All Night Nippon Super Mario Bros.

      When a video game is wildly popular, it inevitably gets a sequel. When its sequel is also wildly popular, it's officially a franchise and all bets off. Not only will there be a steady stream of sequels, but there will be all sorts of bizarre spin-offs produced to milk even more money out of the hardcore fanbase. You've all seen or played at least one these games. Games like Pac-Attack, Sonic Spinball, Mega Man Soccer, Resident Evil: Survivor, and Dirge of Cerberus: Final Fantasy VII. The quality and necessity of such games is typically questionable. All too often these games coast by on their license and suffer from shallow, repetitive gameplay. This isn't always the case, but for every super fun Mortal Kombat: Shaolin Monks that got made, there's a Mortal Kombat: Special Forces and a Mortal Kombat Mythologies: Sub-Zero. And then, there's Mario. The number of games starring Nintendo's flagship character is larger than the complete game libraries of some consoles. Not good consoles, of course, but it's still a pretty impressive feat. Mario has done just about everything: plumbing, baseball, soccer, tennis, kart racing, medical research, painting, sweater design, juggling, demolitions, pinball, wandering around blindly with a bucket on his head... The list just keeps on going. If the idea sounds even slightly plausible, Nintendo is willing to give it a try. In terms of game franchises, Mario is in an interesting position. A typical spin-off garners review scores between C- and D. Meanwhile, a typical Mario spin-off's review scores usually fall somewhere between C+ and B-. And while few Mario spin-offs are exceptionally good, even fewer are exceptionally bad. I would argue that despite having a much smaller game catalogue, Pac-Man has many more truly awful games to his name than Mario, even if we exclude all the hideous home conversions of his eponymous arcade game. The reason for this is simple: Mario has never gone out of style. While Namco sits around desperately trying to figure out how to make games that will make Pac-Man relevant again, Nintendo is just trying to make Mario games that are fun. And more often than not, Nintendo succeeds.

      I had another point, one besides the fact that Nintendo is awesome and Namco is an evil soulless corporation that does not feel even remotely guilty that they tricked you into buying Soulcalibur Legends and Death By Degrees. And that point is this: when a franchise manages to crank out as many games as Mario has, some cool ones inevitably get lost in the shuffle. There are a number of reasons why this can happen. Maybe the game wasn't advertised well. Maybe it was overshadowed by other releases. Maybe it was on an unusual or unsuccessful platform. Maybe it was released in the twilight of a platform's lifespan, when most people had already moved on. Maybe its sales didn't live up to expectations and it was taken out of production. Maybe it was never released in your country. Maybe it was a Club Nintendo exclusive. Or maybe it was a prize given out by a Japanese radio program. That's the story behind the All Night Nippon Super Mario Bros. disk.


What Is All Night Nippon?

      All Night Nippon is a popular late night Japanese radio program that, in its primary incarnation, runs Monday through Saturday from 1 A.M. to 3 A.M. on several Japanese radio stations. The program originates out of Nippon Broadcasting System, a Tokyo radio station, and has aired since since October 1, 1967. Although all six nights of programming are referred to as All Night Nippon, each night is hosted by different personalities. In anticipation of All Night Nippon's 20th broadcast year, Nintendo was asked to design a special version of Super Mario Bros. to be used as a contest prize. Nintendo agreed, and in December 1986, All Night Nippon Super Mario Bros. was given away to listeners in a random drawing.


What Is All Night Nippon Super Mario Bros.?

