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Retro Gaming Review #3: The e-Reader Edition
by Scrooge McSuck

- For as long as I can remember, Nintendo has been trying their best to expand their video game library with new, inventive consoles and add-on's to already existing platforms. While the Virtual Boy was a colossal failure, Nintendo managed to reinvent the Gameboy over and over again, with moderate success at least with every new form (the mini, color, whatever). Two examples of expansion included the Super Gameboy, where you could plug in Gameboy cartridges into an SNES expansion pack, and play these games through the SNES. Years later, the Gamecube released a Gameboy Player add on, this time with the additional abilities to play "newer" GBC and Gameboy Advance games, as well as the original Gameboy stuff.

But none of that matters in regards of this review. No, this time, we'll be tackling the one Nintendo add-on feature I haven't mentioned, the e-Reader. For those unfamiliar with the e-Reader, it was basically a cartridge you plug into your Gameboy Advance. Using it required card packs that you would scan data through, to play classic games, play bonus levels in previously existing games, and other forms of nonsense that I won't delve into. The lifespan of the e-Reader was incredibly short though, lasting from (I believe) the latter part of 2002 through the end of 2003 before discontinuation, notably after the release of Super Mario Advance 4 (Super Mario Bros. 3 re-release) which used cards to give you new levels and power-ups at the snap of a ... um... card.

With all of that out of the way, let me dig deep into the cave of video games (a.k.a. the cabinet to the television stand in my living room) and see what we've got left to uncover.

(Note: The e-Reader released somewhere along the line of 13 games, and if you need a complete list of what was available, then go fuck yourself, because I only have about half of them, and will go through each based on their original release dates on the NES)

Game #1: Baseball
Original Release Date: October 18th, 1985 (NES Launch Title)
Developer: Nintendo

If you want to talk primitive sports games, then look no further than the original releases of the Nintendo. Baseball is a bare-bones version of the game of the same name. There's only a mode to play a single game, where you can play as one of six teams, recognized simply as letters of the alphabet (teams A, C, D, P, R, and Y. Depending on who you ask, the letters chosen were meant to represent MLB teams, but I don't know how trustworthy that is.) As limited as the game can be, it stays true to the basics of the game. You play a nine-inning game (or less, if you're the home team and leading after the top of the 9th), you strike out after three strikes or take a walk after four balls, you score runs, steal bases, etc. etc. As much as that sounds "right", the defense is horribly slugish and is almost uncontrolable by the person actually playing, rather than the A1 assigned to play defense for you. Pitching basically comes down to "throw" and "push control buttons in a direction" to try and get the bal past the batter. Worst of all is the tedious nature of the game. It'll take a good, long time just to play one game, and I think of all the times I've played, I MIGHT have won one game, and that was on a fluke. The computer assigned team always manages to hit a ludicrous amount of home runs and gappers to get extra bases, while you're lucky to string together a few singles to scratch together one run.

After inspecting the cards you're supposed to scan, you'll find gameplay "details" and helpful hints to make the best of a bad situation...

"Which team bats first (first ups) is decided automatically."

"Practice operating the controller functions to master the game. A variety of plays are possible including steals, hit and runs, squeeze and sacrifice bunts, and tag-up plays. You control the action!"

"Use the control pad to determine batting position within the batter's box."

"To continue running the bases, press the B button and hold the + control pad toward the base you are on. Press the A button to return to the base you were on."

"Good base stealing is an art! As soon as the ball is thrown, press the B button and the + control pad toward the base you are on. Don't get caught in a pickle!"

"If the + control pad is not pressed during the pitch, a medium-speed straight pitch will be thrown. Strike 'em out with a variety of your best pitches!"

"To throw a feint, press the B button and the + control pad in the direction of the designated base. If the + control pad is not pressed, the feint goes to the closest base with a runner."

"To pitch, press the A button and the + control pad (Up for a slow ball, down for a fastball, left for a screwball, and right for a curve ball)."

"When a runner is headed home, the catcher has not covered home plate after catching a pitch. Press toward home on the + control pad and then press the throw button again to tag that runner!"

"If a runner fails to tag up before running after a fly-out, he can be put out by throwing the ball to the base he left. Once the ball is returned to the pitcher, the runner is safe."

