The Mezunian

Die Positivität ist das Opium des Volkes, aber der Spott ist das Opium der Verrückten

Sucky Stages: “Donut Plains 2” from Super Mario World

I’ve already bashed this level in the big post I made comparing Super Mario Bros. 3 & Super Mario World 3 years ago & reminded you all how much I hate slow autoscrollers when criticizing Super Mario Bros. 3’s worst level 2 years ago, so this post was inevitable; & replaying through Super Mario World1 to get level ideas to steal2 & the recent “Great Stages” post after a 2-year hiatus was the perfect spur.

But before I write ’bout “Donut Plains 2”, it’ll help if I whet your appetite with the level that comes before it, “Donut Plains 1”. You remember ( since you haven’t lived in a fallout shelter for the past 3 decades & ’course have played Super Mario World ) that this was the iconic level that introduces the cape feather, as well as the cape-wielding Super Koopas you cadge them from, the baseball-throwing Chucks, & fire spewing Lotus Plants. The Baseball Chucks are, in particular, a great way to practice your cape swing by blocking his baseballs, as is the iconic bonus room halfway through the level that allows you to collect ’bout 600 coins flying through them in the air.

It is gainst this iconic level that “Donut Plains 2” truly brings on the letdown.

“Donut Plains 2” may be the slowest autoscroller I’ve e’er played. I swear that half o’ the time is spent with my shoving Yoshi’s face into the right edge o’ the screen in the desperate hope it might get me to the end mo’ quickly.

¿& what does this level do with this mechanic used in already far too many levels? Well, if you’re playing while in a coma you may stupidly let yourself get squished by the slow-moving yellow dirt. The last moving yellow dirt e’en stays on screen so long that if you go onto it after it 1st shows up, it will ’ventually crush you. The puzzle is to wait round in the perfectly safe ground before it till it reaches the top & then falls back down ’gain. This is the climax o’ this level, the best iteration o’ this lame mechanic they could muster.

EXCITING GAMEPLAY

Actually, that’s not e’en the end o’ the level: the level ends with a pipe & 2 random Spike Tops seen nowhere else in the level. I think the only way they could’ve introduced this enemy in a weaker way would be if they didn’t include the pipe & show this enemy’s main mechanic. They should’ve waited till “Vanilla Dome 1”. Yes, this level is so bad it makes good… well, much better than this level a’least, levels worse.

The most interesting iteration o’ the moving yellow dirt is the 2nd-to-last instance, when it comes in from the top & may, very rarely, block your jumps ’bove the Buzzy Beetles. Too bad, since the screen & dirt are going @ a snail’s pace, you’re forced to wait & pay attention to every detail so that you could see it coming before it came e’en close to getting in your way. This level is the equivalent o’ playing a game in super slomo — it saps e’en the slightest o’ challenge so that it almost feels like cheating & makes it agonizingly boring.

Imagine this level didn’t have autoscrolling3. ¿What would it lose? You wouldn’t have to wait in front o’ a wall slowly moving up & then back down. That would be a heartbreaking loss. ’Stead, you could run through as quickly as you could, weaving ’tween moving dirt. This level, like many autoscrollers, would be better if it weren’t an autoscroller @ all.

This is no surprise; autoscrollers, when useful, have 2 functions: they either force you to hurry & act quickly or they challenge you to dodge hard-to-dodge dangers within constricted space. Obviously this level, as well as just ’bout every autoscroller in just ’bove every Mario game ’cept for that fast airship in Super Mario Bros. 3 ( the only good autoscroller in that game ), fails that criteria, since this level is slow. But it fails the latter, too, since none o’ the dangers in this level are hard to dodge. ’Sides, one must be very creative with the layout o’ the onslaught o’ dangers one preys on the player to avoid monotony — the “elevator level”, e’en mo’ reviled from classic platformers than water levels. I’ve ne’er seen a platformer do slow autoscrollers well; only shmups succeed @ them.

“¿Are you truly going to bash an early-game level in a level made for kids for being easy?”. No, I’m going to bash it for having nothing to do. This isn’t the 1st level — there are a’least 7 levels before it, all o’ which are much mo’ interesting. “Donut Plains 1” is earlier, but it has all kinds o’ things thrown into it. The flying tutorial room is certainly easier, — you literally can’t die, save for time-up — but it feels much freer. “Donut Plains 2” is as easy as having an o’erly-protective mother: while great early-game levels throughout Mario games are easy ’cause they’re free & rarely punish you for just doing whate’er you want, this level is easy ’cause it doesn’t let you do anything but stand round in mother-level-designer’s strong grip.

’Sides, this level isn’t free: it’s just challenging ’nough to force you to pay attention to its tedium, like the platformer equivalent o’ Desert Bus. As I replayed this level multiple times to capture the screenshots you’re seeing, I was surprised by how easy ’twas to die simply ’cause I glazed off or was too far on the right edge & let a bat smack me or e’en maybe the level crush me once.

The 2nd worst part o’ this level is that not only do you have to suffer through it once, you have to suffer through it a 2nd time for the 2nd exit. Luckily, if you have foresight, you can take the secret exit route in the middle both times, which also includes a shortcut to the end. But letting me skip most o’ the level does not make a level better, but is itself a symptom o’ a bad level. I wouldn’t want to skip a fun level.

Furthermo’, the secret exit is as arbitrary & slapdash as the rest o’ this level. It’s just a random pipe in the middle o’ the level ’mong many. I s’pose that adds the challenge o’ testing every pipe before the screen zips by them. Also, you can actually get crushed gainst the pipe if you manage to mess up going into it before the dirt rises too high, which is possible, since Super Mario World has quite janky pipe entrance physics; but this is rare.

The room this pipe leads to has a wide empty space with just a football-kicking Chuck — ’cause caves are always the most fitting place for football players4.

After that irrelevancy, we have a combination o’ 2 o’ the most o’erused puzzles in Super Mario World: an item ( a Koopa shell ) locked ’hind turn blocks you need to be big to break with a spin jump & a turn block you need to throw the shell @ to create a vine. ’Course, if you have a cape or Yoshi, you can just fly or Yoshi jump into the hole with the key & keyhole, anyway.

¿So what is the outright worst part o’ this level? It’s basically just a weaker version o’ ’nother level. “Valley of Bowser 2” — which is tedious, too, mind you — does everything this level does, but better in every way, ’cept maybe that it’s longer & has e’en mo’ padding. & most o’ it isn’t e’en hardly harder than “Donut Plains 2”, so “Donut Plains 2” doesn’t e’en work as a warm-up to “Valley of Bowser 2”. While “Donut Plains 2” is just a bunch o’ virtually-identical towers o’ yellow dirt going up & down, “Valley of Bowser 2” has a moving maze o’ yellow dirt you must maneuver while avoiding being crushed gainst the brown dirt. It sounds much harder; but thanks to the slowness o’ the autoscrolling, it’s easy to avoid if you’re paying a bit o’ attention. It is genuinely easier than a’least 95% o’ the levels in “Donut Plains” & after.

After that maze there are a series o’ short races to get out o’ passageways before the rising yellow dirt crushes you. Howe’er, if you pay close attention, you’ll notice that the edge o’ the yellow dirt in the 1st passageway sticks out past the right edge o’ the brown dirt & that, if you were to wait on it, you’d be able to reach the ceiling o’ the 1st passageway & go ’bove it to the left to reach the key & keyhole. This is a far cleverer secret exit than “Donut Plains 2”’s & is actually relevant to the gimmick.

“Donut Plains 2”’s aesthetics do it no favors: it’s 1 entry in an o’erused & bland theme that does not fit with the world it’s in. Super Mario Bros. 3’s advantage to having mo’ exotic ( for the time ) themes was that its themes generally stuck to their worlds & none felt o’erused. Super Mario World, meanwhile, has world themes so generic that they spill out into other worlds. Thus, we get the absurdity o’ a game with a cave world ( 2, technically, since “Valley of Bowser” is quite cavelike already ) full o’ cave levels, & yet also has cave levels throughout other worlds, as if 2 cave worlds wasn’t ’nough caves for us5. ( “Plains”, which is e’en mo’ generic — the most generic theme possible, in fact, falls into this e’en harder ).

“Donut Plains 2” is a particularly ugly level in a game that, quite frankly, is quite ugly as a whole. 1 o’ the major downsides to implementing moving dirt is that it takes up the main background layer, so that all we get are sparse… shapes that only use 4 colors & don’t look anything like anything that would be on a cave wall but ’stead looks like something the laziest modern artist would make who doesn’t know any better ( & I like modern art, so if you fail to impress me with it, you know it sucks ). The sickly yellow dirt that looks like it may have some radiation poisoning from underground nuclear tests clash particularly with the lifeless gray o’ the rest o’ the dirt. It made me realize how wrong complementary colors that are super desaturated ( ’cause Super Mario World, despite revolving round a fantasy world, is desaturated to hell like it’s a 16-bit Call of Duty ) look.

“Donut Plains 2” is a particular problem in context. Coming just after the release o’ the 1st Sonic the Hedgehog game, Super Mario World was a particular target for the not-entirely-fair stereotype that Mario games are slow & bland6. But “Donut Plains 2” fits this stereotype perfectly: it is slow & bland.

Posted in Sucky Stages, Video Games

Great Stages: World 4-3 ( & 6-3 ) o’ Super Mario Bros.

What stands out most is that, despite this game taking place in the Mushroom Kingdom & having plenty o’ mushrooms in ?-blocks, the terrain is rarely composed o’ mushrooms, but more oft those contradictory blocks that are a mix o’ natural cracked rock & unnatural perfect square shape ( or grass, if playing Super Mario All-Stars ). Having much mo’ red & yellow & a li’l less brown & green certainly makes the level feel mo’ colorful than most other daytime levels, ’specially in All-Stars with the mushroom platforms in the background.

But graphics aside, this level’s arrangement o’ elements seem mo’ modern than most other levels in this game. Other than the green hill levels ( World 1-3 probably being the most well-known example ), most o’ this game’s levels are flat land with a few walls & holes here & there. But e’en most o’ those levels are just a horizontal line o’ hills going from left to right, with slight variances in height, such as the other level with prominent weight pulleys, World 6-3, or merely use multilayered hills to create proto-Sonic alternate routes, like World 1-3, 5-3 ( which is just a clone o’ 1-3 ), & 3-3. But World 4-3 uses multilayered mushroom towers not as a means for alternate routes, but as a challenge itself. Just after the 2nd mushroom, you see a mushroom tower @ just the right height to stymie you. It grants alternate routes, but unlike the other levels, the alternate routes aren’t arbitrary, but have different challenges: if you go below the mushroom tower, you have to jump low ’nough not to bonk your head on it, but high ’nough to make it to the next platform under it; to go ’bove the tower, you must run & jump high ’nough to reach it.