      All Night Nippon Super Mario Bros. is a platform game for the Famicom Disk System starring Mario and Luigi. As previously mentioned, it was a radio contest prize given out in December 1986. The game is, for the most part, a modified version of the Japanese version of Super Mario 2. It uses a modified version of SMB2J sprite set, and it retains many of the gameplay changes that that game had over its predecessor. For example, the game uses the improved physics of Mario 2, features the additional Worlds A-D, and removes the two player option in favor letting a single player choose between playing as Mario and Luigi. However, not all of Mario 2's mechanics made the cut; there are no Poison Mushrooms, no windstorms, no warp zones that send you backwards instead of forwards. And more importantly, the game does not retain most of SMB2J's levels. Instead, it is comprised of a combination of modified levels from SMB1 and SMB2J. Oddly enough, it was not the first game to do this. The 1986 arcade game Vs. Super Mario Bros. was also built out of modified versions of SMB1/SMB2J levels, albeit without using any of the SMB2J gameplay mechanics. Because of this, All Night Nippon Super Mario is often incorrectly identified as containing some Vs. levels. It absolutely does not.

For a complete list of the All Night Nippon game mechanics, click here.


Visual Changes


      Being as All Night Nippon Super Mario Bros. was meant to promote a radio program, several of the sprites have been altered to that end. First off, the background mushrooms from SMB2J, which themselves were a replacement for the fences from the original Super Mario Bros., have been replaced with microphones. It's a very minor change, but it's also very effective.



      The Mario franchise's iconic Starman has been replaced with a special hexagram called a Hiranya, which became somewhat of a phenomenon in Japan in the mid-1980s. The concept of Hiranya was popularized on Young Paradise with Yuji Miyake, a nightly radio show that ran from 1984-1990. The word "hiranya" has origins in ancient Sanskrit. Literally translated it means "golden", but it can also mean "superior" or "best". In 1980s Japan, Hiranya was part of a mysticism movement that claimed that metal hexagrams were super lucky. If you made two equilateral triangles out of wire and soldered them together into a perfect hexagram, it was supposed to have magic powers. Specifically, things placed in the center of the Hiranya were allegedly blessed with good luck. If a potted plant was placed inside the hexagram, it would experience above-average growth. Similarly, if money placed inside the hexagram was used for gambling or investments, it would see a return. Host Yuji Miyake would constantly entertain Hiranya success stories on-air, which helped to perpetuate the craze. The Young Paradise program was not actually part of All Night Nippon, having aired Monday through Thursday from 10 P.M. to midnight. But Young Paradise was a very successful NBS show in its own right, and the use of the hexagram was an extremely clever Japanese pop culture reference at the time.



      The flag that Mario raises in the castles at the end of the X-1 and X-2 levels has been altered as well. Instead of bearing a red star, it now sports the logo for the Fujisankei Communications Group, the parent company of the Nippon Broadcasting System. Incidentally, Fuji Television, another Fujisankei company, published All Night Nippon Super Mario in lieu of Nintendo. Fuji Television would also go on to publish a much more infamous Nintendo-developed title as a tie-in for Fujisankei's Dream Factory '87 trade show. That game was Yume Kōjō: Doki Doki Panic which, as we all know, would later find international acclaim as the Western world's version of Super Mario 2.



      The axe that adorns Bowser's castles has also been replaced with the Fujisankei logo as well. This change doesn't make any sense! How the hell the Fujisankei logo supposed to cut throw the rope and send Bowser into the lava? Maybe I just don't have a good imagination, but I can't fucking figure it out.



      The classic Goomba has been replaced by a disembodied head with feet and sunglasses surgically fused to it. This isn't just *any* disembodied head, however; it's a disembodied head of a Japanese celebrity! His name is Sunplaza Nakano. More on that later.



      The Piranha Plant, too, has been replaced with a famous Japanese sunglasses enthusiast. However, this is a different Japanese sunglasses enthusiast than the one who replaced the Goomba. His name is Tamori.



      The final change to the game's graphics are that the sprites for Princess Peach and her Mushroom Retainers have been replaced with some of the most popular All Night Nippon hosts of the time. What is especially interesting about this is that a single sprite, the Mushroom Retainer, has been replaced with eight sprites. Each of the castles in Worlds 1-7 is now home to a different All Night Nippon personality, while an eighth personality takes over the Retainer's role in Worlds A-C.


Who Are All These People?