I guess the game is fun now-a-days for a one-and-done play through, just to see how much games have evolved. Hell, even a few years after the release of this game on the NES, you can see a vast improvement in their baseball releases (the Bases Loaded series has always been a favorite of mine, just saying). However, there's just not a lot of enjoyment to be found here. It's more frustrating than fun, and you'll most likely be begging for a loss by the time it's the 7th inning because of the slow progression of a game.

Game #2: Excitebike
Original Release Date: October 18th, 1985 (NES Launch Title)
Developer: Nintendo

One of my favorite games from the NES. In short, it's a motocross racing game. You control the red-racer through a variety of courses, filled with various obstacles, from ramps to rough terrain and mud slides. You can race by yourself in a time trial then race against a series of unlimited, various colored opponents on the live tracks, and it's your role to finish with the best time you can to move on to the next track. You can also create and play through your own track, with all of the available ramps and hazzards at your disposal.

Obviously,as a launch release, this is from the earliest days where graphics weren't exactly the greatest, but everything looks fine, there's plenty of bright colors to keep the eyes satisfied and give you a sense of enjoyment, even today when compared to other games from the NES era, and the charm still holds up. It's an easy game to learn from the initial play through, the controls are very cooperative, so you won't be screaming at the television every 15 seconds for pressing buttons with a lack of response, and there's plenty of different tracks (for the time, that is) to keep you satisfied for an extended amount of time. The fact you can create a track yourself is always a welcome feature, although on the original NES version, you weren't capable of saving them (a cross-over from the Famicom that didn't exist, thanks to different technology on the consoles).

If there's a down side I'd have to point out, it would be the difficulty in keeping your finish time under the required limit. If you have more than a wipe out or two on any given tracks, you might as well give up, because your racer takes a LONG time to get back on his bike, and in some cases with the opponent racers, you'll be knocked off instantly while trying to recover. This isn't a common occurance, but it does happen, so beware if you decide to give this game a chance.

With that out of the way, let's go to the cards...

"Play Modes: Selection A is solo mode. Get a feel for the track, develop your riding style, or try to beat your own best time. Selection B pits you against the world class Motocross riders. Place in the top three to advance to the next round of fierce competition. The Design selection allows you to design your own track for solo or competition races. Place ramps, jumps, and obstacles along the tack, chose the number of laps, and battle it out in competition mode for the Excitebike crown."
"Before each championship race, you must qualify in a preliminary race. Finish in first, second or third to advance to the championship race, Example: Preliminary race 3 - Place second and advance to main race 3. Preliminary race 4 - place fifth and go home."
"Techniques: Whrn using Turbo (B Button), the engine accelerates quickly and your speed is boosted. If you use too much turbo, your engine will over-heat. Keep an eye on the temperature meter at the bottom of the screen to avoid being sidelined while your engine cools."
"Ride over the arrows on the track to cool down your engine quickly. If you hit a rider from behind, you are going down. If another rider hits you from behind, they are going down. Press the A button or B button repeatedly to get on your bike quickly if you fall."
"Your angle and speed are important when approaching a jump. Control your angle with the + control pad. Jump higher by keeping your wheel up while in the air. Jump farther by raising your front wheel and going full-speed ahead into the jump. Try to land on both wheels so that you can take off quickly! You can do a wheelie by raising the front wheel in the air (press left on the + control pad). Try this to help get over small obstacles with ease."

Although this game is going to turn 25 years old, it's still a blast to play in short spurts, and is a good choice for nostalgia when looking back on the NES. Good graphics, fun gameplay, an innovative choice in the days before motocross was the "in" thing and a somewhat deeper set of (successful) options to play through to keep gamers coming back for more makes it a must-play for any video game fans.

