Friday, August 22, 2014

Top 20 NES Super Mario Moments: Number 1

1: Wart

today's post courtesy of deathbytroggles

Bosses, especially in NES games, fall into one of two categories. They're either insanely easy once you determine the trick to beating them, or they're insanely hard, requiring perseverance and multiple hits. Wart is neither of those. While there are strategies to defeating him and avoiding getting hit, there's no automatic road to victory. On the other hand, it is very possible to get very good at defeating him, taking no to minimal damage. In a way, he's like Mike Tyson.

He wants to eat your children
Wart's castle is tough enough to get through, and then beating him is another stressful task. Ultimately, it's one of the most rewarding moments for the entire console. And that doesn't even include one of the most elaborate, fun endings you'll see in the 8-bit era.

Newhart just had to copy this idea

Top 20 NES Super Mario Moments: Number 2

2: No Escape

No game in the Mario series was more willing to dispense with established rules than the second game in the series (yes, I know, "Doki Doki Panic", etc, etc). Of all the rules it broke, though, the most sinister was clearly the one that most of us took for granted.

What's offscreen is in the past.
Phanto is a great enemy. He's the spritual forebear of my favorite enemy in the Mario series (Boo), only he's more devious and fear inducing. Most of SMB2's most frantic moments involve grabbing the key and running like hell.

Or, more often than not... falling like hell

He was relentless and invulnerable. The only way to escape was to drop the key (not always a good idea on those long elevator chase falls, and besides, he'll be waiting for you to pick it back up again) or get through the locked door.

Of all the enemies from SMB2 that I wish had reappeared in subsequent games, Phanto is easily number one.

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Top 20 NES Super Mario Moments: Number 3

3: Don't Blink, Don't Look Down

When I was 9, my parents, my brother and I house-sat for a couple who lived on a lakeside lot. This family happened to have a Nintendo with a copy of Super Mario Brother 3. My parents didn't want us to waste our time playing it when there was so much natural beauty to behold. They had a point, of course, but my brother and I still set our alarm clocks for absurdly early hours so that we could sneak down to play it. Every day for two weeks, we would get to the same exact place in the game.

I wrote that up a couple of years ago when I was going through my list of favorite video game moments. This one was number 27, which seems just about right. We so badly wanted to beat this level and it just didn't seem possible to do so. We had no problem getting here - whistles made that almost trivial. For some reason that I don't seem to recall, we always used our P-Wings elsewhere, which (in one of this level's - and indeed, this' game's - biggest failings) would have rendered this level stupidly easy.

Oh yeah. Big fuckin' hero flying over the entire level.
This level is short. It doesn't seem nearly short enough when you're a kid, but that's most because the overly quick forced scrolling of the level. It's the gimmick to end all gimmicks. Without the forced scrolling, this level's a cakewalk. If the level scrolled at the speed of, say, the first forced scrolling level in world 1, this level's still very easy. Even once you put everything together, you've still got a level that wouldn't be difficult enough to be a training level on Super Meat Boy.

But to my brother and I? This level was Everest (of course, we were wrong... we didn't find out about that until AFTER we beat this, though...) Conquering it was monumental, and I still have warm, nostalgic feelings about that week we spent waking up early in the hopes of beating...

...this guy

I know he seems anticlimactic now, but we did die to him once that week. I don't know if I've ever been so pissed at a video game.

Monday, August 18, 2014

Top 20 NES Super Mario Moments: Number 4

4: Open Sesame

today's post courtesy of deathbytroggles

At the end of nearly level in SMB2 you are faced with the impossible large face of a hawk. Once you've completed the level he opens his large gape and invites you inside to play at the casino.

This one's gotta pay off soon!

Friday, August 15, 2014

Top 20 NES Super Mario Moments: Number 5

 5: Actually, Your Princess Is In This Castle

 Reposted from two years ago.

We* knew what this was all about. We had all heard that there were eight worlds in Super Mario Brothers, and there were only 4 levels per world, so in the closing moments of 8-3 (easily the hardest level in the game, btw. There was no easy way around those damn hammer throwers with the entire level taking place on flat ground. We died SO MANY TIMES on that level), we knew what was coming - the last level, the end castle... the final boss.

