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Mario Clash

A long, long time ago (6 years), Nintendo released their "new 32-bit system," the Virtual Boy. They sold like hot cakes; over 1 million left store shelves. But unfortunately for Nintendo, over half were returned soon thereafter. Famed designer of Game Boy, Gunpei Yokoi’s brainchild, the Virtual Boy, was the biggest mistake in Nintendo’s history. Some people kept their VBs, some pretended the whole fiasco never happened. Some just criticized it. Eventually they became collector’s items, only for the most hardcore of gamers... with all 14 of its games.

So where does this title fit into those 14? Chronologically, The NES: Super Mario Bros./Duck hunt. The Super Nintendo: Super Mario World. The Nintendo 64 (though it was released after VB): Super Mario 64. Virtual Boy may have been a huge flop in '95, but if it did one thing right that not even GameCube imitated: launching with a Mario game-- Mario Clash. Sure, Virtual Boy launched with a few other titles, but who really cares? You don’t, obviously, or you would have clicked on those reviews.

All of the aforementioned Mario games were hits, and sold some of the highest numbers of copies. This was justifiable, as the games were excellently designed. Yet this Mario is not of the same pedigree...


visuals

NOTE: If something isn’t black in a VB game, it’s red. No white or anything. So if I say Mario ran at the Koopa Troopa, it’s actually a differently shaded red Mario ran at the red Koopa Troopa.

I flip on the eye-busting system, and see a warning. Read something or other. Eye cramp this, nuclear meltdown that. Blah, blah, blah. I skip through the preliminaries, and see some red clouds unfold to a tower in the sky. This is when I first notice the main point of the Virtual Boy: an attempt at a third dimension. There’s a layer of clouds that shrouds the lower part of the building, but that cloud layer is split up into multiple layers of clouds. It's very nice, for software/hardware from 1995. Too bad it’s all red. But anyway, the rest of the cinema is done quite nicely. A blimp flies up to the tower, getting smaller as it goes, and drops some red dots onto the top of the tower. Then a flag rises up, declaring that the tower has now been taken over by these little guys. It then pans down to Mario, who’s walking along on his merry little way. He stops at the tower, which is appropriately named "Clash Tower." He walks inside on a whim, and the camera follows him in. Title screen.

"Oh, and it is lovely. You know, you are quite a decorator, it’s amazing what you’ve done with such a modest budget." –Donkey, Shrek

In the game, you encounter quite a few enemies: a flying goomba, two different types of Spinys, crabs, Boos, those cactus guys, fireballs, and Koopa Troopas. They’re all fairly detailed for their size. That’s about it. The only animation is walking. Not even when they bite Mario do they have an animation. They just switch to a biting face. Then they switch back. Kinda sucks.

Mario, however, looks great. He has animations for walking, slipping, frying, freezing, getting bitten, throwing, and jumping. He’s also well detailed (though with the red tints he doesn’t look his usual self), and has a couple special poses. One is when he’s hanging from the rope at the beginning of each level/life, and the other is when you beat a level, he does his trademark "V" sign for victory.

Another thing that really helps this category is the Game Over screen. It has a very excellent looking Mario mouthing some words like, “High Score,” and “Thanks for playing.” Actually, that’s all he mouths. But it still looks incredible, given the rest of the first generation software for the Virtual Boy. His eyes look farther set back than his face, his cap’s bill sticks out, along with his hair, facial or not, the M on his hat, and his nose. Awesome.

The environments are alright, but nothing real special. First the foreground, which can be one of about five different textures: normal, slightly different from normal, dirt, ice, and something that resembles a steel girder. For 40 levels, I’d expect a little more variety. Oh well. There are also the pipes, which resemble pipes. You can make out the ends, where they go, and who’s going to go where. What more can you ask from a pipe? *mumble mumble* Well, yes, you could ask that, but that’s just sick.

Next, the background: You have even fewer of these, but they look a little better. It usually consists of a simple wall covered in ice, or composed of bricks, or something of the like. Again, it's nothing that’ll sell the title. Just a nice effect.

Finally, slowdown: There isn’t any. And frankly I’d be appalled if there was. At any given time, there are no more than 20 sprites being pushed here. It all runs smoothly, without a hitch.


audio

Throughout the game, you have some very, very simple tunes going. There are a few beeps and boops on four or five different pitches. It doesn’t get annoying at all, after 40 eye-wrenching levels. That’s hard to do with beeps and boops, folks.The sound effects are mainly just bonks and plinks as a turtle shell hits a Spiny or something. There’s the occasional warp sound when you go through a pipe, or a beeping when the turtle shell you’re holding is about to revert back to a Koopa Troopa. These definitely add to the gaming experience.


gameplay

This is sort of like Tetris, if you think about it. It’s incredibly repetitive, but it’s still fun throughout. I’m going to try to explain it, but if it sounds difficult, don’t worry. If you ever play this game, you’ll get it instantly.

Each playing field/level is composed of two sides. One is very close to the screen, the other is a little farther away. Lets say the former is Side A, and the latter is Side B. Side A and B each have two floors composed of short platforms (that are short), VERY short platforms (about half the size of the short ones), and long ones (they span from left to right). They’re connected by some pipes either on the top or bottom on the left or right, depending what level you’re on (the sides are mirror images of each other). On the top level on the left or right, again depending what level you’re on, there’s a pipe with a hole on each side, and a hole on the top directly in the middle of the pipe. Koopa Troopas, your main weapon, come out of here. Yes, Koopa Troopas are your main weapon. You stomp on them, and grab and throw their shells. Anyway, on most levels, there’s a single short platform halfway between the two floors. It only won’t be there if each floor is a long platform. This is where you begin.

When a level starts, monsters will be walking around, and Mario will lower on a chain that’s between the two sides. You can select which side he jumps to.

On the opposite side of the pipe that spits out Koopa Troopas (left or right, whichever the pipe isn’t), there are a couple of pipes, one on each side, that you can go through to get from one floor to the other. Below the Koopa-pipe, there’s another pipe just like it connecting sides, but it doesn’t spurt out monsters, unless the monsters walk from one side to the other. The pipes that go up and down, and the Koopa-pipe, can have any one of the three platforms connected to their sides. The bottom floor is always a long platform. It never has any pits-- the only way you can die is from touching a monster (Boo!).

The different levels are only differentiated by different platforms in a couple of places, varying numbers and types of monsters, and back/foregrounds. But do you ever complain about the backgrounds in Tetris? No. Is this a puzzle game? No. Should it have been? Yes.

What you have to do is hit enemies from the opposite side that they’re on. It can be a pain when you’ve about eight of them going around, with the standard of two Koopa Troopas added to the melee. The different enemies add a little to the gameplay variety, but not enough. You have to kill each one the exact same way, the only difference is what you have to do to line up your shots (when you initially hit a monster, it only stuns him, you have to hit the thing again, or kick it to finish it). And even that doesn’t really change that much. For instance, normal Spinys: You just hit them with a turtle shell. Every other baddie requires you to hit it from a different side when you’re lined up. Otherwise the turtle shell just flies off in the direction you threw it. There are some combos you can get, like throwing a shell, hitting a monster, and when it bounces back towards you, it hits another monster, and so on until it kills them both. You can also get a third one in for a threesome bonus.


multiplayer

N/A


overall

This game will keep you to your Virtual Boy until your eyes pop out. But that’s not saying much, eye poppage occurs after about five minutes of play. That’s the system, though; the game itself is actually a good one. If you pick up a Virtual Boy somewhere, then certainly get this title with it. Shoot, get all the games you can; they’re not gonna be very expensive.


final score

7.0/10