Saturday, November 21, 2015

Super Mario World (SNES) Review

Written: November 2nd-7th, 2015 / Published: November 21st, 2015
Alternate Title: Super Mario World: Super Mario Bros. 4 [|O|]
Year: 1990, 1991 | Developed and Published by: Nintendo
Hello everyone, StarBoy91 here; passionate about video games, big retrophile, and fan of all things 16-bit.  =)  If you were to ask me what the first ever game I played on the SNES was, the answer would be the same as to if you asked me what my first Mario game was: I'm not 100% certain which of the three I played first.  My earliest recollection of playing the SNES for the first time over at my relatives was either in 1996 (when I was five) or 1997 (six) and the three that spring to mind (as I played them all when visiting) are Super Mario All-Stars, Super Mario Kart, and Mario's 16-bit foray which I'll discuss today.  But first, let's recap:
The original Super Mario Bros. on the Famicom/NES produced by Shigeru Miyamoto, which celebrated its 30th anniversary this year, was both a commercial and financial success for gamers alike, and it couldn't have come at a better time for Nintendo's 8-bit classic singlehandedly saved video games from being extinct due to the video game crash that preceded it by two years; as both a game in of itself and as launch title, it was near perfection.  =D
Then in 1989 (after having become a franchise and spawning a few 8-bit console sequels) when Nintendo's Game Boy handheld system debuted it launched with the late Gunpei Yokoi's Super Mario Land which owed its structure and gameplay to Super Mario Bros. but transpired outside of the Mushroom Kingdom and did some things differently.  While Super Mario Land was a hit time has not been kind to it, for it's regarded as one of the lesser Mario games by many and gameplay-wise it's not as solid as the NES platformers before it and for years has been notorious for its rushed production; still, taken for what it is and getting around its blemishes, it's fun when played in the right mood but average overall in terms of quality.  =|
When Nintendo announced in 1989 that they were going to create the successor to their 8-bit console, everyone was excited and could not wait to see what the Big N had in store for them; people got more excited when the then newest console was going to be 16-bit (to compete with Sega's MegaDrive/Genesis console, which was beginning to beat Nintendo at first) and would have lots of capabilities.  Generally clamored to be one of the best consoles (if not the best) consoles, the Super Famicom was unveiled in Japan on November 21st, 1990; on August 23rd, 1991 Nintendo's 16-bit powerhouse came out in North America (retitled and redesigned with purple concave and convex buttoned controllers as the Super Nintendo); on April 11th, 1992 the Super Nintendo got converted to PAL 50 Hz format for both the United Kingdom and England (while retaining the original console design and colorful buttoned controllers of the Super Famicom... dahell?!?), the rest of Europe following suit that June 6th; and it would finally reach Australian shores on July 3rd, 1992.  The launch title that would become the console's biggest selling point?  Super Mario World (subtitled Super Mario Bros. 4 in Japan).  =D
The game takes place after the events of Super Mario Bros. 3: after having defeated Bowser and having rescued the Mushroom Kingdom and Princess Toadstool, hero plumbers Mario and Luigi decide to go on a vacation with the Princess to the dinosaur-filled island Dinosaur Land.  While the brothers are relaxing Princess Toadstool has been snagged yet again; when they found out they started searching for her and during their search they stumbled across a big green-spotted egg.
Hatching from inside it emerges Yoshi, a young green dinosaur who thanks the brothers for freeing him and tells them that all his fellow dinosaur friends have been imprisoned inside their eggs as well by the Koopas.  At that Mario and Luigi deduce that once more King Bowser and the seven Koopalings are behind the scene yet again, so the three decide to venture forth on yet another adventure not only to save Princess Toadstool, but to rescue Yoshi's friends and save Dinsoaur Land once and for all.  What troubles will await for them in their journey this time?
As was the case with Super Mario Bros. 3 before it each section has got their own hub dedicated to them; the difference here is that all the areas are interconnected with the land plus you can revisit the bulk of the stages any time your heart desires.  =)  Whenever a stage has been beaten for the first time Dinosaur Land gradually evolves and reveals itself more and more as you go along, which is great.  If a stage has a red dot it means there's more than one exit, so be on the lookout for them when you can; Super Mario World also introduced for the series the save feature thanks to its battery back-up for you can use any one of three files and anytime you beat a Ghost House, Fortress, Castle, or specific area you'll be able to save the game (or continue without doing so) which works to this game's benefit.
"Wheeee!!!"  =D
Okay enough stalling, gameplay description time: as Mario (or Luigi if you're the second player) you can move around left and right, duck, jump (B), swim, climb beanstalks, slide down hills, enter pipes (in front of, above, or below you), and run (Y).  This time Mario (or Luigi) has a few new moves in his arsenal; for instance, by pressing the A button Mario (or Luigi) will be executing the twister jump as he twists up until he touches the floor.  It can be very useful as it's powerful enough to pounce most enemies out of the picture in just one blow, and if Mario (or Luigi) is big then that technique will also destroy the breakable blocks below you.  By pressing either left or right shoulder buttons once then the screen will slightly shift to either the left or the right, but considering how largely familiar I am with the game I find no need to use it (I only bring it up for informative reasons).  If you've entered a stage you have beaten before and want to abort it, just pause and press the Select button and you'll be back to the Dinosaur Land hub.

