Monday, July 4, 2016

The Super Mario Retrospective

Today myself and a group of friends and fellow writers are going to take a retrospective look at what may be the most influential game series of all time: Mario. We'll be writing about our memories of these games and what they brought to the gaming world. Mario Party not included. Punch and pie.



Super Mario Bros, by JD Ricardi

The game that started it all. This game catapulted Nintendo into the mainstream and single-handedly resurrected the video game industry in 1985. Seriously, check out the games that came out in 1984. You'll have a hard time finding any that were good. Super Mario Bros revolutionized gaming, invented a genre, and was just plain fun. Even today, Super Mario Bros is a fun game to play, and I occasionally fire it up when I need to relax. It proves the old adage that sometimes simpler is better, with to-the-point gameplay that is absolutely timeless.

Full disclosure: While this was the first video game I ever played, I didn't actually get around to beating the game until 2012. When I was a kid, I was pretty obsessed with the game. Everything about it – the music, the powerups, the enemies – just plain clicked on all cylinders. I'd play it with friends, using warp zones to get as far as we could in our attempts to finish the game. This, of course, meant skipping Worlds 2 and 3 and going right to World 4, which would be where we'd run out of lives. I remember one time when a friend and I got to the second warp zone and reached World 8. It was quite the moment and felt like a real accomplishment – and then we promptly met our demise.

I didn't have an NES until 1999, and by the time I got one there were other games I wanted to play on it. Metroid. Super Mario Bros 3. Final Fantasy. There just wasn't much room for this game, and I had little interest in playing it any more. Even during the advent of emulation, where old classics became more obtainable than ever, Super Mario Bros found itself largely forgotten by me. It wasn't until Christmas 2011 when I downloaded it on the Wii Virtual Console – perhaps out of a need to relive an old memory – that I really gave this another go. I'd give it a run every few days, sometimes with a friend. Finally, on 1/11/2012, (and after probably ten runs at the game over those few weeks), I managed to conquer it.

I took a picture when it happened, just to remember the time I finally conquered this legendary game.


 Super Mario Bros 2, by JD Ricardi

Like many games from the NES era (Castlevania 2, Dragon Warrior 2, etc), this game suffers from sequel syndrome a bit. It isn't up to the quality level of its predecessor, or its follow-up for that matter. This can probably be attributed to the fact that it wasn't actually developed as a Mario game; it was another game that got Mario-ized before it was released in the states. The real Super Mario Bros 2 wasn't released here until years later as The Lost Levels. It's somewhat baffling that Nintendo didn't release the real SMB2 in the 'States as it would have been a sure-fire money maker. Then again, it was quite difficult and used the same graphics engine as the first game. That lack of notable improvement might have been a dealbreaker for Nintendo of America.

In any case, what we got as Super Mario Bros 2 isn't a bad game. I really like the way there are four playable characters, and all four of them have their own unique capabilities. Luigi jumps super-high but is hard to control. Toad has the shortest jump, but the quickest movement speed and can grab/throw vegetables faster than any other characters. Princess Toadstool, the character I used the most, has the unique ability to hover. Used correctly, you can skip over tough parts of levels with this ability. They'd bring this back later on with the hover power in Mario Sunshine. As for Mario... he's Mario, the same averaged-out character who probably works best for most players. He was the one I used the least, though. I can play as Mario in any game, but the other three were new and inventive and I played as all of them quite a bit.

This game is very different from the other Marioes in that there are no koopas or goombas to be found. You don't defeat foes by jumping on them, you defeat them by throwing vegetables at them. Wait, what? Yeah. Out of the four main 2D console Marioes (SMB1-3, Super Mario World), this is definitely the weak link. Much the same way Super Mario Sunshine is the weak link out of the four main 3D Marioes. Even the villain, Wart, was a lot less cool and interesting than Bowser. Zelda games can get away with sometimes having non-Ganon villains, but Mario games should stick to Bowser for their Big Bad. Anything else just seems weird. This game even had fewer worlds than the other NES Marioes. As opposed to the usual eight worlds, this game had a mere seven. Instead of four levels to a world, this game had three. Heck, the seventh world only had two levels. It's almost like it was unfinished.

I won't hold that against it, though.


