Mario Adventure

If you've followed emulation for any length of time, you know that ROM hacks are, by and large, pure crap. Hell, a good 98% of hackers just add the words "fuk" and "ass" into the sprites, draw penises on everything else, deface the text, and call it a job well done.

Once in an ice age, though, someone will actually go to great lengths to churn out a well-designed game with some genuinely inventive ideas - so many, in fact, that you'd swear it was a professionally made product. Mario Adventure is one of these. I could go and explain all the cool and creative stuff in this ROM in text, but what the hell - I snapped a handful of screenshots, so let's take a look at World 1 firsthand.

Well, first of all, you start out in the "warp zone", which in this game serves as a hub world. You can skip to any of the seven main stages, rather than having to start from Grass Land and work your way up as in the original. Don't think you can just skip to the last world right away, though - you'll have to go through all of these stages in due time, as we'll see shortly.

All of the worlds are completely rearranged.


This is no mere "change a few stage elements to make things harder" hack as you'll quickly discover - every stage is built from scratch, and ones that are a straight run to the exit are actually fairly rare - most have you traversing mazes or solving a small puzzle in order to get to the exit. Some stage elements are also made significantly tougher - Pirahna Plants move in more irregular patterns, Lakitus hurl bombs, Giant Hammer Brothers can't be stomped, and cannons fire much more rapidly, to name a few.

Above is an example of one of the game's puzzles. On the right you have a wall of blocks, surrounded by solid note blocks so you can't hit them with a shell or tail attack. So what do you do here?


You stomp the Shyguy over to the left (their masks double as Koopa shells in this game), float down here, and use the shell to hit the bottom block, revealing a potion (the equivalent of the P-switch). Then you make a tricky jump back up, hit the potion, and you can pass through the blocks as they temporarily turn into coins. If you screw up somehow, you can enter the pipe on the left end of the area to reset everything and try again.

Something else you may have noticed is that the game no longer keeps track of extra lives - essentially, you never run out (which is handy for some of the tougher levels). As a result, coins also play a new role - you can collect up to 9999 of them, and must "spend" them at the Mushroom Houses to buy powerups. The "scrambled picture" minigame also gives you a chance to earn powerups, rather than lives, and 1-Up mushrooms found in stages now award 50 coins.

Also new to this hack are "weather" effects in each stage - any given stage can feature daytime, nighttime, rain or snowy weather. Day, night and rain are primarily cosmetic (though some enemies are harder to see on a dark background), but snow makes the ground slippery as if you were in an ice stage, which makes most stages much harder than they were before - and considering they're already pretty tough in this hack, that's no minor threat. Fortunately, snow doesn't come up very often, and if you die on a stage it will reroll the weather effect so you can hopefully get something more favorable next time.

Rain is also handy for seeing where the hidden blocks are.

Power-ups in the game are also given a complete overhaul. For one thing, you can store one in reserve, and swap between your current and stored powerups on the fly via the Select button. But even bigger than that is the fact that every powerup with the exception of the Raccoon Leaf has been completely changed.

"Fire Fire Mario"'s fireballs now fly straight ahead and can fly through solid objects (though they curve slightly as they travel through them).

"Invisible Mario" replaces the Tanooki suit. Rather than turning him into an invincible statue temporarily, this one lets him duck behind background elements at any time, as if he had knelt down on a white block for 5 seconds. While in this form, you can also stomp some enemies that weren't stompable before (like Piranha Plants).

Like Fire Fire Mario, Magic Mario fires projectiles straight ahead that pass through solid objects; these don't curve on contact, however. This form can also take three hits before reverting to Super Mario.

The Warp Whistle also has a new function, taking you to an area full of power-ups and coin blocks. They're also fairly common as prizes, being winnable in the scrambled picture minigame and as a reward for defeating one of the Koopa Kids. A handy way to arm yourself up for a particularly tough stage.

And last, but certainly not least...

Kuribo's Shoe! This vastly underused powerup from the original game is now a much more common sight, and can even be carried between stages. You even have the option to "store" it for a later section by pressing Up + B; inputting the command again recalls it.


Oh yeah, this isn't just a straightforward "clear-each-stage-as-they-come" style of game either. You have to do a fair bit of scavenging to find the keys, unlock the seven gates and complete the game. Each Koopa Kid you defeat will give you a clue for where to find one of them. This one's designed to keep you playing for a while. However, our benevolent hacker was kind enough to modify the game to use a virtual battery backup - when you exit the game and restart, you'll keep all of your powerups and collected coins, and any worlds you've cleared will still be so.

In closing, Mario Adventure is a hack of outstanding quality. Hell, it almost feels like a completely new game with its redone graphics, original gameplay elements and slight puzzle bent. It's very challenging but rarely becomes frustrating, has some downright inspired stage design, and aside from an occasional graphical glitch, it's incredibly well programmed. Download it! Load it up in FCE Ultra! Play it! Love it.

Rating: 10/10
One-line Synopsis: A fantastic hack of one of the all-time greats.

2010 Spoony