For a lot of people, the American version of Super Mario Bros. 2 was different from the original Super Mario Bros. in a number of ways. There were no Koopas to stomp on, no warp pipes to find, and Bowser was not the main antagonist. The reason for these and many other differences is that the game was actually the American version of a game called Yume Kojo: Doki Doki Panic, often shortened to just Doki Doki Panic. Released in 1987 in Japan, the game featured an entirely different cast of heroes as well as other features that would be altered, added, or deleted for Super Mario Bros. 2. Today, I will tell you more about what is essentially the original version of Super Mario Bros. 2, which has never been released outside of Japan.
One of the first differences between the two games is the story: while reading a storybook, two children are suddenly snatched by a hand that reaches out of the book. They are pulled inside, and become captives of Mamu the Frog, known as Wart in the American version. Four characters-actually mascots of Japan’s Yume Kojo festival-hop into the book and set off to rescue the children. These characters are Imajin, the brother, whose well-rounded abilities would belong to Mario; Mama, who possessed a high jump and would be replaced by Luigi; Papa, who had amazing strength that would be given to Toad; and Lina, the sister, who could float in the air for a short time, a skill that Princess Toadstool would utilize. The plot is not a strong one, but Nintendo games tend to focus more on game play than story at any rate.
There are a number of other features that would be changed for Super Mario Bros. 2. For one thing, the player could not select a character at the start of every level. Instead, he or she had to pick a specific character at the start of the game and play as him or her through all twenty stages. After finishing the game with that character, the game would not end. Rather, the player would then need to select another character and beat every stage with him or her. Only by playing as all four characters in every stage would the game be completed. The game’s save feature ensured that the player did not have to fully beat the game in one sitting. When it was changed to Super Mario Bros. 2, there was no save feature, and players only needed to run through every stage once, playing as whichever character(s) they wanted.
The game had many of its items change for the US version of the game. For example, magic lamps that transport you to Subspace became magic potions. Masks which could be thrown at enemies became mushroom blocks. A mask that would transport you to the next stage was changed into the face of a hawk. Other changes were more subtle, but still noticeable. Some items and enemies had either no animation or limited animation, which was rectified for the American version. The slot machine mini game was played on a rather dull-looking green screen instead of the title screen like in Super Mario Bros. 2. Numerous sound effects and a couple of tunes would also be changed for the American version, often to sound more Mario-like.
When Doki Doki Panic was changed to Super Mario Bros. 2, Nintendo actually added other things to the game, some of which were not directly related to Mario. Originally, you would face the bomb-throwing Mouser three times. His third appearance in the fifth world was omitted and replaced by Clawgrip, a boss not seen in the original version. The over world tune would be slightly extended, and holding the B Button would make you run. Even so, the entire experience was not very Mario-like, although a number of features and enemies have since gone on to be included in many subsequent Mario titles. Can you imagine the Mario series without Bob-ombs, Shy Guys, and Birdo? How about the Smash Bros. games without the Princess’ ability to float in the air? Because of Super Mario Bros. 2, and by extension Doki Doki Panic, we do have these features, and will likely continue to see them for years to come.
One of the main reasons why we did not see the original version of Doki Doki Panic released in America is obvious: the characters are part of a Japanese festival, likely something that many Americans would have never even heard of. In fact, the game would have likely drifted into obscurity if not for Nintendo’s decision to change it into a Mario game and release it instead of the true sequel to Super Mario Bros. You see, the official sequel, known as Super Mario Bros. 2 and sometimes referred to as The Lost Levels, had been released in Japan in 1986, but since it was much harder than the first game, and because it was far too similar to that game as well, Nintendo opted to convert Doki Doki Panic into a Mario game, and thus, the Super Mario Bros. 2 we know today was born. Japan would eventually get that game, which would be known as Super Mario USA, while Americans would have to wait until 2007 to play the original version of The Lost Levels (though it had been remade for Super Mario All Stars and Super Mario Bros. Deluxe). However, we never did get the chance to play Doki Doki Panic in its original form.
The game is yet another Japan-exclusive title that I would have wanted to play. Having played Super Mario Bros. 2 to completion many times, I would be generally familiar with the game play. However, I would have been interested to see the game’s differences with my own eyes. Both the substantial and the subtle changes would likely have fascinated me, and I also would have wanted to see various characters such as Birdo and Shy Guy in their debut appearances before they became regulars in the Mario series. Unfortunately, it does not appear that a Virtual Console release of the game will happen anytime soon, at least in the States, so we will have to be content to playing the version of the game that we know: the one that stars Mario and which has had something of a reputation of being a “black sheep” of the Mario series.
Doki Doki Panic would be pretty much forgotten today had Nintendo decided to release the original sequel to Super Mario Bros. in America. Instead, it is possibly one of the most well-known games released exclusively in Japan, if only because it was converted into a Mario title. In many ways, the conversion was a good thing, as we now have features that were first seen in Doki Doki Panic that have become commonplace in the Mario series, so much so that in some cases, it would not feel like a Mario game without them. However, curious players who want to check it out for themselves have few options outside of watching the game on YouTube until and unless Nintendo chooses to release the game stateside as a Virtual Console release. Alas, that will likely never happen, and as such, while we can watch YouTube videos to see the differences between Doki Doki Panic and Super Mario Bros. 2 for ourselves, we will never get the opportunity to play the game and experience the differences firsthand.