Super Mario Brothers (C64)

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A great technical achievement and a good port of an average to good level platformer. Fans of the game franchise should enjoy it.

User Review
4.5 (4 votes)

Super Mario Brothers is an iconic platform gaming title that conjures up warm feelings from retro gaming enthusiasts. Many fondly remember the endless hours they spent navigating a pudgy Italian plumber through the dangers within Mushroom Kingdom all for the sake of saving Princess Toadstool from the evil King Bowser.

Seven years in the making, the Super Mario Brothers port for the C64 was finally released over the Easter 2019 weekend, sending the retro gaming social media channels into a frenzy as they marvelled at the technical brilliance required to pull off the game onto the old ‘bread bin’. Despite not being a fan of the original game (or even the Mario franchise itself), I just had to check out the port for myself and see if I had been wrong for all these years to dismiss the game as being a somewhat mundane running platformer.

Super Mario Brothers C64 is pretty much a complete port of the original Nintendo version. The game includes the original eight worlds, each comprised of four sub-stages. You’ll find coins scattered around the game world for Mario to collect with an extra life being awarded when you gather 100 coins. You’ll come across many bricks marked with a question mark, which when hit from below will reveal either additional coins or a special power up items such as growing twice the size.

A strong point of the original game was the inclusion of bonuses and secret areas within the game world that will either lead Mario to more coins or act as time warps that allow you to advance directly to later worlds. The C64 version doesn’t let us down on this aspect as these also look to be all included. The extent of the faithfulness of the port becomes evident when you realise that  even the ‘glitches’ found within the original title are included in the C64 version.

There are four control mode settings on offer with the default using the joystick up to jump while the joystick button is used to fire or sprint. Those of you who have access to a two button controller will be able to take advantage of the extra button being assigned to the jump action.

Super Mario Brothers C64 also features a turbo mode designed to improve the overall game play speed. Given the original was developed to run on a machine with almost twice the CPU speed of the C64, you shouldn’t be surprised to find that the play stutters and lags in some of the busier sections of the game. Using a Commodore 128 in C64 mode will remove most stutters and lags that are exhibited on stock C64 machines, while those lucky enough to have Turbo Chameleon or Super CPU devices should be able to eliminate all performance issues from the game.

The most outstanding aspect of the port is clearly how faithful it is to the NES version via the inclusion of original secret areas, tricks and bonus features. It’s these touches that elevate the game above from being an average platformer. The inclusion of a Turbo mode is a winner in my mind as it at least provides the means to access smoother game play via accelerator devices or emulators with tweaked settings.

The overall sound within the game is somewhat poor. The decision to emulate the NES sound results in some tunes sounding clipped, creating an irritating flapping type sound effect while the lack of fidelity with the game music and effects results in thin high pitched sounds being produced that quickly grate on your nerves. Busier sections of the game world will result in game play stuttering on non-accelerated devices. The sound will start sounding choppy and Mario will feel like he is jumping on the moon as your gaming experience is disrupted with the need to adjust your game play to accommodate the lag in responsiveness. 

No doubt that Super Mario Brothers for the C64 is a technically impressive port that provides a very faithful recreation of the original title. This game is not going to change your opinion as to the quality of the gaming on hand. Fans of the game will enjoy the C64 version while the rest of us will find the core game elements somewhat dull and wondering what all the fuss is about.

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