The late eighties brought the peak of shameless video game promotional tie-ins. Candy, cereal, and toys decorated with game characters were pervasive in TV ads and within store aisles. The craze reached its apotheosis with the theatrical release of The Wizard, a glorified ninety-minute infomercial for the Super Mario Bros. 3 game, available only on the Nintendo Entertainment System (remember when 8-bits was the latest technology?). While "The Wonder Years'" Fred Savage was inundating the kids in cinemas, Nintendo was flanking them from the other side: Saturday morning TV. Enter The Adventures of Super Mario Bros. 3, a cartoon series set in the world of the eponymous game.
The basic storyline is not much different from the video game, which is to say, there isn't much of one. Mario, an offensive Italian stereotype, and his brother Luigi, a slightly less offensive Italian stereotype, traverse through one of the eight worlds of the Mushroom Kingdom while being the object of one of King Koopa's villainous schemes. Princess Toadstool, the only apparent female in the Mushroom Kingdom, is occasionally kidnapped, and it's up to the brothers to rescue her. There are also eight Koopa Kids, miniature versions of King Koopa with eight distinct personalities. Just who birthed the Koopa Kids is one of the show's many unanswered questions. Oh yeah, and Toad, a phallic gnome-like creature, is always around to be very, very annoying.
If this sounds pointless, that's because it is. A cartoon and a video game are two very different things. If you're the one controlling that little guy on screen, it's actually pretty entertaining to watch him eat mushrooms and jump on turtles. When you take out the participation element of the game player, it quickly becomes tiresome. Each episode is about eleven minutes, and even that becomes tiresome.
"The Adventures of Super Mario Bros. 3" appeals on the basis of nostalgia alone. The box art, for example, cleverly mimics the video game's original packaging (if you can even remember it). The show uses the same sound effects found in the game, and some of the stories are very reminiscent of specific levels. And all the power-ups are there: mushroom, flower, leaf, etc. Fans of the game can entertain themselves by playing "name the power-up" or "name the foe." This can even become a drinking game. I certainly would enjoy the show a lot more if I took a shot every time Mario got fire power. But frankly, if you have to resort to this, what redeeming value does the show have?
What's more, Shout! Factory has removed some of the series' original music for legal reasons. The episode "Kootie Pie Rocks" originally featured an appearance and songs by Milli Vanilli. I'm not joking. What Milli Vanilla has to do with Mario, I don't know; I guess the producers were getting bored with a cartoon that basically functioned as an advertisement for a video game, and wanted instead to make a cartoon that basically functioned as an advertisement for a couple of hack "musicians." Unfortunately, nearly all references to the group have been edited out, as well as their two songs, "Blame It on the Rain" and "Girl You Know It's True" (remember those chestnuts?). What could have been a hilariously corntastic episode has become as boring as every other.
Contains the following episodes:
Sneaky Lying Cheating Giant Ninja Koopas: King Koopa kidnaps the Princess and makes his kids grow into huge sizes. This episode reminded me of Power Rangers.
Reptiles in the Rose Garden: King Koopa warps the president into Mushroom Kingdom. This somehow involves Kootie Pie's (one of the Koopa Kids) birthday.
Reign Storm: Toad and the Princess take a vacation to Hawaii. (I wonder what they're doing all alone.) Mario and Luigi are left to run the kingdom.
Toddler Terrors of Time Travel: King Koopa builds a time machine and travels back in time to prevent Mario and Luigi from ever coming to the Mushroom Kingdom. The time machine turns them all into babies. A poignant commentary on the aging process follows.
Mind Your Mummy, Mario: In Desert Land, a mummy mistakenly thinks Mario is her long lost son. The mummy's coffin is stolen by King Koopa.
The Beauty of Kootie: In this satirical send-up of the Gulf War, Kootie Pie and her sister plot to steal oil from the king of Desert Land. Mario and Luigi stop them. (Sorry if I ruined the surprise ending.)
A Toadally Magical Adventure: Toad is fooling around with a magic wand. He causes some kind of spell that makes the Koopas leaders of the West.
Misadventures in Babysitting: Mario and Luigi jump in a warp pipe and end up in Brooklyn. Some couple asks them to babysit their baby, who sneaks away to the Mushroom Kingdom and causes trouble.
Oh, Brother!: Mario and Luigi get into an argument and Luigi storms off. Then Mario gets kidnapped and it's up to Luigi to rescue him. A poignant commentary on the nature of brotherhood follows.
Misadventure of Mighty Plumber: Some superhero named the Mighty Plumber shows up to distract the Mario brothers. Meanwhile, King Koopa attempts to rob Pipe land. (I know what you're thinking; not that kind of pipe! This is a kid's show.)
Princess Toadstool For President: The prescient storyline predates Hilary's campaign. Toadstool runs for president, but King Koopa runs against her. Who's the Republican? Probably Koopa.
Never Koop A Koopa: King Koopa and the kids leave the Mushroom Kingdom. Or did they?
Dadzilla: Kootie Pie and one of the other Koopa Kids build a giant robot.
Tag Team Trouble: Toad enters Mario and Luigi into a tag team wrestling match. King Koopa enters the Hammer Brothers.
Do the Koopa: The Princess puts a spell on the Koopas that makes them dance non-stop. But then they get revenge.
Kootie Pie Rocks: This was the episode with Milli Vanilli. Only Milli Vanilli aren't in it anymore.
Crimes ‘R' Us: Koopa breaks his friend Clyde out of prison. Clyde tries to teach the Koopa Kids how to be a criminal, but Mario and Luigi keep thwarting him.
Life's Ruff: Two of the Koopa Kids steal a magic wand and use it to turn Mario and Luigi into dogs.
Up, Up And A Koopa: Mario and Luigi are captured by King Koopa, so it's up to Princess and Toad to rescue them from Koopa's airship.
7 Continents for 7 Koopas: The Koopa Kids take over the seven continents. Mario and Luigi thwart them.
Mush-Rumors: A family from the "real world" happen into the Mushroom Kingdom. For some reason, everyone thinks they're aliens.
The Ugly Mermaid: Mario goes to Underwater World and the sea princess there falls in love with him.
True Colors: In this trippy episode, the Koopa Kids divide the people of the Mushroom Kingdom into different colors. I have no idea why. A brilliant allegory about the nature of race relations.
Recycled Koopa: The Koopa Kids dump their garbage in the Mushroom Kingdom.
The Venice Menace: The Koopa kids take over Venice, Italy. Only Mario and Luigi can stop them.
Super Koopa: Koopa wears a magical pendant that gives him the same powers as the Mario brothers. If you're still watching by this point, God have mercy on your soul, you poor, poor bastard.
It does not appear that Shout! Factory remastered the series. Expect broadcast quality. For the most part, the picture is clear and the colors are relatively bright.
Sound is adequate, nothing special. I like the sound effects from the original game.
The third disc contains the "interactive digital Writer Bible." This is pretty much just a bunch of clips from the show. Totally worthless.
Maybe you want to watch this because you loved it as a kid. Fine, go ahead, but don't say I didn't warn you. If you're feeling nostalgic, why not dust off the old NES instead of watching poorly remastered cartoons that are definitely not as good as you thought they were when you were a kid?