& in this level, the red Koopa is, for once, a greater hindrance than the green Koopas, as you have to time jumps so that you don’t run into them during their patrol back & forth o’er the mushroom. Thanks to the timing & placement o’ the red Koopas on the 2nd mushroom, the jump to it will leave li’l space & time to jump o’er them before they reach you ( which is very tricky to pull off in Super Mario Bros. Deluxe, thanks to its much smaller screen, allowing e’en less reaction time ).

& then there’s the weight pulleys, an early version o’ a “level gimmick” that makes this level feel like a proto Super Mario World level, which used just ’bout every type o’ moving blocks or platform you could think o’. Their key strength is how much control they give you. The most obvious way is that they let you move them up & down all o’er; but the subtle version o’ this strength is how they don’t force you to slow down, a problem with many level gimmicks in games. If you know what you’re doing & have the maneuverability to do so, you can pass pulleys onto the rest o’ the level without stopping.

I also like the way the mushroom block is positioned on the edge o’ a mushroom platform with a thin platform just below. It’s the 1st time the game truly threatens you with destroying your mushroom before you can get it. Compare this with 4-1’s 1st mushroom position: it has a much larger plot o’ land to move before falling into a pit, & the Spinys offer a greater obstacle than gravity. The lower mushroom platform softens the challenge, which fits this level’s placement difficulty just after the middle o’ the game.

The ending is 1 o’ the few without the iconic staircase, replaced by a platform moving up & down. This does not make reaching the flagpole harder in the slightest, but it does make reaching the top o’ the flagpole a bit harder, & makes doing so while getting 6 fireworks much harder, which those gaming for the score medal in Super Mario Bros. Deluxe’s challenge mode will know all too well.

’Mong the pulley levels, this is the weakest ending, with 3-3’s pulley @ the end with the end closer to the flagpole lower down the best. A platform moving up & down doesn’t have much to do with this level, which only has 2 other vertical floating platforms, thrown in the middle so that they’re easy to forget ’bout. 6-3 focuses much mo’ on these types o’ platforms & ends with a series o’ vertical platforms leading to a hill seen in almost every other world’s 3rd level, just wintry white. I think 4-3 should’ve had a series o’ mushroom hills leading to the flagpole while 6-3 should’ve ended with a vertically rising & falling platform, but with a gap ’tween the platform & the flagpole to add some actual challenge ( since we’re moving 2 worlds later, after all ).

Honorable Mentions

In fact, 6-3 is a strong competitor to 4-3 — perhaps e’en better, looking @ it with fresher eyes. Its wintry white & gray blocks o’er a black background is arguably rarer than 4-3’s red mushrooms, since they also appear in the warp zone in 4-2 ( though you can’t see both in the same playthrough ), though you do see this same palette in every castle level, just with a different tileset.

Sadly, this level loses this special color scheme in the Super Mario All-Stars, whose Super Mario Bros. remake otherwise had superior graphics & music — though inferior gameplay, thanks to errors the programmers made with the brick-breaking physics, ’less you use the brick-fix rom hack. Why they didn’t make snowy graphics for the hill tileset like they did for evening levels that weren’t e’en wintry-looking in the original, like 3-1, I have no idea. Super Mario Bros. seems to be a game destined to be plagued by imperfect remakes.

It also arguably has a mix o’ mo’ exotic elements, replacing common red Koopas with a few red springs & Bullet Bills. Howe’er, the red Koopas allow for mo’ fine-tuned jumping challenges, while the Bullet Bills just come in @ random places, which can make certain circumstances outright unfair, rather than clever. The use o’ the spring is well done: the 1st is just for bonus coins & a higher vantage point, which you can still reach with careful jumping without it, while the 2nd is, save for some particular expert maneuvering, mandatory to reach the next platform high ’bove. They don’t do much else with this element, which, quite frankly, is only meaningful as a challenge in how janky timing jumps off it can be.

6-3’s mushroom block is e’en better than 4-3’s, & fits its moving platforms theme well. It is positioned just under a horizontally moving platform, upping the challenge from 4-3’s mushroom by making it much easier to make the mushroom fall into the pit without a safety platform below to give an extra chance.

Like 4-3, you can race through the whole level without stopping if you know what you’re doing. Like Sonic games later on, if you keep to the top the level goes smoothly, but if you let yourself fall to the bottom, you can run into tricky jumps, such as those wherein the weight pulleys are so high that they’re hard or impossible to reach, but are still low ’nough to threaten to bonk you as you try to jump under them & interrupt your jump.

I’m also quite partial to 6-2, though it’s definitely a 3rd to 4-3 & 6-3. It’s a rather long long full o’ tricky arrangements o’ pipes with Piranha Plants — usually only emphasized in underground levels. This makes this probably the greenest level in the game.

Level that emphasizes Piranha Plants all o’er the place shows every other enemy in that level ’stead.

Piranha Plants are the most common enemy in the game ( yes, they are mo’ common than Goombas ), making this level feel less fresh than the 4-3 & 6-3 with their rarer weight pulleys, & Piranha Plants, who are slow & easily-telegraph their moves are not nearly as tricky. Worse, if you don’t have a fire flower, they can easily delay you, ’specially in this level.

Still, this is definitely the most interesting Piranha Plant level, which calls to mind the clever arrangements found in Lost Levels levels like 5-1, 7-1, A-1, & C-1.

I also like the nighttime twist on the coin heaven, with a slightly trickier arrangement o’ cloud blocks, making it harder to collect all coins — though this coin heaven appears in 3-1 1st.

I also like the way the ending staircase adds both a hopping Paratroopa & a Piranha Plant.

Posted in Great Stages, Video Games

The Problem with Storytelling in Video Games

You can’t completely break an artwork from the media it’s made in any mo’ than you can completely break the abstraction o’ anything from its concrete basis. Artwork literally can’t exist without a medium.

A corollary o’ this is that if you change a work’s medium, then you change the work itself. This is why adaptations are so controversial. For instance, ¿why is The Shining movie with Jack Nicholson that’s inaccurate to King’s original book popularly viewed as superior to the mo’ faithful miniseries? ’Cause movies are different from books: what makes good literature doesn’t necessarily make good film, & reverse.

This applies equally to video games. The problem is, many game developers still haven’t figured this out yet, probably ’cause it’s still a young medium & new media oft stumbled while trying to ape older media as it tries to figure out how to be its own thing. Much o’ video game storytelling is still done through cutscenes &, e’en worse, dialogue boxes, which are just inferior versions o’ movies & literature, respectively.

Cutscenes aren’t nearly as bad. Theoretically, it’s possible nowadays to make cutscenes that are just as good as real movies if one uses live action or pre-rendered footage. However, in reality, the economics o’ game development has ne’er led to the existence o’ video game cutscenes that look as good as a Pixar film or have the acting & directing quality o’, say, The Godfather1. &, ’course, video games are much pricier than movies, so if the video game doesn’t offer useful gameplay, — if the game’s claim to quality is based entirely on its story — then buyers are still ripping themselves off. Video games don’t just compete with each other; they must also compete with movies & literature, which are just as hungry for time & money. ¿Why waste my scarce money & scarcer time on a game whose claim to fame is cutscenes cluttered in chunky polygons & trite writing when I could better serve my time on earth watching Breaking Bad? ¿Why read the 1000th medieval RPG with hokey, inaccurate “ye olde English” when I could just read Shakespeare & get the authentic thing, which sounds 1000 times better?

But I would rather focus on dialogue boxes, since they’re worse, & worse in ways many have probably not noticed, but as someone who reads literature a’least round 2 hours per day, I have noticed quite blaringly.

The easiest thing would be to point out that many games highly acclaimed for their story don’t compare much with highly acclaimed literature. People who praise the story o’ games like Ocarina of Time or the average Final Fantasy game would probably be shocked if they were to learn that, if these games’ stories were put in book form, they would be laughed out o’ any serious fantasy or science fiction guild. ( You’d think anyone who has watched The Game of Thrones, based on the Song of Ice & Fire series would realize this, since the stark difference in nuance, character, & world-building ’tween that series & the average Zelda or Final Fantasy game is glaring ).

This is likely ’cause, unlike music or art assets, the average game’s written not by professional writers, but whoever they have standing round — usually the narcissistic director ( I’m looking @ you, Other M ) — based on the delusion that anyone can write well. This is on the level o’ logic that any guy with the generic title “game designer” you have lying round can compose Beatles-quality music. Interestingly, 1 o’ the few video games I consider to have literature-level quality writing, Mother 3, was written by an actual published writer.

But e’en if the words written are good, dialogue boxes are still an absolutely terrible way to tell story. It’s striking to me, ’cause e’en I hadn’t noticed it consciously till recently: I’ve always had this inexplicable preference for reading books o’er reading in video games, but couldn’t quite tell why till recently.

The answer is that dialogue boxes suck. They’re tiny windows wherein you can only read a few lines o’ text @ a time, whose movement speed is oft highly constricted, & wherein trying to go back & read text that’s already gone by is either a pain or impossible.

Contrast this with books: what I like ’bout books is that they give you complete control o’er the speed & flow o’ story progression. This is why I still prefer reading to watching TV or movies or e’en watching tutorial videos online. Not only that, but I can read in whatever sequence I want. Most people think o’ reading as just a purely linear, uninterrupted path. This is why so much contemporary literature is terrible — ’cause people don’t know how to read well anymo’. No, the true way to read is to go back & reread sections for clarification or just to comprehend other layers o’ the writing ( which are nonexistent in most modern literature, since, as we’ve established, they’re incompetent ). Just imagine trying to read, for example, a Shakespearean play & understand the plot, the references, the meter, the rhyme, the imagery, the tone, the theme, the use o’ consonants & vowels, & all that when you can only read a few lines @ a time & can only read them once.

This is what makes the medium an important aspect o’ a work’s quality: different mediums are inherently better & worse @ different things than other media. Literature is inherently superior @ giving textual info than video games or movies. E’en if one wanted dynamic, interactive textual content, web pages using JavaScript could do a better job than cumbersome text boxes, if people had the creativity to realize this untapped potential2. This is not to say that video games are inherently inferior to literature. Something that literature absolutely cannot do is offer the kind o’ interactive physics or level design that a classic Mario game has. In fact, “level design” is impossible in literature. Understanding this, it should be no wonder why I have mo’ artistic respect for Mario games that use the medium o’ video games for its strengths gainst the average RPG or Zelda game that just throw together generic puzzles, level design, & the most basic movement you could program just to service bootleg Tolkien told through those gimped dialogue boxes.

Unfortunately, many self-described video game critics still don’t respect video games as a medium for what it does best. ¿How oft do these critics praise games based on shoddy story & hardly talk ’bout level design, control, physics, the general coherence o’ gameplay mechanics, &, least o’ all, the quality o’ the game’s programming beyond noticing flagrant bugs? This is probably ’cause the average game critic is probably a failed creative writer — & it’s here where the ol’ acorn, “A li’l knowledge is mo’ dangerous than no knowledge” returns too true.

