Monday, January 10, 2022

Super Mario World Finale - The Aristocrats

Today, I finally find out the secret of the green berries. This game still has things I don't know, 25 years later.



The final pages of Nintendo Power! No pictures of Bowser, surprisingly. What's he gonna look like?

We also don't really get anything about the Special World, except that it exists. This was the birth of Mario games having a postgame. So modern challenge-levels like Grandmaster Galaxy? It all started here with the uber-hard Special World. The Star World on the other hand is fairly easy and mainly just functions as a more-interesting version of warp zones. In other news, how baked is that baby Yoshi?

As World 7 begins, Mario finds himself face-to-face with a giant mole in sunglasses. "I am the third-strongest mole" he says.

Valley of Bowser is full of underground levels, which aren't my favorite. Especially these sand sections...

...that KILL YOU

Armed with a cape, Yoshi, and a backup cape is pretty much exactly where you want to be at any given time. The Koopa there is going through the realization that he's completely doomed.

It's actually possible to completely skip Larry's Castle by using Star Road warps. I mean, you can skip several castles in this game, maybe all of them besides the first.

Course that's not how I roll, so I swing back around and battle Larry. He's the same as the first boss, only with added fireballs flying out of the lava. This actually makes him, debatably, the hardest Koopaling. Unless you bring a fire flower and just nuke him. It's the only way to be sure.

KOOPALING SPOTLIGHT: Larry was the boss of World 1 in SMB3, so he got a considerable upgrade here. He's also probably the smallest of the group. In-game he's the same size as Iggy, but in all the promotional art he's just a wee bit smaller.

Larry's Castle is pretty basic. The fortress in this world is NOT, however. Luckily it's even more optional.

You can see it on the right there. It's probably the hardest non-Special level in the game, and finishing it gets you to the back door of the castle. This lets you skip most of the level, which was a pretty cool reward.

The final castle itself is broken into sections and gives you a stage select, sort of.

Pretty much every challenge you've faced so far makes a return here, only with added twists that make you pull everything you've learned together. It's tremendous game design.

The bane of my existence are these collapsing spikes. Small Mario can outrun them, while large Mario often gets clipped by the last one if you don't slide under it.

The final room (which is all you have to do if you go through the fortress) consists of a disco ball and these weird wind-up enemies.

The last red door. My God.

Here's Bowser, and he's like a Super Shredder version of himself. Much bigger and badder than in SMB3. Most of his big and badness is negated by his DUCK COPTER however.

I like the design of this fight because you have to throw his minions at him, putting a new spin on it compared to the rest of the game.

After the DUCK COPTER shows off some Mode-7...

...we get more attack patterns, culminating with this one where he stomps the ground in hard-to-dodge arcs. I believe King K. Rool's final form in Donkey Kong Country did this as well.

Hit him in enough multiples of 3 and the fight ends, with the Princess rescued.

Meanwhile, poor Bowser is foiled again, with only his lover Chain Chomp to keep him company.

Our heroes celebrate, and that's it for the main quest. And I just realized, there are like ZERO Toads in this game. Zilch. Nada. WHERE IS TOAD?

Credits feature the enemies. I love the Big Boo.

We aren't done yet though.

(No relation to Trent)

KOOPALING SPOTLIGHT: All of them. Here they are. Actually side-by-side I think Iggy IS bigger than Larry. The only issue is they made Morton and Roy, the two beefiest Koopalings, into small dwarves.

Story's concluded. Little does Mario know, the Princess is holding hands with Luigi. WILL HE FIND OUT THE TRUTH? WILL THEIR CHICKENS COME HOME TO ROOST?

Back to the game, the next objective is to find hidden exits in the Star Road levels.

Some of them are pretty obvious, like this tunnel here.

One of the warps strands you on this island with nowhere to go. As a kid I was SURE there was something else to this island, some hidden water level maybe, something.

Having all of the Switch Palaces tripped is crucial to finishing the last two levels.

Once the Star Road is all connected, it's time. IT'S TIME

Special World is hands-down the big challenge of the game. You beat all the optional fortresses that are so much harder than the rest of their worlds? Well, those optional fortresses ain't got NOTHIN on Special World. Also, all of the levels have weird descriptive names that are very 80's and 90's.

The first level isn't too bad, and lulls you into a false sense of security with its multicolored grass and fun springboards. It IS super-vertical, so messing up on this level causes you to take annoying falls.

Things get serious in the second level, Tubular. This level is a NIGHTMARE. As a kid, this was the one I couldn't beat, and I think I had to come back and do the remainder of Special World a month or two later after Super Metroid was done.

This level forces you to use Inflated Mario while the 1989 Denver Broncos snipe at you. If you know Inflated Mario, you know how barely-mobile he is in the air.

The nightmare continues with volcano-flowers that rain fireballs.

Don't go for the coins! IT'S A TRAP.

Well, I did it, because I remembered the placement of the enemies. This level is seared into my brain from having to play it so many times. Get hit one time in balloon form and you fall in the pit. Take too long to get to the next powerup for it, it wears off and you fall in the pit.

The next level makes heavy use of platforms on rails.

You can totally gimp it with the cape. After the 'Nam-like death trap that is Tubular, no one's gonna fault someone for flying over this level.

Next level is an ice level...as I realize that this game is completely devoid of ice levels outside of this one. This is starting to remind me of how Donkey Kong Country 2's Lost World uses the level themes that they designed and never actually incorporated into the regular game.

The next level is another painful one, as you have to contend with a flood that makes everything harder than it needs to be.

Next, a Bullet Bill hellscape. None of these levels are remotely easy, but also none of them reach the difficulty of Tubular. The ice level and the flooded level are probably the runner-ups.

The final level isn't bad at all, and contains green berries like the one in the intro. That's right, after this entire game I can finally find out what they do.

The answer? They add 20 seconds to the timer. However, if you keep letting the timer get below 99 before getting them, the sped-up "hurry up" theme actually stacks with itself and gets faster and faster. This funny glitch(?) alone makes the green berries a worthwhile thing to add into the game, as weird as they are.

Get to the end of the final level and the game goes "YOOOOU" like Hulk Hogan. Actually it says "YOU ARE A SUPER PLAYER" in coins.

Special World is done, and the game STILL isn't over. There's another star portal here, and it takes you...

...right back to the beginning, only now the entire world looks totally different. So basically Mario crossed dimensions while in Special World. Everything is different in this dimension, and he's very confused every time anyone mentions Nelson Mandela.

The enemy models are all different, like Koopas now being...Marioes?

The whole game kinda has a Fall color scheme now too. So basically you're encouraged to play through the entire game again. Good time to find all the remaining hidden exits. Really surprising that they packed this much extra stuff into a first-gen SNES cart. This game is tremendous, and even though I've always held SMB3 in higher regard, I think it might just be a case of "grass is greener" because this game is just that damn good. Was very lucky to play it in 1994 and the one-two punch of this and Super Metroid made my year. I tried to re-create this, to varying success, in 2002 when I got a Gamecube with Mario Sunshine and Metroid Prime. That was also a good time, except that Sunshine got completely upstaged by Prime and I ended up not even playing it until several months later. It's crazy how I can remember so many Nintendo details from 1994 and 2002 yet I can barely remember anything I played in the past five years.

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