Super Mario Bros. Crossover
Super Mario Bros. Crossover is a massive dose of NES nostalgia. It answers the question every five year old in the late 80s had: what if I could play as Mega Man in Super Mario Bros.? Or as Samus, for that matter? Dropping half a dozen NES-era characters and their unique abilities into the familiar world of the original Super Mario Bros. game, Super Mario Bros. Crossover weaves familiar gaming icons into a new product, allowing you to play an old game in several very unique ways.
Playable characters in Crossover include Samus from Metroid, Simon Belmont from Castlevania, Link from The Legend of Zelda, Mega Man, Bill from Contra, and of course, Mario himself, each in his or her original 8-bit form. Each character's abilities are mostly intact, so Mega Man can still slide and fire his arm cannon, Simon still has his whip, and Samus can still roll into a ball and set bombs. How cool is that?
Although their abilities are different, each character is still subject to the rules of the Mario universe. Turtles are bad and must be destroyed. Mushrooms and flowers are good and should be collected. Powering-up is different for each character but appropriate to his or her original game. Samus, for example, starts with her short-range beam, but grab a mushroom and she can fire across the screen. Each character's attacks also destroy bricks and activate "?" blocks, making short work of obstacles Mario has to tackle one square at a time.
Great care was taken with Super Mario Bros. Crossover to make sure each character's unique abilities fit into this goomba-infested world. Everybody can safely stomp baddies, but because of height and attack differences, not everyone can stand and fire at ground-based foes. Bill, for example, has to lay down to hit goombas, which adds a lot of flavor to the game.
Analysis: Fan games that build on established commercial releases are usually slapped together with terrible controls and little more than a few strings of code to make the game run. Super Mario Bros. Crossover is quite the opposite, gathering a number of characters with unique abilities and adapting them perfectly to Mario's platforming universe. A lot of attention was put on making things fit together, and that shows every time you power-up with a mushroom as Simon Belmont.
Unique character abilities is at once the game's biggest strength and its chief drawback. While it's beyond awesome to stab Mario's enemies with Link's sword, not all of these gaming icons are cut out for the Mushroom Kingdom. Simon is one of the worst, as his jump (just like in the original Castlevania game) is a set height and arc, making it impossible to adjust yourself in mid-air. It ends up being more of a gameplay challenge than a design flaw, though, and as I stated above, a lot of time was spent balancing and fitting these characters into a new universe.
Then there's the whole issue of copyright infringement. Super Mario Bros. Crossover uses ripped sprites and music from six games released by major development studios. It certainly doesn't lend any credibility to this game, and Nintendo, Capcom, and Konami would be within their rights to have it removed. The spirit of Crossover is definitely appreciated, regardless of what any lawyer might say, and it plays on that good ole feeling of nostalgia. We know how to play Mega Man. We know how to play Super Mario Bros. Now let's throw them together and have fun!
Super Mario Bros. Crossover doesn't do many new things, but the ambitious mixing of classic gaming heroes into one of the most recognizable game environments produces extraordinary results. It's well-made, well-tuned, and grin-inducingly fun to play.