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Dr. Mario (NES) Playthrough - NintendoComplete

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A playthough of Nintendo's 1990 puzzle game for the NES, Dr. Mario.

Played through on high speed, and the ending is shown upon completion of the twentieth stage.

Dr. Mario was the first fully Mario-themed falling-pieces puzzle game that I can recall Nintendo ever making (can anyone confirm if that is indeed the case?), and it is still one of the best.

Anyone else remember the awesome TV commercial with the witch doctor that they played over and over when Dr. Mario came out? I'll never forget that one... especially the bit at the end: "And then he shrunk my head." Lmao.

So for the three of you out there that have never played a traditional Dr. Mario game, it's all very simple. A round begins with a bottle filling up with dancing viruses of three different colors, and the goal is to wipe them all out. To achieve this, you assume the role of Mario, garbed in his swankiest doctor attire, throwing multi-colored capsules into the jar. The capsules must be lined up with viruses of the same color, and matching four bits of the same color will clear them all from the playfield.

The premise is simple, but like the best puzzlers, there is a fair amount of depth to the gameplay. It follows the same design ethos that Tetris did: it's simple to pick up, impossible to master, and entirely addictive regardless of your skill level.

In my experience, there are two strategies that are necessary to master in Dr. Mario if you want to succeed at the harder levels. The first is learning to play while keeping an eye out for future placements. On the higher levels at high speed, you'll be forced to put pieces in spots that are less than ideal, but it's always a good idea to consider where you are going to place the next pill - if there isn't a good spot for the next piece to go, your best bet is to try to create a spot for it that won't interfere with any combos you're trying to set up. The second thing is to learn how to make last-minute moves to fit your capsules into super tight spots. Getting down the exact speed at which you can shift pieces and knowing which way to turn the pill at the last second (and which button will turn it in the correct direction!) is vital for the final few stages when you're given precious little time and room to work with.

I love the little cinematic scenes that play after every fifth level, but do they leave anyone else wondering exactly what it is that Mario is fighting here? Is he really killing viruses? And if not, then is he killing dinosaurs? Aliens? I have no idea, but the idea of Dr. Mario committing alien genocide is an amusing one.

And finally, for an NES puzzle title, the graphics and sound are great. The pieces are all clear and easily identified at a glance, and the dancing of the viruses and the animated Dr. Mario sprite gives the game far more personality than stuff like Tetris and Palamedes ever had - it's a cool way of spicing things up, and it does so in a way that wasn't typically seen before the appearance of 16-bit puzzlers like Tetris Attack or Dr. Robotnik's Mean Bean Machine. The music is also classic. It speaks volumes to its quality that, to this day, Nintendo is still remixing and recycling these same tracks for their modern Dr. Mario releases. You can't go wrong with either of the choices, "Fever" or "Chill," and somehow they don't ever get old. Of course, with a composer like Tanaka (Metroid, Kid Icarus, Super Mario Land, Mother, et al) at the helm, you would expect greatness, and he totally nailed it here.

Dr. Mario is awesome, full stop. The concept is a bit strange, but the game represents everything that people loved about NES-era Nintendo, and the gameplay is timeless. If you've not played it, what's wrong with you? :) It's on the NES Switch Online service and the NES Classic Edition, and the original NES cart can still be found super cheap, so unless you hate having fun, there really is no excuse to not play doctor with the gaming's favorite plumbing renaissance man.
No cheats were used during the recording of this video.

NintendoComplete (http://www.nintendocomplete.com/) punches you in the face with in-depth reviews, screenshot archives, and music from classic 8-bit NES games!

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