Initial Stream: 11/10/20
3:00 – Everyone had two weeks to vote on whether or not they wanted to see additional story progress or the Final Fantasy character vignettes/side quests… and I didn’t see a single vote. Turnout is terrible this year. So we held a vote on the stream, and fanboymaster and BEAT both agreed it was time to hit the Final Fantasy Intervention Quests. As a reminder, these are all “out of time” moments provided by The Girl Who Forgot Her Name, and our heroes only pitch hit for the featured Final Fantasy character during battle, and the rest of these sections are simple “slice of life” stories (that often involve giant, malevolent sea monsters). First up are Tidus and Yuna aping some Final Fantasy X plot beats.
16:00 – The “bullet points” for the Intervention Quests are going to be mostly here to let you know when a new vignette starts. At approximately the sixteen minute mark, we are discussing “politics” and/or Quistis while Squall gets a featured story about future planning.
25:00 – Discussing Tidus while Faris and Edgar discuss something other than Tidus. And then it’s time to point out how Edgar is a pedophile.
33:00 – Terra encounters a certain unpleasant octopus while another bot invades the chat.
39:00 Bartz and Rikku is the crossover event you didn’t ever know you needed. It is mostly ignored in favor of Dragonball Z discussion.
What actually happened in the plot:
All Intervention Quests are canon in World of Final Fantasy, but are (almost) all considered “sidequests”, so this is all “optional” plot. That said, here’s what happened in this update:
• Yuna and Tidus, who met for the first time as part of the main plot, bond over repelling Bismarck (not the nazi ship) from Besaid.
• Squall, unlike his fellow Final Fantasy buddies, doesn’t have future plans, which worries his bulbous little head. Squall and Shelke go on a monster hunting mission, and Shelke tricks Squall into caring and planting a garden. This somehow makes Squall smile.
• Faris’s ship is attacked by Omega Bane, and she tracks it back to a potential dimensional gateway at the center of the desert. Edgar is familiar with the area, so he banishes Omega Bane with the help of Vivi.
• Terra teams up with, and then realizes she must destroy, Ultros, the least prime octopus.
• Bartz and Rikku try to rob Ifrit’s cave, but wind up inadvertently becoming friends with the fiery summons when they team up to repel some behemoths.
Initial Stream: 11/10/20
1:00 – Rikku is sailing the seven seas, and, hey, we’re actually discussing Rikku! It’s game related! It’s a game related, on-topic discussion! That hardly ever happens!
5:00 – Eiko makes a new wolf friend, so let’s talk about Justice League. The animated series, to be clear, as that is clearly the best iteration of the ol’ hero club.
10:00 – Tifa meets some zealots. How old would you be in the Final Fantasy universe? And would your hat stay on your head?
16:00 – Yuna and “The Sad Spiral” sounds like a good time. Final Fantasy characters need therapy, and so do we after discussing Fountains of Wayne.
26:00 – After some wedding discussion, here are Yuna and Rydia in a Volcano. Then BEAT gets hungry, and we fight Lady Ifrit.
32:00 – Cloud and Lightning are palling around while we discuss terrible streamers, teenage sins, and how we’re all attractive. Also, please remember the duck stream.
What actually happened in the plot:
• Rikku battles the Mimic Queen and discovers that literally all the treasures across the sea were a bunch of (now dead) mimics.
• Eiko investigates a “weird feeling” and discovers her ancestors’ “Fenrir” mirage, Elefenrir, who offers a cryptic warning.
• Tifa fights off a gigantic, robotic hand, and tells some religious fanatics that Enna Kros helps those that help themselves.
• Yuna helps Ami of Green Gables (thanks, Zef), a poor woman who wants to sacrifice herself for the good of her hometown. Valefor’s non-union equivalent, Nirvalefor, guides Yuna to help Ami by defeating Ultima Weapon. Thus, Ami no longer has to be a martyr, and she didn’t even have to lose her imaginary dream-boyfriend to do it.