      When most non-Japanese websites discuss the All Night Nippon Super Mario Bros. disk, they usually briefly mention that it features "Japanese celebrities" and leave it at that. And for the life of me, I simply cannot fucking understand why they don't go into more detail. Were they too lazy to do the research? Were they too stupid to do the research? Do they just not fucking care? Do they assume *you* don't fucking care? Well, I care, dammit. And I know I'm not alone. So now, for the first time ever on an English-language website, here's a complete list of the people who appear in All Night Super Mario. Enjoy!

Sunplaza Nakano-kun (Hiroki Nakano)
Sunplaza Nakano is a well-known Japanese musician who is always seen wearing sunglasses. His stage name is a reference to Tokyo's Nakano Sun Plaza hotel. He was on All Night Nippon on Friday nights.
Tamori (Kazuyoshi Morita)
Tamori is one of the most popular television comedians in Japan. He was on All Night Nippon on Wednesday nights from 1976-1983. He was no longer on the program when the game was made, but was apparently too awesome not to be included. Like Nakano, he always wears sunglasses.
Miyuki Nakajima
To me, that sprite looks like Bobby Brady eating a bowl of noodles. It is supposed to be Miyuki Nakajima, an attractive and popular female singer/songwriter. She was on All Night Nippon on Monday nights.
Takaaki Ishibashi

Okay, so Takaaki Ishibashi walks into a bar. The bartender says, "Hey, why the long face?"

Seriously though, that 8-bit caricature is inaccurate and mean. The real Takaaki looks like a Japanese Erik Estrada.

Noritake Kinashi

Together, Noritake and Takaaki were a comedy duo known as Tunnels. They hosted All Night Nippon on Tuesday nights. Capcom fans may also know Noritake as the creator of Norimaro, a hilarious playable character who appears in the Japanese versions of Marvel vs. Street Fighter.

Kyon2 (Kyoko Koizumi)
Whoever worked on this game is apparently terrible at making feminine sprites. This one looks like a tap-dancing little boy. But it is actually Kyoko Koizumi, an incredibly popular/cute Japanese singer/actress. She was on All Night Nippon on Wednesday nights.
Beat Takeshi (Takeshi Kitano)
Along with Tamori and another All Night Nippon alumnus named Sanma Akashiya, Beat Takeshi is considered one of the "Big 3" comedians in Japan. He was on All Night Nippon on Thursday nights.
Daisuke Matsuno
Daisuke Matsuno was one half of the comedy duo AB Brothers. Their radio show ran on Saturday nights. He is currently a novelist and essayist.
Hideyuki Nakayama
Hideyuki Nakayama was the other half of the comedy duo AB Brothers. He is significantly more famous than Daisuke Matsuno.
Princess Peach
Believe it or not, this is supposed to be Princess Peach and not some Japanese celebrity. I'm not entirely sure why she's dressed up like a geisha, but she is. Don't question it.
Goro Itoi
Everyone in the game is listed in the instruction manual, except this guy. He looks like Goro Itoi, one of Japan's most famous DJs and one of the original All Night Nippon personalities. This is just a guess though. He died in 1984.


All Night? Not Quite.

      All Night Nippon Super Mario Bros. borrows 26 of its 32 main levels from the original Super Mario, albeit with some minor modifications. In keeping with the game's All Night Nippon theme, the original game's World 1 now takes place at night. See, because All Night Nippon is a late night radio show. Get it? GET IT? It's really clever. But for some unknown reason, not every world takes place at night. In fact, of the eight main worlds, only three of them take place at night. And two of those worlds, World 3 and World 6 took place at night to begin with. Worlds A-D, stolen from SMB2J, retain their original day-day-night-day progression. So out of twelve worlds, only a third of them take place at night. One has to wonder why the programmers chose to change World 1 to a nighttime setting, but left the other daytime worlds alone. Did they forget? Were they not fully onboard for this whole All Night Nippon idea? We will probably never know, but it is unforgivably sloppy. But it's pretty obvious why changing World 1 to a night was priority: the title screen is superimposed over World 1-1. So they were at least committed enough to the All Night Nippon premise to make sure the title screen got a nighttime setting.