Game #3: Pinball
Original Release Date: October 18th, 1985 (NES Launch Title)
Developer: Nintendo

The last of the launch titles I have for the e-Reader, and another one of my personal favorites from the NES, and again, it's a pretty basic set up. It's a video game version of a pinball machine, thats split into two screens, a top level and bottom level. Your goal is to score as many points as possible without losing all of your balls. Outside of the obvious pinball technique, you score points in Scenes A and B hitting slot targets, lane lights, hole kickers, bumpers, cards (yes, cards), eggs, among other items scattered throughout the construction. You can create block posts to save your ball from falling into the pit, as well as side lanes in Scene B to help you out a few times. In Scene B, there's a hole that will send you to Scene C, which is a mini-game featuring none other than Mario. In this scene, it's your job to release the Lady from her prison above knocking the ball across an assortment of bingo lamps. If you catch her on your board and lead her to a safety exit, you get a big bonus, but if you fail to catch her, you lose a pinball. If your ball drops without releasing Lady, you just go back to scenes A and B until you come back and try again.

That pretty much explains the game. Visually, it's not the most impressive game. As a youngster, the lay out of the pinball board sometimes looked like a face, and a lot of the choices for graphics seemed a bit odd for a pinball machine, such as seals and playing cards, but to each his own. The sound stays true to pinball, with the various boops, beeps, and whistles you're going to hear playing a real pinball machine. Controls come down to hitting the ball, and not much else, and the same goes for challenge. Half of it is timely hitting, and the other half is luck to get deep into a game of pinball.

"How to Play - Your first pinball will appear at the bottom of the plunger lane, in the lower-right corner of the screen. The A button launches the pinball onto the table. The longer the A Button is held down, the harder the pinball will be hit with the plunger. Once the pinball is on the table, use the flippers to hit it. You can direct the pinball to aim for targets, hit the correct combination at the slots, and unlock the Mario mini-game. If three pinballs are lost, the game is over."

"Slot Targets - A 3-3-3 combination gives you a 3,330 point bonus and the block post is raised for six seconds. A 7-7-7 combination gives you a 7,770 point bonus and the block post is raised for 14 seconds. A three-penguin combination raises the block post and all points earned while it is raised are doubled. Tip: The block post is lowered when the pinball goes through the lane on the right-hand side of the table."

Scoring - An extra pinball is earned at 50,000 points. The flippers and blocks disappear after 100,000 points and reappear after 150,000 points. Knock out one lane light in the top-left corner of the table and recieve 100 points. Knock out all lane lights and recieve 2,000 points. Each card that is turned over by the pinball is worth 500 points. If five spades are turned over in a row, you'll recieve a 5,000 point bonus and the block post is raised."

As mentioned earlier, while this one falls under the catagory of incredibly simple, the fun is still there after a quarter-century. It's not the most impressive looking game, and there's no real skill to play and be successful, but that's not something to frown about. A game for people of all ages is usually worthy of playing moreso than one intended for people of a particular gaming skill (damn you, Ghosts 'n' Goblins!).

Game #4: Donkey Kong
Original Release Date: 1981 (Arcade), June 1986 (NES)
Developer: Nintendo

Much like all other games mentioned so far, we've got another pretty basic game, and the fact I have to describe what Donkey Kong is comes as a bit of a laugher to me, much like having to describe Mario or Zelda. Donkey Kong originated as an arcade hit in 1981, more by fluke rather than by someone coming up with an incredible idea for a game. Over the years, Donkey Kong was ported to various video game systems, and eventually, along with it's sequels, was ported to the NES in the Summer of 1986.

In Donkey Kong, you control Jump-Man, eventually known as Mario, and it's your goal to rescue your female counterpart, Pauline, from the clutches of Donkey Kong, a giant ape with a bad attitude who seems to have taken a safe haven of sorts for himself in the middle of what looks like a crudely designed construction site. In all three levels (a fourth, originally found in the arcade version, has been removed in pretty much all ports of the game) it's your goal to scale your way to the top of each level and... well, kind of stand near Donkey Kong, until the final level, when you knock him (and assumingly, yourself) from the top by undoing all the bolts in the platforms. All the while, you have to avoid such traps and obstacles such as ghosts (?), fireballs, and the ever famous barrels. The game begins anew, with increased difficulty, over and over again, until you lose all of your lives. Since the cards pretty much recycle everything I've just said, here's the choice stuff printed that I hadn't already covered...

"Scoring - You can gain points by picking up Pauline's lost parasol and purse. It pays to be alert! You get an extra life if your score exceeds 20,000. Gain points by bonking a Barrel or Fireball with your hammer*. You also get points if you successfully jump a barrel. Bonus points are added to your score when you reach Pauline. But if you take too much time to reach her, these points will decrease. The sooner you finish the level, the better!"