• Yuna and Rydia enter a volcano to find Ifreeta, Ifrit’s cousin who has been possessing humans to be a general nuisance in the world. The two summoners banish the fire cat girl.
• Cloud and Lightning investigate a mirage (Iron Muscles) menacing a local village, but apparently Sephiroth has been in the area repelling the mirage. Cloud ventures off on his own to hunt his mortal enemy, but Terra convinces Cloud to go back and help Lightning. Cloud and Lightning destroy Iron Muscles, and Sephiroth is never seen.
Initial Stream: 11/10/20
0:30 – Vivi and Golems accompany a brief description of quests that have gone before. Long story short: when boiled down to their base archetypes, nearly every male Final Fantasy protagonist becomes Zidane. It’s weird!
13:30 – Discussing Fire Emblem/Lucina /Gachas while Quistis and Squall hang out in Garden.
16:00 – Ample Vigour arrives, and then leaves us wanting as Einhänder shows up again.
20:00 – Penguin time means we have to repeat a whole dungeon. There’s crying underwater from that stupid queen and yours truly, as this Intervention Quest contains an entire “level” that we already completed once. And it wasn’t that good the first time! Regardless, this appears to be the only Intervention Quest that is so intensive, so it’s at least noteworthy.
28:00 – “We’re going all in on this fried bread thing.”
41:00 – And the moral of the story is we’re never going to stop talking about that mysterious liquor lady.
What actually happened in the plot:
• Vivi stops a golem uprising and decides to live another day, confident he is not a mere golem (which makes sense, as golems in this game are basically just Pokémon).
• Celes tries to cheer up the still-recovering-from-vampirey folks of Tome Town by performing an opera, but Ultros arrives, and messes it all up. Ultros is repelled, but, sorry, Celes won’t be singing in this one.
• It is confirmed that Balamb Garden is apparently a mirage, Eden, even if stuff discovered there, like the Gunblade, could be Cogna related.
• Shantotto attempts to open a secret vault by killing the Quacho Queen, but Lann and Reynn convince the Quacho Queen to open the door without bloodshed. Unfortunately, there’s a monster in the vault that could potentially explode and crack the continent in half… but Shantotto uses a spell to disarm the volatile kraken. The day is saved, and our heroes loot the vault.
Initial Stream: 11/10/20
00:00 – There is some interesting discussion regarding the production of Marvel vs. Capcom/Howard the Duck opposite Bartz and Gigglemesh saving a town. Eventually, there is discussion of Spider-Man arcade, a game near and dear to my videogame preserving heart.
8:00 – Additional discussion of Marvel vs. Capcom and what could have happened to Street Fighter 3 while Snow and Celes do… nothing.
14:30 – Moonboy and Devil Dinosaur are not Edgar and Vivi, but they’re not Primal, either.
19:00 – There’s no battle in this vignette, just cutscenes. This is weird, and prompts a discussion regarding Mr. Bucket, and how he wants you to put your balls in his mouth.
21:00 – Faris, Ifrit, and we’re apparently not worshipping Satan.
25:00 – Refia and Sherlotta venture into the snow while we discuss children’s cartoons and fetishes and let’s not talk about Totally Spies.
30:00 – We are done talking about Goodfeathers and how much we hate aspects of Animaniacs just in time to watch the ongoing adventures of Undead Princess.
34:00 Goblin Princess and the immortal question: is high school worse than working in The Simpsons writing room?
What actually happened in the plot:
• Gigglemesh and Bartz are more or less tricked by Bahamutian Soldiers, but team up to recover a victory.
• Snow and Celes fight Gigglemesh over absolutely nothing. Typical crossover fight, I suppose.
• Edgar and Vivi win over the support of the Figaro guard ostensibly through Vivi being annoying.
• Faris sponsors “Underdog Day”, a day when her crew can challenge the captain for control of the ship. An overeager moogle accidently summons Ifrit, whom Faris has to knock off the plank.
