Tag Archives: super mario bros 3

FGC #191 New Super Mario Bros. Wii

There they goAnd now for a brief history of multiplayer in Mario games, and why that’s important.

Mario started with multiplayer. Donkey Kong, the premiere of Jump Man, was two player alternating, but when Mario gained his first headlining game, Mario Bros, is was with a two player simultaneous mode. And that really is the best way to play! Kicking over turtles and crabs is fun an’ all, but it’s much more enjoyable to do that while pushing a hapless Luigi into oncoming bees. Collect those coins before the green guy grabs ‘em! And, yes, if you’re in a particularly puckish mood, flip that turtle, piss him the heck off, and watch Luigi get bowled over by a rampaging tortoise. It’s right there in the title! This is Mario Bros, and the essence of family is sibling rivalry.

Unfortunately, Super Mario Bros, the iconic game that launched the Nintendo Entertainment System, returned to its alternating player roots. But two player is still two player! Even if you had to wait for your selfish friend to plow through every last goomba and buzzy beetle on the way to the princess (full disclosure: I was that selfish friend), eventually it would be your turn to play. Mario and Luigi both had the same quest, and it wasn’t up to some capricious console owner to finally pass the controller, the game did that for you. It might sound silly, but being seven and trusting someone else to eventually “give you a turn” is not how games get played. Look to Super Mario Bros 2 for proof of that. Was I the only kid that played “Okay, any time you pick Toad or Luigi, I get to play”? Fun fact: then nobody ever plays as Luigi or Toad. Funny how that works.

But Super Mario Bros. 3 brought back two player simultaneous play through a rehash of Mario Bros, and added a lot more strategy to the concept of two players in a Mario game. The “world map” of SMB3 might be seem quaint and unnecessary today, but “trapping” another player into a round of Mario Bros, or clearing stages in a WIGGLERSparticular order that guaranteed you’d be the one to claim that mushroom house was a game all its own. If you’re ever playing SMB3 alone, and wondering why it feels so different from when you were a kid, it’s because some part of your brain still remembers assaulting your best buddy for his star card so you could claim that precious 5-up. No, you didn’t need all those lives, but who could deny the joy of obtaining such a thing?

Super Mario World was the beginning of the end. SMW is a great game, but its entire 2-player mode seems like an afterthought. There’s the ability to transfer lives… and that’s it. If you beat the game as Luigi, the eternal player two, Mario is thanked for saving Princess Peach. The stupid dinosaur is praised, and Luigi is forgotten. He’s standing right there! Super Mario World 2: Yoshi’s Island completely dropped its second player, which, on one hand, makes a certain kind of sense. On the other hand, well, there’s a reason I remember Kirby Super Star seeing my SNES a lot more often…

Then came Super Mario 64. You will note that it is not Super Mario Bros. 64. That is because Luigi is entirely missing from the experience, and any trace of a two-player mode with him. This was also the first Nintendo console to launch without a second controller… and there might be a connection there. The N64 was phenomenal for multiplayer experiences (Smash Bros, GoldenEye, Bomberman 64), but Mario was alone in his quest to get some cake and eat it too. This was eventually rectified in the DS remake (one way or another), but in 1996, the message was clear: two player Mario is over.

WeeeeWhen Mario decided to go on vacation, he went alone. When Luigi won a thoroughly haunted mansion, he explored it alone. When Mario charted the galaxy itself, he could have a little star buddy shooting star bits at aliens, but that was the tiniest of concessions to the idea of a two player experience. And any time Mario decided to play in the portable realm, well, maybe you have more friends than I do that buy the exact same games, but DS wireless play isn’t the easiest thing in the world, even if it is just for some minigames. Mario’s cast and extracurricular activities may have expanded over the years, but his own adventures had become depressingly solo.

Mario dropping his brother is significant. In a way, for many years, so went Mario, so went the world. He ushered in the concept of the “starring” mascot character (screw you, Pac-Man), the abstract world of gaming (jump on that turtle!), and, of course, the 2-D, scrolling platformer. When the N64 arrived, 3-D platforming arrived with it, and nobody remembers Jumping Flash, it’s Super Mario 64 all the way. And whether he’s promoting go-karting or smashing brothers, Mario has a tendency to get people’s attention.

