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A review of the classic NES Dr. Mario

Updated on April 16, 2014

Dr.mario title screen

3 stars for Dr. Mario NES

When I was a young child still playing the NES my mom bought me Dr. Mario. And I never really got into it (all though she did) because I was too young to understand anything that wasn’t a plumber jumping over a bunch of goombas. Somehow I manage to lose my NES copy of the game during a move. A few years later I bought the N64 version (and if I still owned the N64 version I would have pictures of it on this hub) and enjoyed it. I also bought the Nintendo Wii Dr. Mario RX when the Wii Ware came out. Skip to a week or two ago and Nintendo put a 5 dollars off Dr. Luigi if you buy it Dr. Mario on the Wii U virtual console. This pretty much meant buy Dr. Luigi and get the NES version of Dr. Mario for free so I took Nintendo up on the offer. I kind of wanted to try to see if there was anything I missed in the NES version, and to tap in a little bit of nostalgia. So after playing it again after all these years can I recommend the NES version of Dr. Mario? The answer is no I do not but to find out why you’re going to have to wait until the end of this review (yeah I am a bit of a jerk that way).

Dr. Mario info

Title: Dr. Mario

console: NES

released date 1990

genre: puzzle

other releases: Dr. Mario and Tetris (SNES) Dr. Mario 64 (N64), Puzzle League and Dr. Mario Gameboy Advance. Dr. Mario RX (Wii) and Dr. Luigi (Wii U)

Story

There isn’t much of a story but what I remember from the instruction manual is this. Mario is now working in some sort of Mushroom Kingdom lab when Nurse Toadstool (that would be Peach for all you youngsters) experiment goes out of control and the viruses start to spread. Dr. Mario leaps into action and starts throwing vitamins.


The story fortunately doesn’t matter you just clear a stage and you go onto a new one, I hear there is an ending if you beat level 20 on high showing them being beamed up by aliens I have never really gotten that good at the game to achieve that but in the end story doesn’t matter, which is a good thing. Look they made a plumber and a factory worker a doctor when did Mario have time to become a doctor. And then to have some who is an absolute ditz like Peach around anything that could cause a biological disaster is an even bigger problem than a plumber being a doctor. No wonder Bowser is always kidnapping her; her guards are always down with the latest super plague this woman cooked up.

Graphics

Graphics also don’t really matter in this game. Yeah the others have prettier graphics especially for Dr. Mario who throws the pills into the bottle which you control, and the dancing viruses on the side look better in other versions but again it doesn’t matter. The game is pretty simple and it came out on the Gameboy and was consider a pretty good puzzle games which just 3 shades of gray that’s all you need to make a good Dr. Mario game. That said I still want to note that Mario hair is a shade lighter then he would later be drawn has (it’s almost blond and not black) and there is no real background just basic shades of black. Again the game is really simple and the graphics match it, there not bad, there just really simple.

The graphics in this are really simple
The graphics in this are really simple

Sound

Want to hear the most obnoxiously catchy music in a video game then play this game under the default fever music. It’s simple and it’s catchy and it’s been in all the other Dr. Mario games. The other music isn’t bad but fever is just better. Other then you got some simple tunes when you get a combo, and game over and that’s pretty much it for the background music.

Gameplay

Dr. Mario came out when one game was a mega hit that was causing Nintendo’s Gameboys to come flying off the shelf’s faster than a Pokémon game can move a 3ds. That game was everybody’s favorite soviet debugging program Tetris. While Nintendo did own the rights at the time to Tetris they wanted their own stamp on that kind of puzzle game and so they came up with Dr. Mario.


Like Tetris the idea is to control a falling piece and put it in the right place and hope that the next block can be fit. But unlike Tetris which was design to go on forever Dr. Mario stages could be cleared by killing the viruses. This is done by matching the vitamins which came in red, blue, and yellow colors with the right color viruses. 4 of the same type of color either horizontally or vertically cause the pills to disappear or if one of those colors is a virus it goes along with it. The opening stage only has 4 viruses in a tube and can be cleared relatively quickly. Stage 20 has 84 and pretty much feel the jar up to the prim to the point where you make one mistake early on and your dead. Oh by the way you lose the game just like Tetris if you fill up to the top of the screen it’s game over.