Time to spread my wings and fly!
Halfway through most stages are midway markers which act as a checkpoint should you either lose a life or come back to it after beating a different stage (but mostly the former).  At the end of each area is a goalpost with a bar slowly being moved up and down, and depending on how high it is when you touch it you'll attain yourself somewhere between one and thirty in star value; any time you get a hundred in star value you'll be taken to a bonus room where you have a chance to match as many mushrooms, fireflowers, and stars as you can for a chance at extra lives.  Likewise with past entries there is a timer, so don't dawdle too long otherwise time will run out for you.

Just keep swimmin', just keep swimmin'!
The gameplay essentials are all back, you can still hop'n bop on top of non-spiked enemies and if there's a stray shell, P switch, or key, you can pick it up with the Y button and kick it ahead of or above you by pressing up.  If you bounce up on a "?" block the following will pop up: a (series of) coin(s), a key, a P-switch, a P-balloon that'll temporarily inflate Mario (or Luigi) which makes them float in the air ('til there's less helium or if you sustain damage), a Yoshi egg, a mushroom to make yourself bigger, a fireflower that will make you become Fire Mario (or Luigi), an invincibility star that momentarily renders you invulnerable, and a feather which will transform you into Cape Mario (or Luigi).

"Oh, this looks-a-really dangerous, Yoshi!
You stay-a-here while I a-check-it out!"
With this last ability just run until Mario (or Luigi) forms a wingspan and jump up to soar into the sky, then you can control your gliding maneuvers by alternating between left or right (or vice versa) to remain airborne; if you do just a normal jump with the cape on their shoulders just hold B to make them glide slowly to the bottom.  For the first time in the series an item can be stored if you find more than one power-up; should you need it just press the Select button during normal gameplay.  Regardless of which power-up you are if you lose damage you'll be small again and at your most vulnerable, so be on your best guard.  As simple as the gameplay is, it's incredibly enjoyable and intuitive thanks to its pick-up and play nature.  =)

"Te-e-e-e-ell our frie-e-e-e-ends Cindy a-a-and Sandy
from Ja-a-a-a-aws 3 that we said 'Hi-i-i-i-i-i-i'!"  =)
When Nintendo was transitioned from 8-bit to 16-bit, so too did the visual capabilities.  While by today's standards they're not exactly breathtaking, gamers were blown away by just how bright and colorful each stage was and how there were variations in color when it came to areas with similar background layout thanks to its outstanding color library.  Now each area had line scrolling, with the background moving at a different speed than the foreground that you're on, and said backgrounds and skies had more detail than any of the previous 8-bit Mario games did: among the many examples are cloud-ridden skies, clear skies, hills, mountains, simple yet effective foliage, starry skies, shiny underground landscapes, and wavy sea algae underwater.  =)

"Let'sa go!!!"
Some of the interiors areas aren't too shabby either, in particular the Ghost Houses where the Boos reside; what I like the most about that is the clever décor surrounding it--if you look closely there are pieces of wood with patterns similar to those from Super Mario Bros. 2 and the walls are comprised of gray versions of breakable blocks from Super Mario Bros. 3.  Nice nod to the predecessors there!  =D  The foreground design and platforms are simple as well; among them a series of logs, grassy fields, icy terrain, and dithering used for the water effects.  Any time you reach the end of a Fortress or Castle there are instances of Mode 7 scaling and rotating effects (whether it be a big platform on top of lava, a platform rotator, or some of the bosses themselves, especially against Bowser) which are sufficiently incorporated.

Wait!  Those are Goombas??  o~O  I'm sorry, but those
can't be Goombas; they look like rotten apples to me!
The character and enemy sprites are all adequate with little animation, but they are very colorful to look at.  Mario looks and moves nicely, with his nice blue overalls and mustache; he can now even look up, and his twisting animation shows you every side of him.  I liked the motions of the wavy and fluttering cape as well, even if it's just for a soft jump (it's the little details that make them great).  In the original version of Super Mario World if you played with two players then you'd find that Luigi was a palette swap of Mario; I understood why that was the case in Super Mario Bros. 3 (Super Mario USA was not out in Japan yet), but in here's it's just befuddling (Nintendo would rectify Luigi's height in Super Mario All-Stars + Super Mario World in 1994).  Yoshi looks and animates decently, and I like the animation for when he hatches out of his egg and when he sticks out his tongue.  =)  This also marked the first time Princess Toadstool appeared as a blonde in the series with her familiar hairstyle (and would remain that way since), as before she was interpreted as either a redhead (Super Mario Bros. and The Lost Levels) or a brunette (Super Mario Bros. 2 and 3).

