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FGC #547 Super Mario Bros 2 (The Lost Levels)

Dispatches from an alternative universe!
This article is provided by Goggle Rob of Alternate Universe #724

Let's do the MarioThe original Super Mario Bros. brought the concept of gaming back from the brink of ruin. So it seems only appropriate that, 35 years later, we examine its sequel, the game that crashed the videogame market forever.

Super Mario Bros. was a revelation here, there, and everywhere. When it was released in 1985, Nintendo knew they had a hit on their hands within a mere four months, which wound up being plenty of time for its creators and curators to consider a sequel. What was it about Super Mario Bros. that everyone enjoyed? Running? Jumping? Malevolent chestnuts? Jumping on malevolent chestnuts? Nobody had the answers, but the designers of Mario did have a theory: people wanted more. They had already begun working on arcade versions of Super Mario Bros., and, given this version was thirsty for quarters, it was designed to be more difficult. Could this be adapted to be the official sequel to Super Mario Bros.? Why not! Super Mario Bros. 2 would be a game that assumed you had already played Super Mario Bros. 1 until your eyes popped out of your skull, and, after a licensed optometrist put those peepers back in place, you’d be ready for more Mario challenges.

So, on a metaphorical level, Super Mario Bros. 2 was designed not to start with World 1, but Super Mario Bros. 1 World 9-1. There are no simple “tutorial” words in Super Mario Bros. 2, just militant turtles and twisting mazes. There are new mushrooms that do not grant Mario new abilities, but simply poison the plumber. Super Mario Bros. 2 is not only a game that requires you master Mario’s physics before you even pop the cartridge in your system, it is also a game that requires you memorize the intricacies of its often dubious world. Super Mario Bros. 1 disguised the length of a handful of castles with a looping maze that required a particular path, but Super Mario Bros. 2 habitually leans on warp pipes that will send Mario back to the start of a stage, or even the start of the game. Super Mario Bros. 2 requires dedication from its audience, and it makes absolutely no concessions for a novice player (give or take a secret way to earn a hundred lives within its opening level). You will lose all of your progress often and repeatedly, and only complete knowledge of the game will allow you to circumvent a frequent, inglorious Game Over.

This sucksIt seems the tipping point for this tale happened when Super Mario Bros. 2 was being exported to America. Howard Lincoln, a man who was responsible for play-testing games for American audiences, felt the game was too difficult, and would not play well with American audiences. He famously said of the game, “Not having fun is bad when you’re a company selling fun.” However, Lincoln’s protests were ignored. While there was brief discussion regarding “reskinning” another title as “Super Mario Bros. 2 USA”, Super Mario Bros. 2 was released as is, with no changes or tweaks made to the abhorrent difficulty of the game. America was going to face down its first poisonous mushroom, and it would not be left in the cold by its Japanese brothers.

And it was a success. Of course it was a success! Nintendo had already set out to make Mario the most well-known mascot since Mickey Mouse, and, back in the 80’s, it looked like they were going to succeed. Yes, Super Mario Bros. 2 was difficult, but it was flanked by The Super Mario Bros. Super Show, Nintendo Cereal System, and Nintendo’s own propaganda rag, Nintendo Power. In fact, many claim the success of Super Mario Bros. 2 could be attributed to its place on the cover of Nintendo Power #1 (famously showing a clay Mario as he grabbed a flagpole in front of a blue Bowser) and spread across the “tips and tricks” contained therein. Super Mario Bros. 2 needed a comprehensive guide if you hoped to conquer it, and Nintendo wisely delivered such in every toy and book store across the country. Before long, everyone was “beating” Super Mario Bros. 2, and it seemed like the gambit of releasing such a difficult game paid off. Sure, SMB2 was “beyond Nintendo hard”, but Nintendo stepped in to help the players, and, ultimately the game itself.

Unfortunately, other games weren’t so lucky.

As was said at the time: so goes Mario, so goes the world. Super Mario Bros. (1) inspired a thousand 2-D platforming clones that all attempted to capture the magic of Mario. Did any succeed? Yes, a small handful did, but certainly no greater than a dozen. Super Mario Bros. 2 had a similar effect on the trajectory of videogames. Where once a sequel would account for new players (what would eventually become known as the nigh mythical “first time gamer”), all new sequels produced decided to follow Super Mario Bros. 2’s trail. This led to a variety of games that all seemed dedicated to murdering the player within the opening moments. Bubble Bobble 2’s starting “Floor 101” combined a million monsters with a timer that could barely be surmounted. Contra 2 led to a generation memorizing its “ten extra lives code” because you’d lose your first three inside of the opening seconds. Rygar 2 utilized every mapping “trick” available to create levels that had extremely poorly defined endpoints, and Gradius 2’s “poison powerups” made acquiring a shield intolerable. Final Fantasy 2 introduced an archaic leveling system that was about as opaque as a behemoth, and Dragon Quest (Warrior in the West) 2 featured dungeons that contained traps upon traps. Even Nintendo wasn’t immune to its own hype, as The Legend of Zelda 2 released with more invisible walls and spongey “green Moblins” than you could shake a stick at. And, to this day, no one has gotten past the first stage of Punch-Out 2 without tool assists. The only sequel that seemed to dodge this absurd difficulty fate was Mega Man 2, but, even there, some said the infamous Quick Man stage seemed like something that was “Super Mario Bros. 2 hard”.

