Mario Bros. Special comes across as a strange blend of the original arcade Mario Bros. and other Nintendo games like Donkey Kong. It features only 4 levels, but Hudson went all out to make this title unique and exciting.
Interestingly, it was released around the same time as Punch Ball Mario Bros., but is vastly superior in terms of enjoyment, which makes me curious as to why Hudson felt the need to develop two contrasting versions. The existence of these titles implies an atmosphere of experimentation during development. Regardless, it’s a fantastic oddity of such high quality, and ridiculously good fun, that it should have been re-released.
The first level is a series of four screen-spanning platforms, containing gap(s) that are in constant movement. The aim is to reach the top by timing your jump to pass through the gap and land on the floor above. Once at the top there are 5 switches which need to be activated to reveal the level exit – but the switches are timed, so if you don’t hurry they’ll revert back to their original position and close the exit. It’s a tricky level, but extremely enjoyable in a NES-era sort of way.
Level two sees the platforms replaced with 10 trampolines, and two turtle enemies appearing from the pipes above. Bouncing on a trampoline while a turtle is standing on it will flip him over, allowing you to defeat him. Once both are taken out the level exit appears.
Level three is the most complex of the four levels, featuring four conveyor belts, a central elevator platform, multiple enemies, and later another moving platform which must be used to grab a diamond ring and finish the level.
The final level is a variation of Mario Bros.‘ collect all the coins bonus stages, except the coins have been replaced with dollar signs. All need to be collected, along with a final ring, for any bonus points to be awarded. Failure to get the ring results in nothing.
It’s worth noting that the FM-7 version, when emulated, will cause Mario to run constantly once you’ve pressed a keyboard button, and he only stops when you press down or leap to another platform. Presumably this was implemented by Hudson due to problems with latency in the FM-7 keyboard, since the PC-88 version doesn’t have this problem, but it makes playing the FM-7 version frustrating. On the PC-88 though, you’ll need to manually reduce the emulator speed since by default it runs a little too fast.
Fan page detailing Mario Bros. Special, and several other Nintendo ports to the PC-88.