Mario Clash was released for the Nintendo Virtual Boy in September of 1995. This game is a remake of the arcade game Mario Bros and was originally supposed to be a mini-game in the never released Mario Land.
Story – 2/10
The Clash Tower has been invaded and Mario must stop the bad guys. That’s it. Even though this is an action game, they could have put a little effort into the plot. You get a paragraph in the instruction booklet and a short cinema in the beginning and that’s it. There is also supposed to be another cinema when you beat the game, but I haven’t come close to doing this yet.
Gameplay – 5/10
Gameplay is similar to that of the original Mario Bros. Each of the games 99 levels consists of a single room with various baddies running around that you need to knock off. The difference here is that instead of one level, there are two, a background and a foreground. You travel between the two by using pipes. You attack the enemies with Koopa shells which can be thrown to the left or right or even across from one level to the next. Besides the Koopas, there are eight other enemies and two active obstacles (Fire and Ice). Most enemies must be hit in their side (ie hit with a shell from the opposite level) to stun them, then again to knock them off. The game gets progressively harder as you go and is generally fast-paced. At the end of some stages you get to play a bonus game. In this game you try to catch coins for points. If you catch all of the coins, you are rewarded with a 1-UP. The major problem with this game is the lack of variety, the levels look the same and most of the enemies have to be defeated the same way. The game is also way too long. You have the option of choosing from levels 1-40 to start on, but after that you have to work your way through the other 59 with only three lives. This can be unbelievably frustrating.
Play Control 5/10
Controlling Mario is a real chore. Moving around in general is tough and his jumps are very difficult to control. Mario has too much inertia and takes a second to stop after moving. The designers decided to add insult to injury by making some levels covered in ice where you slip and slide all over the place. The controls do have some bright spots. You use the left control pad to move around and the left one to throw which does make attacking a bit easier. I don’t know if it is due to the 3D or what, but lining up your shots with enemies on the opposite level. In some levels the floors are partitioned into blocks that help with aiming, but in others you are on your own. All in all, the controls really needed more work before the game was released.
Graphics – 8/10
The graphics aren’t too bad. This game has some pretty good 3D effects. The opening cinema looks great. The animation right before a bonus games shows coins bouncing at you which looks great. Once when I was playing, I threw a shell from the top of the background towards the foreground. I missed the enemy and the shell kept going. I actually ducked because it looked like the shell was going to fly right out of the Virtual Boy! While the levels all look alike, they are nicely rendered. The characters are also nicely detailed. The only drawback is that the characters suffer from the cardboard cutout look that a lot of VB games have.
Sound – 4/10
This is where most Virtual Boy games suffer and Mario Clash is no exception. The sound effects and music are bland and forgettable. There are two exceptions though. The music on the title screen is really good and very catchy. When the screen before the bonus games has the coins bouncing towards you, they sound like real change falling.
Playing Time/Replay Value – 5/10
One major complaint about Virtual Boy games is that they are too short and too easy. Mario Clash is the exception to the rule. Mario Clash is the longest game made for the Virtual Boy and is VERY challenging. The lack of variety is a big problem and most people will soon lose interest with this game. The highest level you can start at is 40 and there is no way to save your progress. The game doesn’t save your high scores either.
Buy, Borrow, or Avoid? – Borrow
Borrow this one if you can. This game isn’t for everyone and you should give it a try before spending money on it. I wouldn’t spend more than $10 for a copy of this game.
Overall Score – 5/10
This game was originally supposed to just be a mini-game in Mario Land, a Virtual Boy game that was never released. Nintendo decided to flesh it out to 99 levels and make Mario Clash its own game. I think that this would have been a great mini-game, but is a poor stand alone title. Then again, if it had remained a mini-game it never would have seen the light of day (some argue that this would be a good thing). The best analogy is Saturday Night Live sketches, they are fine for 10 minutes, but when you stretch them out to a 80 minute movie, they get stale very quickly. If they could have added more variety and tightened the controls, this could have been a very fun game. It may seem like I am being over critical, but that is because Mario games are usually rank among Nintendo’s highest quality work and this one falls far short. If you are looking for something along the lines of Super Mario World, I would suggest giving Wario Land a try instead. Still, there is something about this game that makes me keep playing and trying to reach the top of the Clash Tower.