Super Mario Bros 3, by JD Ricardi

Super Mario Bros 3 is probably what most people would rattle off if you asked them what the best NES game of all time is. It's that good. It brought the series back into prominence after the unusual SMB2 didn't quite live up to many people's expectations. It's more of a continuation of the first game, only with improvements across the board. The eight worlds are back, but now each one has its own theme. You've got a desert world, a water world, a world where everything is giant-sized, a sky world, an ice world, a pipe world, and a lava world. The very first world of the game consists of generic grasslands, which makes sense because they're saving all the innovation at that early point. In a way, that first world is kind of an ode to the relatively bland stages of the original game.

Similarly, the Fortress levels that marked the end of a world in SMB1? They're now relegated to the mere mid-point levels in each world, with the finale coming in the form of an airship level. Some of these airship levels get pretty tough. This game also introduces the Koopalings, Bowser's seven children. These guys are brimming with style and appeal. As a kid, I used to make up personas for each of them. They're about a hundred times more interesting than Bowser Jr, the super-lame character that all but replaced them in later Mario games. Of course, Bowser himself is back, and the final battle with him is pretty rad and memorable.

You've also got all kinds of new powers for Mario. There's the Raccoon Suit, the Frog Suit, the Tanooki Suit, and my favorite, the Hammer Suit. I'd usually try to hold on to one of those for the final battle, just to give Bowser a taste of his own medicine from the first game. There are so many levels in this game that you'd think repetitiveness would be unavoidable; yet somehow, every area manages to be interesting, and it never gets particularly repetitive. This is truly one of the best games of all time. While Super Mario Bros brought us technological wonder and sold NES systems, and Mario 2 kept people interested, I think that Mario 3 might have been the first one to really feel “magical” to players. I know it seemed pretty magical to me when I was a kid.


Super Mario Land, by James Smyth

This kind of game is what the Game Boy was made for. It was just the right length for a long car ride and just the right level of difficulty for me to beat it at least ten times without getting sick of it. Plus, because the first level was the best-designed, having to turn the game off because you'd just gotten somewhere wasn't a huge loss because that meant you could go back and enjoy Level 1 again. The controls were really sharp.

Was this the best 8-track, 3-channel soundtrack ever? I liked that they
switched things up by assigning a different composer. Offenbach's Can Can Music being the star invincibility music was an unconventional and great choice, and even the coin and mushroom and stomp sound effects still stick with me because of how fun-sounding they were. The Eastern locations were unique because they -didn't- look like usual Mario levels, interestingly enough. The Gradius-like segments when Mario rode in a plane or ship and shot things were a great bonus, as was the final boss being an...an...I can't spoil it! Just play
this on your phone during your next plane ride.


Super Mario Land 2, by James Smyth

Having played the original Mario Land and Tetris so many times, I thought I knew what the limits of Game Boy animation were, and then this game, black and white Super Mario World, came along. Then you could get the Game Boy Color and make an originally black and white game into Technicolor Super Mario World. The progress was fun.

 The strongest memory I have of this game isn't visual or aural; it's tactile. The controls were heavy. The most memorable parts of the game are the ones that play off this feeling of weight: the swimming levels, the fording- through-syrup levels, and the space levels, all of which require careful micro-movements and struggles against inertia.



Another aspect of this was that having an SNES-sized Mario on a Game Boy-sized
screen meant Mario was bigger in comparison to his environment than he had ever
been before and ever would be after. No wonder so many levels were inside
rooms - you had this feeling everything was a tight squeeze, and you had to be
careful. A benign form of stress. Wario debuted here, and his first starring
role, in Land 3 (by the same team), cranked up the big-guy in a little-room
feeling while throwing in a ton of innovation to make the game more three-
dimensional.


Super Mario World, by James Smyth

This game gave me my best Christmas morning ever and one of my best experiences with my father and my first fun experiences with a girl and the earliest big achievement of my life that I can remember. And also the first African-style
song I ever heard. I should explain that last one - listen to this tune (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ctvW3eBcSqg), though I should warn you you might have it stuck in your head for the rest of your life - but the others are better left unexplained, so let's move on.

Yoshi and the Cape were brilliant advances. Yoshi made everything two hundred
percent cuter, gave you a stake in the fight (save the dinosaur babies!) and
went on to become the best Mario Kart racer ever. The sound effect when you
put on the cape was awesome, but even more awesome was the rush of taking to
the skies and flying around the map so fast. I've skydived and taken dozens of
planes, but Super Mario World is my default for what flying for fun would feel like.