But it’s not just about Mario being Mario, it’s about Mario always being in vicinity of the fun. And you know what isn’t fun? Sitting around and watching someone else play a videogame. Okay, maybe Let’s Plays have disproven that theory, so to take it a step further: nobody gets together on a Saturday night to watch LPs. You’ve got your friends over, you’ve had some juice and/or beer, and now it’s time to do something. What’s the better choice: everybody grab a controller for some Dammit, Toaddeath match fun times, or are we going to sit quietly and watch Goggle Bob collect another star from that giant dinosaur creature? Hey, who wants to watch me beat Super Mario Sunshine again? No you can’t have the controller, that’s mine.

And maybe I’m being hyperbolic, but I feel like the reason the platformer has fallen behind the likes of “open world adventure” or “FPS” is because a platformer is all about playing it, and watching it is only really exciting when someone is really good. Otherwise? Let’s grab something else we can all play. And thus does the next crop of games tout bullet points along the lines of “like Skyrim but” and “The Dark Souls of vegetable chopping”. I literally cannot remember the last time I saw a “Mario-like” that didn’t use the word “retro” a thousand times.

But there is hope for the future, and New Super Mario Bros. Wii started it. Nintendo realized that its target audience was a group of people gradually becoming disturbed loners, so NSMBW featured the ability to play through every last level with four players. Simultaneously! And dropping in and out of a game was as easy as pie, so if you wanted to beat World 3 while your friend was off honeymooning with his real life, you could! The platformer was for friends again, and the world breathed a sigh of relief.

And it’s only getting better! Super Mario Maker doesn’t have a “true” two player mode, but it offers the ability to create and share levels with friends across the globe. Weeee, againBetween the overt sharing, encouraging house guests to play created “worlds”, and watching LPs of the most difficult stages, Super Mario in his purest form is finally social again.

And that’s important.

For something to be popular, whether it’s a video game franchise, movie, or just a dirty limerick, it has to, by definition, be talked about. And the easiest way to get people talking about something is to share it. It’s cool that Band X released an album for ten million dollars that can only be purchased by one person, but if that one person doesn’t feel like sharing, it’s not going to make much of a cultural impact. Similarly, if Mario 64 is only played by one person per cartridge, that’s going to lead to an increasingly shrinking population of Mario players as further games are released. Nobody wants that, least of all Nintendo! Mario is to be shared, and someone finally realized that.

So good on you, New Super Mario Bros. Wii. You brought the brothers back to the brothers, and for that I’ll always be grateful.

… Mainly because I get to push Luigi into oncoming turtles again.

FGC #191 New Super Mario Bros. Wii

  • System: It’s a Wii, Wario. Wait, what?
  • Number of players: Four. Did you get that?
  • Dammit, guysHave some friends over: In the spirit of the game, I invited some buddies to play along on this entry. As you can see from some of the gifs, they’re terrible.
  • Favorite powerup: Penguin suit all day long. Screw the propeller hat, I wanna slide along on my tummy!
  • Koopa Kritters: This was the first “real” reappearance of the Koopalings since Super Mario World. I mean, they guested in a few Super Scope 6 and Mario & Luigi games, but those hardly count.
  • Did you know? This is the first game to feature the “super guide”, the little block that is supposed to make it so you are not ever permanently stuck on a particular level. Unfortunately, more often than not, it just serves to remind you that you suck, or died an unfathomably large number of times trying to get that one stupid bonus coin. Screw you, super guide!
  • Would I play again: Most certainly!… if there wasn’t a New Super Mario Bros. WiiU, at least. And its Luigi version. With an invincible Nabbit buddy. Seriously, it’s an improvement in every way.

What’s next? Random ROB has chosen… Every Extend Extra for the PSP! Or is that Every Extra Extend? Bah, I can never remember correctly. Anyway, please look forward to it!

Weee
Hey, I’ve see this before

FGC #151 Super Mario Bros. 3

Plantys!Super Mario Bros. 3, ladies and gentlemen, one of the greatest games in the history of gaming, and the bestselling NES blockbuster featured in the perennial Jenny Lewis vehicle, The Wizard. Much ink has been spilt extolling the virtues of SMB3, and even a few angry nerds have tried to make their mark on the universe by claiming SMB3 is terrible. Honestly, 26 years after its release, it feels almost gauche to even touch such a sacred cow.

But the robot demands it, so I may as well toss something together.

Hey, why not look at the worst level in the best game?

World 7: Pipe Maze has always been Mario Hell. Back when I was a wee Goggle Bob playing this game with my friends, a frequent way to annoy player 2 (which could be me!) was to collect the warp whistles of World 1, tornado over to World 4 (which was awesome!), and then skip from there to World 7. And now we have to play this wretched world! You butthead!