• Refia and Sherlotta battle Undead Princess (another refugee from Final Fantasy Crystal Chronicles: Echoes of Time), and then hire her to promote the Inn. Then Sherlotta and Undead Princess work together to stop some Metalliskulls that are haunting the area.
• Princess Sarah was kidnapped by Princess Goblin, who apparently has a crush on Warrior of Light. Warrior of Light lets Princess Goblin down easy, and rescues Princess Sarah.
Additional note that seems to explain a lot: In game, there is a running encyclopedia for characters encountered in World of Final Fantasy. The entry for Undead Princess reads:
Hey, Wait a Second…
You may be wondering why so many characters from the CRYSTAL CHRONICLES series have been popping up in Grymoire. Well, take a look at the person doing character design, and you may have your answer.
So that solves at least one unsolved mystery of World of Final Fantasy.
Initial Stream: 11/10/20
00:00 – Refia tries to build a bridge while we discuss how to own people on the internet. Or maybe we’re just looking at Dril tweets again. Or Spider-Man?
6:00 – Time for (what I’m pretty sure is) the DLC event. It is not a Gundam.
9:30 – Kishi joins us. Kishi is not a Gundam.
22:00 – We finally win as Omega God bonks over.
“He” is now Ted Woo, author of Shadow Mad.
31:00 – Kishi requests a repeat performance, so we’re watching the Faris bit again. Let’s consider this an example of how you can repeat these quests unlimited times.
36:00 – In an effort to torture fanboymaster, we close this stream out by taking a look at the World of Final Fantasy pokédex.
What actually happened in the plot:
• Refia tries to build an ice bridge, so she recruits Sherlotta to additionally recruit Shiva. The bridge is built, but doesn’t last long.
• Enna Kros has a conversation with Alexander, the gigantic mirage currently serving as a motionless bridge. Apparently they fought “for the throne” at one point. Eden of Balamb Garden, Lute of Ragnarok in Cornera, and Midgardian Ormr (presumably) of Midgar are all mirages, too. Alexander had Omega God hanging out on it in a pocket dimension (or something), so Enna Kros summoned Lann and Reynn to fight him off. Omega God is defeated and captured, and now, having completed all available Intervention Quests, Lann and Reynn are free to journey on to the endgame.
Next time on World of Final Fantasy: This stream was the same week I got married, so BEAT is responsible for the Bad End.
Nintendo feared that the recent collapse of the videogame market would mar the launch of its first videogame device in North America, so the Nintendo Entertainment System was marketed primarily as a toy. It came with a videogame, yes, but that game also came with a home shooting gallery and a robot that would haunt your dreams. As videogames as a concept regained its footing, the NES dropped the robot (forever), but kept the gun and the plumber. The intention here seemed obvious: Super Mario Bros. is a videogame’s videogame, with abstract monsters and gameplay where you literally have to learn to walk. But Duck Hunt? That’s just aim and shoot. So whether it’s Wee Bobby or grandpa at the console, you’ve got at least one game that is going to sate your very real need to kill chestnuts and/or ducks. But videogames were much more established by the time we saw the Super Nintendo Entertainment System, so that console was bundled with only (“only”) Super Mario World. Besides, why did you need to bother with the “casual” crowd at that point? Nintendo had already conquered that market in the portable sphere by bundling Tetris with the Gameboy. Going into 1995, Nintendo had a perfect record in America with bundling carefully selected games with their featured systems.
And then there was the Virtual Boy. Then there was a new Mario game, and it was… Tennis?