The Levels

      There's not a whole lot that can be said about the levels in All Night Nippon Super Mario. If you played Super Mario Bros. and The Lost Levels, then you've played this game. Hell, even if you haven't played The Lost Levels, the vast majority of the first 8 worlds will be familiar to you. In fact, if you play through the game the short way, warping from 1-2 to 4-1 and then from 4-2 to 8-1, you will encounter only only one SMB2J level. Unfortunately for you, that level is SMB2J's World 8-4, and it's one of the hardest levels in that game. Although the levels in All Night Nippon Super Mario Bros. feature modifications such as new power-up placement and extra enemies, most of these changes aren't particularly annoying or unfair. And since I said most, you probably think there's a major exception. Well, there is: the solutions to the original game's two super frustrating maze levels World 4-4 and World 7-4, have been changed. Those levels were fucking obnoxious to begin with, and having to figure out new solutions is even more obnoxious. Luckily, you don't have to; I have done the work for you.

For a complete list of which SMB1/SMB2J levels the All Night Nippon levels are based on, click here.


Things To See

      When you rescue Hideyuki Nakayama at the end of World 7-4, he is blond. If you are regular Mario or Super Mario, Mr. Nakayama's overalls will be light blue. If you are Fiery Mario, his jumpsuit will be white. When you see him again, in the game's ending, the yellow in his sprite has been replaced with green and his overalls will be white no matter which incarnation of Mario you are. The black/transparent part of his sprite has been replaced with green, which results in his goatee and indifferent facial expression combining into a wide smile. So, which colors are the intended ones? Presumably, the blue and yellow one. The blue-to-white change is likely the result of the Fiery Mario palette shift. Besides, it's a minor change. As for the green Nakayama in the game's celebratory screen, that is likely due to the limitations of the Famicom hardware. The Famicom (as well as the NES) could only display 25 colors at once: 12 for sprites, 12 for tiles, and a background color. Additionally, color de-emphasis tricks could be used to create the illusion of more colors. This limitation is why enemies such as Goombas and Piranha Plants were different colors in overworld, underworld, and castle levels; their color designations are linked to palette, and shift with the levels. In would appear that in order to help conserve colors, Hideyuki Nakayama was given the same color designations as Takaaki Ishibashi and Beat Takeshi rather than his own unique ones. Ironically, Nakayama looks a lot better in green and white than he does in his intended colors.


      Although the castles in Worlds A-C have Goro Itoi as their featured personality, when you rescue the princess in World D, the ending still features the seven DJs you rescued in the main game instead of seven copies of him. Sloppy, sloppy, sloppy.


      Speaking of Goro Itoi, you can replace him with another All Night Nippon personality if you so desire. To do so, simply beat one of the castles in Worlds 1-4. Then, when you get to the screen where you're told that the princess is in another castle, hit the reset button. Once the game reloads, hold A and press Start to load World A-1. Then, play through the game as normal. Goro will now be replaced with the character you rescued right before you reset. However, instead of appearing in his or her normal colors, that character will now have orange hair and red skin, an inversion of Goro's color palette. The character replacement will remain in effect for the duration of your game; once you rescue the princess, run out of lives, reset, or shut the system off, things will return to normal. What's truly bizarre about this trick is that only works with Miyuki Nakajima, Takaaki Ishibashi, Noritake Kinashi, and Kyoko Koizumi. It will not work with Beat Takeshi, Daisuke Matsuno, or Hideyuki Nakayama. It will also not work with Princess Peach, and you're stupid for wondering if it would.


      There are four levels in All Night Nippon Super Mario Bros. that have had the SMB2J windstorm effect removed from them: A-3, B-1, C-3, and D-4. In three of these levels, the removal of windstorms makes the levels slightly less annoying. But in B-1, the removal is actually a hindrance. The windstorms would alternate between blowing from the east and west, either boosting your jumping ability or hurting it. In B-1, there is a succession of long jumps that Mario can just barely make. When the wind is there to give you a boost, these jumps are significantly easier. Without it, you pretty much have to execute the final jump perfectly. That, or you need to play as Luigi.