*-Originally, Jump-Man/Mario was depicted as a Carpenter. It wasn't until Mario Bros. was released in the Arcades shortly after Donkey Kong that Mario (and his brother Luigi) settled into the role of plumbers. As a child, I never understood the hammer's inclusion, but of course, knowing all of this now, it makes perfect sense.

"Jumping Techniques - Take advantage of jumps. Use your jumping skills to avoid Barrels, Jacks, and Fireballs. You can jump left, right, or upward. Press the + control pad in the direction you want to jump as you press the A Button. Note that Mario cannot jump on or off ladders. Mario can jump the distance of two sections of the steel girders. He can only survive a jump down the height of two sections of steel girders, the same as Mario's height."

"Level Tips - Level 1: Two hammers are on this level. Each can be used only once. Find the right place, grab it, and use it to bonk Fireballs and Barrels. Level 2: The Jacks come down on a set course, so they're easy to avoid. Wait in front of the position where the Jack will bounce. After it passes, it's safe to move on. Level 3: Undoing the bolts needs to be done quickly because the number of attacking Fireballs increases. The best way to proceed is to go from the lower left upward and then from the upper right downward."

Once again, due to the nature of being designed roughly 30 years ago, the graphics are simple, with no backgrounds, and little effort in many frames of animation for sprites. The sound effects are limited to blips of bouncing obstacles and Mario's running/jumping, and not much else. Controls are pretty basic, as you simply run, jump, and climb things, tasks a gamer of any age can perfect in just a one playthrough. As mentioned earlier, the difficulty increases for each time you pass through the three levels, and you can defintiely feel it after a few times. While not the deepest game ever (you'll probably be done with it in 10-minutes, most of the time), it still holds up as a classic for what it was, an arcade hit meant to be played over again to try and out-do yourself and others the next time around.

Game #5: Donkey Kong Jr.
Original Release Date: 1982 (Arcade), June 1986 (NES)
Developer: Nintendo

We're back with some more ape antics, but this time we've got a weird little twist. We all remember Mario running around and jumping like mad to save his precious Pauline from the evil clutches of Donkey Kong, right? I only talked about it no more than a few sentences ago, for the love of Pete. Well, the storyline here, in your gaming adventures, is assuming the role of Donkey Kong Jr., and it's up to you to rescue the caged Donkey Kong from the clutches of the games antagonist... Mario!?! Hold the phone, Boss Hogg, Mario is the bad guy? I know I've longed for that storyline for a Luigi game, but color me shocked that the eventual face of the video game world was casted into such an unfitting role.

Well, with that out of the way, let's see what the game has to offer. We've got the same basic mechanics, as it's your job as DK Jr. to scale through levels to reach to the top, where you give Mario the Stinky Ape Eye until you get shoved into the next level. Instead of jumping barrels and climbing ladders, you get to jump over electric sparks and mechanical crocodiles and climbing vines and other stuff of climbing capacity. Four levels are included in the game, and yes, much like the original Donkey Kong, there's no true ending. You just recycle through the levels over and over again, with increased difficulty each time you pass through the four levels.

"How To Play - In Rounds 1 through 3, work your way to the top of the level to reach the key. In Round 4, carry all sixe keys to the top of the level and put them into their keyholes to free Donkey Kong. BEWARE! Each time you collide with a spark, fall from a vine, get bitten by a Snapjaw, or get pecked by a Nitpicker, you'll lose a life. Once all of your lives are gone, the game is over."

"Techniques - Used these two special moves to help speed up the action. 1. Grab onto two vines at a time to speed to the top. 2. Go down quicker by sliding down just one vine."

"Tips - Timing is everything! In Round 2, press the A Button at just the right time and you'll launch off the springboard onto the moving island. Drop fruit from vines on your enemies to get bonus points. Score 20,000 points and earn an extra life!"

"Items - Keys: Pick up the keys to Donkey Kong's cage (Rounds 1-3). Insert keys into keyholes to free Donkey Kong (Round 4). Fruit: Pick up fruit for extra bonus points."