It is illegal to pen an article about a Virtual Boy game without noting that the Virtual Boy is the product of bad decisions. It may be hard to believe today, but, when the Virtual Boy was being developed, many industry analysts believed that iterative videogame systems were a dead end. Sure, the Super Nintendo was a success after the “regular” Nintendo, but Sega Genesis tried to solder all sorts of upgrades unto its base, and it got nowhere. Hell, you could make the argument that Sega never had a successful console again (you’d be wrong, though, because we can’t discount any hardware that hosted cannon spiking). Then there was the parade of “other” systems that barely put a dent in the market. The Atari Jaguar? 3DO? Playdia? The prevailing thinking of the time was essentially that there was nothing wrong with these new consoles (like their complete lack of decent games or omnipresence of Primal Rage), and people simply didn’t want new home consoles at all. In such an environment, Nintendo had to do something wholly different. Sony was obviously going to send its new Playstation straight to the junk heap like all the others, but Nintendo was going to try to do something absolutely new. Nintendo was going to launch a portable virtual reality machine.
… And then they released something that was neither.
The Virtual Boy has so many problems. Right off the bat, the controller is theoretically a shining step between the perennial SNES controller and its important N64 descendant… but it is absolutely terrible for a system that 100% precludes the player from actually seeing the controller. Sure, you’re going to be able to easily find that second crosspad on the right, but the players of 1995 were still getting used to shoulder buttons, and now you’re going to toss a pair of buttons behind the controller? It’s a controller that probably worked really well for the designers that had been tinkering with the thing for a year, but it was terrible for a kid that has to shove their attention up the system’s virtual ass. And speaking of which, the Virtual Boy was a big ol’ beast, and about as portable as a St. Bernard duct taped to a cow (look, I don’t know where you grew up, but I’ll never forget my junior homecoming dance). It didn’t require a TV hookup, but it was a bulky battery beast, so you were more likely to be tethered to an outlet than the Gameboy’s “play it anywhere” access. And we have to address “the red thing”, right? How it was so eye-searing, there was literally a warning every twenty minutes that you were supposed to stop? Could you imagine playing Final Fantasy 6 on the Virtual Boy? You’d be incapable of seeing blue before you saw your first moogle!
But, most of all, the Virtual Boy was damned by the fact that it was all based on a lie. The Virtual Boy looked like what we all imagined a Virtual Reality head seat was going to look like, and it was, ya know, named Virtual Boy. But was this humble videogame system from 1995 a “Virtual Reality Machine”? Hell no. It was a Gameboy with modestly 3-D graphics. There were no sprawling polygons or intricate worlds contained within the Virtual Boy, there was only… red. There was not a single game on the Virtual Boy that couldn’t have been easily adapted for any other system of the time. We understand how three dimensions work, Nintendo! We didn’t need new hardware to figure out Mario Clash!
But was Mario’s Tennis, the Virtual Boy’s own/only pack-in title, yet another Virtual Boy mistake?
It is… difficult to say Mario’s Tennis was a good choice for launching a system. For one thing, this is a Mario game, but it’s not a Mario game. This is not an experience like Super Mario Bros. or Super Mario World. This is a sports game that happens to have a Mario veneer. Were there “real” Mario games available? Well, Mario’s Tennis launched right alongside Mario Clash, which was at least closer to Mario Bros. if not Super Mario Bros. And, during the Virtual Boy’s abbreviated lifespan, Wario eventually offered a more traditional platforming adventure, so there could have been a Virtual Super Mario Land. But once you get past the “I wanna Mario” factor, Mario’s Tennis doesn’t fare all that well as a Mario sports title. The characters are varied, but not in any interesting or exaggerated ways. Put it another way: this is the same cast as OG Mario Kart (minus Bowser, as no one wanted to figure out how that shell works in 3-D), but there isn’t a red shell or turbo mushroom to be found. And the most egregious issue: this is a competitive sports game on a system that never got around to having a 2-player option. There was eventually supposed to be a link cable, but it never materialized, and it certainly wasn’t available at launch. Sorry, Mario’s Tennis players, you’re stuck fighting against the AI from now until Mario’s Tennis 2: Red Racket Boogaloo.