Hooray for infinite flight above the clouds!  =D
All the Mario regulars are back: the Koopas, the Paratroopas, Lakitu and his Spinies, the Piranha Plants, the Bullet Bills, and the Boos are as we remember them and have never looked better (except the Goombas: they've always looked wrong to me in this game).  New to this game are the Banzai Bills, Torpedo Teds, Monty Mole, the Wigglers, and Magikoopa, and they're designed and work perfectly for this Mario installation.  Each respective Koopaling looks decent and their surroundings aren't bad either (especially when they climb a closed-in wall), the Big Boos are menacing in scope, the Reznors are cool; but the real show stealer is Bowser in his ship--with nothing but a gradually thundering sky in the background, and the way he occasionally flies and scales away from or swoops to the screen is impressive considering its age (I bet everyone was wowed by that in 1990), and it still looks seamless.  =)
Also making an appearance is here Ninji from Super Mario Bros. 2; unfortunately by the time you get to that point it's too little too late as they're in the room that precedes the door to battle Bowser; as a result a handful of gamers are under the impression that Ninjis are not present in the game (even the cast of enemies and bosses after the credits sequence neglects to mention them, which is a shame).  =(

"Oh no!  No one-a-told me there would a-be actual
ghosts hiding inside this ghost-a-house!"  O=
Returning from the 8-bit console Mario platformers, Koji Kondo provides the music for Super Mario World, and while it's far from the best soundtrack the Nintendo 16-bit console ever had, it is one of the most memorable and superior ones from the series outside of the Super Mario Galaxy games.  =D  The SFC/SNES's 16-bit processors really helped elevate the sound quality from the FC/NES predecessor, and all the better for it.

Now that's what I call a cage match
Some of the area themes are quaint and bouncy in their composition and uplifting in tone, each hub has its own respective theme (from the brief melody in Dinosaur Land, to the silent beat in Vanilla Dome, and even the mysteriousness in the Forest of Illusion) which are nice in their own right, and the way the tempo slows down for the underwater stages really fits swimmingly (pun not intended).  The Ghost House theme is lightheartedly menacing with its seemingly ominous cues, the Fortress/Castle theme is dark and somber near the end, and the normal boss theme is okay.  In the Special map screen the original Super Mario Bros. theme can be heard and sounds great in 16-bit format, however you have to wait three minutes in order to listen to it in-game.  Bowser's theme is foreboding and brooding in nature and adds to the greatness of the battle, and one of its notes sounds similar to Maleficent's theme from Sleeping Beauty (though, it may have been coincidence); but the best song is the ending/credits theme, as it is as perfectly rewarding as it is humorously upbeat for a polka party tune.  =)  The sound effects are all decent, like the one for when Mario or Luigi get the feather and when they soar in the sky.

Help, I'm drowning in dithering water not unlike the
one from Jerry Boy and Ocean's The Addams Family!
The single-greatest contribution Super Mario World gave to the series is the introduction of Yoshi and how perfectly utilized he was.  Producer Shigeru Miyamoto wanted to include him from the very beginning in Super Mario Bros., but due to the technical limitations of the Famicom/NES it wouldn't allow it.  So when the SFC/SNES doubled its capabilities to 16-bit Miyamoto was overjoyed to finally incorporate the character he's been trying to add to the series for five years.  Yoshi was one of the most celebrated things about the game, for it was great how you could ride on him and the way he could give you a boost as you jump high and/or jump off him to gain altitude; and luckily he was so celebrated that he stuck around since (for the other Mario games, the Mario spin-offs, and even Yoshi's own line-up of games).  I'm glad Yoshi wasn't a one-off character, otherwise it would've been disappointing; I have many friends and cousins who love Yoshi, and so do I.  <=)

"Look, deviantArt fodder!  Hey, where'd Mario go?"
On the surface Super Mario World is relatively simple and is largely an easy game through and through, but what makes up for that and is one of the best things about the game is the sheer amount of replay value it's got in store.  =D  The majority of stages have got more than one exit, and finding it (whether it be the goal post or a key fit for a keyhole) leads to segments of the hub you would not have normally reached, or if not that then they would lead you to shortcuts that lead to later (or secret) portions of the game.  Luckily if you missed those the first time you can explore the red dotted stages again after you beat them, and in total there are ninety-six exits (and finding them all is part of the fun).  Some are easy to find while others take a bit of exploration and/or challenge to do so; needless to say, a single exit requires making a sacrifice in order to get to it (if you get my drift).  This is one of the many reasons Super Mario World holds up so well!

Matching time!
Another thing that's great about Mario's 16-bit foray is its overall cleverness and invention when it comes to the stage layouts.  There is one stage where its progress depends on how many coins and/or how much time you have; it might lead to a different part of the area regardless (trial-and-error is a blast here).  There is an occasion or two when a P-switch and a "?" block which stores a line of coins (going the direction you press in the Control Pad) must be used consecutively and timed properly.  One area involves progress on a trail of dolphins whilst avoiding a spiky blowfish, and a handful of stages even having floating diagonal platforms; plus other examples.

Look out from above!
I know when it comes to games that have oft been spoken and clamored by many it's hard to say something regarding them that haven't been said before (lest I feel differently towards them), which is why I mostly focus on games that are either overlooked, underrated, or just don't get enough attention for my blog; but depending on the mood I like to share my own two cents when all is said and done.  When I was a kid I did like this game enough, but my gaming skills were not up to snuff at the time and I only managed to get to one of the Ghost Houses as a result; but I think I truly began to appreciate and love this game in my very late teens several years ago (when my gaming skills improved with age) and have loved since.  =)  I still slightly prefer Super Mario World 2: Yoshi's Island (as I have since I was little), but the original Super Mario World's importance cannot be understated.