This game looks and plays almost exactly like the original Donkey Kong. The graphics are dated, but work considering the games age, the sound effects basically come down to DK Jr.'s climbing and jumping noises, as well as any bouncing projecticles. Controls are limited to the same climb and jump technique, and the difficulty setting is automatic, as mentioned before. Personally, I enjoy this game more than Donkey Kong, but that's probably because it was a tad bit easier for younger players. At least that's how I felt as a child playing Donkey Kong Classics for the NES (a port of both games on the same cartridge). Definitely worth checking out at least once, if you already haven't.

Game #6: Donkey Kong 3
Original Release Date: 1983 (Arcade), June 1986 (NES)
Developer: Nintendo

The final game in this collection. Donkey Kong 3... wait... 3? What the hell happened to 2? I'm assuming the creaters of DK 3 decided that everyone just assumed that Donkey Kong Jr. was unofficially DK 2, and thus they would just randomly start using numbers again to designate the order of the series? I've never cared for this personally, but it's a rare occurance for games back in the day. Other than the Contra series (Contra, Super C, then Contra III), I can't, off the top of my head, think of an instance where the developers gave up on numbering the series, then decided to do it again, acting as if the previous un-numbered games were numbered, anyway.

With that out of the way, Donkey Kong 3 is like the forgotten step-child of the series. First of all, Donkey Kong is no longer taking over construction sites or being captured by carpenters-turned-plumbers. Yes, Mario has been removed from the series, too. Instead, we've got Donkey Kong holding up inside what is meant to be a Greenhouse, and the new protagonist of the series is Stanley, The Bug Man(tm). Instead of a mad dash to climb to the top of the level, it's your job to blast Donkey Kong up the butt with your spray can of poision.

I'm sorry to be so harsh, but why fuck with something that wasn't broken? I can understand trying to change things up a little bit to keep things fresh, but drastically changing the way the game plays and replacing a popular character as the "good guy", it comes across like the video game version of a poorly thought out movie sequel designed solely to milk money from faithful fans of the previous versions. If something had to be changed, why not allow the gamer to play as Donkey Kong this time (after all, the game IS named after him, and yet you never get to play as him), but whatever.

"How To Play - Spreay repeatedly to force Donkey Kong up to the top of the vines and to zap the bees. A power spray can is attached to the vine. Spray Donkey Kong up to where the power Spray can is attached, and it will drop to where Stanley can reach it. Use it when you are in trouble and need to fight back. The bees come to get the flowers at the bottom of the screen. Zap them before they return to their hive. The round ends when Donkey Kong is successfully defeated or all the bees are eliminated."

"Enemies include Beespy, Buzzbee, Attacker, and Queen Buzzbee (As the rounds advance, other pesky bugs will also appear). Creepy the Snake will crawl down from the palm trees to attack. It's movement is slow, but it can quickly revive after being sprayed. Chase the Creepies back into the trees and knock out the ones on the floor. You can safely walk past unconcious Creepies."

"Tips - The key to success is to fire the spray can as fast as possible at Donkey Kong while avoiding various enemies. Remember to jump closer to Donkey Kong to get a better shot at him. In the second round, be sure not to stun all the Creepies directly in front of Donkey Kong. It will make it much more difficult to hit him. Remember, when attacking the Queen Buzzbees, it takes two shots to knock them out. Upon defeat they will shoot their stingers in four different directions. Directly below them is the ideal place to be."

Although we're into the third game of the series, I would say the graphics are either on par with the previous two titles, or maybe even a bit worse, just because of the drastic environment changes and the way the game plays, in general. Again, sounds are just blips and bleeps depending on what enemies are attacking and what action your guy is performing (jump and spray). Typical controls don't hurt the game at all, but in my opinion, this is the most challenging game of the Donkey Kong series (at this point, of course). It just seems like the game goes out of it's way to try and not let you be successful with such a weak premise and lack of definitive goal for success, like in previous titles. Personally, I would not recommend buying this game, but if you absolutely HAVE to play it just once for nostalgia sake, then go download it or something for free. I wouldn't be surprised if most gamers would be done with it within 5-minutes, probably out of boredom.

