Love them or hate them, Nintendo’s franchise characters are the most recognizable household names in the business. Since the classic days of the NES and those old classic 25-cent Donkey Kong arcade machines to the newest “high tech” Nintendo Wii gaming console of today, Mario and company have endured countless adventures. Many of us grew up on the fantastic new adventures of Mario and company. However, a sad thing in Mario games happened around the time of N64. The Nintendo executives, while having sushi one lunchtime, were forcefully kidnapped and replaced by Mario rehash obsessed Monkeys. And as we all know, they happily spewed out rehashed Mario titles and spin off games such as Mario Party, and at other times, complete remakes of the classic old school 2-D Mario games, on numerous systems. Sure these titles sold well, but they were not new or “true” Mario platform titles.
Then suddenly, an all-new 2-D platform game that brought back the two icons that started it all was created on the Game Boy Advanced. Donkey Kong battle’s it out once again with Mario, this time on the GBA. With Nintendo littering their handheld machines at the time with remake after remake of classic 2-D games, it came as a very pleasant experience to get my hands on this all-new 2-D adventure back in the day. But, a question did arises for me at the time. After focusing on Mario spinoff titles and remakes, did Nintendo still have what it took to make a great 2-D platform game?
You wont be disappointed with the production quality in this game. The graphics in Mario Vs Donkey Kong are some of the GBA best 2D and the cut scenes in the game were very nicely done considering the systems lack of processing power. Nintendo did a very good job at updating Mario’s 2-D look to be much like his look in Super Mario Sunshine. Also, the backgrounds are very nice looking. This game now ties with the impressive Metroid Fusion as best looking Game Boy Player game I have seen on the TV screen. Yes, thats right, I am the prowd owner of the Game Boy Player, and I do enjoy occasionally hooking it up and playing GBA games on my big screen TV. While it looks great on my TV, it’s really meant for the small screen on the GBA, of course, and there it looks even more impressive, as it was intende to be. Screen shots of this game just don’t do the in game graphics justice, to be honest.
There is very nice music in the game and sound quality was very, very high for its time, heck it still sounds good today. However, the “old school” arcade sound effects from the original Donkey Kong arcade game are also included in this title , they feel somewhat out of place with the rest of the more updated music and sounds. It seemed to be that Nintendo wanted to add nostalgia to the game, bringing it back to its roots with the included old school arcade sound effects, and it works out very well, giving me a smile on my face as I hear them and remember the past. Honestly, the old school sound bites are almost a little out of place here, but it works. Overall the production quality of Mario VS DonkeyKong is high.
As usual , Nintendo delivers in its fun gameplay that it is famous for. The game play itself is like a hybrid of several classic 2-D Nintendo games. They seemed to draw heavily upon Super Mario Bros 2, Donkey Kong and Donkey Kong JR. for inspiration. The result is an all-round fun gaming experience on the GBA. And although Mario has triumphantly returned to the realm of two dimensions in this title, he is still capable of performing most of his newer moves from his more recent 3-D outings of the time such as Mario 64. These newer moves work great in 2-D and he controls perfectly on the GBA. I was impressed that Nintendo could pull off those Mario 64 moves so easily in 2D and with different controls using the GBA. The games levels never play dramatically different from one another, however there are four distinct types. First, Mario must find a key, bring it with him to open a door to the next level, some what like he did in Super Mario bros 2. Second, he must locate and rescue his stolen toys. Third he must figure out how to lead all his collected toys, which blindly follow him “lemming style” to the safety of a toy box. This is harder than it first appears, as they don’t follow up ladders or vines with Mario. And finally at the end of every world, DK and Mario face off in a boss like level.
While the boss levels are fun, it’s more than a little disappointing to discover that DK only sees action in the Boss stages. Correct me if I am wrong here, but the title on the box does suggest that Mario and Donkey Kong would be squaring off against each other a lot, does it not? The name of the game is “Mario VS Donkey Kong” yet there is, surprisingly, not much of them actually fighting each other when you compare all the rest of the levels in the game. One boss level at the end of each world is not enough DK VS Mario action, in my opinion. Especially when each boss level is basically structured the same as the last one was before it. This brings me to another thing about this game I was a bit dissapointed with, you can’t control Donkey Kong. This game would have been great if you could choose sides and fight it out, but you don’t have that option, you play as Mario for the entirety of the game. I realize that this is fine for most Nintendo gamers, but I really love the big Ape and he neede some more attention in my opinion. Luckily, the game is still very fun to play and Mario controls absolutely perfectly as I have said before, but it still would have been nice to be able to switch characters and choose sides.
This game has many, many levels all packed with puzzles. One problem is that the first few levels are a complete joke, unless you’re under the age of say 8. If you are a veteran of 2-D Mario games you might become annoyed at how easy the first few levels really are. Fortunately as the game progresses, the puzzles and enemies become more fun and more challenging and the game gets really, really good. But for me it was almost tedious going through the very easy levels before sinking my teeth into the really good stuff that was ahead. Obviously the game is made for all ages. Only those of a very young age, however, will love the first couple levels.
Over all I enjoyed re-playing Mario VS Donkey Kong on my GBA-sp and also on my Game Boy Player . Even though the beginning may be a little easy, there are tones of levels and puzzles in this game to challenge any fan later on. It’s a shame that Donkey Kong is not actually showcased as much in the game as he should be, especially considering the bloddy TITLE of this game. Although very good, this game is not quite up to par with some of the classic 2-D platform games of Nintendo’s famous past. However, the game was proof to all the doubters that Nintendo still had what it took to make a very good 2-D Mario game. Now, in more current times ,Nintendo DS owners including myself have had the opportunity to enjoy other new 2D mario titles including “new mario bros” , but for its time it was the first real 2D mario game in a while and was a sign of great things to come. Althought not the best 2D Nintendo game ever made, pick this title up without question if you can find it used somewhere.
PatMan gives Mario Vs Donkey Kong on the Game Boy Advance 8.0 / 10
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