Now here is the tricky part. The pills can be rotated around and most pills have to colors. So you need 4 red colors you’re probably going to stack then up vertically on a virus with the pills facing horizontally. Problem is when that virus dies those pills will fall and might land on another virus. So you have the tricky problem of figuring out which pills go where. Yeah you might have a pill with a blue color but if it has a red end and right to the left of it is a yellow virus it would be bad to lay a pill down because once that virus is dead you’re going to have to stack up 4 more red pills on top of that bad pill just to clear them out so you can go after the yellow. You really have to be careful and that includes occasionally being force to put a pill where you don’t want to and figure out a way to deal with the consequences. Usually if you’re good at looking after the whole playing field you will find places and positions for all the pills but not always. Also if you do manage to stack a bunch of blue and yellow pills on a blue virus with a yellow pill facing a yellow virus beneath it when the blue one dies and the yellow drops it will clear the yellow one away and you get bonus points for the combo.

2 player mode

Yes there is a 2 player mode in Dr. Mario and the goal of the game is to do one of 2 things. Either A clear out your viruses before the other player can. Or B by getting combos and causing the other team to stack there ups to the top. It can get fierce and the game does allow you to set the difficulty level noobs can play on 3 or 4 while experts can play on 10 or above for a fair fight. When you get combos it causes some junk pills to randomly land on your opponent, also it slows your opponent down because no new pill can enter while the junk ones are failing, and has previously stated it takes several pills to clear one bad one. Having a wrong colored pill drop on a virus you were about to destroy can be devastating, even if it doesn’t cause the fatal event of a game over it can take several turns to get rid of junk pills and definitely be a distraction. That said junk pills can occasionally work against you because where they land is random sometimes a junk pill will land on an area that helps your opponent. Like a red colored pill you caused fall land on a red virus. And sometimes this even means an immediate counter attack has your junk pills help create a combo of your own. And yes this has happen to me, where the junk that I sent over from my combo attack led to an even bigger combo on the enemy side and I had to deal with a bunch of junk falling in my space. These situations are why certain 4 letter words were invented.


Anyways Dr. Mario is too this type of drop block puzzle game that Super Mario Bros was. It help start the genere and other people building on it with games like Puzzle Fighter and Wario Woods which are better games, they woulden’t have happen if this game wasen’t fun. It is fun and it is challenging but it does has flaws, it’s slow pace compare to the two games mentioned above, and there isen’t much of an attack strategy for multiplayer. Yeah it’s fun when your combos connect right but there’s equal chance instead of doing damage to your opponent you might end up helping them.

Umm I know your happy I won but those arm movements are inappropate.
Umm I know your happy I won but those arm movements are inappropate.
Dr. Mario on the original wii
Dr. Mario on the original wii

Why am I not recommending the NES version.

Simple there are 2 ways you can play Dr. Mario on the Wii U already. The first one is the Dr. Mario Wii game I already described on the Wii shop (meaning you need a wii remote) for about 15 dollars and has online play (which is ending in May of 2014 or next month). The 2nd one is Dr. Luigi which also has online play (all though it is Wii U online play believe it or not had an easier time connecting to the 5 year old Dr. Mario Wii then finding someone playing Dr. Luigi) and also has a classic Dr. Mario sound track when playing that mode. The only difference is you got Luigi in the corner and different bugs dancing on the side of the screen. Also each of these contains new motion control mini games and new ways to play multiplayer like flash.


Of course the best version of Dr. Mario is the N64 version which I don’t think will ever be ported off it’s original console. It had a 4 player mode, an actual story mode (with Wario and a new villain causing problems for Mario), and the classic single player mode and some different music. I am surprised we got an NES version of Dr. Mario on the virtual console. Just because we have newer versions with online play available for 10 dollars more. I guess Nintendo was worried that no one is buying in with Luigi taking place of Mario and release this. But it only has the standard single player and 2 player modes. No Flash, no extra music, and no online. I can’t really recommend paying 5 dollars for this with the Dr. Mario Wii version and Dr. Luigi being 10 dollars more and offering so much more content.

Extra mode flash.
Extra mode flash.

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