Super Mario Advance 4 Updated Impressions

We glean some more info about the upcoming GBA port of Super Mario Bros. 3.

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Nintendo had a playable version of Super Mario Advance 4, the Game Boy Advance port of Super Mario Bros. 3, on display at a recent press event, and we got to play a bit of the legendary platformer on the small screen. More importantly, we also got some information on the new features being included that will enhance the game for people who've played it to death in its original NES incarnation and in the SNES Mario compilation, Super Mario All-Stars.

The core of Super Mario Advance 4 really hasn't changed at all since we last saw the game at E3 a couple of months ago. It's a faithful translation of Super Mario Bros. 3, one of the best-selling games of all time and the Mario game that's widely thought to be the pinnacle of the series. Super Mario Advance 4 uses the graphics and sounds of the Super NES version of Mario 3 (with a few tweaks here and there), but it plays identically to the classic that so many gamers will remember fondly. The build of the game on display at Nintendo's event was still in Japanese, but of course it will be fully translated before it hits American shelves in September. We did observe that the menu for selecting items between levels has been slightly improved. We can confirm that the 99 lives trick in level 1-2 does indeed work as expected, and the game's thwomps are as annoying as ever. In short, this is Super Mario Bros. 3 exactly as you remember it.

There's been some confusion since Super Mario Advance 4's announcement about what exactly this version of SMB3 would contain. Nintendo has previously released screenshots showing Mario using the cape from Super Mario World and hoisting vegetables over his head, à la Super Mario Bros. 2. This led to some speculation that the company was heavily modifying the trademark gameplay that made Super Mario Bros. 3 unique, a notion that many classic gaming purists found extremely displeasing. We're happy to report that these new additions to the game are in fact part of Super Mario Advance 4's e-Reader support and not modifications to the original game. This should come as a relief to players who were afraid of having unwelcome alterations to their beloved SMB3 foisted upon them. We got to see a partial list of the e-Cards that will be available for the game, and it seems Nintendo is planning to add a substantial amount of content via the e-Reader. Some cards will simply add power-ups to your current game--for instance, an unlimited-use leaf card would let you add the leaf item, which lets you become Raccoon Mario, to your inventory as often as you like. Other cards will open secret levels in which Mario gains abilities not found in the core game (such as flying with the cape). Some other cards will actually show you prerecorded demos of interesting things in the game, such as an example of how to pull off the aforementioned 99-life trick in level 1-2. Nintendo hasn't yet decided how these cards will be distributed--they could be packaged with other games, sold separately, or included with magazines. However they make their way to players' hands, Super Mario Advance 4's e-Cards should extend the replay value of the game considerably.

Given Super Mario Bros. 3's immense popularity and the number of enhancements being made to the game, Super Mario Advance 4 could well prove to be the best Mario game on the GBA yet. We'll bring you more info on the English version as its September release date approaches.

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