BONUS! e-Reader Game & Watch Collection: Manhole

I'm pretty sure this game card came with the packaging of the e-Reader plug-in. I'm not too sure, because of the age of the series, but the Game & Watch series was basically cheap, hand-held games featured on an LCD (Liquid Crystal Display) screen. A lot of classic games, ranging from the Donkey Kong series to the original Mario Bros., all found homes in the Game and Watch collection (the watch part being that the handheld game also featured a clock/alarm, hence the title of the technology).

Manhole was one of the earliest games to be released in the series, dating back to the early 80's. It's a pretty simple game, naturally, even more-so than you would think considering the format of the technology it was originally featured on. Your job in the game is to bridge the gaps on the screen that pedestrians are walking across. If you happen to fail to save one of them from falling into the sewers, you lose a life. Three lost pedestrians, and the game is over.

I'm not really sure how to rate the game. It holds over with the true LCD screen, so I guess that's cool for the nostalgia, but the graphics for those games were never the greatest. I remember as later on as the late 90's, playing handheld games of series' such as Mortal Kombat and the X-Men, and the "graphics" were basically the already existing images lighting up to correspond with the action of your character and the enemies at the time. It's fun for a few minutes just to look back at how video games have ranged from consoles to handhelds over the years, but that's it. This game card wasn't meant to be treated as a serious game release.

[Note: I would also like to mention that the e-Reader also came with cards for Animal Crossing and one of the many, many, many versions of Pokemon (Crystal and Diamond, maybe?). With the Animal Crossing cards, you pretty much were allowed to recieve special gifts unique to the bar code featured on the card. The Pokemon cards, from what I understand, included new trainers to battle, or something. I never had a Pokemon game since Silver came out in 2000, so I have no clue what the hell to do with this.]

[Note Update: A Pokemon Battle Card hiding in my deck of Mario cards revealed that it was for Pokemon Ruby and Sapphire, and the Trainers featured pokemon at their disposal that you might not see otherwise in the game.]

Super Mario Advance 4: Super Mario Bros. 3-e
The final stage of the review. As mentioned at the top of this edition, the e-Reader technology met an untimely end not long after special cards were created to correspond with the release of Super Mario Bros. 3 in the Mario Advance series. Two sets of cards were released in a Volume 1 and Volume 2 style, 18 cards came in each volume, and 2 cards were packaged with the game as well, for a total of 38 cards, overall.

Demo Cards: Basically, these are "tip" cards that give you a visual guide of what you're supposed to do. For those unfamiliar with the old Mario games, people were always trying to figure out ways to get "unlimited" one ups, or find the hidden pipes to warp levels and what-not. Mario Bros. 3 included the most surprises up until that point, from hidden houses, power-ups, and surprises that you wouldn't believe. A total of 10 "Demo Cards" were released to give players an idea on how to uncover some of the secrets (and a few junkers, too)...

  1. World 1-1 Speed Stage
  2. World 1-2 Unlimited 1-Ups
  3. World 2-2 Toad's Hidden House
  4. World 3-2 Star Power
  5. World 3-4 Unlimited 1-Ups
  6. World 3-8 Toad's Hidden House
  7. World 4-2 Toad's Hidden House
  8. World 5-5 Toad's Hidden House
  9. World 6-7 Toad's Hidden House
  10. World 7-2 Toad's Hidden House
Power-Up Cards: Now the best part of Super Mario Bros. 3. Unlimited special power-ups. You could only find Frog suits and hammer suits in certain parts of the game, and you'd have to use them sparringly if you wanted to enjoy them at deeper parts of the game. Now, you have the ability to rescan cards, over and over again. The following is a complete list of the 17 power-up cards...
  1. Blue Green Switch - Make vegetables sprout up in the level, then use them to attack enemies. This card can be used only in the existing game levels. Scan the card once to turn the switch on, and scan it a second time to turn the switch off!
  2. Orange Switch - When Mario defeats an enemy using the fire attack, it turns into a coin. Scan the card once to turn the switch on, and scan it a second time to turn the switch off!
  3. Super Leaf (turns you into a Raccoon)
  4. Frog Suit (Frog Mario swims a hell of a lot better than fat Italian Mario)
  5. Tanooki Suit (awesome suit that turns you into a raccoon and gives you skills to turn to stone)
  6. Hammer Suit (gives you protective covering and ability to throw hammers)
  7. Starman (brief invincibility)
  8. P-Wing (unlimited flight for one level)
  9. Cape (stolen from Super Mario World!)
  10. 3 Fire Flowers (self-explanitory)
  11. 3 Super Leaves (self-explanitory)
  12. 5 Starmen (self-explanitory)
  13. 4-Item Set: Mushroom, Fire Flower, Super Leaf, and Starman
  14. 3-Suit Set: Frog Suit, Tanooki Suit, Hammer Suit
  15. 8-Item Set!: Mushroom, Fire Flower, Starman, Super Leaf, P-Wing, Tanooki Suit, Frog Man, Hammer Suit
  16. 10-Up Mushroom (10 extra lives)
  17. 5-Up Mushroom (5 extra lives)
Level Cards: Finally, the third category of cards, new Super Mario Bros. 3 style levels, with a little bit of a taste of Super Mario World included for a few, created specially for the Mario Advanc3 4 release. While none of the levels are anything to really write home about, it's always cool to see something new added that has the feel of the original game, and most of these levels, while simple, follow the mold perectly. There are 11 Level Cards total, each with a different difficulty setting, as noted on each card in star ratings of 1 through 5...

