The Anatomy of Super Mario VII: A shocking turn of events

Donkey Kong Jr.‘s repetition of its predecessor’s beats continues here. Where its second level resembles Donkey Kong‘s third stage, the third level here somewhat evokes Donkey Kong‘s second stage.


Which is to say, it’s the low point of the game.

The problem with this screen is similar to the one with the cement factory: It throws a lot of different things at the player all at once, while taking the main character out of his natural element. This electrical station removes Junior from the vines where he moves most gracefully, playing instead more like a scenario that should star Mario. It’s all about moving left to right, right to left, jumping over obstacles all the while. The hazards even resemble the barrels from the first stage of Donkey Kong in terms of their movement: Yellow sparks circle the filaments, while blue sparks descend on those dotted lines that appear to be… well, I’m not really sure what they are. They kind of look like sprinkles of water, but they don’t move, and in any case it doesn’t make sense for electrodes to drip water. It’s an odd failure of visual design.

The rules of this stage are pretty easy to grasp. Horizontal platforming is more intuitive than vine-climbing, after all. But Junior doesn’t manage flat stretches of ground as well as he does clusters of vines, and the hazards come fast and furious. The different colors of sparks move at different speeds, and the blue ones can be slightly unpredictable. By the time you’re on the third level up, Junior is dealing with a huge number of moving obstacles — enough to make that one egg-drop bit of stage two seem like a breeze. Success here is contingent on Junior navigating two-speed threats on a tricky surface.


Beyond that, there’s really nothing much to this stage. It’s easily the most straightforward level so far in the game, with each level presenting small variations on the central design challenge. The difficulty comes in the way it doesn’t play to Donkey Kong Jr.‘s strengths; Nintendo created a game in which optimal play happens suspended above the ground, then plopped a stage about dashing across the ground in the middle. There’s certainly nothing wrong with mixing things up, but as in stage two the problem comes from the fact that the basic platforming mechanics in Donkey Kong Jr. simply aren’t very good.

But, on the plus side, the game at least ends strong.

2 thoughts on “The Anatomy of Super Mario VII: A shocking turn of events

  1. I feel Stage 3 is the weakest stage in the game. You go from the creative designs of the first two stages right into a stage which is more or less just walking in straight lines and jumping over sparks. I appreciate variety in level design, but this one is just kind of boring because it highlights the weaknesses of Jr’s gameplay instead of playing to its strengths.

  2. You raise an interesting idea. What if this stage instead had the sparks chasing Junior around a grid of climbable poles? Give Junior an enemy that’s as adept as he is at climbing, or at least as adept in the place where he climbs.

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