Saturday 19 January 2013

Super Mario World 64

Remember when I used to talk about unlicensed games? Good times... or not.

Anyway it's time to relive the horrors, with the demented holy grail of Sega Mega Drive tat, Super Mario World 64. First spotted back in 2008, this abysmal piece of garbage has finally succumbed to preservation efforts after almost five years of struggles. It's a good day for the world, and by extension, that means it's a bad day too.

Super Mario World 64, a failed attempt at bringing SNES smash hit Super Mario World to its once most major adversary, the Sega Mega Drive, turned up on YouTube half a decade ago to the sound of mass hysteria and disgust. Created by an unknown developer at an undisclosed point in time, its existence ruffled the feathers of old Sega and Nintendo fans alike, prompting a far reaching search for copies to dump and mysteries to solve.

And though it may have taken years to achieve, a preserved ROM image now lives among us, though not, I should add, without putting up a fight - the game refused to respond to traditional dumping techniques and now owes its safety to a crack team of Mega Drive specialists (including fellow Sonic/Sega Retro-ite Andlabs). Their efforts failed to make the game any more entertaining, but kudos chaps - we admire your persistence. Copy protection on an unlicensed Mario clone - I'm sure it made sense to someone.

Not surprisingly, as a game, Super Mario World 64 is pretty horrible, being paired with poor controls, dodgy music (lifted from the likes of TaleSpin and Jeopardy!) and a wide variety of strange design choices to limit any sense of fun. Hilariously the graphics take no noticeable hit at all when brought to Sega's system, but otherwise, as was widely predicted, Super Mario World 64 should be avoided by normal people at all costs.

The combination of dodgy physics, broken checkpoints and important omissions such as platforms mean that although most of the levels are structurally identical to their SNES counterparts, playing through the game is neigh-on impossible without savestates. The differing music sometimes works rather well, but any novelty the game has quickly wears off thanks to its slow pace and awkward running mechanics.

But if there are positives to take away from this, we can at least say that Super Mario World 64 tries. As with many games of this nature, it's the controls and physics which make it unplayable - were it to be patched up, you might be left with a flawed, but fairly respectable platform game (and as you can see, for once graphics are not an issue). It's a better game than most - far superior to travesties like Super Donkey Kong 99 or Mortal Combat 5, but a great deal worse than the Nintendo classic it stems from. However, it's also bettered by the unlicensed Super Mario World on the NES, so if you hated the physics in that, you'll loathe the physics in this.

With about eighteen levels Super Mario World 64 is a reasonably beefy adventure, but the way in which the gameplay is delivered means it will never stand as a fun one. In some respects it's a completely disinteresting release - the videos we had already painted a pretty detailed picture of the experience, and witnessing the game first hand doesn't stand for much. Don't go expecting hidden Yoshi powerups or the ability to play as Luigi - it's as bare-bones as clones could possibly get and is worthless to the masses.

Nevertheless the dumping and subsequent patching of Super Mario World 64 on the Sega Mega Drive is an important milestone, not least because it stands as one of the few remaining unlicensed video games I planned to cover on this blog (which means I'm one step closer to not having to touch on this horrible subject again). It also puts to rest the worldwide operation to preserve this thing - dozens of groups had been met with failure over the last few years, and the costs were no-doubt rising.

So big-ups to Pirated Games Central Forums and derivatives for not only bothering to continue with this tedious quest, but for occasionally lending me some traffic. Now if only they would find some proper hosting and embrace MediaWiki....

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