But while Mario’s Tennis may be limited from a Mario perspective, it is a good sports game. While we would have to wait decades to see a chain chomp wielding a racket, the actual “tennis” part of the equation knocks it out of the park (that’s a good thing in tennis, right?). Matches are quick and simple, but also include all the tennis moves you’d expect, like…. Uh… that lungey one? And the overhead… smash? I’m not thinking of another game, right? Smashes are a thing? Whatever! Look, I don’t know from tennis, but this feels like tennis, and that’s what a good tennis game needs to do. And, what’s more, at a time when the majority of sports games felt vaguely slow for following the rules and encouraging play selection and alike, Mario’s Tennis moves at an exciting clip, and you’ll be done with a match within minutes (as opposed to nine innings of agony). And, ultimately, that is a great way to make videogame sports fun for people who don’t like sports. The other uncontested best sports game of the era took a similar approach to making a digital recreation of physical activity actually fun, and, while we might not have any flaming hoops in Mario’s Tennis, it is an exceptional, zippy tennis experience.
But does that make it a good launch title? Is a game that is best described as “doesn’t overstay its welcome” the right choice for trying to sell an entirely new, untested videogame console? Could friggin’ tennis ever be a killer app?
Well, there was that time that tennis kicked off the entire industry…
And that time when, about a decade after Mario’s Tennis, when it was part of the biggest pack-in game of all time…
And I want to say that Mario has had a few good runs with Tennis of late…
So could have Mario’s Tennis been a success? It certainly seems that history has been kind to tennis titles, so that’s a yes. It might not be flashy or extravagant, but Mario’s Tennis could have simply been a good tennis game launching with a good videogame system. Unfortunately, the Virtual Boy’s other crimes are numerous, so Mario’s Tennis was damned to be another one of its parent system’s failures.
Sorry, Mario, you can’t always have a smash hit, but it’s not always your fault (oh God please tell me I got that pun right. I can’t think of any other way to end this article).
FGC #543 Mario’s Tennis
- System: Oh man I forgot what system this game was on. Was it the Turbo Grafix-3DO? No, that doesn’t sound right.
- Number of players: Successful tennis titles are two players. This was not a successful tennis title.
- Mario’s Face: It doesn’t impact the gameplay one iota, but Mario’s Tennis doesn’t get enough credit for having the most expressive versions of the Mario cast until approximately the Gamecube era. This seems like the logical progression of the canned animations in Super Mario Kart, but before the polygons of the N64 forced everyone back to being animated like white boards for a generation. You really feel Toad’s disappointment when he screws up a serve, and that is not something you would see again for about a decade.
- Favorite Character: Princess Peach is adorable in this title, but Donkey Kong Jr. has the badunkadunk to end all dunks. And he’s such an expressive ape! It’s a shame he was either never seen again, or usurped his father’s throne, as he really did know how to rock a onesie.
- Did you know? This is technically the first “Mario Sports” title, so all future times Mario picked up a baseball bat or kicked a soccer ball can trace back to Mario’s Tennis. This also means that, without Virtual Boy and Mario playing tennis, there would never be a need for the one and only Waluigi. Imagine a world without our greatest hero…
- Would I play again: No. What? This was a great game for its time, but it has fallen behind practically every other game that involves both Mario and a ball of some kind. And it doesn’t help that the whole damn system gives me a headache…
What’s next? Random ROB has chosen… Combat for the Atari 2600! Pew pew, we’re gonna fight some stuff! Please look forward to it!
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.
We’ll start with the 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.
In 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…
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.
Super 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.
I 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. As 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…
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!
- Did 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!
Wrong time, wrong place, and now, apparently, never again.
It is almost insane to explain the bygone age of 2005/2006, but it seems a history lesson is in order. There was once Super Mario Bros. And then there was Super Mario Bros. 2 (available in two unique flavors). We then saw 3 and World, two surprisingly different and phenomenal games that both shared the same Super Mario base. Yoshi’s Island changed the formula dramatically, but it was also a great experience that clearly drew from previous Mario titles. And then there was… nothing. Oh, there were Mario games, but Mario branched out into kart racing and tennis playing and the occasional Olympic decathlon. Mario also decided to explore the third dimension, so, while “Super Mario games” were certainly still a (welcome) thing, the old days of 2-D Mario platforming were apparently gone forever. Mario has other things to do now, he doesn’t have time for screen-filling Bullet Bills.