But World 7 wasn’t really that bad. I’ve played SMB3 a number of times from beginning to end in the last nearly thirty years, and, honestly, I find it hard to find faults in this game at all, particularly when compared to some of its 2-D descendants. Before red coins and hidden exits and secret mega mushrooms, Super Mario Bros. 3 was the purest “Mario runs from left to right” experience that ever was or ever would be. However, World 7 is a preview of what would come into Mario’s world… and that has a tendency to scare children.

So, in the spirit of chastising my younger self for not understanding the finer points of Piranha Plant Place, here’s a full rundown of Super Mario Bros. 3’s World 7.

World 7-1

Wrap StarThe start of this world is pretty damn Mario. We’ve got a new “playstyle” to acclimate to, and the design of the world does a pretty good job of teaching the player what to do. You start out seemingly trapped under a staircase of blocks, but, gasp, this level is apparently a tube (like some kind of pipe), and Mario can easily run off the left side of the screen and reappear on the right. That’s cool! Of course, the same applies to the koopa troopas of this stage, so watch out for those damn bitey turtles… Wait… I’m describing 7-5? There’s nothing like that in the first stage that features this wrap-around gameplay? Well that’s lame.

Alright, let’s try this again: 7-1 has the looping feature seen in games like Kid Icarus and Mario Bros., but there’s no clear indication at the start that that is the case. Oh well, I suppose you might just run into the edge of the screen naturally, but it’s not really a requirement/danger until a lone red koopa troopa about halfway through the stage. Odd choice. Regardless, your goal here is to scale the vertical shaft via traveling through particular pipes. We’re off to a great start with this “Pipe Maze” concept!

Overall, this stage is basically there to make this all look easy… and screw you if you don’t know which pipes to use. Given the choice between licking a porcupine and a stupid maze where the wrong pipe deposits you back at earlier in the level, I’ll take the porcupine every time (do I get to choose where I lick the porcupine? Oh, never mind). And there’s, what, one powerup in this whole stage? Aggravating.

And this is all before the final area of this level: a room with teeny tiny ceilings and two koopa troopas. This is another situation where, if you know exactly what to do, you’ll have no issues, but if you’re inexperienced and hurting from earlier piranha plants, you’re likely to perish at the hands of these turtles, and have to repeat the whole stage all over again. Hope you figured out what you did wrong!

Stage Verdict: Dreadful start to a world of pain.

World 7-2

Music to my earsIn general, this stage is something that seems like it could be fun, but it also takes the time to introduce one of the most tedious traps to the Super Mario universe. 7-2 is mostly about an above ground “overworld” that uses a series of tubes to connect to a sunken underwater area. Depending on the obstacles in your immediate area, it may be in your best interest to pop into a pipe and switch areas to make some progress. This is a fun concept! Just ask Link!

Unfortunately, the centerpiece of this stage is a gap in the middle of the stage that you’re unlikely to clear on your first jump. And, once you’re in that gap, you’ll find you’re trapped with a koopa paratroopa by a ceiling of previously invisible blocks. Attempt to leap from your pit, and you’ll continually be struck down by magically appearing music blocks. Sorry, buddy, you’re going to have to backtrack through the underground to make it out.

Once again, this is the kind of thing you reflexively anticipate when you’re playing the game for the 30,000th time, but on your first visit, it’s a nasty trick. You’re very likely to be skewered by that troopa when you bounce off an inexplicably appearing music block, and, while it’s very (very!) possible I was a dumb child, I personally wound up in this trap every stupid time. It’s all fun and games until someone gets eaten by a turtle.

Oh, and I consider this the start of those “appearing block traps” in Super Mario Maker, so this stage loses a lot of points for introducing that little bit of sadism.

Stage Verdict: Fun concept, one terrible trap.

World 7-3

dedededededeThree stages in, and we finally get a real Super Mario Bros. 3 stage! Cherish this brief reprieve before we hit the really horrible stuff.

This is Mario, ladies and gentlemen. Run left to right, avoid dangerous fauna, and hope you hit the goal before Lakitu dumps more spinies onto the stage than should be possible for the NES to render. Hey, we’ve even got some slopes here! I love slopes!

The charm point of this stage is that, should you move fast enough, you can maintain a star/invincibility powerup throughout the entire stage. This was before this would mean a million 1-ups, but it’s still fun as all get out to run at top speed and mow down every impediment in your path. And SMB3 has that cool rolling jump for invincibility! Screw you guys, I’ve got a screw attack!

