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When considering Mario Clash for the Virtual Boy, a game that was as oft-overlooked as Luigi’s Mansion is today, the comparisons with the original Mario Bros. arcade game are bound to be in plentiful supply. Although such parallels seem natural due to the plumbing motif and level design, such an argument proves flawed after a bit of gameplay.
For a sprite-based arcade-style game, the character drawings, platform surfaces and pipes get the job done. In typical Nintendo fashion, the renditions of Mario and his classic enemies done with 4 shades of red embody the energy and personality of each character. Though the sprite frame animation seems a bit abrupt at times, it’s to be expected from the sprites of the day.The standard level in Mario Clash consists of a standard floor, center platform, and broken top floor within both the foreground and background, interconnected via 4 warp pipes. Variations abound in alternating between vertical/lateral pipes as well as missing platforms and icy surfaces in later levels, each done well in 3-D.
One tricky part about navigating through the 3-D sewers is in making accurate Koopa shell throws at enemies in the opposing field of play. When interval markers are removed from the floors a few levels into the game, the unnecessary challenge of discerning corresponding locations is added to the mix.
Unlike the aurally primitive 1983 debut of Luigi, Mario Clash takes a quirky good stab at capturing the spirit of the arcade platform game. What results is more of a sometimes teeth-gnashing little ditty that just keeps looping over and over again. Only when down to the last enemy of the stage or Boo Buddies dematerialize does the main theme speed up or get distorted.
Sound effects are the standard, unimpressive arcade stock and not worthy of noting here.
While the presentation may no longer impress or even excite, the simple gameplay found in Mario Clash is fun, plain and simple. Rather than engage in the usurping of all enemies by knocking them off their feet from below, Koopa Troopa shells are now used to be thrown either horizontally or laterally into the opposing field of depth depending on the type of enemy.
The game starts out with simple spiked enemies that can be struck by a shell from any side, followed by Spinys only vulnerable from front or back. Not to be limited to simple side-walking enemies, Flying Goombas in the place of flies can also be damaged only from the opposing field. Hitting Spinys, Flying Goombas, disappearing Boos that fly in sine wave patterns, or cannons from the side won’t hurt them, but merely send them in the other direction. Pokey’s lower sections can be hit from any side, but the goofy, spiked head needs a shell chucked at it from the opposite field. It might seem complicated on paper, but makes sense in the game setting itself.
Every so often, players are given the chance to intercept a series of floating coins in a bonus stage for extra points and even a 1-up provided a perfect score. And upon defeating a set number of enemies in the regular stages, a mushroom is sent into the pipes where the Koopa Troopas normally call out to warn of their impending arrival, allowing Mario to chuck a shell at multiple consecutive enemies, each for cascading point values and a stage-end bonus.
After playing Mario Clash for a number of years, there doesn’t seem to be any substantial end to "Clash Tower," but rather a typical arcade challenge of the high score.
Luigi is relegated to the audience in the coin bonus round in this game.
While not without its pitfalls, Mario Clash proves to be an innovative departure for a Nintendo interpretation of Mario Bros... The modern iteration found in Super Mario Advance 1 and 2 may be very faithful to the original and include 4-player support, but Mario Clash is still a worthwhile romp through the 3rd dimension for our favorite plumber.
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