This is troublesome, as it’s a bad influence on video games. When you consider how li’l attention the hardworking, brilliant programmers who were able to squeeze games like Super Mario Bros. 3 onto such primitive technology as the NES compared to some jackoff who scribbled out some tripe ’bout a goody-goody hero fighting gainst a grrrr evil villain in a couple minutes & puked it onto Unity, I can’t be surprised game developers nowadays just hack their games together in some bloated engine & demand their customers have o’erpowered computers on a certain operating system with a certain brand o’ controller to run their bloated code with every shortcut taken. Gamers can’t complain ’bout getting shit if they can’t tell what shit is. That video games are, @ their core, code, makes this sentiment ridiculous — but it is true. Just as how ridiculous it is that so much modern literature tries to ape film in the vain hopes o’ getting a movie adaptation, ignoring that tiny li’l problem that literature sucks @ being film just as much as video games suck @ being literature.

Posted in Programming, Video Games

GBC Tribute: Super Mario Bros. Deluxe

This may have been the 1st game I owned, as opposed to the 1st game I played, a family-owned game, ( Super Mario World ), ‘long with Pokémon Silver with my new Game Boy Color back when I turned 9.

@ the time I was surprised & somewhat disappointed. I think I remembered my older brother saying ’twas like Super Mario All-Stars, a game we had but somehow lost, but it turned out to just be a remake o’ the 1st Super Mario Bros. — what a philistine younger me considered to be the weakest o’ the ol’ Mario games, since it’s much mo’ limited in powerups, didn’t have any kind o’ map screen like Super Mario Bros. 3 or Super Mario World had ( Super Mario Bros. Deluxe does, but it’s just for aesthetics & showing score requirements for Challenge Mode levels ), didn’t have spin jumps, didn’t let you revisit beaten levels, & didn’t e’en let you go backward in levels. So, basically, young me wasn’t thrilled ’cause ’twas hard & I sucked @ video games & I preferred the hand-holding o’ Super Mario World &, to a lesser extent, Super Mario Bros. 3.

I did warm up to it though, leaving me with the nostalgia I have now. I also somehow not only beat the classic mode, but also Lost Levels — or as they called it, “Super Mario Bros. for Super Players”. Granted, this game let you save & resume from game o’er on every level, so ’twas much easier than the NES / Famicom originals.

This was also the 1st time I saw the original NES version’s graphics, or graphics very similar. I remember how, um, less impressed I was with how Bowser looked in the originals. If Bowser sounded funny ’cause he had a cold in Super Mario Sunshine, he must’ve looked funny in the original Super Mario Bros. ’cause his face got in a car accident.

Now I’ve somehow gotten better @ this game to the point that I can 100% it & e’en beat classic mode without getting game o’er.

Indeed, the mo’ I play it, the mo’ impressed I am @ how well this classic game holds up, e’en if it didn’t have Deluxe‘s trinkets & doodads — proof that truly good games stay good for eternity. Sure, levels are mo’ oft just flat land with a bunch o’ enemies than later Mario games; but we could already see cleverness in the enemy designs, such as the Koopas that could be both a weapon & a risk if you stomped them. In particular, the way later levels combined enemies created an interesting kind o’ difficulty impossible to realize with enemies ‘lone: hopping Koopas become much harder to maneuver round when you have to time your jumps or dodges with randomly-generated Bullet Bills.

& then you have Hammer Bros., which are unquestionably the hardest enemies, but are interesting if you get to understand how they work. I remember years ago when I 1st learned how to rather consistently get past them in 8-4 by counting to 6 or 7 & then running toward them — which is right when they should start jumping. The only trick here is if the hammers they throw are in a bad position, which may force you to hop ‘tween some ‘fore running past them. ‘Nother, riskier, strategy is to stay near in front o’ them so that their hammers go o’er your head, making sure to keep distance so that they don’t move to close & kill you with their touch poison that all video game enemies seem to have.

Mo’ importantly, the original Super Mario Bros. has 1 strength that none o’ its children have: it’s consistently fast-paced. You almost ne’er have to stop throughout the entire level, & times when you might are caused by an enemy being in an unfortunate place ( usually in the underwater levels, which have some o’ the worst physics & where every enemy moves randomly ). Contrast that with e’en Super Mario Bros. 3 & Super Mario World, great exploration games that are, unfortunately, infected with far too many tedious autoscrollers ( fun fact: 1 is too many autoscrollers ). Honestly, Super Mario Bros. is probably the only good action / challenge platformer Mario game ‘cause o’ this. ( Super Mario Bros. 3, Super Mario World, Yoshi’s Island, the Super Mario Land & the Wario Land don’t games count: they’re exploration games that focused on puzzle solving & collecting & are baby-easy. Super Mario 64 had the distinction o’ being both fast & an exploration game that was baby-easy, so it’s e’en better ). This is probably why Nintendo’s attempt to flirt with challenging gameplay ‘gain in the New Super Mario Bros. & Super Mario Galaxy games was so awful: it just gave you the slowness o’ Super Mario World, but made you go through it multiple times if you happened to die. Well, that & ‘cause New Super Mario Bros.’s idea o’ “challenge” is making me beat a ghost house ‘gain whenever I want to save — something much harder games like Super Meat Boy didn’t devolve into ‘cause that game was actually designed by people who gave a shit.

Though Lost Levels has questionable level design decisions, I like how e’en in its 8-3 they put clever ways to help get past Hammer Bros. in the form o’ bricks camouflaging gainst brick walls that you can stand on to get clearer height o’er the ground-bound Hammer Bros. ( only to later force you to get through 2 Hammer Bros. without any helpful blocks ).

People oft pump up 8-4 as the ultimate challenge ’cause it’s the last level, but it actually might be 1 o’ the easiest world 8 levels, ‘cept for maybe 8-1. Other than maybe figuring out the maze through trial & error, — a much simpler & easier maze than any o’ the earlier castle mazes, too — it doesn’t truly get hard till the Hammer Bro & Bowser @ the end. Then ‘gain, none o’ the castle levels are as hard as most o’ the noncastle levels.

8-3 has an interesting dynamic to its difficulty: it’s oft considered the next contender for hardest level, & it’s certainly harder than 8-4, but it offers plenty o’ powerups — but only if you take the time to find them in the many bricks surrounded by Hammer Bros. This leaves players with 2 possible strategies: take the harder route o’ fighting off Hammer Bros. to earn a powerup to make later parts easier or rush through & skip the powerups. If you weather the 1st 2 pairs o’ Hammer Bros., you can get a fire flower, making the rest o’ the Hammer Bros. trivial — & thus the rest o’ the level. These 2 pairs are easier than the later ones, since they have brick floors you can bump them under, while the others are on the ground, their hammers right in your face & their heads constantly guarded by hammers. Thus, the powerups make the level much easier: when I discovered them, which was surprisingly late, I found the level became much easier. In general, Super Mario Bros. is great @ rewarding taking the time to explore by making things easier while using the natural reward that is the thrill o’ going quickly to seduce mo’ skilled players to go mo’ quickly. Only the Donkey Kong Country games seem to do as well ( & e’en then, only maybe 75% o’ the time ) @ giving players both exploration & speed by giving players a lot o’ control o’er how quickly they want to move.

If anything, it’s the water levels that are the worst. Water levels are always infamous in video games, but I can’t think o’ any that are worse than the original Super Mario Bros.‘s. Everything feels out o’ control: Mario’s movements feel inconsistent, ‘specially when falling ( the fact that pits awkwardly change how fast Mario plummets doesn’t help ). & all the enemies move randomly & can’t be killed ‘less you have a fire flower. E’en Hammer Bros. can be killed by hopping on them or hitting them from below.

You know, ¿why did they decide that landing on top o’ an enemy in air should kill an enemy, but not underwater, & why does every platformer just copy this arbitrary rule? The fact that water levels oft cripple your abilities & make you move slowly is surely why water levels are so despised, e’en though water has the potential to make you mo’ mobile by letting you move freely vertically, too. I’d like to see a platformer make you mo’ powerful & have freer movement underwater so people actually prefer water levels — that would be a nice surprise for once.

Super Mario Bros.‘s reputation as a hard game always confused me. I don’t mean the view that it’s a hard game in general, or comparing it to later Mario games, which are certainly easier; but people act as if e’en for its time ’twas hard, which is certainly not true. For an NES game, Super Mario Bros. is strikingly easy. I can beat it without getting game o’er, whereas I can’t beat a single Mega Man, Castlevania, or Ninja Gaiden game. Compared to 95% o’ its contemporaries, Super Mario Bros. was a baby-easy game, as was every Mario game compared to its contemporaries. It’s only nowadays that adult gamers with the selfishness o’ young adults expect that Mario games, meant for all ages, should be made specially for 30-year-ol’s with decades o’ experience playing games.

Super Mario Bros. Deluxe was a particularly good remake in that it didn’t just “improve” its graphics by making them mo’ technologically advanced but with less heart ( looks @ 3DS Mario & Luigi: Superstar Saga ), but mainly adds to gameplay. You don’t just get the classic Super Mario Bros., but also, as mentioned earlier, Lost Levels, as well as a photo album, a minigame where you race a Boo through levels with switch blocks1, a challenge mode, & a bunch o’ random trinkets, such as a fortune-telling game & a bunch o’ weird pictures you can print if you’re 1 o’ the probably 5% people who actually had the Game Boy Printer @ the time. Indeed, I was so impressed by Super Mario Bros. Deluxe‘s extras that I was disappointed by the later Super Mario Advance remakes, which didn’t have nearly as much.

Shoot. ¿How’s our boy gonna get outta this 1? Twang twang twang.

That’s not to say that Deluxe didn’t screw some things up. 1 flaw they couldn’t help but have due to the hardware is the smaller screen, which made it harder to see what’s round you, & thus harder in general. This is worsened by the fact that this is a straight remake, & thus the levels were made for the larger screen. To make up for this, the game lets you scroll the screen a li’l bit ‘hind you, as opposed to the original NES game, which didn’t let you scroll back @ all.

Though I wouldn’t necessarily call it an unquestionable downgrade, the physics are slightly different from the original NES game’s — though not as off as the All-Stars version’s. I’d read a long time ago that Nintendo lost the original source code years ago, so they’ve been reprogramming the game in approximations each remake ( or emulating the original ); thus it’s not too surprising that they couldn’t get things perfect each time. Still, in some ways I think Deluxe‘s controls feel better, though that may be just ’cause I’m used to them. They feel tighter: Mario & Luigi don’t feel like they go flying when you jump forward & you have greater control o’er your movement in air, making it easier to back up while in the air if you jump forward. Block collision also feels less janky: trying to fit big Mario or Luigi into a 2-block hole is surprisingly challenging in the original Super Mario Bros., making hitting the beanstalk block in World 4-2 much trickier to hit than in Deluxe.

On the other hand, sprite hit detection feels better in the original than in Deluxe. Both have somewhat glitchy hit detection, but Deluxe more oft screws you o’er with it. Sometimes when landing on an enemy I would get forced into them & hurt. Springs are much mo’ consistent in the original, making random deaths far less common, & mushrooms don’t kill your jump if you jump into them, unlike in Deluxe. & the upside o’ Mario & Luigi going flying forward faster when jumping is that you can move mo’ quickly while speeding through levels, making Deluxe feel slightly slower.

