But man, putting it in now and playing through it...this is one messed up game.
Let's start by looking at that game box.
First, we have Mario, sporting a large pair of rabbit ears as one of his power-ups. We have a weird shelled creature that almost looks like a turtle except it has no head, a shark wearing boxing gloves a bird that can't possibly be flying with its wings doing gang signs, and what looks like a turtle statue, a castle, a giant statue to Mario, a pumpkin, and the moon in the background.
Clearly, this game has some big ideas.
What initially drew me to this game was the advertisement I saw in Nintendo Power Magazine way back in the day. You have to remember, this was before the Internet was dishing out trailers and announcements, and it was even before magazines would put CDs packed with trailers and demos into magazines. It was these four pages that had me excited about trying this game.
That's right, this was the first ever appearance of Wario in a game, the one and only (as far as I know) appearance of the bunny ears power-up, and I'm 99% sure it's the only time we've ever seen the "Fireman" feather or the astronaut suit.
Obviously, each "zone" has its own theme. The tree zone has you scaling a giant tree, fighting giant bugs and birds. The macro zone has you shrunk down so everyday objects loom over you. Turtle zone takes place almost entirely underwater. Space zone is self-explanatory.
What those don't show you are some of the creatures you fight, and there are some messed up monsters. Take Pumpkin Zone, where you fight little crawling hockey masks with knives shoved into their faces. Or trees that launch up into the air and expand out like umbrellas before floating down to get you. Or one-eyed monsters that would lurch around the stage and you know what? I'm pretty sure I could just stop at hockey masks with knives shoved in their faces.
|D'aww, look at it waddle with those widdle feet. What an adorable embodiment of nightmares.|
|And fight what I can only describe as "cow fish."|
Remember those bunny ears?
He even manages to get away in the end (which lets him show up later in his own series of Game Boy games which we'll discuss later), but I was always much more impressed with Wario as a villain than I was Bowser for a long, long time.
Plus, the game completely tosses out the idea that Mario's doing the whole thing to save a Princess. Apparently, in this alternate dimension, once Mario rescued Daisy, she just didn't need saving again and Mario was able to put all those coins he collected into building himself an island retreat.
Does the game hold up? Absolutely, it was just as fun to play it now as it was back when I would be squinting at my Game Boy during long road trips. The music is memorable, the controls are crisp, and the secret areas might be a lot easier to find now that I'm an adult, but as a child they had me searching everywhere and jumping everywhere I could to find every hidden block in the game.