Stage Verdict: My greatest regret is that I have no way to transcribe the star theme. De de de de de de dedede.

World 7-4

StingerWelcome to Hell!

If there are two things I hate in Mario games, it’s autoscrolling and water levels. And what do we have here? Why, it’s an autoscrolling water level! And it’s choked with hazards like jellyfish and cheep cheeps! Go ahead and use your frog suit, you’ll lose it within ten seconds anyway!

You can plainly see what’s going on here: this is the last water level in the game, and the designers clearly wanted to pull out all the stops for the finale of NES water levels. That’s great an’ all, but it also means a whole lot of dead Marios all of a quarter into the world. This is the make or break point for a lot of players, and I can’t blame anyone that decides to use Lakitu’s Cloud to bypass this entire stage (and the nearby pipe guarantees you won’t have to repeat it, even if you [inevitably] die in the next area). I mean, come on, on top of all the obvious hazards, there’s even a Big Bertha fish that will swallow you whole, regardless of powerup acquisition.

And as a final “eat it” to the player, there’s that one damn puke plant at the finish line, and if you don’t get ahead of the thing immediately, you’re pretty much guaranteed to suffer. Well, suffer more.

Stage Verdict: Pure hate in digital form. The greatest part of this stage appears to be that it is meant to be skipped.

World 7-5

Fly awayLikely tackled before 7-4 (why rush the pain?), 7-5 is the first of the “puzzle” stages in World 7. I consider a Mario Puzzle Stage to be any level that requires more foresight than simply steering Mario from left to right. Think practically every stage in Super Mario World’s Forest of Illusion. There are four puzzle stages in World 7, and two puzzle stages in the entire rest of Super Mario Bros. 3 (and one of those is wholly optional).

At least 7-5 is voluntary (unlike a certain upcoming fortress), and your reward for completing this stage will be one of Mario’s special suits…. Assuming you’re playing a one-player game. In a two player game, you’ll conquer this stage, and then Luigi will swoop in there and claim your prize. Not that I’m bitter or anything.

Regardless, the two big obstacles in this stage are a single, low-hanging block that must be destroyed through any means necessary, and a gap that is nearly impossible to cross without revealing a whole new set of invisible blocks. Individually, neither of these roadblocks is that bad, but combined with a time limit, it’s another situation where, if you don’t know exactly what you’re doing, Mario is going to meet the reaper. Hey, frog suits are for closers!

Stage Verdict: Hone your problem solving skills here, because it’s only going to get worse…

World 7-Plant-1

Munchy MunchyIn the absence of Hammer Bros, this map contains two piranha plant-based obstacle courses. This plant is technically optional, but you’ll probably want to tackle it to open the shortcut and claim its P-Wing prize. Or don’t, because you’ll probably be piranha chow if you’re unprepared.

After a couple of pipes that are juuuuust short enough to be vaulted, the meat of this stage kicks in with an army of munchers, little black plants that are anxious to turn Mario into a snack. Oddly, these creatures continue to move even after the game is paused, so if you’re headed for an impact, you can hammer that start button and hope for the best. If you’re not in the mood to cheat, though, this area requires nigh perfect timing, and is a test of your rhythm more than anything else. Once you’re past the munchers, you’re a spitting piranha plant or two away from your goal, so feel free to celebrate.

Stage Verdict: Tough, but quick. The munchers are adorable, even if they’re flowering death.

World 7-Fortress-1

SpooooookyMario Historians will claim that the Ghost House didn’t appear in Mario games until Super Mario World, and the boos and dry bones of SMB3 were just fun set dressing for the fortress stages. Bullshit. Here is Mario’s first ghost house, complete with a hidden exit and a pile of treasure meant to trap a greedy player.

Let’s talk about that first room. Raise your hand if you hit the P-Switch and just collected every coin forever and ever until time ran out. Yeah, that’s what I thought. This stage starts off so cool! It really feels like the designers are saying, “Hey, we know this world has been rough, have some fun!” Yay! Coins for days!

And then the rest of the stage is just… wrong. I have to give its creators credit: a fortress where everything is already “dead” and not activating is pretty damn creepy. There are candles without their fiery buddies, stretch blocks that refuse to twitch, and circles that should be surrounded by deadly light balls, but… nope. Nothing. Totally abandoned fortress.