But maybe Princess Peach has some room in her schedule.
For being known as the damsel in distress of the Mario franchise, Princess Peach has seen a lot more play than many of her contemporaries. She was an active, platforming character in Super Mario Bros. 2 (USA). She tossed a frying pan around with the best of ‘em in Super Mario RPG. Thereafter, she primarily returned to her “let’s get kidnapped” role for future action Mario titles, but could also always be counted on to make a showing in any given sports or “just for fun” title. If Bowser was distracted with a go-kart, Peach could participate to her heart’s content. It’s easy to say she only “matters” in titles that don’t matter (and we all just assume that the Mushroom Kingdom’s government isn’t entirely based on kart racing), but having a selectable Princess on the roster is great for anyone that is tired of the usual plumber and his mainly-male supporting cast. Princess Peach fills a niche, and it’s not just as “the girl”; she’s her own character, and, without having very much dialogue over the years, she’s been established as an exceptional, occasionally humorous, ruler for a kingdom of fungi. She’s her own woman, and she’s proven herself one tennis match at a time.
So it did make a certain amount of sense that Princess Peach would receive her own adventure. It would be fun to make Mario the “damsel” for once, and Peach already has a quasi-moveset and some support abilities from previous adventures. Add some floaty jumps, maybe include some central gimmick, and… hey! Mario isn’t using 2-D platforming right now. Let’s throw that genre over to Princess Peach, and see what she does with it. It’s a perfect fit for an experimental DS game!
Super Princess Peach was born! And, honestly, the game itself worked out pretty well.
Super Princess Peach is largely a 2-D Mario title with two different kinds of movesets. On one hand, you have Peach’s innate (and sometimes umbrella-based) abilities that are available at all times. Of course Peach can perform her seemingly natural floating jump, attack with her parasol, and even perform a cool little slide that will certainly earn her a “safe!” at home plate. Then you have the “vibe” abilities, which seem to be what everyone remembers about this title. Princess Peach apparently has drastically different moods that can be controlled with the tap of a stylus, and her various outbursts come in handy for the more “puzzle” based portions of levels. A Sad Peach rains tears on the area like a cursed sprinkler, so plants grow happy, and cold floors turn to ice. Calm Peach sees her health restore automatically, while Delusional/Happy Peach can literally fly through the skies on her own private wind currents. And Angry Peach burns with the fury of a thousand raging suns, a walking, all-consuming blaze of disaster that shall envelop us all and leave this planet a charred husk (and maybe knock-out a few goombas). Give or take a final ability that allows for unlimited spending, Peach is limited by a rapidly depleting gauge for all of her emotional abilities (so you can’t just fly through every level like a jerk, P-Wing Mario), so Fiery Inferno Peach is not available at all times. Ultimately, this means Peach’s emotions are only truly useful in specific, find-some-secrets situations, but you can always use your umbrella to eat people (!) to score some spare emotional power. Regardless of location, though, Super Princess Peach actually winds up with a pretty super host of abilities.
But that is all inconsequential to what’s important about Super Princess Peach. It’s a Mario game! Who cares about anything else?!
Look, there were still 2-D platforming titles in 2005. The Castlevania series was still living off the success of Symphony of the Night, so running and jumping and stabbing was something you could find on those GBA/DS titles. Speaking of stabbing, Mega Man Zero was just about to mutate into Mega Man ZX, and both of those franchises were a fun time on a 2-D plane. But those titles seemed to be the last vestiges of the big boys of the genre. We were still a long way from the indie 2-D resurgence, and the even the likes of Wario had started to drift from his 2-D roots to other, greener micro-pastures. There are a lot of reasons people played Super Smash Bros. Melee well past its initial release, but did anyone ever consider that gamers just craved a Mario that ran and jumped in a 2-D world?