1. Wild Ride In The Sky - Take a wild ride in the sky! Think you can nab all the coins? Not if Bullet Bill has anything to say about it! (Looks like a World 5 level) (***)

2. Slidin' The Slopes - Tun and slide all around. You'll even get to go up-side-down! Looks like a World 2 level) (**)

3. Vegetable Volley - Pull up the vegetables and toss them at the enemies to succeed. Don't touch the blue poisionous Mushrooms! (Looks like World 2, but the vegetables are inspired by Mario Bros. 2, and Chargin' Chuck appears, courtesy of Mario World) (**)

4. Doors O' Plenty - Travel through this puzzling maze. Beware of Big Boo! He'll confound you! (Super Mario World inspired) (****)

5. Bombarded By Bob-Ombs - Can you weather the storm of bomb blasts and collect all the coins? (looks like one of the Koopa Ships) (****)

6. Magical Note Book - Jump onto the Note Blocks to reach towering heights (***)

7. The Ol' Switcheroo - Activate the hidden P-Switch so you can get all the coins (***)

8. Piped Full of Plants - Duck, leap, and run to avoid the hot-tempered Piranha Plants! (Looks like World 1) (****)

9. Swinging Bars of Doom - Run fast to get past the Thwomps, fire bars, and Boos. (looks like a Fortress) (****)

10. Para Beetle Challenge - Use the Para Beetles as stepping stones to cross the vast sky (Obviously inspired by World 5) (***** - most difficult of the new levels)

1*. Classic World 1-1 - See where all of Mario and Luigi's adventures began, and find the first-ever 1-up mushroom! (the first level from the original Super Mario Bros.) (*)

It still comes as a surprise that the e-Reader wasn't used further to keep games fresh, like the above featured Super Mario Bros. 3. Adding levels, giving the gamer control over their power-ups, and everything else in between is something many gamers can appreciate and find to freshen things up. I know you can't really do that with some games like the Zelda series, but with all the "classic" games released, I'm sure the e-Reader cards could've been made to go along with them to give fans something new to go with the original material.It's not like the GBA technology was out-dated at this point. I don't think the Nintendo DS came out for another year, at least, at the time of the last released cards for the e-Reader.

e-Final Thoughts: I remember, back when these were out, being into them a lot more. But then once you realize how tedious of a chore it is to scan 10 different bar codes to play fucking BASEBALL or Pinball, it became less fun. I think, for a $5 price-tag of the cards, it was a cool idea to have something like this device, but the overall execution from a functional stand-point was a bit lacking. I am a fan, however, of what they did to spruce up the Super Mario Advance series, by creating new levels and giving you complete power over the game with your power-up cards. I'm sure the Animal Crossing and Pokemon Battle cards were pretty cool too, for their respective games, but I can't make a serious opinion on that. Sadly, no gimmick devices have been released since, although the Wii does do just about everything you can ask for, right?