Only big issue here is that, if you don’t know where you’re looking, you’re probably going to watch that timer count down to nothing, regardless of coin gluttony. It’s very easy to acquire that Tanooki suit, attempt to canvas the ceiling for pipes, but fall and miss the exact right part of the nondescript roof of this area. It’s another damn puzzle world, and this one doesn’t completely play fair. Is a coin arrow too much to ask?

Stage Verdict: Creepy and unkind.

World 7-6

!Hey, now here’s what I wanted to see in 7-1. A clear indicator of how the wraparound stages work, complete with koopa troopas that will hurt you if you don’t understand. That’s learning!

After the initial steps, this whole level is… weird. I’m not going to call it a puzzle stage, but it is a stage that has one weird trick for pissing me off. In this case, it’s a series of blocks that will change directions thanks to a hop or two. This is peculiar, and barely appears elsewhere in the game. And there are spikes! Like, everywhere! Are there spikes anywhere else in the game? I know there are, but not nearly this many. This isn’t Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, dammit! This is Mario! Get those pointy things out of here and bring back the jellyfish!

Most of this stage is spent riding those damn platforms, and it’s yet another situation where the “rules” seem to be ill-defined for a fledgling player. In fact, I’ve played this game a million times (that number keeps going up), and I still have no idea how long any given exclamation platform will last. Roughly until the next one shows up? Except when that’s not true? Bah!

Also, this is famously the stage that can be entirely skipped with a P-Wing. Just do that.

Stage Verdict: This isn’t the sharp kind of stage design I’m looking for.

World 7-7

The bad side of invincibilityWe’re finally on the last island chain of the world, and here’s yet another stage that demands you know exactly what you’re doing.

I’m calling this one a puzzle stage, because, while it’s simple left-to-right stage clearing, you basically have to do exactly what the designers want you to do at any given moment. Run across this army of munchers via star, star, jump, jump, jump, back up, star, running duck, jump, and done. That’s the level, and I hope you mastered that running duck (or are already small), or you’re pretty much done inches from the goal post.

A Mario level that requires absolute precision is no Mario level at all.

Stage Verdict: You will know exactly what to do, or you die.

World 7-8

Carefuly, he spitsThe second real Mario level!

We’ve got a lot of pipes (which is world appropriate), every kind of genus of piranha plant available, and even that one, lonely white nipper that can lob fireballs. There’s a hidden room containing a Hammer Bros. suit, and, if you’re using that or a fireflower, you should be able to rule this level like a king.

I like it!

Given you have a choice between 7-7 and 7-8, and 7-8 opens the path to a mushroom house, I have to say there’s practically no choice at all here. You’re pretty much guaranteed to lose your powerups in 7-7, but 7-8 gives you a hammer to toss around? Sign me up!

Stage Verdict: 7-8 rules, 7-7 drools.

World 7-9

Mazey!This whole world was named Pipe Maze, but, man oh man, this is the pipe maziest pipe maze of them all. I’m calling this our last puzzle stage, because… ugh… say what you will about 7-4 (it sucks!), but I’ll take a thousand stinging jellyfish over cramped corridors and loopy labyrinths any day.

If that screenshot doesn’t flood your memory with the horrors of navigating this stage, 7-9 is a maze of pipes similar to the ones seen in the desert stages of World 2. The chief difference here is that the pipes form a complete network filled with goombas and koopa troopas, and you’re expected to know where to go through the miniscule pipe breaks. There are a few “coin rooms” along the way, but, by and large, this is a stage that is feeding off the nondescript tilesets of the NES and expecting you to get lost amongst the pipes immediately. Technically, you could brute force this area, and find your way through a lot easier than that forsaken fortress stage, but even then, Mario trapped in tight spaces isn’t the most fun way to spend your day.

Stage Verdict: It’s a-maze-ing how helpful Nintendo Power can be.

World 7-Fortress-2

Sweet revengeJust a good ol’ fashioned gauntlet of an obstacle course. Yay?

On one hand, I want to say that this stage was built for the Hammer Bros. suit, what with its careful placement of thwomps and boos and various other hammer-weak creatures (that is to say, nearly everything in the game). On the other hand, the pipes suspended over lava have a tendency to lead to flambéed Mario, and any powerup you once possessed is probably going by the wayside thanks to an inopportune piranha plant or two. Heck, even a P-Wing probably isn’t going to survive those errant fireballs.

The real fun, though, is the final pipe of the first area, which requires a masterful triangle jump with perfect timing. At this point in the adventure, you should have a firm grasp of Mario’s air-steering abilities, but even then, it’s a lot more likely Mario is going for a dunk in the lava trying to reach that one essential pipe.