But Super Princess Peach scratched that itch in more ways than one. Yes, the title was arguably on the “easy” side of platformers (pits did not spell instant death, and one of the moods rewards standing around and watching health refill), and Peach never did seem quite as nimble as a full-tilt Mario, but, damn, that princess could book it when she needed to. And this was unmistakably a Mario platformer in the vein of the previous Super Mario World titles. There were dinosaurs and flying hammer bros. and Spike and all manner of piranha plants. In fact, there were also “recursive” appearances, like Super Mario Sunshine bosses Petey Piranha and Gooper Blooper appearing in 2-D for the first time. Yes, Peach was on the cover and saving the day, but everything about Super Princess Peach screamed “Mario!” like a Luigi echoing through a haunted mansion.
And then New Super Mario Bros. was released shortly thereafter. And that was, without question or concession, a new 2-D Mario title. The first in over a decade. And it was good. It was amazing. And the “only” good Super Princess Peach was completely forgotten.
And it’s a shame, too. Super Princess Peach had its own ideas and a greater emphasis on exploration and situational abilities than the more straightforward New Super Mario Bros. It is a “2-D Mario Game”, but it is also its own thing, starring its own heroine. The emotion-based skill system might have been a little misguided, but a slightly less misogynistic gimmick could have worked in a second adventure (why won’t Nintendo just let Princess Peach catch fire for no reason!?). But did we see a second Super Princess Peach? No. Have we even seen references back to Peach’s only true solo outing? ‘Fraid not. And, even when DS titles were being re-released on the WiiU for some strange reason, we never saw the return of Super Princess Peach. Super Princess Peach has been dropped, seemingly forever, by Nintendo, and we are all worse for it.
Sorry, Princess Peach. We’ll just have to quietly wait for your return to the limelight. Maybe we’ll see Super Princess Peach Country one of these days…
FGC #437 Super Princess Peach
- System: Nintendo DS. Only Nintendo DS.
- Number of players: Was this one of those Nintendo DS games with inexplicable 2-player minigames? Probably not. Let’s just say one player.
- Come to think of it: Super Princess Peach Meets Super Princess Daisy would be all I want from life.
- Story Time: The sentient parasol apparently gets a backstory of being a real boy that was transformed into an umbrella. However, the bloody rise to power that would eventually define the Toadstool legacy is not explored, and we’re left with Princess Peach being a blank cypher as usual.
- Touchy Feely: This is another one of those “early” DS games that found a way to incorporate the stylus/tap gameplay into a level or eight. It may have seemed innovative at some point in the history of gaming, but now it just feels like you’ve accidentally slid into a $5 app in the middle of a perfectly good Mario game.
- Credit where Credit is Due: This title doesn’t get enough props for taking the traditional Mario bestiary and adding something as simple as “emotions” to make seemingly entirely new opponents. A happy piranha plant apparently is very fire-based, and an angry boo is a shameless, unstoppable force. And everyone enjoy the company of a glad bob-omb.
- Favorite Enemy: Sad Dry Bones. You really have to wonder why more undead koopa troopas aren’t sad. Or maybe their immortal existence cheers them up…
- Is this a secret Kirby game? 2-D platforming, enemy devouring, and an emphasis on umbrellas. Maybe?
- Did you know? The Koopalings were apparently intended for this title, and their sprite data is still hiding in the game. Why they were cut is anyone’s guess, but my money is on dark forces that stand against the very concept of fun.
- Would I play again: I would very much like to play this title again on a system that is slightly more modern, like some manner of console/portable hybrid. However, I might give it a spin on the ol’ DS/3DS sometime. It’s fun to be a princess!
What’s next? Random ROB has chosen… Fire Emblem: Awakening! Wow! A TRPG! Those are always fun. Please look forward to that!
“Sorry, our Mario is in another castle. Ha ha ha just kidding.”