And, God, what was done to Tetris 2 was criminal. It’s no wonder the Gameboy hardly lasted a year.

glub glubThough, of course, that was the inevitable end of this trend. Super Mario Bros. 2 was a success, but every game attempting to ape Super Mario Bros. 2 just hammered a nail into the coffin of gaming harder and harder. By the time of the predicted Super Mario Bros. 3 release, sales of Nintendo consoles had plummeted. Sure, this was the system that had Mario, Link, and Kid Icarus, but nearly every game that included a “2” was an awful slog of anti-fun. If this was the direction gaming was going, apparently the general public wanted nothing to do with it. In retrospect, it should have been expected: the Videogame Crash of 1983 was followed six short years later by the Videogame Crash of 1989. Stores stopped stocking videogames at all, and, by 1990, you could no more purchase a Nintendo Entertainment System in America than a pet rock. The fad of “gaming” had faded, returned, and faded all over again within the span of a decade.

And, like E.T. before it, everyone pointed to Super Mario Bros. 2 as the most prominent example of the reason no one wanted to touch a controller ever again.

So what became of gaming after the crash of ’89? There is no shame in not being aware of the last thirty years of videogame history, as the hobby became little more than a niche occupied by some very dedicated enthusiasts. Those that stuck around after Super Mario Bros. 2 demanded more and more severe challenges, and, given they were the entire audience, the gaming companies of yesterday and today were happy to oblige. Nintendo got out of the hardware business after the twin bombs of its Nintendo Entertainment System 2 and Super Mario Bros. 4 (infamously featuring a rideable dinosaur that would, after a set period of time, eat the player), but they are still making games for the personal computer, and the recent Super Mario Bros. 35 certainly seems to be 35 times as challenging as Mario’s original adventure. Other companies from the NES era, like Capcom and Ultra, faded into the ether, but they have been replaced by modern, “indie” developers that attempt to capture the feelings of the original titles like Castlevania 2 (a game that literally asked its players to bang their heads against cliffs). Oddly, it seems the most profitable gaming Wart?company in the modern era is a British gang by the name of Rare Limited, as their most recent release, Battletoads 3, is topping the sales charts. Granted, at this point, topping the videogame sales charts is roughly as financially relevant as selling the most model train sets in June, but it is still an accomplishment.

And that’s the world that Super Mario Bros. 2 created. It was a difficult, grueling videogame, and, thanks to its unprecedented success, every other company decided to make games that were more tedious than fun. As we now “celebrate” the 35th anniversary of the first Super Mario Bros. (there is even word President Dean will publically recognize the milestone), please remember that, thanks to one fateful sequel, Nintendo also smothered gaming in its crib.

One poison mushroom is all it takes…

Thank you for the guest article, Goggle Rob of Alternate Universe #724. I’ll be sending over my thank-you article about the failure of HD-DVD in this universe shortly!

FGC #547 Super Mario Bros 2 (The Lost Levels)

  • Dodge 'emSystem: Nintendo Famicom originally, but most of the West saw it as part of the Super Mario All-Stars compilation on the Super Nintendo.
  • Number of players: It’s just one player, right? You have to choose a brother, but can’t cooperate? That is bad, and the game should feel bad.
  • Speaking of All-Stars: The 16-bit remake really did this game dirty. The original NES version clearly has graphics that are an upgrade over the original, “launch” Super Mario Bros. palette. However, the SNES version seems to use the majority of the same assets for both games, giving the impression that SMB2j was little more than an expansion for SMB1. Way to rewrite history, Nintendo!
  • Other complaints: No new enemies or “creatures” are introduced for Super Mario Bros. 2, save that lovely toxic fungus. The Mushroom Kingdom has one of the most interesting bestiaries in gaming, so it’s kind of a shame that the likes of bob-omb, shy guy, or dry bones didn’t premiere in this title. I like a goomba as much as the next guy, but Mario is at his best when he’s introducing something more interesting than “Blue Bowser”.
  • Mario or Luigi? As a child, I saw as a child, and assumed jump height was everything. Now, as an adult, I prefer a hero that is less slippery, and is not demolished by strong winds. I have matured.
  • Other connections: You cannot tell me the same thinking that inspired SMB2j’s ridiculous “spend half the level up above the boundaries thanks to overly powerful springs” level design is not also responsible for (real) Super Mario Bros. 2/Doki Doki Panic’s more albatross riding-based stages. It feels very familiar…
  • Watch those cloudsGoggle Bob Fact: Nintendo Power goaded me into finding World 9 and sending a picture of proof so I could earn a badge of honor for my accomplishment… but I’m pretty sure my dad never properly developed the film, and it may or may not have actually been mailed. Regardless, I do not have a spiffy trophy badge, and my life is all the worse for it.
  • Did you know? The A/B/C/D levels clearly reuse stage layouts from earlier in the game, but SMB2j doesn’t otherwise recycle any levels before rescuing a princess. This is in stark contrast with SMB1, which reuses levels constantly starting with World 5’s castle. Or am I just thinking of Super Mario 35
  • Would I play again: I would literally play any other Mario game first. I don’t really believe this game would have crashed the entire videogame industry exclusively because it is bad, but I do believe SMB2j and its hidden blocks/aggravating warps was basically the start of “Kaizo Mario”, and that’s never been the reason I play Mario titles. Sorry, history, I like fun games.