Once you’re in Boom Boom’s area, though, you’re practically in the clear… except for those run/duck + thwomp traps. Man, I’d like to see the guy that could conquer this stage on his first try.

Stage Verdict: It’s playing by “real” Mario rules, but it’s difficult as all get out. At least it’ll open that final shortcut on completion.

World 7-Plant-2

Too biteyThis is, basically, a palette cleanser before the finale. This Plant stage is required (unlike its earlier brother), but it’s quick and easy and even kind of forgiving. You must bound across a series of music blocks near the end of the stage, but it’s over munchers, not a bottomless pit, and I’ll take losing a powerup over losing a life any day. Other than that, if you already made it through both fortresses, you’ll have no problem with this petite stage.

And then you win a mushroom. Oh boy!

Stage Verdict: Nothing to see here, move along.

World 7-Airship

The big bad musicianAnd, finally, we have the last “boss” airship for Super Mario Bros. 3. World 7-Airship is a gauntlet of practically every trap and trick from the previous airships, but at least there are two powerup blocks? I don’t really have much to say about this level, because it’s hard, but it’s really supposed to be hard. This is the final airship before you enter Bowser’s demented domain, so it should be bad to the bone. At least you don’t really have to interact with the blue screw blocks too much.

Ludwig Von Koopa is the boss here, and he’s also the combination of all previous non-circus, non-female koopa kids. He’s got a magic wand, he’ll shake the ground with every step, and you’ve got to stomp his fabulous hair to proceed. Everything seems in order here, time to call this world a day.

Stage Verdict: Justifiably difficult.

And that’s World 7, everybody! I take it back, this world is terrible, and I should have trusted my younger self’s assessment of it being the worst thing ever. 70% of the stages rely on some awful gimmick, and, when I list all the stages like this and see that, it just doesn’t speak well of Piranha Plant Land.

So, in conclusion, I’m using Warp Whistles from now on. Ice World, you’re on notice!

FGC #151 Super Mario Bros. 3

  • System: Nintendo Entertainment System, but it also wound up as part of Super Mario All Stars for Super Nintendo, and then Super Mario Advance 4: Super Mario Bros. 3 on the Gameboy Advance. Classic version is available for Wii/WiiU, too.
  • Number of players: One Mario, and one green, cowardly parasite that robs all the mushroom houses.
  • Behold the kingMighty Number 5: My game database started out as an excel document that was cobbled together long ago. My initial impulse was to group games by franchise, so, naturally, I started with the Mario games. Number one and two are Donkey Kong and Mario Bros., respectively, and then we get into the Super series. Super Mario Bros. 3 is, thus, number five. For the record, I got past the Mega Man series before I gave up on the whole franchise grouping thing.
  • Speaking of Hammer Bros. suit: Ever notice that the sprite for obtaining the Hammer Bros. suit actually looks more like a toad? Wonder if there was originally a toad suit planned… but Mario determined he was too good to be degraded to toad status.
  • Land of the Rising Fun: Most people are aware of this, but in the Japanese version of SMB3, Mario will always shrink down to “regular”, small Mario after taking a hit, regardless of powerups already acquired. While this change (for the better) impacted all of the international versions, you can still watch Raccoon Mario shrivel down to nothing after a single hit on the title screen.
  • Did you know? There were apparently bonus games cut from the final game that were hosted by koopa troopas. I’m going to say we didn’t miss much, though, as did anyone even really like those silly match games? Well, assuming you weren’t using Nintendo Power to cheat…
  • Would I play again: World 7? No. The rest of the game? Yes, many times, and until the day I die.

What’s next? Random ROB has chosen… To take a week off. That’s another 150 (or so) articles down, so I’m going to take a week off from writing about video games to relax and sip some ecto cooler. In the meanwhile, next week should see some updates about eclectic topics, and then I’ll be back to the FGC on July 11 with… Earthworm Jim. Please look forward to it!

Fireworks!

FGC #009 Donkey Kong Country

Mine or rollercoaster?History is written by the winners, be they ape or dinosaur.

Donkey Kong Country was the big crazy holiday release for the Super Nintendo. It was a revolution in graphics available on the SNES, or so we were told, and a pretty alright game to play to boot. The console wars were over, Nintendo was the victor, and Donkey Kong carried the victory barrel over the kremling finish line. Somewhere, a Genesis kid wept bitter tears as everyone abandoned the diminutive blue hedgehog for a pair of primates. They had to go fast.

