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With the bulk of its first-party muscle now almost certainly flexing preparations for a next-gen console launch, Nintendo has filled Switch’s final months as its sole platform with a plethora of remakes and remasters. And for fans, that’s pretty great.
Last year’s Metroid Prime Remastered and Super Mario RPG were brilliant recreations of two classic games, and later this year, Paper Mario: The Thousand-Year Door and Luigi’s Mansion: Dark Moon will likely deliver further opportunities to revisit beloved games of the past with vastly improved presentation.
One game we weren’t expecting to be pulled out of the library for spit ‘n’ polish is Mario vs. Donkey Kong, a rather niche – by Nintendo’s standards – puzzle platformer released for the Game Boy Advance 20 years ago.
Created by Nintendo’s American arm, NST, Mario vs. DK is somewhat of a spiritual successor to the arcade Donkey Kong game (and its subsequent Game Boy follow-up), with players navigating a series of small platforming levels, pressing switches and collecting keys, with the objective of reaching a locked door and collecting a ‘Mini Mario’ robot.
Eventually, you’ll be able to use all your collected Mini Marios for a Lemmings-style challenge where you’re tasked with guiding them to a goal. This is then followed by a unique boss face-off with DK himself.
The GBA original received generally favourable reviews back in 2004, with critics praising its arcade style and ideal portable play. However, it did come in for criticism for being a bit easy at the time, as well as having a slightly jarring presentation, which didn’t feel entirely cohesive with the rest of the franchise.
So far Nintendo’s approach to remakes – or rather, the various external studios it’s contracted to make these games – has been to stick faithfully to the designs of the original games, even so far as keeping their more dated sections, such as Mario RPG’s mini-games and Metroid Prime’s much-maligned fetch quest.
That’s OK for home console games regarded as absolute classics of their genre, but given those criticisms 20 years ago, Mario vs. DK feels like it could do with more modernising than the rest.
While the presentation still doesn’t feel quite right in the remake – it’s like an external team using brand guidelines to come up with ‘something Mario’ – there are some significant additions here.
Thankfully, while most of its early levels are virtually identical to the original, the game’s fourth world is entirely new to the Switch version – the first of two new worlds in the remake – and it does introduce some original mechanics. The remake also introduces a co-op mode and a casual difficulty, which adds checkpoints, though we can’t imagine many older players will need it to be any easier.
Hopefully, that’s enough to make Mario vs. DK worth revisiting in 2004, because we’re more than happy for Nintendo’s Greatest Hits run to continue.