The best thing about this game was the save function. Mario 3 had several unique worlds, too, but I doubt many players got to really enjoy them pre-Mario All-Stars because you'd have to give up going outside for an entire day. But in Mario World, when you got to CHOCOLAAAAAND! you could savor it because you could play it at your own pace and not worry about Mom breaking up your game because she has to take you with her on her errands. And the Top Secret level, beautifully hidden in plain sight, gave you the chance to be as prepared as you wanted before moving on in the game.

Remember Bowser not being the biggest challenge, just the most dramatic one,
because was a run of gnarly (tubular, way cool, awesome, groovy, mondo,
outrageous, funky) optional levels beyond them? And the seasons changing from
spring to fall and the monsters getting all funky if you beat every level? And
finally getting to the scene you see on the title screen in practically the
last secret level? After Mario World, I expected every game would turn its
graphics and gameplay inside out at the end to reward great players. Twenty
years later, I still appreciate how much care went into this game.


Super Mario World 2: Yoshi's Island, by JD Ricardi

1994 was an amazing year for the Super NES, and an argument could be made that it was the best year the system had. That year, we got Super Metroid, Mega Man X, Final Fantasy III, and Donkey Kong Country, just to name a few. 1995 was nearly as big, with titles like Chrono Trigger, DKC2, and Yoshi's Island arriving on the system. While DKC2 got the lion's share of the platformer attention that Fall and sold far more units, Yoshi's Island managed to gain a fair amount of attention from Nintendo fans as well. I feel like if it had been released during a lull in platform games, or at least a DKC-less season, it would have been even more popular than it was. While DKC brought advanced new graphics to the table, Yoshi's Island countered that by utilizing a unique, hand-drawn graphic style. It wasn't “advanced”, but it was equally recognizable and fun to look at.

My main memories of Yoshi's Island are playing it at my friend's house. He had reached the final boss and had been telling me how crazy it was. The final boss is Baby Bowser (as this is a “prequel” to the other Mario games), but after the initial skirmish he pops some steroids and beefs up to the size of a small skyscraper. From there, awesome music kicks in as you trade attacks with the massive beast. It's an intense battle, and the most memorable thing in the game for me. Well, besides Baby Mario's obnoxious weeping every time you take damage. That's some serious negative reinforcement.

How brilliant is this game? It's innovative in all kinds of ways. Yoshi's egg-throwing is a game mechanic that I miss. There are all kinds of traps and puzzles built into the gameplay, and nearly every level offers a new experience. It's the kind of joy that you don't really get out of the level design of modern games (with the exception of games like Donkey Kong Country Returns). Who can forget the stage “Touch Fuzzy, Get Dizzy”, where you need to negotiate a swarm of puff-balls that, well, make Yoshi drunk? When I was a kid, we'd joke around about how these puff-balls were made out of cocaine. It's entirely possible that I haven't seen another game before or since with this amount of sheer imagination put into its design. I'm going to play this game again one of these days.


Super Mario Kart, by James Smyth

The first delight of Super Mario Kart was seeing my favorite action game characters inside go-karts. This was one of the first and greatest adaptations of a gaming universe to another genre (Sonic Spinball and Mega Man Soccer soon followed). When I first turned the game on, I simply watched the title screen for a while, watching the eight racers trade places and chucking shells and bananas at each other and getting more and more hyped up.

Mario Kart 64 perfected the model (and Double Dash ruined it), but this one is still
great. This isn't just Mario + Racing; it's the progenitor of a whole new kind
of game. The red shell, lightning bolt, and other battle-racing standards
debuted here. The feather, for one-time jumps over potentially ruinous hazards
or even to create shortcuts, was a beautiful thing.

I still remember some of the pitched battles I had with the wicked AI. Bowser
could come barreling in from behind and knock you over - his size advantage was
tangible and intimidating. The courses were thinner, which meant all the
banana peels and shells coming at you from the back were even more dangerous.
Computer racers could no-sell your moves and make impossible accelerations
sometimes, but looking back, I'm glad they did because beating the game felt
like an accomplishment.

There were a number of repeat environments, but the courses had a satisfying
number of hairpin turns and a great variety of hazards, all of them a little
different, from moles in your grill to grass, sand, snow or chocolate in your
tires to water all over you. Rainbow Road, twice as hard as everything before
it because the course conditions were so different, was a perfect last level.
The N64's version was tame in comparison. And the Battle Mode was a fun change
of pace; I just wish the arenas were smaller. The characters were more evenly
matched, though Yoshi was still the best. I had a soft spot for the Koopa
Troopa: he just looked like an OK guy.