The following year, the war won, Sega floundering and assembling green balls into strange vectors, the Playstation still waiting with baited breath for the cloud of prosperity that would still be two years away, (Super) Nintendo games only had each other to battle. In one holiday season, we saw eternal triumphs like Chrono Trigger clashing for a child’s wallet with the likes of beloved mascot games, like Earthworm Jim 2. And, direct from Nintendo, we had two amazing games: Yoshi’s Island and Donkey Kong Country 2. The rivalry between the two games would echo through the annals of the then fairly fresh internet (popularly known as AOL in those days), and now, decades later, much is still made of the competitors, story book graphics vs. prerendered, indepth gameplay vs. run ‘n jump, “Trojan horse” marketing vs. charming, and I think I’ve even heard some good ol’ East vs. West enmity in there.

But here we stand, two decades later, and are forced to ask ourselves: who won?

First, we look at Donkey Kong Country. Poor, sweet, forgotten Donkey Kong Country. Oh? What’s that you say? Yes, I can hear you, gentle reader, out there in internet land, as your monocle flies from your face and your top hat reaches disagreeable heights, propelled by the steam rising from your ears. Yes, I stand by my statement, your incredulity aside, Donkey Kong Country has been forgotten by gaming at large, and I realized this only while playing the ol’ girl.

The bee is also spikeyDonkey Kong Country is, and I apologize for the heresy you’re about experience, Super Mario Bros. 3. I realize this may be antithetical to every belief you have, but attempt a run of Super Mario Bros. 3 without ever acquiring a super leaf, without ever taking to the skies, and then play Donkey Kong Country. Things will seem oddly familiar, I guarantee. Make no mistake, Super Mario Bros. 3 is one of the greatest platformers ever for a reason (that reason is The Wizard), and DKC cannot be held to its exacting standard, but if the folks at Rare were going to… ape any game in the Nintendo anthology for their creation, they may as well grab one of the best. Much though I’m sure the impulse was there, I’m glad they didn’t choose to introduce the new Donkey Kong in a game emulating, say, Clu-Clu Land. Who would want to play that?

I shouldn’t have to elaborate on this point, and I might be high on pesticides right now, but Donkey Kong Country is, like the finer, old Mario games, a game where you run from left to right, jump on an eclectic mix of antagonistic animals, and then clear the goal before wandering into the next obstacle course. The main theme of Super Mario Bros. 3 is titled “Still Running Around”, and that may as well be the central theme-theme of the game. Donkey (and Diddy, can’t forget the smart one of the stupid apes) are “still running around” through their entire adventure, with occasional breaks for swimming labyrinths (not unlike the more maze-y stages of SMB3) and maybe a minecart or two. Donkey Kong’s animal friends (is that redundant? That always seems to be the phrase used, but they’re all animals, apes, fish, frogs, etc., so aren’t they all just “friends”?) recall Super Mario World’s Yoshi mechanics; so much so that I still expect DK to punch Engarde in the face every time he wants the swordfish to propel forward. Dinosaur abuse is deeply rooted in my psyche. And then every world concludes with a boss battle that is primarily a skirmish of well timed jumps, save a few gimmicks that may include Bowser-baiting or Bee-barreling.

One day we'll find it...There’s a gameplay mechanic here that exists, but is no more important in Donkey Kong Country than it is in Super Mario Bros. 3, and that’s “collecting”. Yes, there are hidden stages in DKC, and, yes, there are KONG letters in every stage, but neither “collectible” is any more gameplay important than Mario’s Warp Whistles or Flying Coin Ships. Yes, you can score “100%” in DKC the same way you can collect every last coin in SMB3, but neither game ends with a message reminding you that you missed something, or a final boss that is locked away behind some outlandish condition. There are collectibles and “secrets” on Donkey Kong’s island, but they’re fairly insignificant compared to the fun of rolling toward the finale over as many lizards as possible. That banana horde is going to fill up no matter how many exclamation points you weld onto stage names.

And then came Donkey Kong Country 2, and Super Mario World 2: Yoshi’s Island. As mentioned previously, they were released at nearly the same time, and much has been made of their differences through the decades. No one ever seems to take a moment to compare DKC2 to DKC, though, as DKC2 is seemingly universally lauded as the victor in that ape fight.