Hey, I don't remember Yoshi being red in the
title sequence...
Back in 2002 when I found out that Super Mario World was given the Game Boy Advance treatment as Super Mario Advance 2: Super Mario World I was happy about it, and looking back it was ideal for someone who didn't yet own an SNES console as it wouldn't be until six and a half years later that one of my cousins would loan me his.  But that's the thing: if you own an SFC/SNES, a Wii, or a Wii U, then there is absolutely no reason to own a heavily downsized version of the game (unless you're a fan of the original Mario Bros. arcade game), even if it did have Charles Martinet's digitized voice.  I own the GBA port, but I didn't care to take any screenshots for it (or replay it for the sake of the review); you can't beat the original in terms of color, sound, size, and scope.  Being loaned an SNES console by my cousin in 2008 is one of the best gaming events that ever happened to me.  =D

Invincibility time!
Nintendo's 16-bit powerhouse had come under fire for notoriously having the console redesigned for North America.  Apparently, from what I recall one of the internet users explaining years back, there was fear that due the flat design of the Super Famicom that it would've been "used as a coaster for drinks by accident" if released as is in America; which frankly is the most irresponsibly idiotic thing I've ever heard in my life (no self-respecting gamer would ever stoop this low).  But okay, you change the design to prevent heavy damage to the system, I get that; what I don't get is why the physical change only applied to North America and not Europe and Australia as well (all of which which somehow retained the original SFC design).  You know what else those two continents kept?  The colored button controllers.  o~O

Left: Super Morph [PAL SNES] / Right: Super Wagyan Land [SFC]
Unlike Japan, Europe, and Australia, where the right side of the controller had four differently colored buttons which all had the same feel; North America got unlucky for it got two different hues of purple--with two concave buttons and two convex buttons--instead.  This was a real blow to American gamers, not only because we got deprived of the controller setup as it should've been, but because the purple buttons completely defeat the purpose of Super Mario World's red-blue-green-yellow motif that Nintendo's been trying to convey (which is border-on egregious).  =(
Really think about it for a minute: the name of the game is "Super Mario World", not "Super Mario World".  By the time you find every exit you'll find Yoshis who are not just green, but blue and red and yellow as well; not only that, but the Koopas and Paratroopas have shells that are those exact colors (even the "!" switch palaces and blocks share the red-blue-green-yellow motif).  It's miraculous then that the Special map retained the Super Famicom logo in the top part of the screen, which by the way, was inserted in all Japanese Super Famicom and PAL SNES carts (like the two examples I've just shown).
Look at the dark gray symbol on the right side
So how do you devalue the intended motif the game's been trying to present even more?  How about by removing the Super Famicom logo from the North American NTSC carts and replace them with indistinguishably different dark gray and black holes?  *sigh*  '90s video game politics and practices in America have never made sense, and I pray to God I never understand the justification behind it all, otherwise I would find it to be more mindboggling (and depressing) than it already is.  T-T

Gliding high in the coin-ridden sky
In preparation for this review and to attain better screenshots I played it on the 1st of November, and not only did I start a new game and beat it, but I also managed to complete it and find all ninety-six exits that day taking less than twenty-four hours; it was a real rush and I'm glad because it may be the best Mario playthrough I've had.  =D  Super Mario World still holds up incredibly well after twenty-five years, and the fun simplicity of the gameplay and multitude of areas, ingenuity, charm, and exits all really help it stand the test of time perfectly, and it's because of this that a lot of gamers look fondly toward it and consider it one of their favorites (if not the favorite).  Is it my Number One favorite Nintendo 16-bit game?  No, that would be Tenchi Sōzō (Terranigma).  Is it one of my top favorite platformers on the system?  Absolutely!  Where does Super Mario World rank among my personal favorite Mario games?  Somewhere in the top alongside Super Mario Galaxy and Super Mario 3D Land=)

An apt descriptor for not just this game, but the
Nintendo 16-bit console as well!  Long live the King!  =D
Super Mario World outdoes its predecessors in terms of fun and replay value for me (for me it's the best 2D platformer of the series), and even if it doesn't it's still a platformer I highly recommend playing.  It's got everything you would want in a platformer, and more.  But if in the off chance you have not played this wonderful classic, where have you been?  It's a quarter of a century old, and you could not ask for a better way to introduce Nintendo's 16-bit console.  =D
(Oh, now they get Luigi's height right--in the last minute!)  >_<
My Personal Score: 10/10
<( ^o^)^TO EACH THEIR OWN^(^o^ )>
P.S. All right, I finally got to talk about this game, yes!  ^(^o^)^  Hmmm,... in 2013 I reviewed the NES launch title Super Mario Bros., last year I reviewed the Game Boy launch game Super Mario Land, this year I reviewed the SFC/SNES launch game Super Mario World... oh, crap!  If I keep this up next year I'll be reviewing the Nintendo 64 launch game Super Mario 64!  ......EEP}8>
P.S. 2 I was considering whether to include the tidbit that Shigeru Miyamoto was not 100% satisfied with the game and felt that in the end Super Mario World was rushed during production, and expressing hope that in time that games on the console would put more emphasis on story and emotion, but I did not know what section of the review I would include it in.  So I'll just mention it here.
P.S. 3 Normally I don't say this aloud in my blog, but I wonder what the great RVGFanatic would say if he just finished reading my review of this game?  ^~^  And while I bring him up: I can't wait to read his hundredth SNES Review on his site.