Of course, we had two lives left, so we died in the first room, unable to figure out the logistics of that first jump.

The screen that spawned a million minced oaths form children around the world.

It took several runthroughs to even figure out how to get to the Koopa King, there was the moving lava bridge, the waterless hall of flying fish (which made no sense), the hall of underwater flame fences and octopi (which made significantly less sense), and finally the Koopa King's throne room. Each portion (five of them, if I remember correctly) claimed several lives before we got it all down, and sure enough, I was facing Koopa small on my last life, with a wall of hammers and the big guy himself waiting for me. I waited, and somehow managed to sneak by and cut the rope.

We had done it. We had conquered a video game. Sure, the princess looked like she had a horrible case of gout, but that hardly mattered.

Hey there, sexy
Bowser had been defeated, but more importantly, we had beaten our first video game...

...then we started on the New Game+ where all the goombas were turned to beetles, and all the fire fences were made enormous. Our asses were kicked within minutes, taking the buzz off juuuuust a bit. It was still pretty awesome, though.

*"We" were my childhood best friend Colin, my younger brother (who, being 4 or 5 at the time wasn't very good at SMB, and was forced to merely spectate our legendary victory), and I. My house had no Nintendo, and his mom didn't want him playing on his for more than an hour a day, so there was always a sense of urgency to our gaming sessions.

Thursday, August 14, 2014

Top 20 NES Super Mario Moments: Number 6

6. Stop! Hammer Time

today's post courtesy of deathbytroggles

Once you get the hang of things in Super Mario Bros. the game becomes pretty easy. Enemies have predictable patterns, and with a little patience, there's little in the way of challenge outside of timing your mad dash for every Bowser visit. But there's one area of the game that never gets easy and to this day still makes me nervous.

Oh, and there's bullets.
The Hammer Bros drunkenly move and jump, with no predictable pattern that I've noticed (other than they have a limited left to right movement), and just when you think it's safe to dash through, one of them jumps down. Or one of the eight zillions hammers they throw smashes in your face. You can kill them by jumping on them, which is practically suicide (i.e. a hammer to the crotch) or hitting the brick below them, which is harder than it seems given their unpredictability.

If you only have a couple of lives left by the time you get to 8-3, it's time to do a lot of praying.

My kingdom for some fireballs!

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Top 20 NES Super Mario Moments: Number 7

7: Take A Walk In Someone Else's Shoes

today's  post courtesy of deathbytroggles

The original game just had big Mario and fire-breathing Mario. I was honestly content with the addition of Raccoon Mario, and then the game had to bust out Frog Mario and Oh-My-God-There’s-Medusa Mario.

Heart of Stone
But then we get to some random middle-of-the-road level in Sky World. And there’s Goombas just hangin’ out in shoes. And after coming down from the ‘shrooms bender you tentatively jump on one, killing it and finding yourself with a brand new shoe. You literally become indestructible while in it, unless you commit suicide by jumping down a bottomless pit.
I, along with several million other kids, clamored for Kuribo’s Shoe to be in more levels. But that really would have killed its charm.

Hey, do you hate me?

Monday, August 11, 2014

Top 20 NES Super Mario Moments: Number 8

8: Traction Control
Mario's ice worlds (one per game!) get a bad rep.

Okay, controlling Mario as he slips and slides around some frozen hellhole, completely unable to maintain any sort of his momentum without jumping first is irritating, but it's a gameplay mechanic that can lead to some interesting ideas.
Also, here's as good a place as any to admit that I liked the stage music to this world
Case in point, level 4-2 in Super Mario 2. It's not hard, and even as a child, it didn't take long to commit the section to muscle memory. There's just something cool about jumping, ducking, and sliding through the oncoming waves of enemies. Almost as good is the fact that once you're done with this, you get to play amongst the whales, which is one of the most unique and interesting sections of the 8-bit Mario games (albeit annoying as hell, which is why it's not on this list).

My cousin thought that it was easier to do this as Luigi. He was incorrect.

