocks in the same way that only ten-year-old games can: it just takes you back. Now let's break it down and take a look at the separate aspects of SMA 2 that make it so sweet.
To begin with, the graphics are polished and very sharp. Despite a slightly tamer color palette than the original, SMA 2 looks great. There are tons of animation for Mario and friends. The backgrounds are lively and colorful. The enemies look great. The biggest problem presents itself in the form of a touch of blurriness while scrolling, but this is minor and presents a problem most when you're playing in a dark room without a light. For the simpler minded, it just doesn't affect gameplay.
The sound in SMA 2 is nicely done as well. The music is just like the original, including even that extra bass-line when you hop on Yoshi's back. The sound effects are true to the original as well. The only new aspect in the sound department are the voices for Mario and Luigi, and frankly, they... well, they suck. The game would be better off without them, but I just started to tune them out after a while.
The controls in SMA 2 are very well done, considering it's a GBA. The guys at Nintendo moved the spin jump function onto the R shoulder button. The scroll screen is found on the L shoulder button, and the screen moves in the direction you're pressing or facing. It works well after getting used to pressing R to spin jump. The one flaw in the control is that they're a bit slippery (Mario or Luigi stops a little slower than on the SNES, which takes some getting used to as well). Overall, though, the controls are just fine.
Gameplay is classic, and in this case that means superb. If there's one thing that Nintendo knows how to do, it's making stylish side scrollers, and SMA 2 provides testimony to this truth. A novel twist is that now Luigi jumps higher, throws higher-bouncing fireballs, and makes Yoshi spit out enemies instead of swallow them. There's also a screen that tracks your progress through the game (found by pressing Select on the World Map screen), and the awesome ability to save whenever you want (you can even stop playing in the middle of a level, so long as you've hit the halfway point). This save feature is definitely welcome, especially since SMA 2 is a handheld. Overall, the gameplay has only improved since ten years ago.
Seeing as how SMA 2 is in its essence ten years old, it plays like a dream. This is one classic that I suggest every GBA owner plops down the greenbacks for. It's just that good. If you like classics, and miss the "good old days" when 2-D side scrollers with 16 Bit, Mode-7 graphics were all the rage, go get Super Mario World: Super Mario Advance 2 now.