What’s next? Random ROB has chosen… Donkey Kong Country 2 for the Super Nintendo! It’s sequel time, again, so it’s time to see Diddy’s Kong Quest! Please look forward to it!

I do not care for this

FGC #487 Super Mario Bros. 2

This is the second consecutive article about a second Mario game in the year 2020. That’s a lot of twos! So let’s look at two significant things about Super Mario Bros. 2 that appear in this one (1) screenshot.

Mario!  Kinda!

We’ll start with the good

It's good!

This is the best heads up display there has ever been in a Mario game.

What do we have here? Two red dots. That’s your health. And that’s it! That’s all you need to know! It is firmly the belief of Gogglebob.com that every videogame requires an easy, immediately accessible health meter. This helps the player make decisions: you have full health, so do you take some chances? Or are you down to a single hit point, and you play as conservatively as possible? Do you go for that extra heart to keep your boat afloat? Or are you already sitting pretty, so why risk it for something you don’t even need? The choice is up to you, and knowing exactly how much gas is in your tank lets you make an informed decision. Are you getting this, Fable 3? Nobody wants to waste health potions because they can’t tell if that screen filter is supposed to bright or dark red.

Playin' SnakeIn your average SMB platformer, you can tell how vulnerable you are immediately by Mario’s average height and/or ability to hurl flaming balls, but Super Mario Bros. 2 simply has “health”. And that does allow for some interesting gameplay decisions. Are you going to horde that magic potion to find a mushroom? Or is it time to seek out as many gambling coins as possible? Are you full of hearts for the Mouser showdown, or are you going to hold off on opening that door until you’re a little more stable? Options! They’re back! And they all pivot on those simple red dots up in the corner.

And don’t even get me started on how good it is to see four dots up there. Mmmm…

There is beauty in what is not included up there, too. A score has never mattered to Mario, so why even bother? The game is tracking the Subcon denizens you defeat, as you are eventually rewarded with a restorative heart after knocking over enough shyguys, but you don’t need a “kill count” to encourage further carnage (eat it, Super Mario Land 2). And even your cherry collection, the closest thing SMB2 has to gathering coins, doesn’t need a counter when you’re just happy to see the occasional super star. Cherries are not something to be rationed across Wart’s invasion. Just grab ‘em! Cherries are good, and that’s all you need to know about that collectible.

Super Mario Bros. 2’s HUD tells you literally everything you need to know, and doesn’t clutter the screen with anything superfluous. It is a shining example of minimalist design.

So it’s a bit of a shame that excellent design doesn’t apply to the problem with Super Mario Bros. 2…

It's bad!

The issue? There at the top of the screen is the bird-mask gate that is the entrance to World 3-2. And that door at the bottom? That’s the exit. You can see it! It’s right there! You’re just going to have to traverse the whole of the stage backwards to find your way to your eventual goal.

And that’s always annoying.

Complete BSSuper Mario Bros. 1 is a game that scrolls from left to right so relentlessly, the screen literally doesn’t allow returning to the left. Super Mario Bros. 3 may allow backtracking, but you can be sure that your eventual fireworks display is always going to be far too the right. Right is forward, left is backwards, and if you’re not making forward/right progress, you are losing ground on reaching your goal. Easy peasy. There are some exceptions to the rule (usually involving a castle or similar Koopa encampment), but, by and large, you always know where you’re going in a Mario game.

Super Mario Bros. 2, unfortunately, doesn’t have this kind of focus. Right from the first level, there’s a branching path that involves the possibility of sneaking up on Birdo through some demolition, or scaling a vertical beanstalk. Choice is great! But it’s not so great on an opening level where you’re still trying to discover the shape of your goals. From there, we have a second level that requires a detour to find a key, and then another stage that entails some up-and-down just to make your way to a boss. Very rarely is there a SMB2 level that requires simple, left-to-right traversal, and, while the final fortress being a maze is to be expected of a Mario adventure, the second to last level hangs its opening segment on the deception of having to progress left when right seems like the most obvious goal. Right until the end, Super Mario Bros. 2 loves tricking the player into confusion at best, and general time wasting at worst.

And I am not a player that likes to waste his time.