Finally, the soundtrack was great. Why haven't I heard a symphony play these
iconic tunes? I hope it's because they're too synth to be reproduced and not
because everyone's forgotten how good they were. (If you have forgotten,
refresh yourself: (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=N-E5pwUkMtA)). With music
like this, who could go crazy during a time trial run? Damn, I'm glad we did
this so I could recreate this creative recreation for you.


Super Mario RPG, by Aaron Cox

Back in 1996, there were few games I anticipated more than this one, and did it ever deliver. More than just being a great game then though, it completely stands the test of time today. The visuals, while not quite as timeless as Yoshi’s Island, still have a crisp charm, I’ve never seen another game attempt to emulate its look. The gameplay was fresh at the time and still very playable now.

Most of all though, the soundtrack is god-tier. You could
barely take a step without tripping over an absurdly good RPG in the mid-to-
late 90s, but that’s not quite the case today, making this game even more
appealing. The first two Paper Mario games have their own charm but aren’t the
same. I’ve heard good things about the Mario and Luigi games but I haven’t had
a chance to get around to them yet, though I do look forward to them. If
they’re even half as good as this gem, it’ll be time well spent.

Super Mario 64, by Nick Vogt

For years my parents would not let me have videogames. My younger cousins had them it seemed from the moment they were born. They had an SNES, PS1 AND Gameboys? It was like going to Gamestop going over to their house for a young boy who wasn’t allowed to own games himself. When my aunt bought me a Gameboy
my parents had to let me keep it and I played the shit out of that thing.

I stuck with Gameboys for a long while. I had almost every iteration they
made up until the original, clunky DS. I’m not even sure why I kept wanting/getting
Gameboys because I’m not even a huge fan of handheld games…Anyway, all I had
was a Gameboy (the original one, but the remake so it was sleeker and more
futuristic-looking than the classic, OG Gameboy) for a hot minute until the
very same aunt got me an N64 for my birthday.

For most kids my age, the 64 was not their first console. Most people were like
my cousin and started out with the SNES or with the Genesis. N64 was not only a
newfangled piece of technology (64 bit graphics! Weird ass controllers!) but I
was MY newfangled piece of technology. I remember looking on the back of the
thing’s box where they had a list and screenshots of all the cool games I could
get for my N64. It was very exciting to see Waverace 64, Killer Instinct Gold,
Mario 64 and more on there…Mario is actually the game my aunt got me to go with
the N64. I honestly am not even sure what my first gameboy game was, but I know
for certain my first console game was the epic Mario 64.

The day I set up (and possibly the same day I got) the N64 I was having a
birthday party and some of my elementary school friends were over. One of the
coolest things to do with those guys was boot up the N64 and see Mario for the
first time. It was like my N64 was some kind of tool to open up a gateway to a
beautiful, crazy dimension . Or something. That was a good memory of that day,
but very quickly I learned one of my friends (and I will not name names to
protect the innocent) was one of those selfish dudes who wants to play the game
while everyone else watches.

Do you know these people? Dudes who will invite you over, play a SINGLE PLAYER
game and everyone supposed to watch it? Is that supposed to be fun? This kid
took the controller from me early and ended up getting through like half the
game before I finally got to play again. And, by that time, it was super late
and we went to bed. This was in MY OWN HOUSE mind you. On MY BIRTHDAY.
How I let this happen is very dishonorable, I know. But, also, that kid acted like a
dick. I deleted his file.

When I started my own file I had a ton of fun with the game. I have nothing but
great memories of hopping into paintings and wondering what kind of crazy world
Mario was about to enter. My favorites were the Ice World and the Haunted
House. Mario games have never been engaging because of their story. From the
very get-go, they’ve always been about immersing you in a crazy world where all
kinds of things happen with no explanation whatsoever. Mario 64 is especially
surreal I think.

Obviously, later Mario games like Super Mario Galaxy have had better
technology and allowed the creators even more room to experiment with weird,
cool shit. But, 64 was groundbreaking in that it took Mario not only to 3D, but
also really made you feel a part of some weird world. The game couldn’ve been
just straight platforming in 3D, but instead there’s actual exploration
involved. Not just in the levels themselves, but in the hub world, too. There
are characters to talk to and all kinds of spaces to run around in and check
things out. And there’s platforming and boss fights, too.

