Platformers DS: Doubleganger Siblings
Saturday, September 20, 2008 at 9:50AM
Richard Terrell (KirbyKid) in Genre, Platformer, Review, Super Mario Bros.

When the DS first launched, Nintendo decided to port Super Mario 64 over to the handheld. This game is mostly the same except for a few mini games, a multiplayer mode, and some new playable characters. Over all, the port was a good one with the biggest downside being the adapted controls. It's difficult to configure analog controls with digital buttons.

In the next few years Nintendo released 3 "doubleganger siblings" or 3 platformers that have strong roots in the design of previous Nintendo Masterpieces. For these games the DS touch screen is mostly used for navigating menus and displaying large buttons. New Super Mario Brothers, Yoshi's Island DS, and Super Princess Peach are the doubleganger siblings that all fall short of their predecessor.

New Super Mario Brothers (NSMB) takes after Super Mario Brothers for the NES. Yoshi's Island DS (YIDS) is analogous to Super Mario World: Yoshi's Island for the SNES. And Super Princess Peach (SPP) is modeled after both of theses games. Understanding exactly how these games work compared to the console counterparts is more compliated than it seems. Handhelds are different devices than consoles and requires different design techniques and approaches. The reducsed screen size and aspect ratio is always an issue. Many were quick to judge some of these games as not having innovated, but there are sublte ways to innovate on a theme. Uncovering the structures for these games requires that we look at their structures starting with the core and moving outward.

 


NSMB starts off with the core of Super Mario Brothers: JUMP, DUCK, MOVE, RUN. Then additional abilities were added: WALL KICK, TRIPLE JUMP, GROUND POUND giving Mario then ability to platform/climb vertically in all new ways as well as destruct the level beneath him. From these expanded core abilities, the levels in NSMB were free to be designed in any direction. Consequently the developers felt free to take bits and pieces of level design from SMB, SMB3, and SMW. The flat level layouts belong to SMB. Some of the bosses and left & right scrolling levels hearken back to SMB3. The world map, chain fences, bosses, and ghost houses can be traced back to SMW.

 

After drawing from these 3 excellent games, you would think that NSMB would be the most "Mario" Mario game. When I first played it, I enjoyed the game but wasn't very impressed. Now, after studying SMB, SMB3, and SMW more closely, I can appreciate the blend that is NSMB more.

PROS

CONS

 


Yoshi's Island DS began with the Yoshi's Island core. MOVE, DUCK, JUMP, FLUTTER, MAKE EGGS, THROW EGGS, GROUND POUND, TONGUE, SPIT, rolling rocks, Piranha flowers, shy guys, flowers, and red coins. For the DS sequel, the developers looked at the character abilities, and decided to add character abilities via the babies riding on Yoshi's back. With the help of these infantile friends the player can now RUN, PARASOL GLIDE, SPIT FIRE BALL, CLIMB ON VINES, and MAGNET objects not to mention collect special character coins. More is better right? With such a solid core how can this game go wrong? It's all in the execution. You can't have a best core design with the worst level design. These two elements of a game depend on each other.

 

PROS

CONS

 


Super Princess Peach starts with core mechanics from NSMB and YIDS (MOVE/RUN, JUMP, DUCK, WALK, POUNDBRELLA) with some of the more unique mechanics being functionally analogous (TONGUE = PICK UP, MAKE EGGS = EAT, FLUTTER = FLOATBRELLA). The enemies and level elements are also very similar: Goomba, Paratroopers, Pirahna Flowers, warp pipes, springs, and informative-talking help blocks. SPP even encourages players to collect toads scattered throughout each level like the flowers from Yoshi's Island.

 

PROS

CONS

 

Article originally appeared on Critical-Gaming Network (http://critical-gaming.com/).
See website for complete article licensing information.