Rarely seen crabI replay Super Mario Bros. 3 once a year (though I may ignore some levels). Super Mario Bros. usually sees a go for one reason or another. But I don’t think I’ve completely played through Super Mario Bros. 2 since the advent of the Gameboy Advance. Why? Because it’s a game that practically forces the player to second guess every decision. Is this the right way? Should I be riding that albatross? Is there a key down this pipe, or another stupid turtle shell? Hell, even pullin’ up plants, the temporary replacement for Mario’s iconic question mark blocks, is a lottery to the uninformed player. Are you going to pull up a helpful vegetable, or a bob-omb that is going to blow after an instant? And if there are a row of plants, where is that magic potion? If you pull it up first, it’ll lead to a bevy of coins, but tugging it out last means you won’t get a cent. And, as someone who doesn’t easily deal with missing collectibles, it poisons everything about the experience.

Oh… oh, God. Is Super Mario Bros. 2 the first Mario collectathon?

Well, no, of course not. It’s not like Wart is locked behind finding every last coin or some other esoteric condition. But Super Mario Bros. 2 does appear to be the first Mario title that experimented with eschewing “courses” for “worlds”, and its position as a the first Mario game to give that a try makes it a harder pill to swallow. Super Mario Bros. 2 is neither fish nor fowl in the war between Mario games where you have to find everything, and Mario games where the entire point is jumping around like an idiot. Dang whalesAs a result, even though it is a very singular experience in the History of Mario, it is also a game that doesn’t perform well in either category. There are too many “secrets” and “techniques” required for this to be a simple “run ‘n fun” platforming title, but there are too many pidgits and waterfalls for it to be a game simply about discovery. It’s a title lost in the middle, and that means it is rarely anyone’s favorite.

But it still has a pretty rockin’ health meter, so it ain’t all bad.

FGC #487 Super Mario Bros. 2

  • System: Nintendo Entertainment System, then Super Nintendo Entertainment System, and then… I guess it didn’t appear again until the Wii? Then it was on everything, though. Does the Gameboy Advance version count, too?
  • Number of players: This was the first Mario game to include Luigi, but not a 2-player mode. Or I’m making that up. But it sounds like a true fact!
  • Doki Doki Remake: Everybody knows that Super Mario Bros. 2 USA was a modified version of Yume Kōjō: Doki Doki Panic, a Nintendo game by Shigeru Miyamoto that featured a non-Nintendo license. The heroes of YK:DDP were switched with the Mario staples of Mario, Luigi, Toad, and Princess, but most of the rest of the game was unchanged. We’ve still got Wart, Mouser, and…

    This is not okay

    They just had to change a liiiiiiil racism here and there.

  • Favorite Character: Growing up, I always relied on Princess Toadstool/Peach. But now, as a mature adult, I apparently prefer Toad. I… I just gotta go fast.
  • Innovation: I may be against how much thinking is required to complete Super Mario Bros. 2, but I am continually impressed by how often the simple concept of “riding” an enemy is used for fascinating gameplay. Soaring across the skies on the back of a bird is pretty straightforward, but who would expect skittering up a tree with a hoopster? And seeing how far you can get while riding on a shyguy is always fun.
  • What’s in a name: Oh! Subcon! As in subconscious, as in the part of your brain that is working when you’re dreaming. I just got that!
  • Floating bubblesDid you know? Clawgrip is an entirely new boss added to the game to replace a third Mouser battle in level 5. It’s obvious that a number of SMB2 luminaries never made it into other Nintendo titles because “SMB2 USA” didn’t have as much cultural clout in Japan, but Clawgrip is on the Mike Jones-echelon of never being seen again. Come on, Nintendo, he’s a giant crab! Nerds love those guys!
  • Would I play again: It might not be my favorite, but it sure is a Mario game. That means I’m sure I’ll give it another go sometime, even if it won’t be for a while. Maybe I can go visit Mecha Birdo…

What’s next? We’re keeping this two-train going! Random ROB has chosen Sonic the Hedgehog 2! Are you up 2 it? Please look forward 2 it!

Sleep well

FGC #272 Nintendo Land

Looks like a chess piece...The WiiU is dead. Time for a post mortem.

Nintendo Land had some big shoes to fill. Wii Sports, the game that launched the phenomenal Wii, was maybe the most successful launch game of all time (eat it, Duck Hunt). It was an amazing introduction to the system… and… uh… it was also a complete failure. Wii Sports is good! Unfortunately, it was so good, that many people bought the Wii exclusively for Wii Sports, and never purchased another game. This would simply be kind of annoying for Microsoft or Sony, but Nintendo actually makes software for their hardware, and if someone is buying the hardware but none of the following five years of software… that ain’t no good. And Wii Sports was an excellent showcase for everyone’s favorite Miis, but it didn’t include so much as a Mario cameo, left alone the obvious Punch-Out tie-in over in Wii Boxing. In short, Wii Sports was a marvelous system seller, but a terrible Nintendo seller.