Saturday, October 10, 2015

The Pagemaster (SNES) Review

Received: March 24th, 2012 / Written: October 6th-9th, 2015 /
Published: October 10th, 2015
Year: 1994 | Developed by: Probe Software
Published by: Fox Interactive
Hello, my name is StarBoy91, passionate about video games, big retrophile, fan of all things 16-bit, and has a propensity to make video games that are irrelevant relevant again.  For the most part when I was little I preferred to watch animation than live action when it came to shows and movies; that's not to say that I didn't watch anything in live action at the time, I did, but I found that as a child that animation was much more interesting and entertaining to me.  But over the course of time I've began to appreciate live action more over the years and find them to be just as nice to watch (if not more than) as animation.  =)  Luckily during the '80s and '90s there were movies which transcended the realms of both live action and animation (regardless of their overall quality): among them Who Framed Roger Rabbit, Rock-A-Doodle, Cool World, and for a more topical example, The Pagemaster.
Image from Wikipedia
In November 1994 this partly live action directed by Joe Johnston (Honey, I Shrunk the Kids, Jumanji, Captain America: The First Avenger)/mostly animated family film directed by The Black Cauldron animator Maurice Hunt, which took three years to make, arrived in theatres as an attempt to make books as fun as video games... as commendable as the effort was many people didn't feel that The Pagemaster really lived up to that promise, and it bombed both critically and financially as a result.  =(  This was also the penultimate Macaulay Culkin film to be released (before Richie Rich), after a series of movies that were either critical and/or box office bombs, before the child star briefly retired from acting for several years before coming back in the early '00s.
I never saw The Pagemaster in theatres (I was three and a half at the time), but I was introduced to it in the mid-'90s via pan-and-scan VHS, and as a child I enjoyed it very much; while I acknowledge that as a young adult I recognize that it's not as good as I remembered and it's got a lot of issues, I will always have a soft spot for The Pagemaster as I still like it in a guilty pleasure sort of way.  =)  If I recall correctly it (or Emile Ardolino's The Nutcracker, I can't remember which) was also my first introduction to Macaulay Culkin (I wasn't acquainted with his Home Alone movies until I visited relatives one time as a child).  And as dated as the multi-colored painted CG dragon is on a visual standpoint as it chased live action Richard Tyler, it did genuinely scare me as a child (James Horner's score also helped, may he rest in peace).  =(
One thing I found very curious over the years was that a lot of the talent was involved in Star Trek in one form or another; Horner provided the music for the second and third Star Trek films, Christopher Lloyd (Mr. Dewey/Pagemaster) was the villain in Star Trek III: The Search for Spock, Leonard Nimoy (Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde) was a Star Trek veteran as the Vulcan Spock (may he live long and prosper), Patrick Stewart (Adventure) and Whoopi Goldberg (Fantasy) were Star Trek: The Next Generation stars; et al.  What is this: a covert Star Trek gathering?  XD
There is also another reason I bring up my fondness for The Pagemaster: before the movie played on the VHS there was a small promo for the video game tie-in (one of the first simultaneous movie-game releases) available on the SNES, Genesis, and Game Boy.  As a child I never played any of the three versions, but the promo did intrigue and make me want to play the licensed game a lot.  =(
Since I started ordering SNES games on eBay in 2009 I had considered at one point getting The Pagemaster but because I'm an indecisive collector and there are many titles to choose from it did not play out that way.  Flash forward to March 24th, 2012, I decided to head to 3D Games to buy a copy of Drakkhen on the SNES as I recalled them having it in stock, but they didn't have it that day; what they did have that caught my attention, which was even better, was not just the SNES version of The Great Circus Mystery starring Mickey & Minnie but even The Pagemaster (SNES version), the game I've been curious about since childhood.  =D  This was so exciting and a dream come true, so I happily bought both games that day.  And as far as fun value was concerned, I was not disappointed.  =)
Originally The Pagemaster was to be about a boy named Richard Tyler (Macaulay Culkin) who hates reading at the start but eventually learns to love it in the end (according to David Casci's script); but during the middle of the animation phase the script was revised and jettisoned that arc entirely.  Who knows if the original idea would've made the movie better or worse, but that premise does sound fascinating.
Instead due to the revised script by Ernie Contreras and David Kirschner we were treated to a different plot in the form of the final movie: a pessimistic young Richard Tyler fears pretty much everything and lives his life based on statistics; his parents have tried desperately to help their son become courageous, but have not been successful.  While out doing an errand Richard narrowly escapes a storm that tries to kill him and takes refuge inside a library.  There he meets the overly eccentric librarian Mr. Dewey (Chistopher Lloyd), who upon seeing Richard gives him a library card despite him not wanting a book.
Up, high into the beanstalk
While looking for a phone he slips on water and becomes unconscious.  After regaining his senses Richard notices that the paint from the rotunda is melting and winds up washing away everything in the library, including him, rendering all the paint touched into illustrations.  Soon he meets the titular Pagemaster (Lloyd), Guardian of the Written World, who tells him that the only way to revert back to normal is to find the exit sign, thus he sends Richard to the fiction section where he meets his anthropomorphic book companions Adventure (Patrick Stewart), Fantasy (Whoopi Goldberg), and Horror (Frank Welker), who will all partake in the adventure to help Richard transition from cowardice to bravery.
Richard will have to go through the worlds of Horror, Adventure, and Fantasy to find what he's looking for.