But these are nitpicks that most players probably won’t e’en notice.

Super Mario Bros. for Super Players

1 flaw that they could help was the fact that the included port o’ Lost Levels is god awful — the worst there e’er was. Many critics bring up that it only has the 1st 8 worlds, no world 9 or A-D ( though partially-finished versions o’ these levels are hidden in the cartridge, so they probably planned to make them but ran out o’ time ). They might e’en bring up that the graphics are regular Super Mario Bros.‘s, ‘cept the Poison Mushroom, which is some weird new graphic with colors used nowhere else in this game, or that Luigi’s physics are just like Mario’s.

What they’re less likely to bring up, but which is the absolute worst, is that there’s no Koopa hopping. See, while people claim Lost Levels just just a “Mission Pack Sequel” to Super Mario Bros., it did actually have some difference in terms o’ physics — foremost that ’twas the 1st to allow Mario & Luigi to hop off enemies, rather than bump ineffectively & fall like in the original ( indeed, landing on an enemy kills your momentum ). Deluxe keeps the original’s lack o’ enemy hops e’en in Lost Levels, e’en though Lost Levels‘ levels were built based on it. This makes some parts way mo’ ridiculous than any part o’ the Famicom or All-Stars Lost Levels had — it feels like you have to do some kaizo trickery to get through them.

For instance, in 8-2 there’s a brick you have to hit to make a beanstalk come out which you need to climb to beat the level; but it’s positioned in a way where you’re s’posed to jump on a convenient Paratroopa under it. But you can’t in Deluxe, ’cause the programmers fucked up. @ 1st, the only way I figured out how to beat this was to be small @ this point & run & jump under it @ a certain point — if you’re big, your face will bump the brick & you’ll fall into a pit. Now, the trickier part is that you need to be big to break bricks & reach a pipe earlier to get here. I only happened to luckily stumble on the fact that I can break the bricks & then have a Buzzy Beetle fall on me so I become small after breaking the bricks to beat this level. Later I found a simpler, but trickier way to do it by running & jumping onto the Paratroopa when it’s just near the block @ a certain spot so you can squeeze ‘tween the 2 & bump the block, while hopefully getting ‘nough air to reach the other side. I had to be big to do this, as every time I did this I got hurt by getting pressed into the Koopa in a strange way as I bumped gainst the brick.

You vs. Boo

I have a lot o’ nostalgia for the “You vs. Boo” race, but I have mixed views ’bout actually playing them. It’s sometimes an addicting challenge to see how much you can beat your earlier times & see if you can unlock a better boo to race gainst, sometimes infuriatingly cheap. & they’re all trial-&-error gameplay, as you need to know ‘head o’ time what state a switch block will be when you get to it to act ‘head & minimize delays.

The levels with timed blocks are all right, as they’re a’least consistent. The only exception is the last level, which is long, full o’ spike traps, & has a cheap part @ the beginning where you have to know ‘head o’ time how it’s setup to avoid stopping or getting hit, as you have to hit 2 switches before you e’en see a spike pit that requires them to be hit.

The levels with the auto-switching blocks are some o’ the worst, however — which ironically includes the 1st level, which is maybe the 2nd hardest level after the last. This is ’cause Boo is a cheap asshole, who, in addition to being able to fly through everything, can switch blocks whenever they want, which can fuck you o’er gainst your control. For instance, the 1st level has a few places where there is a wall o’ switch blocks past a switch block. If the boo hits the switch right after you pass it, you have no choice but to go back & hit the switch ‘gain, slowing you down so much that you’ve probably already lost the race. Thus, it feels like e’en if you play well, you still need to be lucky to do well. Add to that an e’en worse camera than in classic mode: @ the start o’ the 1st race level, Mario or Luigi reach the right side o’ the camera before it gets the idea that maybe it should move ‘long with them, perfect for making me run into a pipe @ the start dozens o’ times.

It’s not like you accomplish much in this minigame. The best you can get for beating races is unlock newer colors o’ boos, which are harder to beat. You start with the standard white boo, then unlock a lime boo, a pink boo, & then the elusive Black Boo with a neon yellow outline, who apparently moves as quickly as your fastest time. It’s cool to unlock, & e’en beat the Black Boo, in a level; but a pain in the ass. They don’t e’en give you a photo or something for doing so, either. Finding Black Boo is surely mo’ worthy o’ celebration than finding a 1-up Mushroom in a hidden block.

The Photo Album

The Photo Album is sort o’ like an early version o’ an achievements system, while also acting as a way to try to get people to buy the Game Boy Camera by offering a way to print the photos. The 1st page o’ photos were big medal award photos you got for major accomplishments: the Mario Award for beating classic mode, the Bowser Award for beating the star levels o’ classic mode, the Peach Award for getting all the medals in all levels in Challenge Mode, the Toad Award for getting a million points total in high scores in Challenge Mode, & the Yoshi Award for beating Lost Levels. I always found it bullshit that Luigi doesn’t get an Award, e’en though Lost Levels is heavily associated with him. ¡That dumb horse Yoshi isn’t e’en in Lost Levels! ¡What the fuck?

You also get photos for minor accomplishments, such as finding a beanstalk, getting fireworks, or playing multiplayer with somebody & using that weird infrared link thing the Game Boy Color had, the latter 2 o’ which are impossible to get in the Virtual Console version. Great job, Nintendo. Some are redundant: you get a small photo for beating classic mode, in addition to the big Mario Award photo; you also get a small photo for getting the red coin, score, & Yoshi egg medals in all levels, each.

In fact, this game has a major glitch wherein if you get the last o’ 2 types o’ medals @ the same time, you get fucked out o’ a small photo. Back when this game 1st came out, Nintendo went far ‘nough to offer you the chance to send in your cartridge so they can just hack the lost photo into your save — a particular primitive form o’ patching out a bug. This bug still exists in the Virtual Console version; but now Nintendo just tells you to suck a dick if you ask them to fix it.

You also get a photo for each enemy type you kill & 1 for each castle’s Bowser when you kill them with fire — so long as they’re on screen when they die. For a long time I thought this game had a glitch where sometimes killing Bowser didn’t give me their photo, till I realized ‘twas ‘cause I was a spineless wuss who hid far ‘hind & fireballed Bowser to death from offscreen. You have to see Bowser turn into his “true form” to get the photo.

Challenge Mode

But the most compelling mode is Challenge Mode, which challenges you to collect 3 medals in every level. ( You can only try levels you’ve beaten in classic mode, in any order you want ). There are no lives or game o’er, but you can’t get a medal ‘less you beat the level you’re trying. The 3 medals are the red coin medal, which you get for collecting 5 coins hidden in the level; the score medal, which you get for matching or beating a chosen score when you beat the level; & the Yoshi egg medal, which you get for finding a Yoshi egg hidden in an invisible block somewhere in the level.

‘Nother challenge Challenge Mode offers is a total score counter @ the bottom, which holds the sum o’ high scores you have in all the levels. Get 1.2 million or mo’ points — which is mo’ than all the high scores needed to get the score medal in all levels combined, so you can’t just get all the score medals to get it — & you get a Toad Award photo in your album.

Depending on the level, either the red coin or Yoshi egg medal are the easiest to get. The Yoshi egg medal is only challenging in terms o’ finding it, which could be hidden anywhere. However, when you find a’least 1, — which is made easy by the fact that the manual that came with the game revealed where it is in the 1st level — you unlock a roulette that shows you the screen o’ a random level where it’s hidden. I have clearly played this game too much, as on a recent playthrough I have yet to need this roulette. ¿Who needs math knowledge when you can memorize where all the Yoshi eggs in a video game are? The red coins are ne’er in hidden blocks, but are sometimes hidden in ?-blocks or bricks. Worse, some are hidden in multi-coin blocks & make you get a’least 10 coins in those blocks to make it pop out. If you hit a multi-coin block, but not ‘nough times, you’re permanently screwed out o’ that coin & have to restart the level.

But the true challenge is getting the score medal on each level. The scores they ask for can seem ridiculous for early players — indeed, Nintendo must’ve found them ridiculous, as Nintendo lowered many o’ the levels’ required scores in the Japanese version ( for some reason, this game was released in the West 1st ). You have to play near optimally: maximize the enemies you kill for max points ( hint: kick every Koopa you find ), triple-hop Goombas for exponential points, get all the powerups & the Yoshi egg, waste as li’l time as possible, & make damn sure you hit the top o’ the flagpole & get 6 fireworks ( hint: start running from the leftmost edge o’ the top o’ the stairs when the timer ends @ a 9 ). If this isn’t ‘nough, you can try kicking a Koopa shell gainst a wall & jumping on it & kicking it ‘gain as it comes back repeatedly for all your excess time to maybe get some extra points. Bopping a Koopa & kicking it gives you 500 points, so this can be a nice way to rack up points, but requires consistent timing.

I do truly enjoy the score medals in this game, though. It forces you to analyze levels critically for ways to optimize points. ¿Are those coins worth the time it’d take to grab them? Coins & game seconds are both worth 100 points, so if it takes mo’ than a game second per coin, the answer is no.

Though, thanks to them not having a flagpole to worry ‘bout, & usually not having many opportunities for gaining points, being so linear, castle levels are e’en easier than normal levels for getting the medals than they are in classic mode.

There’s a glitch that only David Wonn in his amazing glitch website e’er mentions, wherein you can rack up quite a lot o’ points in challenge mode. Usually, if you try the Koopa-hopping trick on the staircase, you’ll rack up point gains up to 8,000 points before the enemy dies. However, the programmers messed up & saved the # o’ points you get so that if you stop after getting 4,000 points & then let the shelled enemy go to the bottom & do the hop & kick them gainst a wall repeatedly trick I wrote ‘bout earlier, ‘stead o’ getting 400 points per kick, you get 5,000 points per kick ( that is, so long as you jump on the shelled enemy as you kick it; otherwise, it seems to just give 400 still ).

However, if you can pull this trick off well, you’re better than I am. It just so happens that every staircase with a falling shelled enemy has li’l room near it to kick the enemy’s shell & bop them ‘gain without getting hit or permanently losing the shell. Wonn lists 7-1 as the easiest level to do this in, which is pure bullshit, as that level gives you a 3-block space in which to kick the Buzzy Beetle, 1 block o’ which has an invisible block ‘bove it to block your jump. The easiest is 1 he doesn’t list, 5-2; & e’en that only gives you 5 or 6 blocks o’ space, & if you miss once, you lose the Koopa shell.

Wonn also claims you can get o’er 5 million points with this trick, but I don’t see how, ‘less he found many levels that can use this trick. Using save states with this trick in 7-1, I was able to rack up ‘bout 200,000 points with very li’l extra time left on the clock when beating the level. That is, indeed, a lot; but you’d need to be able to do that in almost every level to get mo’ than 5 million points total.