So the course was clear for the WiiU: Nintendo needed a new killer app to sell its system with all those exciting new WiiU features, and it needed a game that featured all the new (old) friends you’d make on the WiiU, like Mario and Olimar. Nintendo has been making videogames for twelve billion years, so this should be a walk in the (Nintendo Land) park, right? Heck, let’s throw in a new mascot character that is a talking TV screen for some damn reason! Nothing is more exciting than a literally two dimensional rectangle with an annoying voice!

Of course, I am writing this article from a dystopian future where the WiiU is done. The Switch is now king, and Miiverse is a sad shell of its former glory (though still talking about Splatoon, for some reason). Nintendo apparently has no plans to release first party games on the WiiU ever again, and the only thing on the WiiU release schedule is… Cars 3: Driven to Win. I don’t think that’s going to push any systems. Whether the WiiU was a success or not, what’s important is that it is now dead. Sweet dreams, WiiU, may paratroopas lead you in.

But we’ve still got Nintendo Land sitting here, so let’s see if any of the various minigames involved were at all relevant to the WiiU and its general trajectory.

Yoshi’s Fruit Cart

CHOMPThe Game: It’s everyone’s favorite thing! A game that deliberately hobbles your view so as to create a challenge out of nothing! Hooray!

WiiU Relevance: In a way, this is the prototype for Kirby and the Rainbow Curse… a few years after Kirby Canvas Curse. And instead of enjoying the innovative momentum system that makes either of those games a blast, now you can only see half the game at any given time on either screen. The fruit is on the top screen, and your drawn line is on the pad, so the challenge lies in spatial relations. Unfortunately, there’s a hole in my bathroom that tells you everything you need to know about my depth perception (to elaborate, that hole was supposed to be a cable jack a room over…. I am bad at measuring).

Nintendo-ness: It’s Yoshi! In cart form! Yoshi eating fruit is Yoshi to a T… though the whole “is a mechanical cart” thing is a little weird. Also, if you’re going to go with a Nintendo protagonist that rolls along and eats everything in his path, how about, ya know, Kirby? Was HAL sick that day?

Overall Rating: I’m sure there are some people out there that enjoy this kind of thing, but I’m not one of them. I can’t freehand to save my life, and I can’t guide a Yoshi to save his. You know what killed the dinosaurs? Me.

Donkey Kong’s Crash Course

OookThe Game: Navigate a little cart thing through an obstacle course themed after the original Donkey Kong construction “maze”.

WiiU Relevance: This one uses the WiiU pad’s gyroscope “leaning” powers. This seems to be the feature that got reused the most in later WiiU games, and even worked its way into the final WiiU game, Breath of the Wild. Come to think of it, this means that this game is partially responsible for those damn “labyrinth” shrine puzzles. Zero out of five stars.

Nintendo-ness: Donkey Kong is about as Nintendo as it gets, but this game recalls the original Donkey Kong, and not the more iconic Donkey Kong that would return for Tropical Freeze. Also, every time Nintendo references original DK, it reminds us all that we still have yet to see a perfect arcade port of DK, and that’s horrible.

Overall Rating: Oh, did I mention this game is impossible? Because it is. I’m just glad this nonsense only ever reappeared as a minigame distraction, and not, like, Super Mario Tilt ‘n Tumble.

Captain Falcon’s Twister Race

VrooomThe Game: It’s racing! With F-Zero cars! It’s kinda F-Zero!

WiiU Relevance: As the Switch release of Mario Kart has reminded all of us, when it came time for racing to hit the WiiU, Nintendo had already abandoned the whole “use your controller like a steering wheel” thing. Oh well. The control scheme here is as smooth as silk, so good on Nintendo at least making this seem like a viable option, even if it wasn’t really used outside of the WiiOG.

Nintendo-ness: Nintendo loves Captain “Show me your moves” Falcon. This is F-Zero through and through, with futuristic venues and the good ol’ Blue Falcon (no Dynomutt, unfortunately). On the other hand, this game serves to remind us that we haven’t seen a decent F-Zero game since the friggen Gamecube, and we wouldn’t see another on the WiiU. Way to be a tease, Nintendo!

Overall Rating: It’s no Falcon Punch, but it’s pretty close to being a Falcon Slap. I do appreciate how the game offers two different (and viable!) views of the same action on two different screens. That could have reappeared on the WiiU at least once.

Balloon Trip Breeze

FloatyThe Game: It’s basically Balloon Trip Advance with a stylus-based control scheme. This gives me very little to complain about.

WiiU Relevance: This game controls by blowing a breeze to move around your Balloon Tripper via stylus motions. This is… actually kind of fun. It’s frantic in a good way, and it’s always enjoyable to have a complete freak out attempting to keep your lil’ balloon buddy out of the maw of a giant fish. Unfortunately, I can literally hear these swiping motions doing permanent damage to my WiiU screen, so I can see why this didn’t become a popular control scheme.

Nintendo-ness: Billy “Balloon Man” Balloonguy is popular with the old-school crew, but he still has yet to get his own game in the modern era. That said, the Balloon Trip theme has somehow infiltrated my brain to an intense degree (likely thanks to Smash Bros), so it is synonymous with Nintendo in its own way.