Speaking of characters to talk to, Princess Peach had a real, human voice in the beginning of the game! That blew my mind. Granted, she’s the only recorded voice you ever hear besides Mario making noises or saying “It’s-a-me!” but, it
was so cool to hear Peach say “I baked you a cake Mario, please come to the castle. Sincerely: Peach.” That was crazy.


It was just as crazy as seeing that weird screen when I first turned on the game. Do you remember how you could stretch out Mario’s face and stuff? One night, during a nightmarish trip on shrooms I looked in the mirror and saw that my face was just as stretchable as Mario’s in that N64 beginning. I’m not sure what that means about me and my relationship with this game. Maybe nothing. Maybe everything.




Paper Mario, by Rex Horner

Chapter 1: A Plea From the Stars

I’ve never owned many video games. I can count, right now, with my old Nintendo 64 system on the bookshelf near my desk, eight games. At the bookstore, when I was younger, I would go straight to the magazine racks and page through Nintendo Power, or else go to the games and strategy section, where there were video game guides full of secrets.

This was how I played video games. All the Resident Evils. Myst. Link to the Past. I discovered new releases through the glossy pictures of screen shots. I followed the stories in the short explanations between the pictures. One day I discovered the Paper Mario strategy guide. I leafed through its pages.

I’d already played Super Mario 64. It was pulse-pounding, frustrating, and my
reaction time wasn’t fast enough. I would drop the controller. True, there were
dungeons, just like in my favorite game, Ocarina of Time, but the hero I played
as was always beaming and whooping and laughing. The elfin hero I liked only
grunted and brooded. Not that I’m a dark person. But the mood is sometimes
captivating.

And Ocarina was always full of dialogue coming from offbeat or bizarre
characters. Disgruntled farmhands, spooky men with hidden faces that make
trades for crystalline bottles, ghosts of court composers. Reading about Paper
Mario, I could imagine this new world drawing me in the same way. A ghost
princess with a bow. A turtle with hiking boots and aviator goggles. A bouncing
star that is still too young to grant big wishes. Toadstools with limbs who
were living in a fear of a dragon who had taken over their kingdom. The game
designers made sure the player had plenty of opportunities to engage these
quirky characters, whether in an important discussion or in idle talk. Mario
was free to wander in a world that we once only glimpsed as a side-scrooler.

The new strategy guide showed me dungeons, puzzles, quests, teammates, and a
quirky story that hadn’t been told in the Mario universe before. I snuck around
under the nose of Bowser as Princess Peach, a girl with verve
and a bright pink dress. Then I surmounted obstacles as the intrepid overall-ed
hero. The stars Mario used to once collect became animate characters each with
his or her own power that could aid the hero. Bowser was made invincible and
almighty with the Star Rod, a device that granted him magic prowess. In the
game’s plot, Bowser is a classical example of hubris. I spent long hours hoping
for his downfall. By the end, I felt sorry for him.

Paper Mario made Mushroom Kingdom into a land bigger than Hyrule. There are
seaside towns, a bustling city center, volatile volcanoes, celestial villages
in the clouds, mansions and cottages where ghosts live, vast deserts filled
with ruins, and forlorn fortresses. Imagine Bowser as an invading military
leader, spreading his sinister influence over the diverse kingdom. When a
tyrant is in power, they are felt everywhere, even far from the capitol. Paper
Mario felt that way. Every section of the kingdom had been plagued in some way
by the dinosaurian monster and Mario valiantly fought against the tide.

A friend bought the game and soon allowed me to borrow it. I had a small,
stapled paper booklet, where I drew maps of the kingdom and kept records of
what power-ups and items I had. There were scribbles about the paper cut-out
characters and their story. The booklet was a small bible to a rich world I
had inhabited.


Mario Kart 64, by James Smyth

This is the perfect racing game. The controls and pacing were so good that it was very easy to feel like you were in the zone, and the item drops were enough to shake up a race but not enough to keep the best man from winning. The most important thing was that while it was easy to learn how to play, it also felt like there was no ceiling to how good you could be.


Are you aware there is an Internet community dedicated to taking time trial records
to the limit of human ability (http://www.mariokart64.com/)? And that it has its
own MJ, Michael Jongerius of Holland (http://speedrunwiki.com/Michael_Jongerius)?
It's the Olympic competition you never knew about.

