Let us start by addressing the elephant in the room. There are two games that hold this name. One is just a gloried expansion of the original with reused assets and harder difficulty layout that until the Super Mario All Stars collection on the SNES never made it out of Japan (and a good thing too).
Thankfully realizing that releasing that game would be a bad idea, instead Nintendo of America released a different Mario Brothers 2 (yes using Doki Doki Panic as a base) and with it created a surprisingly good game that though plays quite differently from the other Mario games, ended up creating many of the main stays in the franchise and thus having a much larger impact on Mario as a whole than what some people would consider the true Super Mario Brothers 2 (clearly not me though, lost levels should just be added extra to the first game nothing more).
The first big change from the norm comes the moment you start the game, rather than choosing ether Mario or Luigi you have a choice of 4 different characters, Mario, Luigi, Toad and Princess Toadstool (Peach).
Each one of these has different strengths: Mario is an all rounder, Luigi can jump higher, Peach can float and Toad can pick up items faster. Both Luigi and Peaches abilities actually enable you to access some short cuts skipping almost an entire level (though not as much as using warps to skip to later worlds which for this review I tried to avoid… but that one in world 5 was just so tempting and I was playing Luigi).
So you choose Luigi and you start off by falling from a door falling downwards (you could read the instruction booklet to find out why but who does that anymore), rather than dying like you would have in Super Mario Bros the screen scrolls down, you and you find your first enemy, you jump on it, and land on it as it walks along unharmed (yes this game is very different but that’s played to its strength). In this game you can’t kill enemies just by jumping on them but by throwing objects or other enemies at them, yes you can leap onto enemies pick them up and throw them, or pull up that precarious grass to reveal a vegetable or surprise goody for it.
The change in mechanics means levels get rather interesting at times, like pulling up bombs to throw at destroyable walls (this was new back then) or use enemies and their projectiles as platforms. At one point in world 4 you come to a long crossing of water, too long for even Luigi and Peach to cross, and a birdo that fires eggs. Now you could use those eggs to kill birdo like you normally do (also birdo incorrectly called ostro in the credits and ostro called birdo) or leap on that egg and ride it to the other side.
The game has 7 worlds and with the exception of the last one each has 3 levels, the first 2 both having you face off against a birdo at the end to get an orb to complete the level (I recall one in world 4 just being more a gauntlet though and not having a birdo) and the final one facing off against the world boss.
The Final world only has 2 levels though first being fairly normal then the second being a larger and harder level with multiple paths to the final boss Wart. After beating Wart by throwing vegetables in his open mouth (which he only opens to fire bubbles at you) you get treated to the most controversial and hated part of the game. After the character who completed the most levels is being praised by the little fairy people, it reveals the whole thing was a dream Mario was having. Yes after everything you went through, challenging and inventive levels, happy you didn’t play the NES original so you didn’t have to complete it in one run, it all turns out it was a dream.
Now you may be saying HA! that proves this wasn’t a true Mario game, it was all a dream. You would be wrong, did you know that not only was this the first appearance of shy guys, but also things like bomboms, Peaches floaty ability and pow blocks? In fact many of the things in this game went on to influence other Mario games, while all the lost levels gave us was… poison mushrooms, and they rarely ever appear anyway.
Ending aside this is a solid fun game and I consider far better than the original Mario Brothers, but for those that prefer the classic Mario game play fear not as next time I look at the king of video games classic appearances it will be the true evolution of the original’s formula with Super Mario Brothers 3. (yes I’m working my way through All Stars if you haven’t noticed)