Overall Rating: Honestly, of the one player games on this collection, this one saw the most play. It’s probably the only game I’d buy a la carte… but that’s mostly because Balloon Trip is my Tetris. It’s hard to get this wrong…

Takamaru’s Ninja Castle

I have no idea what is going on hereThe Game: It’s basically a shooting game ala Time Crisis or Link’s Crossbow Training. Turn the WiiU gamepad sideways, and hurl shuriken at an endless army of ninja. The ninja vaguely look like characters from South Park, so let’s consider it a crossover.

WiiU Relevance: Wow, I had totally forgotten the WiiU pad had “aiming” functionality like the Wiimote. You mean there could have been shooting games like House of the Dead for the WiiU, but nobody ever bothered? That kind of makes me sad.

Nintendo-ness: This game is based on a Japan-only game, Nazo no Murasame Jō, that is vaguely Zelda-esque. The star of Nazo no Murasame Jō, Takamaru, has cameoed here and there in various Nintendo games since… but you probably thought he was a random Kid Icarus character, didn’t you? Sorry, Tak, you’re not exactly Mario.

Overall rating: Middling. Fun game, but ninja seem out of place next to Donkey Kong and Yoshi.

Octopus Dance

Just danceThe Game: Somebody at Nintendo played Just Dance, and now you have to, too.

WiiU Relevance: Despite the myriad of ways this could be more interesting, this is just Simon Says with the occasional “flip” between the screens so you will confuse your left and right and feel like a damn kindergartener again. I guess this reminds you that there are two analog sticks on the WiiU Pad? Has anyone ever “missed a button” on a videogame controller? I usually try every damn thing I can find about two seconds into any given game…

Nintendo-ness: Mr. Game and Watch has become the hipster of the Nintendo pantheon. Oh, you never played Octopus, a game likely older than 80% of the people reading this article and only available on severely outdated hardware? Oh, that’s cool, I mean, I have, but you wouldn’t understand. As such, given Mr. Game and Watch never actually existed and was basically a homunculus created for Smash Bros, anytime you see ol’ G&W, it’s because Nintendo is trying to be cool with the retro crowd. … Though I can’t say that’s a bad thing.

Overall Rating: The moral is never purchase a Just Dance game for WiiU.

The Legend of Zelda: Battle Quest

SLASHThe Game: Link, he comes to a town, he comes to kill like a billion bokoblins.

WiiU Relevance: This is a fine demo for 1-to-1 sword slashing ala The Legend of Zelda Skyward Sword. Unfortunately, Skyward Sword apparently put Nintendo off ever doing the whole “motion control sword” thing ever again, so this is basically the last hurrah for the concept.

Nintendo-ness: Link is literally a system seller, so it’s only natural that he’d appear here. Come to think of it, is Zelda in this one? Or Ganon? Is he a piggy or a pile of smoke?

Overall Rating: I mean, it’s fun to show off what the Wii could do, but that’s old news, Nintendo. Move on, you’ve got a new system to promote. Maybe you should be thinking about what Link could do with a magical ipad, like, I don’t know, control mammoth mechanical elephants or something.

Pikmin Adventure

Pew?The Game: It’s co-op, “simple” Pikmin.

WiiU Relevance: Was there actually a Pikmin game released for the WiiU? There was? Awesome. Mission accomplished.

Nintendo-ness: Iiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiit’s Pikmin!

Overall Rating: When Nintendo Land had been released, we’d gone an entire console generation without a Pikmin game. This was a delightful little way to be reminded the franchise existed before moving on to any other game in the compilation. What was that thing with Yoshi again?

Metroid Blast

Pew pewThe Game: You are heroic bounty hunter Samus Aran, and you’ve got a hell of a lot of bounties to collect. Is that thing supposed to be Ridley? Eh, better kill it to be sure.

WiiU Relevance: Aside from the WiiU Pad owner getting a gunship while the rest of the nerds have to run around in their spacesuits, this is probably the most straightforward, least gimmicky game on the collection. Likely as a result, it’s also probably one of the most fun single-player experiences in Nintendo Land. Go fig. Hey, which games on the WiiU wound up becoming the most popular, anyway?

Nintendo-ness: As ever, Nintendo has no idea what to do with Samus Aran. She’s basically reprising her role from Metroid Prime Hunters here as Nintendo’s resident character most likely to wind up in a death match, and… I guess that’s where Federation Force originated, too as well. Hey, Nintendo? You know that the word “metroidvania” doesn’t refer to just shooting stuff, right?

Overall Rating: This is fun! It also has nothing to do with anything! Maybe that’s good! This might be more fun if Samus was a squid, though.

Mario Chase, Luigi’s Ghost Mansion, and Animal Crossing: Sweet Day

The Game: These are three different multiplayer experiences where, one way or another, the dude with the WiiU Pad gets to mess with the poor schmoes that are stuck with the Wiimotes.