I played this game my sophomore year of college. And by that I mean the entire
year. Any homework assignment was worth putting off for a refreshing run of
Kart. I wasn't working out then, so those competitions alone maintained my
testosterone levels. Even so, I had the worst nerves of all my friends, and
they'd call me "anti-clutch" every time I fell into the water or slipped when I
had a clear path to the finish line. My hatred of the shame of defeat, which
would be compounded by our senior year game (Smash Bros. 64), is one of the
seminal emotions of my college experience. (The most clutch player among us
could focus so well and keep his hands so steady, he's now in the middle of
residency as a surgeon.)

The game's only flaw is that while there are 4 controllers, there are only 3
good racers: Yoshi (especially him), Peach, and Toad. Their fast acceleration
was supposed to be mitigated but wasn't; they were just the best at everything.
The last-place finisher in every 4-person race had to be Wario during the next
race. On the plus side, a Wario Win was the most glorious of all.

Our favorite courses were the most punishing ones, like Toad's Turnpike with
the cars coming at you (genius), the Royal Raceway, Sherbet Land, Bowser's
Castle, DK's Jungle Parkway and Banshee Boardwalk. We did courses backwards so
many times I can't remember what they were like going forwards. We didn't play
Battle as often, but it was a fine option as well and a good way to have a fair
fight with players who weren't hardened racers.

Nintendo 64 may have lost the console war to the PlayStation, but do people
still bust out their PS1s at parties today? I saw college kids jamming to this
game in the student lounge just this summer, 16 years after the game was
released. I can see myself playing this with my college buddies at reunions
after we retire, provided our society still uses electricity then so we can
plug the system in.


Super Mario Sunshine, by Morgan Kent

Growing up as a child I lived by the mantra: “Genesis does what Nintendon't”. To me Sonic was always superior to Mario. In fact I'm probably one of the only
people on the planet who back in the early 2000s saw the Sonic Adventure series as infinitely superior to Mario 64. I may still think that. I have to revisit
those games.

Mario Sunshine was the first 3D Mario game that I had played. I sadly bought a Gamecube after the demise of Sega's hardware failure, and figured that a Mario
game had to be in my collection, and man this wasn't what I was expecting.

I was familiar with the Mario universe's Goombas and Koopas, but there was none of that to be found here. Replacing that was the odd inhabitants of Isle
Delfino, and a strange plot about Princess Peach potentially boning Bowser to make Baby Bowser, and of course the water pack.

The water pack mechanically added third person shooting elements as well as the ability to hover across gaps, but it always felt odd to me. While it added variety to the gameplay the levels which took the pack away always seemed to be
the best to me and made me long to play Mario 64. At the same time the levels incorporated the water pack in brilliant ways making this one of the more varied Mario games.

Super Mario Sunshine is the Majora's Mask of the 3D Mario series. In all of its strange innovations, and strange setting, it is equal parts brilliant and frustrating.

New Super Mario Bros, by Morgan Kent

The first Mario game I ever owned was Super Mario Land 2 on the original Gameboy. So when this new hand held Mario platformer came out I was excited to see how they would change things up. Unfortunately very little was changed.

This game was very much a straight up Mario game just with 3D models instead of sprites.

At first it bothered me that very little had changed between this game and the last Mario hand held game that I played when I was 8, but then I realized that nothing needed to be changed.

Traditional Mario has certain brilliance to it that few modern games can match, and this game was able to show that off to anew generation of gamers.

That being said, this game pales in comparison to its Wii sequel.


New Super Mario Bros Wii, by Aaron Cox

Hating your friends has never been this much fun! If someone had told me before I played New Super Mario Bros. Wii that the game would be both an excellent 2D platformer and an outrageous multiplayer experience, I wouldn’t even have been able to process the idea in my head. That’s what it is though.

By yourself it’s an extremely worthy successor to Super Mario Bros. 3 and Super Mario World. With friends it’s a total riot, with laughing and cursing filling the room within minutes, and throughout the play session. I really have no idea how Nintendo still does it. One bone to pick though: what’s up with no
playable Princess Toadstool? I’m down with Blue Toad, he’s my broski, but there’s no reason for there to be two Toads, and the series already has a precedent set with the Mario/Luigi/Toad/Princess combination. I suppose if they’d gone with the familiar four then we’d be wondering why they didn’t play like in Super Mario Bros. 2 (Princess floats, Luigi huge jumps, etc) and the game is meant for every player to be equal, but... well, this is just a small issue I guess, it’s nothing really important. Nintendo likely won’t be making a Super Toad Bros. game any time soon though!