What magnificently woven see-through curtains
If you didn't watch the movie before playing the game you would not know the specifics as to how Richard Tyler got into the situation or what the goal is as the game makes zero mention of the plot whatsoever (not even the ending), and it all transpires in the animated realm; though some might argue that it's probably for the best.  Since I currently have only played the SNES version of The Pagemaster and not the Genesis or Game Boy adaptation, I will exclusively focus on this version only.  =)

The Pagemaster on the Nintendo 16-bit is an open-ended 2D action platformer in the vein of Cool Spot, The Jungle Book, and The Lion King, in that the areas are large, open-ended in nature, and are cleverly designed in a sometimes maze-like fashion until you reach your destination (in here, it's the big red book that takes you out of the area).  You take control of Richard Tyler, whose normal controls comprise of moving around, ducking, climbing ropes, climbing forward via rope (I don't know the proper term for that), pick up and throw items (press down next to an item and then Y to throw it), hang onto hooks, jumping (B), and using weapons depending on the world you're at (Y); in the Horror segments your projectile comprises of an unlimited arsenal of bouncy eyeballs, in Adventure you use a scimitar which involves close range, and finally in Fantasy you get to throw magic dust towards your foes from a far distance (however the aim is straight and not diagonal, so be mindful of your trajectory).

Magical books really help (or hinder)
In each area you will find a multitude of keys (Horror), coins (Adventure), and eggs (Fantasy) scattered throughout, and should you collect a hundred of them you'll garner another life.  When you start the game you are already at your most vulnerable with nothing on you, unless you pick up the following: the shoes which will augment your jumping height and allow you to kick-jump off of walls, the weapon, and/or the slime that enables you to stick and move forward on ceiling-like surfaces.  Should you sustain damage for any reason you'll be deprived of one of the items, and the only one you can retrieve before it reaches a dead end and gets lost forever is the shoes.  Sometimes you'll find these items in the open, sometimes they have wings, and they appear and sprout legs after pouncing certain enemies; should you not have any of these items the next time you get hit you will lose a life.  In most stages you will find a checkpoint or two in the form of the hat that belongs to the Pagemaster, who will revive you at that spot should you die.

Throughout the game you will also find certain rare items that will help you.  One of them is an item that will render you invincible for a few seconds; if you look really hard in certain inconspicuous spots a small book will become visible, and once Richard dives into it he'll be brought to a small bonus segment (that involves gathering things with no time limit); and if you spot a watch icon you'll be brought to a timed bonus event where you must either collect every item or reach the exit book before time runs out.  When you reach the Exit sign in the Horror and Adventure hub, or when you find an anthropomorphic book icon, you'll be brought to a flying book segment where you fly alongside Fantasy on a complete Mode 7 field where the controls echo those of Super Thunder Blade, where left and right is left and right but up is down and down is up (only here it's far more polished and responsive).  In a handful of stages Fantasy will appear and help fly you to a higher part of the area, but only tenderly press the B button to fly higher; if you hit the ceiling you'll fall down and Fantasy will revert back to the spot you found her in.

Hanging onto a hook
The movie's soundtrack was composed by the late great James Horner, and for me it's one of the movie's highlights, as it was wonderful to listen to; but as was the case with the SNES adaptation of An American Tail: Fievel Goes West none of his cues were used, which I did find sad, but then maybe the game composers felt that they could not top his score or were afraid they could not recapture the glory (that or they didn't have the rights to Horner's music), so in that regard I guess that's understandable.  That said though, the music that was specifically made for The Pagemaster on the SNES is quite good, for its got quaint instrumentation, the melodies are immersive and add so much to the atmosphere, and many of the songs are likable.  =)

Let's spray some magic dust onto that newborn
green dragon so he can fly!  ...oh  <={
The title theme is so magical and inviting that it does a good job preparing you for the adventure you're about to embark.  One of the Horror themes is appropriately foreboding and brooding in tone, and another one is dark and sinister which is neat.  The pirate ship theme in Adventure is a fun little sea shanty, and the part where you're outside with the ominous clouds is pretty and eerie to listen to.  The theme for the dragon's insides areas in Fantasy spell caution and ill omen, and the beanstalk and yellow brick road themes are whimsical and delightful in their composition.  =)  The Mode 7 flight and bonus themes are decent, and each respective hub world has got a quaint theme which for some reason has two versions--one in normal speed and the other one being sped up.  The sound effects are fun to listen to (in particular when items are gathered), and once in awhile there will be a Richard Tyler digitized soundbyte depending on the circumstances ("Wow!", "Uh oh!", "Hey!").