WiiU Relevance: This was always the promise of the WiiU, right? That we could have wonderful, creative asymmetric multiplayer games that aren’t possible on other platforms? Oh what games we’ll play with… oh, the system is already dead? Dammit.

Nintendo-ness: I’m probably not the only person that thought asymmetric multiplayer would take off, as Mario and Luigi, the biggest horses in the Nintendo stable, headline two out of three of these attractions. Animal Crosser has been trying to achieve some moderate level of fame since the Gamecube, and it’s important that we keep ignoring that dude. Should Animal Crossing ever become as popular as Mario, Nintendo will find a way to monetize the AC model for mobile devices, and then we will not have enough money to afford food.

Overall Rating: This is super fun and… it was released opposite a four player Mario game? Oh, screw this noise, give me my real Mario.

Post Mortem

What was your name again?Well, that was more telling than I expected. The best game in the compilation was the one that employed the least random WiiU BS, and, the further we got from “it’s a videogame” to more “it’s a gimmick given form”, the less fun was had. This is pretty much how the WiiU worked, as Breath of Wild is the most amazing thing that has ever happened, and it didn’t even need to be on the WiiU. Meanwhile, Kirby and the Rainbow Curse is a game I have to continually look up to make sure I’m not confusing the title with its DS incarnation. The WiiU was a noble experiment, but its greatest strengths didn’t exactly lend themselves to what the public seemed to actually want, so, at best, we got games like Mario Maker and Splatoon that kinda sorta remembered we had a stylus at hand.

The Nintendo WiiU. Cause of death: Trying.

FGC #272 Nintendo Land

  • System: Well shucks, I totally forgot what system this game is for. N64?
  • Number of players: As many as you can imagine. Or four. It’s probably four.
  • Favorite Attraction: Metroid is pretty much always going to be the answer.
  • Just play the gig man: The faux retro themes that permeate this game are right up my alley, so it almost feels like cheating to note that I really like this soundtrack. In other news, I also enjoy games that feature Mario.
  • Did you know? I’m assuming this will be the last disc-based pack-in game I ever see in my lifetime. Even the WiiU learned pretty quick that it’s a lot cheaper to just include a download code in the box than a disc that is totally for resale.
  • Would I play again: Nope! It’s surprising that, even though there is so much content available on this game, all of it feels completely perfunctory, and I would rather play practically anything else that provides a more full experience. So, sorry… uh… television guy… I’m going to go play something else now.


What’s next?
Random ROB is insulted he was not in this game and has chosen… Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves for the NES! Huh, not the game featuring well-meaning thieves I would have expected from this blog, but whatever. Time to rob from the rich and give to the Nintendo kids. Please look forward to it!

FGC #240 Mario & Luigi: Bowser’s Inside Story

ClassySuper Mario Bros. can be completed within about fifteen minutes. Had you told me this information back in the 80’s, I would have never believed you (okay, I might have believed you, I was a dumb child that believed in things like Santa Claus and people who could make it past the first level of Kid Icarus), because I would routinely spend hours playing Super Mario Bros, and it was a long, long time before I ever conquered Bowser once and for all. But, if you know what you’re doing, hold down that B button, and grab all the warps, it’s actually not that difficult to sail past every last Hammer Bro into Peach’s waiting arms. And, yes, the princess is in this castle, and you made it in the time it takes to watch an episode of Aqua Teen Hunger Force. Now we can all move on to more important matters, like banishing Dracula or something.

Over time, Mario’s adventures got lengthier. While Super Mario Bros. 3 can be completed in… three minutes? Really? Okay, let’s say fifteen minutes again, that sounds more sane. Super Mario World is in the same boat, but already Super Mario World 2: Yoshi’s Island hits the “you will complete every level” bar, bumping its speedrun times up to at least an hour. Super Mario 64 is similarly at the “ready in about an hour” bar, and Super Mario Sunshine continues the trend. Yes, these giant, sprawling 3-D Mario games still maintain a “speed path” that allows for some insane acrobatics and practically instantaneous princess saving. Forget Wee Goggle Bob’s confusion at modern day speedruns, Present Goggle Bob is amazed at these super-fast Marios right now. Even the entire galaxy of Super Mario Galaxy can be conquered inside of three hours!

And I mention this because, in Mario & Luigi: Bowser’s Inside Story, it seems like one battle lasts roughly three hours.

PUNT!M&L:BIS is a Mario RPG. Somehow, there are now three different Mario RPG “branches”. There’s Super Mario RPG, the Mario/Square jaunt that was basically a Final Fantasy game (complete with random kingdom in the sky and ancient caves abound) with Mario characters and a slightly active battle system. Unfortunately, this branch kind of died on the vine (… is that how metaphors work?), and we never saw another Mario RPG quite like it. Then we got Paper Mario, which is adorable, and features a sort of “evolved” version of Mario RPG’s battle system. Maybe “devolved” is the proper term? Get ready to see an HP count that never exceeds double digits, and a damage count that can’t even clear the number five. Personally, I love the aesthetic and not arbitrarily doing 1,200 HP damage every round, but I can see how it all adds up to something that seems very… childish. It’s like a pop-up book with tiny, easily counted numbers! Your little brother will love it!