I should point out that Super Mario Bros. Deluxe‘s score & red coin challenges were the main inspiration for the gem & time challenges for my game, Boskeopolis Land.

Vs.

This is just “Boo vs. You” but ‘tween 2 players linked together with a link cord.

Records

Super Mario Bros. Deluxe saves your high scores for Classic mode, for the regular or * levels. As mentioned, getting mo’ than 100,000 points beats Boo’s score & unlocked “Boo vs. You” & getting mo’ than 300,000 points beats Luigi’s high score & unlocks “Super Mario Bros. for Super Players”, or “Lost Levels”.

If you’re playing on the original Game Boy Color, you could use that stupid infrared square @ the top o’ the system to trade scores. Why they made this require that dumb thing ‘stead o’ just the regular link cord, which does work for playing a Vs. game, is beyond my comprehension, other than that Nintendo wanted to ruin this game’s longterm playability for the sake o’ advertising a gimmick nobody cared ’bout.

Toy Room

This is where Nintendo threw a bunch o’ random shit they made when they were procrastinating adding worlds 9-D to “Super Mario Bros. for Super Players”. It sort o’ reminds me o’ a primitive version o’ WarioWare Twisted‘s souvenirs.

Calendar

A rudimentary calendar that let’s you mark days with messages & an icon.

Why they added this to this game o’ all things, & not any later Mario remakes, I’m not sure; but my theory is that it’s related to abandoned plans Nintendo seemed to have for making a “gaming smartphone”, which would have this game built-in.

Fortune Telling

Pick a card out o’ 5 & get a random fortune-cookie message with a label telling you how lucky you are & a picture o’ a character that corresponds to that luckiness.

  • Extremely Unlucky: Bowser
  • Unlucky: Koopa Shell
  • Lucky: Luigi
  • Very Lucky: Mario
  • Extremely Lucky: Peach

This otherwise pointless minigame does have 1 significance to the general game: if you find Peach’s “Extremely Lucky” fortune, a “10up” message pops up. From then on any new save you make for Classic Mode or “Super Mario Bros. for Super Players” will start you with 10 lives ‘stead o’ 5.

I don’t know how the “algorithm” for determining what fortune message you get relates to the luckiness level you get, if they relate @ all, but oft I’d find messages I’d get don’t sound as lucky as they claim to be.

With as many times as this game lets you make your own messages for things, it’d be nice if you could make your own fortunes.

I present to you the best o’ the fortunes I received:

Lucky: The Warp Zone speeds success

Speedy success is very unlucky…

Lucky: Enemies lurk in watery depths

¡But enemies lurking in watery depths is lucky!

Lucky: Feelings shared will be understood

Too bad they ran out o’ room to say who would understand them.

Extremely Lucky: Look below to find what you seek

Peach knows most gamers are wankers.

Extremely Lucky: Keep a good grasp Fortune will last

“Ne’er let go” is great advice for healthy living.

Very Lucky: Express yourself with written word

…needs proper grammar to do well.

This isn’t e’en a fortune, but a command.

Unlucky: Sincere apologies renew friendships

Damn straight that’s unlucky. I was glad those bums left my life.

An eye to the sky reveals Red coins

This isn’t e’en an accurate gameplay tip.

Extremely Unlucky: Favorite tunes never fade

¡I hate keeping things I absolutely adore!

Lucky: Beware of winds from the west

Luigi is thrilled by the prospect o’ climate change caused by greedy westerners & their polluting industries.

Extremely Unlucky: Change old habits Yield new success

I hate both change & success.

Extremely Unlucky: Seek answers in a friend's advice

If you’re desperate ‘nough to ask those bozos for advice, you truly are unlucky as can be.

Lucky: He who thinks of you is beside you. Unlucky: What you seek is right behind you

@ 1st I thought these were the same & was going to make fun o’ these for being both unlucky & lucky, but I just noticed a subtle difference. Clearly having someone after me find me is better than having something I want near me.

Yoshi Is Here!

This is the aforementioned roulette that shows the general vicinity o’ a Yoshi egg in a level for Challenge Mode.

Mystery Room

This is a table that fills with Toads & ‘ventually Peach as you rescue them in Classic Mode. For each 1 o’ them you get weird pictures you can make messages for & print if you had a Game Boy Printer. These images range from blown-up grayscale pixel-art o’ Super Mario Bros. sprites to Nintendo logo banners to pixelated versions o’ official art for this game, to weird splash images you can set to replace the title screen splash image.

Posted in GBC Tribute, Video Games

GBC Tribute: Pokémon Special Pikachu Edition ( Yellow )

I’ve already written most o’ what I have to say ‘bout the 1st generation games in my rambling post on the Pokémon main game series in general, so this post will be brief.

What I want to highlight is that part o’ this game that most pertains to the Game Boy Color: its peculiar color palettes. Though Game Boy Color games are capable o’ handling multiple palettes @ the same time, Pokémon Yellow uses the same palette system that the Super Game Boy versions o’ Red & Blue did: only 1 monochrome palette @ a time for the o’erworld, but which changes in different places, usually to reflect the place you’re in. Wild routes are green, while towns each have their own palette, usually similar to the town name — Viridian town is a green like viridian, Celedon City is a greenish-gray like celedon, Cerulean City is cerulean, & so on. Other than Pallet, which isn’t a color, but just a different spelling for the word “palette”, Vermilion City is the only exception for variety’s sake, as vermilion is actually just a synonym for cinnabar, which is the name o’ ‘nother town which has that color as its palette.

As a kid ( who didn’t realize the Super Game Boy versions o’ Red & Blue had this feature, too, not having a Super Game Boy ), this stood out to me, artistically, for reasons I didn’t know then, & now can only guess is ‘cause seeing a single hue @ a time makes each stand out mo’ on their own, than diluted in a mix ‘mong others.

I bring this up, ‘course, ‘cause this palette system o’ having a different monochrome palette for each place heavily inspired the palette system in Boskeopolis Land, where each level map & different sections o’ the o’erworld have a single monochrome palette.

Posted in GBC Tribute, Video Games

GBC Tribute: Wario Land II & 3

Wario Land II was 1 o’ the launch titles for the Game Boy Color & 1 o’ the few games rereleased to take advantage o’ the Game Boy Color’s better palette, the original being a monochrome Game Boy game. ’Cause o’ that I think o’ it mo’ as a Game Boy Color game — that’s the version I always played, a’least.

Wario Land 3 came out a few years later, specifically for the Game Boy Color. It’s a bit weirder & less grounded in the Wario universe, but I think it has a mo’ creative gameplay gimmick & cleverer level design, & consider it my favorite game o’ all time.

It’s hard to write ’bout the 2 games without comparing each other. They have almost the same physics, controls, & movement, similar graphics ( Wario’s sprites are almost the same ), almost the same status effects, & invulnerability. I would bet money they share the same game engine.

Physics, Abilities, & Controls

I should describe said physics & effects. They’re quite different from what’s in most 2-D platformers. As mentioned, Wario’s invincible: challenge is not done through killing Wario & making you restart the level from a checkpoint, but through much cleverer use o’ level & enemy design. Enemy’s don’t hurt Wario, but effect him in various ways. Usually they just knock him back, which can cause him to fall off platforms, making you climb back up. But other enemies give Wario various status effects that can help or hinder him in different contexts:

Springy: makes Wario hop upward constantly, allowing him to reach greater heights, & forcing him upward. Caused by being bopped with hammers.

Puffy: makes Wario float upward. Like “springy”, it makes Wario go upward till he hits a ceiling, whether you want it or not. Caused by being stung.

Flat: allows Wario to cross gaps while crouching in short corridors & allows him to reach far, tight corridors; but also makes his jumps short & keeps him from picking up enemies or entering doors. Cured by water. Caused by being flattened.

Fire: causes Wario to run round for a while, then bursts into flames, & then stops, turns to ashes, & returns to normal. Useful for breaking fire blocks, but can also cause Wario to fall off platforms. Cured sooner through water.

Zombie: causes Wario to fall through thin platforms if he lands on them from the air. In Wario Land 3 he can jump a short bit, but not in Wario Land II. Cured by light or water. Caused by, well, zombies.

Fat: Wario’s jump is limited & he can’t climb ladders or enter doors — but he can break strong blocks by landing on them & can cause downward elevators to go down in Wario Land II. Cured by moving round a lot ( exercising ); caused by eating cake or apples.

Wario also has various other abilities, like the ability to roll & jump into thin passageways blocked by cracked blocks or the ability to pick up & throw enemies. This is part o’ the weirdness o’ Wario Land’s physics: if Wario touches an enemy & doesn’t get hurt, he bumps into them, which can feel weird @ 1st. If they’re stunned, he picks them up & can throw them, which can be useful for breaking throw blocks or moving enemies to certain places. He can also jump off enemies & get greater height by holding Up while doing so ( in Wario Land 3, you need the winged boot treasure to do so ).

Game Design

I sometimes think o’ Wario Land II as the best-made prototype in the world. It created the basic physics, controls, & everything else I listed ’bove; but I always felt Wario Land 3 married them to gameplay that perfectly fit it. It had this clever hybrid o’ classic Mario & Metroidvania, with a bit o’ Super Mario 64 built-in: each level has 4 different-colored pairs o’ keys & chests — gray, red, green, & blue. However, you don’t just grab all o’ them @ once. Each key & chest pair could be thought o’ as a “goal” o’ the level, with 4 goals per level, & most o’ them are blocked off @ 1st. In order to be able to access later chests ( as well as later levels ), you have to collect earlier chests to collect items, which can unlock new levels, change already-unlocked levels, or give Wario new abilities.

Though what most would call Wario Land 3’s story ( see below ) is dumb, what I consider it’s true story is much mo’ interesting — the 1 told through gameplay. That story is the treasures you collect & how they change the game. I don’t know why, but there’s something immensely pleasing ’bout permanently changing levels, ’specially when it’s done o’er a long period. There’s something enjoyable ’bout seeing those 5-ton blocks blocking those passageways for so long, making one wonder what’s ’hind there, only to finally, near the end, get the red & blue chemicals that cause it to sink into the dirt, or to see that green key up on that unreachable cliff @ the end o’ the 1st level, only to come back with a higher jump ability to be able to jump up & reach it.

While Wario Land 3 does have a lot mo’ treasures that just change things without you doing anything, as opposed to, say, Super Metroid, which has you taking a mo’ active role in using your collectibles, what I think Wario Land 3 has that’s better is that its treasures have mo’ memorable character to them. Super Metroid’s were mostly just abstract things like “super bombs” or “screw attack”, that you don’t truly think ’bout as real things, whereas Wario Land 3 was full o’ exotic items like axes, octopus food, garlic, snake eyes, crayons, & a book & scepter. Sure, some o’ the treasures didn’t make sense: ¿why did 2 map halves cause a tornado to move ’way from “The Volcano’s Base”?