Super Mario Galaxy, by Ronald Metellus

Mario Galaxy is a fever dream of a game and I experienced it in a series of fevered dreams. Were there psychotropic drugs involved? No, there were not. But I did play Mario Galaxy during the dog days of summer in the Poconos, on a Nintendo Wii that'd been purchased and hacked somewhere in East Asia; soaking in the game with trace amounts of chocolate fountain-dipped foods. The mornings in the Poconos felt endless and the sunlight would pour unstoppingly from the sunroof. Mario's eyes always looked glazed over. The game is a technical feat. Where Mario 64 had to contend with a camera moving around, Galaxy's camera has to usher you from the top of a globe to the bottom and do it seamlessly. The camera has to account for gravity.

Its platforming is top notch, too. There's a helplessness that I've
come to experience in Mario games from fiddling with the camera and mistiming
jumps. The double-jump feature works like a charm here and the platforming
employs genius set pieces (evading a series of attacks from pirate
ships/spaceships was one of my favorites) that keep Mario on the move.
The concept does have its limits though. Galaxy has such a large reach
that the minutia Mario games usually trade in seems even more silly. I can
believe Luigi walked into a trap, but that he readied his space rocket and
travelled to another planet on his way to a trap? That's a stretch. Nintendo
chose to add some drama (DRAMA!) by giving Rosalina - the franchises lone female
protagonist save for the always missing Princess Peach and hardly present
Daisy - a prominent role in the games plot. One has to wonder why we're chasing
Peach around the universe with Rosalina, an ethereal star princess, right in
front of us.

It's become a necessity to resist analyzing Mario's plot (as Bob
Hopkins and John Leguizamo discovered) and Galaxy rewards you most when you're
being discursive. Where as the underrated Mario Sunshine pitted players on the
ground floor, cleaning gondolas and alleys in Italy, Galaxy indulges us: what
if it felt like we've lived on top of the world, no barrier to the universe, no
atmosphere, no weather, no rainy days. The biggest criticisms I could levy at
the game is that it gives you too much of what you want. As we transition into
the next generation of consoles in the next dozen or so months, the most
enduring games give the player a struggle. Call of Duty's frustration-filled
multiplayer, Portal's puzzles and plot, Metal Gear Solid 4's bat-shit crazy cut
scenes, Mass Effect's ending. Mario Galaxy plays like a dream and (according to
Metacritic) it is, along with its sequel Galaxy 2, one of three highest rated
games ever and yet no one ever seems to talk about it. I suppose there's
nothing more boring than hearing about someone else's dream.


Super Mario Galaxy 2, by Morgan Kent

At this point its probably clear that my upbringing of blue hedgehog games over plumber games had left me consistently unimpressed with Mario, but this all changed with the Mario Galaxy series.

I still remember the first time I played the first Super Mario Galaxy. I had never been more blown away by a game in my life. It was simply pure joy, and at the time it was my favorite game of all time. Well until the sequel came out.

Mario Galaxy 2 is easily my favorite game of all time. Every single level in the game is brilliant, the art direction somehow stands up next to HD games, and the music is the catchiest it has ever been. Mario Galaxy 2 is the game that converted me. I grew up loving all things Sega, bought a Gamecube in high-school cause it seemed like the safer bet, and now own all three of the big systems to not miss out on any of the big hits, yet despite this Mario Galaxy 2's brilliance has not been overshadowed.

The Mass Effect trilogy has created a grand story, Skyward Sword was the best the Zelda series has been, Uncharted 2 has seemingly perfected the action adventure genre, and yet despite this Mario Galaxy 2 is the one that still stays with me.

Mario Galaxy 2 is the greatest game of all time in my opinion because it does not attempt to copy other media such as movies. Mario Galaxy 2 is pure game, and I wouldn't want it any other way.

Thanks for converting me Nintendo.

Check out other retrospectives from our distinguished panel HERE.

2 comments:

  1. More people will come if you say we have punch and pie!

    ReplyDelete
  2. Good point about the N64 being the old school party system of choice, JM.

    ReplyDelete