But we lost something between DKC and DKC2, and it was the same thing that was “lost” when Mario landed on Yoshi’s Island. As I mentioned in my Yoshi Touch & Go article, Yoshi’s Island introduced the “collection” elements to the Mario platformer universe, and that acquisition has never gone away. Whether it be stars or shines or giant coins, every Mario game is now expected to have some collection element, lest gamers just get bored with running from left to right, in 2D space or three, and additional game content is locked behind these collectibles. Some games are more intensive than others, but it’s there in every Mario game since 1995. Similarly, either thanks to some collaboration in the halls of Nintendo, or just a coincidence of parallel development, Donkey Kong Country 2 acquired a significant collectible element, adding DK “hero coins” and making the hidden stages of the previous game a requirement to see the complete ending and battle the true final boss.

Mine or rollercoaster?This is why I see Donkey Kong Country as forgotten, as the first thing most gamers mention when the DKC series rears its furry head is the “collectathon” elements that have been a staple of the series ever since 1995, DKC2 and DKC3 made the franchise lock significant content behind collecting, and Donkey Kong 64 made the collectathon elements its central focus, to the point that it basically retired the franchise and made the idea of collectibles in a game more of a threat than a feature. This is all absent in Donkey Kong Country, where running and jumping is all that’s required. Go go gorilla!

All of this is just circling back to my original question: Who won, Donkey Kong or Yoshi? As I write this in 2015, both franchises have enjoyed a new renaissance despite a decade or so of inactivity. DK has returned to his roots in Donkey Kong Country Returns and its sequel, and both games have been well received and fun. Yarn Yoshi is on the horizon, and Yoshi’s New Island didn’t cause any noticeable lesions on my body, which is more than I can say for most of the Yoshi franchise since its debut. Assuming Yarn Yoshi is everything it appears to be, both franchises seem to be at about the same plane of “alright”, so we can’t really judge them on that level.

If you see this coming in the ocean, you swim the other wayLet’s look at Mario. Mario has had a record number of 2D platforming games released recently, compared to the N64/GBA/NGC era when we never saw Mario just enjoying the simple pleasures of turtle stomping in limited dimensions. There’s even a pretty easy argument to be made that the recent Super Mario Land 3D branch of the franchise, despite being, obviously, 3D, is much more rooted in the 2D Mario games than the likes of Mario 64. And what happens in those games? Mario runs from left to right, often as quickly as possible, and collects along the way, three special star coins.

Huh, that sounds kind of familiar.

Replace those star coins with KONG letters, and you’ve got Donkey Kong Country to a T. Yes, Mario has power-ups and bob-ombs and whatever crazy platform mechanics that are based on how many people in the room you can get to sneeze or whatever Nintendo came up for the latest game, but in the end, it is nearly the exact same gameplay as the original Donkey Kong Country. It might be a plumber hopping on a dinosaur as opposed to an ape utilizing a rhino, but, in the end, it comes out very similar. And that’s what Nintendo is hanging their number one mascot/cash cow on in a series that doesn’t show any signs of stopping.

Your revolution is over, Yoshi. Condolences. The dinosaurs lost.

Cranky is my spirit animalFGC #9: Donkey Kong Country

  • System: Super Nintendo
  • Number of Players: 2, though it’s a much more frustrating experience with two players than one. Have you ever tried it? Whatever you do, don’t try it with a potential mate. I speak from experience. Just play Double Dash with DK and Diddy and claim it’s the same thing.
  • Donkey Kong or Diddy Kong? Despite Donkey having the clear advantage with his unparalleled ground pound and ability to tackle enemies that laugh off Diddy’s pounces, Diddy is my boy, and his cartwheels are just the bee’s knees. Worst part of Donkey Kong Country Returns is that they saddle you with Donkey and his stupid tie while Diddy is right there!
  • Been kinda hard on Yoshi lately, ya know? Blame ROB! I swear I like Yoshi’s Island just fine. It’s an excellent game! Its sequels and lasting impact on gaming seems to wither as I pay more attention to it, though.
  • Did You Know? Rare told me they studied actual real live apes to perfectly animate the Kong’s movements. I learned this from a VHS tape that arrived, unsolicited, at my home. I presume that Nintendo is waiting for the day it is profitable enough to fund time travel expeditions for Miyamoto to study real live Yoshi in their natural habitat.
  • Would I Play Again? I only re-played through the first three worlds for this article, and I am just fascinated that all this time I have been ignoring this game for its “superior” sequel, DKC2. I am seriously considering heading back to Donkey Kong Country in my nonexistent spare time.

What’s Next? Random ROB has chosen… Ice Climber!? ROB, you %^*$ son of a $$%@. Please look forward to it! I’m not!