Wario Land II, meanwhile, has a much less ambitious gameplay gimmick: it’s just mostly straight levels challenging you to get to the end, with a few levels having simple alternate goals, such as attacking an alarm clock or anchor or defeating a boss or doing nothing @ the start o’ a level for long ’nough, & a few levels with a 2nd exit, leading to branching story paths. It did have fun-looking treasures like pipes, gems, wine bottles, computers, &, er… racist shrunken black faces… but, uh… those treasures were just found by playing the same minigame found in some door placed somewhere in the level. A lot o’ the time, that door doesn’t e’en seem to be in the most hidden place; sometimes it just feels like they just put it in the middle o’ some random room, as if trying to throw off players who expect that such a normal door could ne’er be the minigame. Also, the treasures do nothing but contribute to 100%.

Wario Land II’s story makes mo’ sense, but isn’t any mo’ entertaining. In fact, Wario Land 3’s cutscenes are mo’ interesting in that they ’splain how the world changes, whereas Wario Land II’s are just repetitive demonstrations o’ Syrup & her henchmen stealing Wario’s stuff, Wario chasing them, & Wario returning home after beating them, as if we couldn’t use our imagination to figure out such things could happen ( granted, the same could apply to 3 ).

Wario Land II is a great game with levels that feel like fun romps; it’s just that Wario Land 3’s level design feels like masterwork in comparison. Like I said, Wario Land II feels like a great prototype: it created the dynamic & created a simple game with a simple gimmick to test it out, while Wario Land 3 perfected it.

The 1 gameplay element I think Wario Land II did better than Wario Land 3 was the use o’ money. Wario Land 3’s worst flaw is that, for a game centered round a greedy treasure-collector, money doesn’t play a big part. Yeah, he still collects treasures; but coins themselves are quite rare, max out @ a measely 999, & are only used for the minigolf game. Wario Land II only uses its coins for its minigames ( though these are mo’ common, so they’re needed mo’ ), but its levels are filled with coins, & you can have far mo’ than 999 coins in total ( though that is the per-level max — if you’re lucky ’nough to get ’nough ). E’en if the coins weren’t used for anything, exploring levels & breaking walls for hidden caches o’ coins is fun, & the 1 thing Wario Land II’s otherwise less deep levels have that Wario Land 3’s don’t.

Level Design

But other than that, I’d say Wario Land 3’s level design is definitely superior. Like I said, Wario Land II’s are mostly simple romps. The most complex its levels become is becoming windy mazes. The way Wario Land 3 meshes together its 4 goals is clever & intriguing. 1 detail I love is how treasures have themes surrounding the level change that allowed you to get that treasure. For instance, just recently playing it I noticed that the room for the green key in “The Big Bridge” forces you to throw an enemy to break a wall… which is fitting, since the treasure that unlocks this treasure is the glove that lets you throw enemies. But since I don’t go down there for the green key till I know I can get the green chest, I hadn’t realized that till now.

The key-&-chest dynamic also allows for mo’ interesting paths through levels, as it’s not just a straight way from point A to B, but a path from A to B & then to C, which may be closer to A. In fact, in many levels, the gray chest is @ the start. In “Beneath the Waves” & “Castle of Illusions”, the chests are all in subrooms o’ this big hub room, all accessible from the start, while it’s the keys that are locked ’hind various things. Some treasures, like the blue treasure in “The Volcano’s Base”, are mean & give you easy access to both the chest & the key… but getting the key forces you to fall down a hole, forcing you to go through a bunch o’ challenges to get back out so you can get back to the chest.

1 interesting note is that this common pattern in Wario Land 3 was probably the inspiration for Wario Land 4 basing all its levels’ designs on getting something later & then returning back to the start. I would also add that there’s an e’en weaker hint to this in Wario Land II in the form o’ Secret Chapter 2, Story 4’s exit, which is right ’bove the start, but blocked off. You have to go all the way round through the whole level to reach the top, where you can actually reach the exit. So you can see a gradual evolution o’ this idea from Wario Land II to Wario Land 4.

Bosses are also less predictable. Wario Land II always has its bosses @ the end o’ every chapter, & most o’ them are simple. Wario Land 3 strews them round much less orderly, making them much more o’ a surprise. Also, while most o’ them are simple, you do get weirder 1s, like Wolfenboss, who forces you to hit it by ricocheting Goombas off walls, & Doll Boy, who forces you to knock a glowing barrel out o’ 3 to gradually force him to the ground.

The only problem with Wario Land 3’s bosses is that in most playthroughs they’re all crammed ’fore the halfway point & that there’s difficulty balance problems: Wolfenboss, the 3rd boss & usually the 15th treasure, is the hardest boss & possibly the hardest part o’ the game, while the 1st boss, Doll Boy, is the 2nd hardest. E’en the final boss is a joke compared to them. They have random, hard to dodge projectiles while all o’ the final boss’s attacks can be dodged by just high jumping o’er all o’ them

Minigames

Wario Land 3 has 1 minigame: wherein you must time button presses on a counter on a meter so that the enemy lands in the hole within a certain # o’ turns. You only need to beat this minigame to collect 12 treasures, thankfully.

Wario Land II, meanwhile, has 2 minigames for all 50 levels: a simple memory game wherein you get a short ’mount o’ time to see all the panels before they flip o’er & you need to remember where a certain enemy’s head was to get the level treasure, & a “guess the #” game wherein you bet mo’ money for every panel that flips o’er, revealing more o’ the #, which nets you a piece o’ some map. The 1st is found in some door found within the level somewhere, which can easily be missed, while the 2nd is always given to you @ the end o’ a level ( ’less you already beat it, ’course ). The 2nd game can be somewhat interesting in the way it challenges you to balance ’tween wasting too much money & guessing too early & being mo’ likely to get it wrong. Then ’gain, if one has ’nough money, one can trivialize the 2nd game by just revealing all the panels. The 1st game, however, gets ol’ quickly.

Wario Land II technically doesn’t require you to beat any minigames to simply beat the game — only for 100%. However, if merely beating Wario Land II is your goal, well, you’ve got an easy goal, ’cause if you know what you’re doing, you can beat Wario Land II in just 5 levels. E’en if you’re playing normally, it takes just 25 levels.

As much as I don’t like the minigolf game in Wario Land 3, it’s much better than the minigames in Wario Land II, mostly due to not being as repetitive, but also simply ’cause it’s more o’ an actual game than some simple-minded thing e’en I could make in JavaScript. The minigolf game requires some strategy, aiming, & timing to get the Para-Goom in the right place, which becomes mo’ challenging in arenas with mo’ dangers; the memory game simply requires quick eyes & good pattern recognition. The #-guessing game does have some mo’ in-depth strategy, but not as much. You do have to balance your willingness to risk having to beat the level ’gain vs. paying mo’ money to better ensure you know what # it is. ( This ’specially comes into play with levels with multiple exits: you want to guess early on these levels, since you’ll have to beat them ’gain, anyway ).

Character Design

Wario Land II did do other things better than Wario Land 3; but these are o’ less importance. For instance, Wario Land II had better, mo’ memorable, mo’ iconic character design. “Mysterious Figure” who turns out to be evil clown who tricked Wario into doing his biding may be so stupid it’s funny, but he’ll ne’er compare to Cap’n Syrup. In general, Wario Land 3’s enemy designers seemed stranger than Wario Land II’s. Those cyan Spearheads always looked freakier & felt… wronger than the bandanaed Pirate Gooms. & while Wario Land II has simple bees in a forest sting Wario to make him puffy, Wario Land 3 has whatever those “Pneumo” things are s’posed to be. It makes sense, since Wario Land 3 is s’posed to be a strange, fantasy world — & I’ve read some people say they prefer its weirdness. E’en the small touches kinda get me: for instance, I always thought it made mo’ sense that Wario became fat from eating a cake from a cook in a chef’s hat in Wario Land II than eating an apple from… some weird monster or some mole thing in a hole in Wario Land 3.

Level Themes

Wario Land II also had a mo’ interesting variety o’ level themes. Wario Land 3 stays a bit too close to grasslands, caves, & water areas. It has 3 whole volcano levels, 2 o’ which have similar names. Other common themes like ice, castle, & cloud get 1 level each, there are 2 town levels, a bridge level, which is somewhat refreshing, & 1 truly strange level that’s in some alien void. Meanwhile, Wario Land II has an entire town chapter, an entire factory chapter, & has train levels strewn ’bout them, a ruins chapter, a haunted-mansion chapter, plenty o’ castle levels, & pirate ship levels.

Actually, I’ve noticed that the themes the 1st 3 Wario Land games ( we’ll ignore the Virtual Boy version, since only 5 people in the world played that game ) have a similar level o’ creativity to the 1st 3 Donkey Kong Country games, with the 2nd game having the most creative level themes, while the 1st had the least… Though the 1st Wario Land did have a few train levels & beach levels, so it’s quite competitive with Wario Land 3, while the 1st Donkey Kong Country is unquestionably the blandest ( it had 2 cave worlds, 1 o’ which was the last world ), so maybe that’s unfair to the 1st Wario Land.

Graphics

Wario Land II’s graphics were a bit mixed. In general, I thought Wario Land II was mo’ colorful. I definitely prefer how Wario looks in II: he wears yellow & has a slightly bluish-purple tint to his outline & o’eralls. For some reason I can’t fathom, they changed him to wearing white with black o’eralls in Wario Land 3. In general, Wario Land II is mo’ likely to use pastels like pink & purple, which I prefer, whereas Wario Land 3 mostly sticks to earthy browns, greens, cyans, & reds.

That said, a lot o’ the time Wario Land II’s graphics feel less detailed than Wario Land 3’s. It’s common for the ground & walls to have only a small rocky pattern @ the edge only to quickly fade into solid black for most o’ its body. Wario Land II also seems to have much mo’ cutoff & in general, jankier textures & backgrounds. I’m dearly glad that Wario Land II cut down on the cave levels, ’cause while Wario Land 3 has quite a lot, they a’least look quite decent ( I do like the teal tint on some o’ them ), while Wario Land II’s look hideous. In general, I’m glad that Wario Land II has less natural levels than Wario Land 3, ’cause Wario Land II’s generally look much worse than its mo’ residential areas.

Music

Wario Land 3 definitely has better music. The only songs anyone cares ’bout from II are “Underwater Tunnels” & the credits theme, “The Journey Home” ( though I don’t think Upon the Rooftop”, Stop that Train”, & “Escape from the Factory” are so bad, & the “Minigame” song is quite catchy — & “Return the Hen to her Nest” feels like it should be the iconic Wario song ). But then you get a lot o’ bizarre cacophony like “Through the Thorny Maze”. The rest are just forgettable.

Wario Land 3’s music isn’t much better, but it’s a li’l. It has the greatest credits theme o’ all time, & a much catchier title screen song. I’m also quite fond o’ “Tidal Coast / Sea Turtle Rocks / Beneath the Waves”, “The Peaceful Village / A Town in Chaos ( Day )”, & the final boss music; & “Above the Clouds ( Night )” is gorgeous. Forest of Fear” & The Peaceful Village / A Town in Chaos ( Night )” nicely fit their levels’ atmospheres. Desert Ruins / Tower of Revival” is also quite catchy for a desert theme. The only songs I’d truly say are bad are, say, “Colossal Hole / Cave of Flames”, which sounds too slow, as if it’s stuttering, & “The Volcano’s Base / The Castle of Illusions ( Day )” & “The West / East Crater”, which can get grating.

