Super Mario World
November 20, 1990
August 23, 1991 (US)
Published by Nintendo
Developed by Nintendo EAD
Released only 18 months after Super Mario Bros. 3 (It is subtitled Super Mario Bros. 4 in Japan), Super Mario World gained momentum from its predecessor to become the most quintessential game of the system selling 20 million copies worldwide.
Background and Development:
Super Mario World was developed by Nintendo EAD (Entertainment Analysis and Development) with Shigeru Miyamoto as producer and Takashi Tezuka as director. I'm sure you all know about Miyamoto, but Tezuka has been the game designer behind Devil World, Legend of Zelda, Mario Bros 1-3. As director, he was involved in Link to the Past, Link's Awakening, and Yoshi's Island. \
Riding on the dinosaur craze of the early 90's, T. Yoshisaurus Munchakoopas was introduced as Mario's trusty steed. Miyamoto wanted to introduce a dinosaur companion on the SMB3, but the hardware limitations of the system prevented this. Tezuka designed the raccoon tail and the frog suit as a replacement.
All of the koopa bosses are named after musicians like Iggy Pop and Trent Reznor. I find it interesting that these references made it into a game designed to be kid-friendly, when the musicians referenced have not-so kid friendly songs.
Koji Kondo, original composer for the Super Mario Bros series and The Legend of Zelda. Nearly all of the music is a variation upon the main theme except for Bowser's level, the credits, the title screen, and maps. It is a great theme, but it becomes a bit overbearing hearing the same variation for the entirety of the game.
I would say the differences are not that great. I haven't had a chance to play completely through the SFC version, but according to MarioWiki, there are quite a few changes. You can find them here. The most amusing difference is that Yoshi can eat dolphins in the Japanese version. What did those dolphins do to you Yoshi?
Everyone reading this has probably played Super Mario World, so I won't go to in depth into the gameplay. I will confess, this was my first playthrough of Super Mario World, so this review will be from my perspective as a new player. I had Super Mario World when I was about 6 years old, but I don't remember playing much of it, I may have found it too hard. Having the system in 1995 allowed me to choose Donkey Kong Country over Super Mario World. Had it been 1990, I may have had more nostalgia for Super Mario World. I did a 101-103 playthrough of the DKC games recently, so moving from that to the Mario series is quite challenging.
Unlike DKC, you can't rush through a level without playing it a few times. You have to respect the level design and strategize your platforming. I could not stop myself from rushing through levels like I did in DKC, but it was nearly impossible at times since many enemies had random attacks and Mario's jumps had to be very precise. The key to finishing each level is to utilize power ups and memorization. Of course, if you have the cape, speeding through a level is a piece of cake!
Mario can get the fire flower, cape, and yoshi as his power ups. I rarely used the fire flower, but I used the cape regularly. Sadly, it wasn't until I beat the game that I realized I can press "back" to keep flying.
Levels were frustrating, but I never felt anything was unfair. Full exploration of each level is expected of each player. Levels with red dots on the map always have secret exits which link to more levels, fortresses and the star world. In a way, Super Mario World had two storylines. Finishing each secret level leads to a Fortress where you will defeat Reznor, a group of triceratops. Each fortress has the same boss, but the end of the alternate route leads to Bowser's back door, where you fight Bowser again at a harder difficulty (I didn't think it was much different, it seemed faster though). Completing secret levels leads to the Star World, which is basically a warp zone for the main world. Star world leads you to four stages with multi-colored baby yoshis. Getting the purple yoshi makes levels so much easier since this yoshi can fly when he eats any koopa shell. Finishing all the Star stages leads to the Special World, where the most difficult levels are contained. I loved the Special World, especially the names of each stage: Gnarly, Tubuluar, Awesome, Groovy, etc. The Japanese names are equally as awesome; Way Cool is called "Mario's staff is just as surprised" in Japanese.
Overall, Super Mario World is an amazingly complex platformer, guiding players through secret areas and providing incredibly diverse levels. Having this as a pack-in game is like packing Skyrim with the Xbox360 or PS3. I imagine many Super Nintendo buyers were satisfied with just the game and didn't bother to buy other games for a time. Super Mario World cemented Nintendo's dedication to the console platformer. Super Mario World didn't play like an arcade game like its predecessors; it allowed a save feature to encourage the player to explore each level, much like you would in Metroid or Legend of Zelda. It was a difficult game to get accustomed to as a non-Mario player, many cheap deaths were had.