And then there’s the Mario and Luigi franchise. I kind of hate the Mario and Luigi franchise.

Mario and Luigi, at first glance, is very much like Mario RPG or Paper Mario. You’ve got Mario and Luigi, and they’re in JRPG-style battles, and you better learn about timed hits, or you’re going to lose a lot of health points. Generally, in M&L games, it all starts off simple enough, and you jump to dodge, and hit the button at the right time to get a few extra points in, and, easy peasy, you’re done with the opening areas inside of a few hours. But then it gets… tricky. More special attacks are introduced, more ways to move and attack start trickling in, and then, by the time the final boss rolls on in, you’re swept up in a torrent of jump jump slide attack that would put Mega Man 8 to shame. I’m not exaggerating when I say that I’ve played some minigames in other JRPGs that are less complex than one round of combat in a Mario and Luigi game.

And it’s exhausting!

TAKE THATI want to say that it leads to some overwhelming feeling of satisfaction when you complete each round of these Mario & Luigi trials, but… not so much. One boss might challenge M&L to a metaphorical game of jump rope every other round, but, end of the day, once that boss is defeated, it’s just another boss down, have some EXP, end of story. The JRPG trappings of Mario & Luigi make it similar to every JRPG that has existed since Erdrick’s descendant first picked up his blade, except every battle plays out like a damn exercise routine instead of aiming the cursor at “fight” and calling it a day. And, make no mistake, the other JRPG trappings are here, too, so you’ve got to resource manage, equip proper armor (overalls), and explore puzzle-y dungeon mazes between those grueling battles. Mario & Luigi: Superstar Saga (aka M&L1) is one of the few games I’ve ever played where I got to the final boss, lost a couple of times, and then said, “Screw it, I’m gonna play something else.” And it’s all because the final boss’s attack sequences each, individually, seemed to take entire hours of my life. Who has time for that (gigantic exaggeration)!?

In fact, Mario & Luigi: Bowser’s Inside Story is the only Mario & Luigi game I’ve ever completed. Why? Well, as much as people complain about some of the minigames in this game (and their endless tutorials), I found that some of those distractions (and super giant Bowser) are enough of an interruption from the usual gameplay that it… is “refreshed” the right word? Yes, the silly minigames made me want to play the game more because the normal game is so exhausting. I beat M&L:BIS, felt happy to have accomplished such a feat, and then never picked up another M&L game ever again. Brothers, I don’t care if your writing is really clever and your sprites are delightful, I got better things to do than dodge a shy guy over and over and over again.

Not so shy nowAnd that’s why I’m unlikely to play another Mario & Luigi game again. It’s not that Mario & Luigi games are bad. Quite the opposite, despite how much vitriol has been spewed all over this post. M&L games are well crafted and charming, with colorful characters and interesting variations on established Mario characters. Unfortunately, the games also take forever, and for the exact same “reward” as any other Mario game. You saved Peach. You defeated Bowser (even if he was helpful at one point). You stomped a lot of goombas, and had fun doing it. It just took days, when other Mario adventures can take minutes. I don’t want to take five minutes to show a koopa troopa who’s boss when it can take a button press.

I’ve got limited time for turtle stomping nowadays, and fifteen minutes should be the entire game, not one battle.

FGC #240 Mario & Luigi: Bowser’s Inside Story

  • System: Nintendo DS. This one make it to the Virtual Console? No? Okay.
  • Number of players: Despite the obvious two player title, it’s a one player affair. JRPGs, ya know.
  • Uh, dude, you barely mentioned Bowser: Well! I already talked about him a lot during the Paper Mario article! It happens. But seriously, probably the other half of “why I beat this game” is that the Bowser portions are a hoot, and he’s a lot less taxing to control than the brothers. Really, half the problem I have with these games is the “dual dodging” thing, which is why I gave up Partners in Time (with quad dodging) almost immediately.
  • Also, Fat Toads: Blorbs are adorbs.
  • FATTY!Favorite Boss: Midbus is the obvious choice here. I feel like anytime Bowser gets a decent rival, fun times are had. Okay, maybe he’s not really a decent rival, but he’s at least amusing, and I like him better than Fawful. You heard me, Fawful-fans! Your fav is one note!
  • Did you know: There are unused Yoshi voice clips hiding in the code. One would assume this means Yoshi was originally intended to have a greater role… but isn’t there already enough swallowing going on in this game? Though I would likely play a new Mario & Luigi game that explored the digestive/reproductive system of your average Yoshi…
  • Would I play again? Another situation where the article answers this question entirely. Just for the statistics, the answer is a plain no.

What’s next? Random ROB… is taking some time off for Valentine’s Day. But we’re going to have content. Oh yes, we’re going to have a full week of moderately Valentine’s Day related content. Though… probably not what you’re thinking. Come back Monday to find out what’s on the agenda for the week. Please look forward to it!