Bonus: The Best & the Worst Levels, Exits, & Treasures

The 5 Best Wario Land II Levels

Evidence that Wario Land II had inferior level design to Wario Land 3 was that ’twas harder to decide which levels were best & worst since its levels were far less memorable than 3’s. ( To be fair, ’twas easier to find good levels than bad, since II rarely has levels that were memorably annoying, mostly just forgettable levels ). I will give Wario Land II 1 thing: given the limitations o’ its simple “find a secret treasure door, get to the end, & maybe find a secret exit in a few levels” gameplay, it squeezed out a few clever levels. This further backs my point that Wario Land II is the best prototype.

5. Mansion-4

It’s clever the way this level lures you into a feeling o’ fake safety till the switch, & then makes the way back challenge you to remember the level & adjust based on subtle changes the switch made, including added enemies.

With you starting right under the goal & the middle point acting as a switch that opens up the goal, but also significantly changes the level on the way back, we see a big predecessor to Wario Land 4’s “folded” level design.

The downside is that the “lights on, lights out” gimmick is used a lot in this game already; but this is definitely the best use.

4. Ruins-3

This level’s main gimmick, the challenge o’ maneuvering Rolling Wario, is so simple, & yet so rare. While it’s done a few times in slight ways in other levels, this is the only level that truly focuses on it.

I also love how the level gives you the goal right @ the beginning. But the developers know you don’t want to just beat the level, but to get the treasure, which requires you to delve deep into the level.

3. Town-3

This is a level that’s just fun to explore, that feels big, e’en when, looking @ the full map, it seems as if it’s actually smaller than most levels. Contra the delusion o’ some games ( cough as I mutter, “Banjo-Tooie” ), small levels can actually be better for exploration if done right, as you’re not bored brainless by tedious long tracks o’ holding 1 direction for minutes.

Adding to the nonlinear aspect o’ this level, there’s 2 ways to get to the treasure door from 2 different ways, & the easier way is deceptive: it’s hole you’d naturally not want to fall in, e’en though it’s a hole so small you’d have to intentionally fall in, which should make savvy players wonder why designers would put that there…

2. Cellar-2

While this game feels short on gimmicks that stand out, & most gimmicks that do are o’erused, like “lights on, lights off”, platforms that move up & down depending on whether you’re fat or not, & the owl, this level’s gimmick — falling rocks that randomly alternate ’tween small rocks you can pick up & throw & big rocks that turn you flat — is a clever mix o’ 2 seemingly completely separate mechanics that you’d ne’er expect someone to come up with.

1. Cellar-3

It seems odd to include this since it’s such a straightforward level, but it’s the best straightforward level in this game. The cleverness o’ its design is subtle, particularly the arrangement o’ the rising & falling blades & how you’re s’posed to dodge them: sometimes you need to move while they’re up, sometimes down.

The treasure door is well-hidden, too: rather than being in 1 o’ the highlighted holes, as in the other train level, it’s in 1 o’ the holes you’re usually inclined to jump o’er.

Being a train level also adds points, ’cause train levels are rare to be refreshing. This is also the nicest looking train level, & the 1 that twists things mo’ than the other.

Close But No Cigar

Town-4

The clever way this level uses conveyor belts almost made this beat Mansion-4, but this level lost points for requiring you to break through a bunch o’ seemingly solid blocks to find the secret exit.

Cellar-4

This also made clever use o’ the “lights on, lights off” gimmick, but not as much as Mansion-4.

The 5 Worst Wario Land II Levels

5. Syrup-4

I was mixed ’bout putting this here. It’s the 2nd-to-last level ( for the main storyline ), but is just a long trudge through a maze o’ block-breaking to the end. Doesn’t seem particularly clever & feels repetitive; & for that in the 2nd-to-last level makes it particularly a letdown.

On the other side, 1 could see this is an interesting bonus, a breather, just ’fore the end. Maybe if said breather were a bit less repetitive & fun that’d work better.

4. Mansion-3

What I love most ’bout this level is that most o’ the rooms have li’l importance to beating the level ’cept for the 1st & last rooms. & then the treasure door is just standing right in the middle o’ the middle room, not e’en bothering to hide.

The gimmick o’ this level is that you can only enter 1 or 2 doors in the hub @ a time. When you enter & exit a door, a different door ( or doors ) opens while the last open door closes. You can enter the door with the goal in it @ 1st, labeled “V”, but you need to hit a switch to reach it, so you have to enter & exit a bunch o’ other rooms till you reach the last room, labeled “I”, with the switch, hit it, exit, & then go back to room “V”, which conveniently opens afterward.

The only “challenge” in this level is collecting money. But doing that’s annoying, since you can only get quite a bit o’ the money after hitting the switch, forcing you to go through all the rooms a 2nd time.

The fact that none o’ the rooms have much interesting only hurts this level mo’.

3. Final

This is the kind o’ level the average amateur rom hacker makes: it’s not hard, it’s just there to waste your time & annoy you. Since it’s s’posed to be a “time attack”, I guess that’s the point. But after losing a lot o’ time ’cause some enemy with finicky physics bumped the wrong way, ¿why would you care ’bout getting a good time in a bad level? That this is the “reward” for 100% makes it mo’ a letdown. A’least Wario Land 3’s time attack was for levels that were actually good ( ¿Why not just create a time attack mode for all II’s levels, like in 3? ) Hell, e’en the extra golf courses were a better reward, since e’en those were less annoying.

If its time-wasting challenges were fair, it would be fine; but they’re all based on this game’s finicky physics. For instance, you have to get an enemy through thin corridors without accidentally bumping them ‘hind you, & then you need to go ‘cross platforms by hopping on Para-Gooms from the side, but not be too far on the side, or else Wario will magically pick them up from ‘bove.

O, & the end is ’nother Giant Spear Man. ¿Why did they use this miniboss so much? I guess in this case they a’least made it a bit mo’ challenging, whereas the others were all ’bout the same.

The only reason this level isn’t lower down is ’cause it a’least has interesting aesthetics & is a’least memorable.

2. Ruins 2

I thought ’bout putting this lower on the list due to the interesting way the level loops vertically. But that’s not that interesting to make up for how repetitive this level is. You basically just break through branching paths o’ same-looking vertical passages till you find the seemingly randomly-placed treasure door & boss door ( yet ‘nother Giant Spear Man ).

Its only other puzzles are the simplest examples o’ swimming & owl puzzles ( ¿why is there an owl down in underground ruins? ). The swimming puzzle is literally just swimming round 5 bends to dodge 5 bubbles, copy-&-paste.

A’least the final level was somewhat creative in its badness.

1. Cellar-5

This level’s greatest sin is just having nothing notable ’bout it. It’s a string o’ various simple puzzles revolving round simple, obvious use o’ status effects, none o’ which haven’t been seen elsewhere, & then a boss door just ’bove the boss-failure door. Worse, most o’ the so-called puzzles are just for coins, & are not challenging, merely time-consuming.

The most “interesting” part is the room in the middle, which is yet ’nother room full o’ dirt where you just break through blocks to create a maze path. So it’s an uglier, less creative version o’ the 5th worst level.

The 10 Best Wario Land 3 Treasures

10. E2 The Frigid Sea, Blue

’Twas a hard fight ’tween this & the red treasure. Both are the 2 only times in which Wario’s “Snowman” status effect is used.

The blue treasure is all in a door @ the end o’ the level, reachable either by going through the waterfall @ day ( when it’s melted ) or swimming through the current ’neath. From there, the blue chest is right @ the start with the blue key just below, blocked by snowball blocks. In order to get it, you need to go all the way to the right, dodging all the falling snowballs, & then get hit by a snowball @ the end to roll through the block.

The red chest is past throw blocks @ the start o’ the level & requires using Snowman Wario to break through blocks to reach a 2nd room, & then get to the end o’ that room while dodging falling snow & using the slope @ the end to reach the red chest.

However, the red key is in a completely different room in the middle o’ the level, also blocked by throw blocks. Inside is just a series o’ small platforms leading up to the red key, with birds to knock you down.

I prefer the blue treasure ’cause it’s mo’ focused & refined, & I like the way you can either use daylight ( you need to collect a treasure to unlock daylight in the East ) or stronger flippers to go through currents to get it. Technically, the red treasure also has something like that: you can get the treasure as soon as you get the small gloves, but it’s harder, since there’s only 1 li’l rock quite far from the throw block areas. If you do it with the big gloves you can just use the plentiful Brrr Bears.

I was mixed on whether the bird red-key room is good or bad. On 1 hand, there’s something to the challenge o’ slippery platforms & birds; on the other hand, slipperiness isn’t that interesting, & it’s rather irrelevant to the chest part.

9. E6 The East Crater, Green

This could also be compared to ’nother treasure, “W6 The West Crater, Blue”. Both use streams that make Wario float upward ’less he’s fat or a vampire.

However, the choice wasn’t hard: though W6’s has an interesting puzzle where you have to time falls into holes to avoid bumping an item you’re holding so you can throw it @ something ’cross the room, I found to alternately intentionally use Vampire Wario to reach the bottom & then try to avoid vampire-causing bats as normal Wario by weaving through them to the chest in E6 to be better. Plus, E6 doesn’t require that pointless minigolf game, & as I’ll show you later, there’s a treasure that does the “bring carryable round streams” part better.

8. E2 The Frigid Sea, Green

This is the only treasure to use a mechanic wherein you can freeze & unfreeze water by hitting a switch. @ the beginning, the water is, well, water, so you can reach the chest, but not the key. You need to hit the switch so you can reach the key, & then hit it ’gain to get the chest.

( Or you could clip through the wall to reach the key while the water’s unfrozen, allowing you to skip hitting the switch @ all. )

The platforming that leads to the switch is somewhat interesting, too: you want to avoid the holes to make it to the switch, but the only way to get back is to fall in a hole. The room ’tween the key & chest room & the switch room when going for the key is also… odd. ¿Why’s that Doughnuteer there? ¿Just to minorly slow you down if you’re incompetent ’nough to accidentally get hit by it?

7. N2 The Peaceful Village, Green

The coolest thing ’bout this treasure is that it can be reached in 2 different ways, the straightforward way through a door only open @ night & a long way through a secret passage that is required if you’re doing this @ day.

The main gimmick o’ this treasure, once you reach its room, is that you need to turn invisible @ the bottom o’ the room, & then climb up the top without getting hit by electricity, get the key from a room with hopping fish, & then get a chest a li’l after. This gimmick’s been done much better in a treasure I’ll write ’bout farther into the list.

