Relax, you didn't miss a Mario game somewhere along the line. At some point in the past a group of video game programming pirates patched together a "sequel" to Super Mario Land 2: Six Golden Coins using graphics from the game and the level layout from Kureyon Shin Chan (Crayon Shin Chan, a Japanese release) and created a little Game Boy title called, simply, Super Mario 4. The copyright statement on the title screen claims this is an official Nintendo release, but don't be fooled. Of course, it's hard to be fooled by this game - it's so full of flaws and lacking Miyamoto magic that there's no way this could be a Nintendo-sanctioned product. However, it is one of the better pirate games I've seen and it actually does try to be original in some ways. This is, in fact, a hack of Crayon Shin Chan game with Mario characters sprinkled in for good measure.

The title screen has a picture of Mario from Super Mario 64 flying with the wing cap. The copyright says "1996, 1997 Nintendo" and the title is written in both English and Japanese. Pressing Start reveals a "Ready" screen with a passable picture of Mario, and then the game begins.

Here's how this game works: Mario begins each life as Super Mario. In this form he can throw minature mushrooms at enemies (which consist of Goombas and other baddies from SML2. If he takes a hit he becomes regular Mario. He can collect a feather and become Wing Cap Mario and fly by repeatedly tapping the A Button. It should be noted that the sprite for Wing Cap Mario is the same sprite for regular Mario but with little wings drawn on his cap. Mario can, as always, stomp his enemies to defeat them. The classic Stars are included in the game, but instead of providing their usual invincibility they simply allow Mario to take one extra hit. Coins are scattered about the levels, and collecting enough of them earns a 1-up. Exactly how many I cannot say, as the number required was never the same twice. Programming error or challenging feature? You decide. The game also features new music (as in, it wasn't stolen from a past Mario game), but I doubt if the song is an original composition. The same repetitive tune plays throughout the game.

The gameplay and level structure are unrefined and obviously untested as there are several spots in the first two levels (there's a place in level 2 that I could not pass because Mario could not fit through the passageway) that are frustratingly difficult. Control is loose and unresponsive and Mario does not always land where you think he will. Some platforms are too high for Mario to jump to, meaning that portions of the levels are unplayable.

As I said, I could not progress past level 2 but somehow I don't think I'm missing very much and chances are most players gave up on the game somewhere during Level 1. Frankly, this is not a fun game to play and is more unfair than any other Nintendo game I've played in recent memory. It's worth a try if you want to see an example of a pirate game, but it's not a game to play to win. Chances are this game is available as a cartridge in some shady overseas bazaar, but it's easier to track it down on the Internet as a ROM. Don't say I didn't warn you.


References:
Playing the game far more than I should have bothered
yerricide told me about the Kureyon Shin Chan connection.

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