The Pagemaster is an absolutely gorgeous game to look at, with so many vibrant colors and distinguished detail in each area.  =D  It has one of the best-looking non-prerendered visuals you'll find on the Nintendo 16-bit, in my opinion; alongside Wagyan Paradise, Seiken Densetsu 3, Mr. Nutz, ActRaiser 2, and Equinox to name a few.  =)  Probe Software have done a really good job at capturing the look and feel of the animated bulk of the movie, and more.  Atmospherically where I feel the game excels are in the appropriately dark areas where it effectively creates a good sense of tone; largely in the Horror hub where some areas have a nice sense of detail with transparent foreground imagery, the in-depth parallax scrolling in the cemetery stage (with the Exit sign looming at the top), dithering effects on some occasions (think Jerry Boy), color-layering mist and fog effects, and a few occasions when the lighting is quite dim (but thankfully not to the point where you can't tell what's what).  The dragon's insides in Fantasy and the very cloudy rock stages in Adventure with a large silhouetted pirate ship looming behind the clouds make for effective atmosphere, and visually they're a marvel to behold.

What a lovely view  =D
That's not to say that the not-so dark-looking areas aren't great to look at as well, they are, it's just that they're not as strikingly atmospheric as the aforementioned areas in my opinion.  The pirate ship areas are serviceably adequate, and what's cool is how you can explore inside it in some instances and I liked how sometimes the weather would be clear and other times not.  The beanstalk areas are light in color, have got a great view of the castle in the sky, and have got neatly detailed leaves, vines, and beanstalks; and while the yellow brick road stages are few and far between, they present a bright burst of colors with a good sense of depth.  I liked that the three hub worlds had Richard traveling on the literal pages of a book, as it fits in theme with the movie/game.  =)
Flying on a magical tome ride
Richard Tyler's myriad of animations are very fluid; idle, running, climbing, jumping, tipping, hanging, falling, you name it--they are all impeccably framed and detailed.  =)  Richard himself looks really good with his colored outlines, though I did notice that his hair is the same color as his skin in-game, but I didn't let that bother me.  The enemies you face look and animate fluidly as well, among them sentient books, Mr. Hyde, bats, specters and ghouls, Long John Silver and his pirate lackeys, Captain Ahab, knights, the Big Bad Wolf who blows pigs from inside his mouth your way (I'm not kidding), and baby dragons who hatch from inside their eggs.  The Mode 7 flying sequences are neat to watch in motion, and I like how during the bonus versions there are scaling columns which you must avoid colliding with (in a similar fashion to Space Harrier).
We interrupt this game to bring you Disney's Aladdin
... err, the Virgin version
In The Pagemaster the goal is to reach the big book exit that takes you out of the area and back to the respective hub, however along the way there are enemies which you must contend with.  Most can be jumped on, but some can only be taken out for sure if you have a weapon at your stead (such as the bouncing up and down books and the knights).  Only a handful of areas are linear, but for the most part thorough exploration is key if you want to reach an exit; one of the stages has two alternate exits, and luckily if you felt you didn't search that area enough you could replay it to your heart's desire.  =)
The various areas are well-designed, and while some books are out to end you, there are a few acting as platforms that will either glide you to the edge of one solid platform or the end of a gap; if not, then they'll drop down the instant that you jump on them, so jump off them with no hesitation when you do.  The controls take a bit to accustom to, but once you do they become second nature and good to a point; that point being the jumping itself, which is a bit loose if you're proceeding too fast, but they can be worked around.  Unless you're really familiar with the area, you'll only really succeed if you go at a steady pace and follow the enemy patterns; just rushing won't do it, as there's the risk that you'll fall offscreen in certain areas if you're not careful.  =(  So remember, slow and steady wins the race.
The eyes have it
The Pagemaster has only got one difficulty setting, but it does provide a password for you should you not feel that you'll be able to beat it on one sitting--the catch is that the password is only given when you access the Exit sign in either the Horror and Adventure hub worlds, but luckily the password is brief and to the point at just six characters.  The areas are fun to explore, fighting enemies with the right stuff and tactics is cool, and discovering secret areas (either by accident or by searching thoroughly) is exciting; not to mention that the timed and not-timed bonus segments give you a chance at getting an extra life or just more keys/coins/eggs.  =)  It's a good thing it's fun, because all those elements I feel make up for the fact that the video game adaptation of The Pagemaster sorely lacks in terms of true difficulty.  =(
What a beautiful horizon
While the areas might initially seem difficult due to their complex design and scope, once you get used to their design and diverse enemy patterns the sense of challenge is further alleviated.  I think the magic shoes which increase your jumping height, its loose jumping controls which can be managed, and the fact that the shoes are the only major object you can retrieve when you're hit by an enemy or spike lest they get lost also help contribute to the relatively manageable difficulty.  The enemies aren't that difficult to dodge for the most part and they can easily be dispatched with your special weapon; plus, depending on how you play The Pagemaster takes roughly an hour and a half to two hours to beat, maybe less if you're really confident.  Even though it's only got one difficulty the areas are large enough to explore and because of that there's enough replay value that make up for its shortcomings with the challenge.