Super Mario Bros. 2 (Japan)

All Night Nippon Super Mario Bros.

      Although All Night Nippon Super Mario Bros. is based on the SMB2J engine and uses its sprites as its template, a few sprites have actually reverted to their original Super Mario Bros. forms. Most noticeably, the game's bricks and end-of-level castles look how they did in the first game. There's no conceivable reason why these changes were made, other than someone on the design team must have thought that the older bricks and castles looked better. And if that's the case, they were absolutely correct. The castles in SMB2J looked fucking hideous, and the restoration of the earlier graphics is a most welcome change.


Super Mario Bros. 2 (Japan)

All Night Nippon Super Mario Bros.

      The bricks and castles aren't the only sprites that have been restored to their original incarnation. SMB2J had two and a half levels which took place in the sky, where Mario ran across special cloud platforms. Apparently these clouds took the place of the mushroom platforms that Mario encounters in levels 4-2 and 4-3 in the previous game, because those mushrooms take their place in All Night Nippon Super Mario's sole important cloud level, World A-3. So it would seem the programmers had to choose between having one full level and a warp zone from Super Mario Bros. take place in the sky, or having A-3 use mushrooms. I would say that they definitely made the right choice; the first Super Mario game is far more beloved, even in Japan, and preserving the look of its levels is the much greater priority. Interestingly enough, while the mushroom platforms themselves use the sprites from the original game, their stems have been given a bit of a facelift. I'm not sure if that change was entirely necessary, but the new stems do look quite nice.


      Although the Minus World trick is not present in All Night Nippon Super Mario, that doesn't mean there isn't still some weirdness to be had. You can still glitch your way through wall at the end of World 1-2, and you can still go down the pipes before you've trigger the area as a warp zone. If you try and trigger the classic Minus World glitch by going down one of the pipes, it will not work. Instead, you will be taken to the end of 1-2, and I do mean taken; the game places Mario just to the left of the pipe he would normally emerge from. So don't try that. Instead, set your sights on the warp pipe on the far right, the one that normally leads to World 2. If you can jump down that pipe just as you trigger the "WELCOME TO WARP ZONE!" message, something odd will happen. You will see a level screen informing you that you're about to re-enter World 1-2. However, despite what the level counter says, you will find yourself replaying World 1-1 with two new problems: all the pipes now contain Piranha Planets and your timer has not reset from the last level. If you beat this fraudulent World 1-2, you will enter World 1-3 as normal and continue onward. If you die or run out of time, you will restart the game in the real 1-2, either at the beginning or the midway point, depending on where you died.



      All Night Nippon Super Mario Bros. is one of the rarest titles in the Mario game library. Only 3,000 copies were ever printed, making it a huge collector's item among hardcore Nintendo fans. This game has never been ported or remade by Nintendo because of the major licensing issues associated with doing so. The costs involved with relicensing the All Night Nippon name as well as all the celebrities who appear - none of whom still work for the show - would be rather expensive, and that's assuming that all parties involved even consented. Nintendo could still re-release it if they really wanted, by simply replacing the licensed material. Lord knows they've done it before. The Virtual Console release of Wave Race 64 replaced the omnipresent Kawasaki banners that adorned the game's courses with banners promoting the Wii and DS. Of course, given that those changes were universally panned by the fans, perhaps Nintendo is better off just leaving the game alone. Besides, the All Night Nippon license is what makes the game worth playing. Without it, All Night Nippon Super Mario Bros. is just a strange amalgamation of levels from Super Mario Bros. and the Lost Levels. In fact, without the new sprites, it's basically just Vs. Super Mario Bros. version 2.0, and it deserves much better than that. The game is best served by being left the way it is, an oddity and a rarity, something for dedicated collectors to physically possess and for curious fanboys and fangirls to seek out on emulation sites. As for everyone else, I've told you absolutely everything there is to know about the game.


Posted by: Syd Lexia