Thursday, August 7, 2014

Top 20 NES Super Mario Moments: Number 9

Number 9: Inception

today's post courtesy of deathbytroggles

So this dreamworld in SMB2 also has a subworld beneath it, and instead of Mal trying to kill you, it has energy bar mushrooms and coins that can be played in the extra life lottery that all good dreams have.

Mario's Totem

If you throw the dream-within-a-dream potion near a snake pot, you can go down the snake pot (that's not as fun as it seems). Most of the time, it just wakes you up. But one time while sabotaging my sweet deep sleep I plunged down a pot and wound up halfway through the game. Yeah! Finding the others was a bunch of fun and more satisfying than  simply climbing a ceiling or a vine.

Of course, when I play it now, I never use the warp zones, as I want to experience the whole game. But when you're eight years old and you want to beat the game faster than you brother, you look for any advantage you can take.

The Dangers of Taking Too Much Ambien

Top 20 NES Super Mario Moments: Number 10

Number 10: Into the Wild Blue Yonder

The first time I played Super Mario Brothers 3, I was at my cousin's house. He sat beside me and watched as I marveled at things like an actual intro screen and a world map. I was hooked, and I hadn't even actually played the damned thing yet.

Soon enough, I was playing, and loving it. I got the mushroom soon enough, then managed to unlock another, different powerup - one I hadn't seen before.

I am a leaf on the wind...
I picked it up, and... gained raccoon ears and a tail. I knew nothing about the manual, and hadn't seen any gameplay to this point (missed out on The Wizard), so I had no earthly idea what being turned into a raccoon could possibly mean.

"Ooh!" my cousin said, barely able to contain his enthusiasm, "get running really fast and then jump."

Mario would never be the same.

Watch how I soar...

Wednesday, August 6, 2014

Top 20 NES Super Mario Moments: Number 11

Number 11 : Source Code

today's post courtesy of deathbytroggles

Plumbers, upon birth, are granted the great fortune of being able to die twice and still continue their existence. It doesn't matter how, either. Fall down a pit? Second chance. Hit by a bullet? No problem. Run out of an arbitrary amount of time presumably set by the Koopa Gods? Just wind back the clock. Of course, it's likely those things will happen to plumbers more than just three times during the span of their careers. They can earn more chances to fuck up. Why, the St. Peter of plumbers takes 100 gold coins in exchange for a second life. He also takes poisonous mushrooms.

    Don't try this at home kids. You will die.

Tuesday, August 5, 2014

Top 20 NES Super Mario Moments: Number 12

Number 12: Leap of Faith

The first level of world 8 featured a jump which needed a fair bit of precision (the jump onto the singular pillar towards the end of the level), but at least you could see the landing zone when you made the jump.

About halfway through the second level, you were denied that opportunity.

Well, I mean... there has to be something over there, right?
Back in the day, I wasn't a big fan of running across gaps, so I dutifully positioned myself on the right pillar, and put everything I could into a flying leap.

Son of a...

Monday, August 4, 2014

Top 20 NES Super Mario Moments: Number 13

13: LASERS!!!!

today's post courtesy of deathbytroggles

I remember when I was 11 years old and got to the final castle in SMB3 for the first time. I was so excited, and so nervous. So nervous, in fact, that I literally tiptoed over each square, terrified of what might be coming. As it turns out, tip-toeing is not the best strategy.

Somehow, though, I was able to avoid instant death. I just wish there were more surprises like this throughout the game.

Friday, August 1, 2014

Top 20 NES Super Mario Moments: Number 14

Number 15: Triple Trouble

Most of the bosses in the NES Mario games just aren't particularly imposing. Sure, there was Koopa (or his imitators or whatever) in the first game, but those fireballs moved so slooowly, and all you had to do was get behind him. The Koopa in the third game don't do much better, and are generally the easiest of whichever level they inhabit. This is not a problem that SMB2 is burdened with.
A mouse? Who throws bombs?? WHILE WEARING SUNGLASSES!?!? Hell, yeah!
Wart himself is imposing as hell, but the runner-up has to be Tryclyde, the three-headed snake boss of worlds 2 and 6. He doesn't just a fireball or two, he shoots streams of fireballs, and he reloads at an alarming pace. The first time you meet him is cool enough, but not very difficult. The second time, on the other hand?

That's another matter entirely.