Also there to augment replay value are the secretly hidden library cards scattered in the Horror, Adventure, and Fantasy worlds.  There are eight in total, and a few are so well-hidden that keeping a careful eye out for them is the only way to pick them up.  It's not entirely mandatory to search for them, for it doesn't overtly affect the ending, but it's always a nice sidequest to undertake and gathering them all will give you the "good" congratulatory message in the end (but only if you beat it in one sitting).  =)
Running and dodging fire
One thing that'll become very apparent by the time you get to the end of The Pagemaster is that not once do you battle a boss.  Sure, you have to dispatch of enemies along your way, but the lack of a true boss is very fascinating in a platformer such as this.  You cannot help admire when an action-oriented game in the genre has zero bosses to speak of; same thing with fellow SNES games Cool Spot, Astérix, and if you want to include action/puzzlers, Super Morph (even though it has no enemies in it whatsoever).  With all these games it's almost as if the developers are trying to say that the area itself and the obstacles inhabiting it act as a boss fight, and that might be enough.  I don't know if that is 100% accurate, but regardless, it's hard for me to not be fascinated by an action game that has no boss fight (though I can see how some might feel cheated by that notion).
(That bouncing book will never find me here)
When I played The Pagemaster for the first time back in 2012 I was really enthralled by its atmospheric environments, and as flawed as the gameplay could be at times it at least could be worked around to work in your favor as the areas were great to explore; believe it or not, I actually first beat it the night I got it (albeit with the "bad" ending).  I admit the first time it seems challenging, but I found that the more I played it the less harder it became, especially as I familiarized myself with the area designs and enemy patterns.  Regardless, I do think that The Pagemaster is a decently fun little game while it lasts for in my opinion it's got all right controls, atmospheric music, large areas to explore, neat bonus opportunities, and it provides lots of eye candy (particularly during the Horror stages).  =)  I find that those qualities make up for its lack of challenge, and while the absence of the story in-game is weird it doesn't detract from the fun.
I also appreciated how each stage had their own title given to them--some are basic, but most of them were puns, and while many of them are not bad I would be remiss if I didn't feel that some of them were so groan-inducing to the point where I was like, "Really?  That's what they went with?"  =|  These ones that I've shown are the ones that I'm alluding to.
Captain Ahab: experienced seaman, determined
whale hunter, would-be child murderer...  <=O
By all accounts, I think Probe Software did a decent job adapting the movie to video game format, and some people argue that it's better than the movie.  I can see why people would feel that way, and I do not blame that for that at all; but for me, personally, the movie's as much of a guilty pleasure to me as this game is (though, quality-wise, the game does have the edge).  When I saw the promos for the game on the VHS as a child I remember being mindblown by it and being curious as to what the game was actually like.  I can proudly say that, after fifteen-plus years of curiosity, The Pagemaster interactive video game was worth the wait.  Is it a fantastically great game or a crowning masterpiece?  No, not in the slightest.  I did not expect perfection upon playing it three and a half years ago, but I did expect to find a bit of fun in the package; and luckily for me that's what I got in the end, and I couldn't be happier.  =)
Stick around
So, with all that said, do I recommend The Pagemaster on the SNES?  That actually depends on some factors, like whether you saw the movie and how you felt about it; if you haven't seen it you might get some appreciation for it, but you might get even more if you have.  But the biggest factor is if you're looking for some enjoyment, challenge, and replay value.  There is plenty of replay value in the package, it is fun to play especially when you've got the controls and areas down pat, but as far as challenge is concerned do not expect there to be a tremendous amount otherwise you'll find it to be disappointing.  If you're looking for a decent fun time and maybe lower your expectations you'll like this game just fine, but by the same token I can understand why one would feel the opposite way towards it.  But if you haven't played it and are not convinced, think of it this way: as far as games based on Macaulay Culkin fare go, you can't do worse than the Home Alone games.  Probe Software's The Pagemaster is a fun, flawed game, and it's got enough elements in it that make the adventure worth embarking.  =)
 "Now enjoy your nightmare fuel!"
My Personal Score: 6.5/10
<( ^o^)^TO EACH THEIR OWN^(^o^ )>
P.S. Since my old laptop is on the verge of not working anymore, and my new laptop cannot read my videos like my old one did (despite recognizing their sound), I've decided that I'll just take these screenshots as is with the normal camera setting (and really, it just saves all the hassle between going back and forward between laptops); which is why it's not square-ratioed like in previous reviews.  The width of the screenshots that you see?  That's how wide my widescreen TV is.
P.S. 2 The Pagemaster is one of those games where even if you get more than nine lives, it'll still be recognized as nine lives; like in The Great Circus Mystery starring Mickey & Minnie, Mickey & Donald: Magical Adventure 3, and Maui Mallard.  That's why in all my screenshots Richard Tyler appears to always have nine lives.
P.S. 3 How come any time Richard Tyler falls straight down on the ground (even if only a few inches) a booming thunder sound is played as he gets back on his feet?  Is there a heavyweight hidden in that thin mass of his?  o~O
R.I.P. Leonard Nimoy (1931-2015) and James Horner (1953-2015)  =(
Thank you for reading my review, please leave me a comment and let me know what you think.  I hope you have a great day, take care!
Rhymes that keep their secrets, will unfold behind the clouds / And there upon the rainbow is the answer to a never ending stooooooryyyyyyy!  Aaaahh!  Never ending stooooooryyyyyy!  Aa----♪
Crap, wrong movie! >_<