6. W4 A Town in Chaos, Blue

This also uses streams that move you upward, but the challenge o’ trying to take the enemy with you so you can throw him @ blocks blocking you from reaching the key without being able to actually carry him while on the streams is much mo’ refined than in W6. It’s actually quite technical & precise, trying to aim the enemy so that he goes where you want to go & trying to pick it up ( which requires bumping it to stun it ) without knocking it off.

5. W3 The Pool of Rain, Gray

This is the only treasure that uses a mechanic wherein you ground pound wooden poles, lowering that pole while raising others. Trying to do this quickly, for time attacks or speedruns, is quite difficult. There’s a trick to get through the 1st section quickly by charge attacking @ the enemy on the cliff so that you bounce up to it, but it can be finicky to pull off.

4. E5 The Warped Void, Red

This & the green treasure are the only treasures to use a specific warp mush mechanic wherein you warp to a room & dodge warp mush to reach a key or chest.

However, while the green treasure has an extra challenge o’ breaking throw blocks by carrying items, & hopping as a big enemy quakes the ground to avoid breaking the throwable, reaching the chest in the warp room is trivial. In the red treasure, however, both the key & the chest are in the warp room & you have to weave round to reach both.

3. E7 Forest of Fear, Green

Strangely, while Wario Land II has a few places with platforms that only enemies can stand on, but you can’t, this is the only treasure that uses it ( the red treasure goes here, but doesn’t need the enemy or the line it walks on ). Rather than timing jumps on the enemy on the line, like you’d usually do in II, you race to the end, avoiding birds, so you’re there to stun & pick it up @ the end.

Afterward you have to weave ’tween garlic as Vampire Wario to reach the top, & then dodge bats as normal Wario to throw an enemy @ throw blocks guarding a green key, & then weave through bats guarding the chest.

2. E6 The East Crater, Blue

As it turns out, in most playthroughs this is the last treasure you get. & what I love ’bout it is that despite that they save a unique gimmick for this: throwing a barrel upward o’er a wall so you can catch it after the wall.

1. N3 The Vast Plain, Blue

This is the much better implementation o’ invisible Wario — which is fitting, since the gray treasure o’ this level is the 1st time you become invisible.

While getting the blue key is just getting to the end while still invisible, the way to get to the chest room while not invisible is clever. The only way to lose invisibility here is to turn into a zombie & turn back to normal by fire. But turning into a zombie makes you fall through any thin platforms, which are all the platforms from the start to the end, & the left side o’ the chest door is blocked from visible Wario. To get to the door while normal, you have to get hit by the zombie while on the eye block o’ the wall that keeps you from passing while visible, since it’s the only non-thin platform. Then you have to move till you’re o’er the fire & then jump & fall through.

The chest room itself pulls a clever twist on the gimmick not seen in any other part o’ this game: this time the level scenery is invisible.

Close But No Cigar

S6 Above the Clouds, Blue

It truly saddened me to cross this 1 off, since it has such beautiful aesthetics, & the moon area is rather creative. But having to jump back down just to get the key & then climb all the way back up seriously loses this points.

S6 Above the Clouds, Green

This 1 was probably e’en closer due to the mechanic o’ you intentionally becoming a zombie to plow through birds. However, I don’t think that mechanic adds ’nough to make it better than the others, & the pointless minigolf requirement ( a dickish 1, since the golf game is way back @ the beginning o’ the level & you won’t know this treasure requires it till you reach its room ) loses it a lot o’ points.

E2 The Frigid Sea, Blue

As mentioned in my #10 choice.

N5 The Tidal Coast, Blue

This has a somewhat creative mechanic in dodging the big octopusses that push you backward if they ram into you. Technically they’re also in “Beneath the Waves”, but those 1s are easy to ignore.

The chest room is also clever, challenging you to jump out o’ the water while dodging fattening apples that’ll send you sinking back down.

However, this isn’t developed much; it would’ve been nice had this gimmick been developed in ’nother treasure. & while dodging the octopusses is unique, in theory, it’s basically just “dodge things while underwater”, which is far from unique, & the octopusses are still quite easy to dodge & don’t do much if you can’t dodge them, either.

The 10 Worst Wario Land 3 Treasures

10. W5 Beneath the Waves, Gray

There’s not much to this treasure: you go up to a room & use trial-&-error to high-jump off an enemy to get the key. Then you go into the treasure hub in the middle o’ the room, go ’cross a few gliders, & then roll into the place with the gray chest. Neither o’ these gimmicks are new here, & they just don’t feel developed much.

It’s not bad; but we’re talking ’bout the 10 “least good” Wario Land 3 treasures; there simply aren’t 10 truly bad treasures.

9. W2 The Volcano’s Base, Blue

’Gain, not a bad treasure, just not particularly good.

Actually, I kind o’ like the way this treasure puts the chest in an easy-to-get place, but forces you to go down into a pit to get the key, & then struggle to get back out. Too bad the challenges in that pit are already all o’er this game: swimming downward avoiding bubbles & flying upward as Vampire Wario, avoiding water drops. It also would’ve been funnier if Wario got the key while falling in, rather than randomly in the middle o’ the 1st room in the pit — ’specially when it’s gotten in virtually the same way as ’nother treasure.

Also, ¿do we need e’en mo’ water areas in a volcano level, too?

8. N4 Bank of the Wild River, Red

Go to the end o’ the level, break through a wall, go into a door to collect a key, go back out & swim back to the start, break a wall near the start, & inside the revealed door is a chest. Worse, making you go to the end to get a key & then swim back to get the chest is very similar to the gray chest, ’cept in caves rather than out in the open.

Much like with the other complaint: ¿does a river level need cave areas, too, when there’s plenty o’ cave levels already?

7. S1 The Grasslands, Red

This loses a lot o’ points for 1 triffle li’l annoyance: breaking a wall you need to break to continue in the cave room forces you to fall off if you don’t know some obscure trick o’ turning round as you charge attack. You then have to go all the way back round to continue breaking the wall. ¿Why’d they do it like that? It’s not mo’ challenging: it just wastes time.

Otherwise, everything else is just thrown in: yet ‘nother minigolf game, the red key’s just on some random series o’ platforms somewhere else, & to get to the cave room, you simply climb yet ‘nother beanstalk dodging yet ‘nother set o’ weird lasers.

6. W4 A Town in Chaos, Red

This may be the only treasure I add partly ‘cause o’ being bad @ video games. The main annoyance o’ this treasure is the final boss, one who’s so easy you have to try to lose to him, but so hard that it takes fore’er to get him in the tiny space ‘tween the goalie & the net. But I have to admit I’ve seen speedrunners do it consistently… Then ‘gain, they can also do 1-block wall jumps in “Bank of the Wild River”. Bopping the turtle to keep him down isn’t much use, as in the time it takes you to bop the rabbit & tackle him toward the net, the turtle will already pop back out.

The detour to get the red key is also annoying, as you have to go all the way into the room that leads to the boss to hit a switch, go back outside all the way to ‘nother room just to get the key, & then go all the way back.

5. W2 The Volcano’s Base, Red & Green

Ugh. ‘Twas just too hard to decide which was the weakest; but the fact that they both exist hurt both o’ them mutually. They’re just too similar: you have to climb up the ladder, dodging those freaky lasers, & then ride a slow moving platform. Moving platforms, ‘course, are the most cliché & banal type o’ autoscrolling level design. Why any game designer thinks they’re fun in any way, I don’t know. They, as well as autoscrollers in general, are like random encounters in RPGS: as far as I know, nobody truly likes them, they just tolerate them ‘cause they’re a tradition. Which is precisely why the particularly best o’ a genre should innovate them out.

Red loses points by making you go all round the top & bottom to get the key, & then go ‘long the top yet ‘gain for the chest. Green loses points for simply adding a minigolf game & nothing else. Green is less tedious, but mo’ boring & empty. Pick your poison.

4. W4 A Town in Chaos, Green

It pains me to put this here, ‘cause the initial challenge to get into the main room is clever: grab a Brrr Bear so that it can spew an ice ball @ you from the other side o’ the fence & push you past the frog in the way. I still remember puzzling o’er how to get into that tantalizing room when I was young.

Unfortunately, everything in that room is terrible: a series o’ rooms with switches with simplistic puzzles you’ve seen a million times already just to get up & become fat so you can break through donut blocks to get the green key, & go all the way back up. E’en better: it’s very easy to mess up breaking the donut blocks so that you have to go up a 3rd time.

3. Sea Turtle Rock, Red

Trying to dodge electric balls while fat is interesting, ‘specially since it’s only used here, but it’s not developed in any way. & then you get ‘nother pointless minigolf game, the chest not being far after the key, & the room itself being just randomly in god-knows-where. There’s also no coherence to this treasure: ¿why electric balls in the middle o’ a cave?

2. N5 The Tidal Coast, Red

This feels like a copy o’ the blue treasure in “The Volcano’s Base”, which was already a not-very-good treasure by itself. While “The Tidal Coast” is a’least a water level, the actual game design o’ this treasure is worse: it doesn’t have the clever trick o’ netting you the key early & challenging you to get out so you can reach the treasure that was, before getting the key, a piewalk to get. This time the red key is just halfway to the chest, the most simplistic o’ A-B-C paths. & while the Volcano’s Base treasure spiced it up a li’l with puzzles where you had to 1st avoid becoming a vampire, & then avoid losing your vampire ability, this treasure has, after the 20th “dodge bubbles” puzzle, just a simple puzzle wherein you throw an enemy through blocks — what must be the 50th.

1. S4 The Steep Canyon, Blue

This is the only treasure in the entire game to put the key just before the chest. Other treasures come close to that, like the red treasure in “Sea Turtle Rock”; but e’en that introduces you to the chest before making you beat the minigolf game to get the key; this treasure literally just has it right before the chest.

This treasure also has a minigolf game, hidden under a stupid secretly-hidden block that infested Wario Land II to no good ( Town 4 level design, basically ). The fire mechanic not only doesn’t fit this treasure where nothing fits together, it also weakens ‘nother level, “S3 Tower of Revival”, by taking a gimmick that otherwise would’ve been only in that level, making that level mo’ special if it had been ( plus, you already have to do this kind o’ puzzle in all 4 o’ that level’s treasures, so by now you’d be tired o’ this puzzle ).

Still not awful, but nothing in Wario Land 3 is. It’s just absent o’ anything particularly good.

Posted in GBC Tribute, Video Games

Game Boy Color & Game Boy Tributes

The Game Boy Color came out 20 years ago & I have nothing better to write ’bout.

Games we’ll be looking @ ( hopefully ):

  • Wario Land II & Wario Land 3
  • Pokémon Special Pikachu Version ( Yellow )
  • Super Mario Bros. Deluxe
  • Pac-Man: Special Color Edition
  • Pokémon Gold & Silver Version
  • Game & Watch Gallery 2 & 3
  • Pokémon Pinball
  • Pokémon Training Card Game
  • Donkey Kong Country
  • Hamtaro: Ham-Hams Unite!

Next year, Game Boy hits its 30th birthday in April; & thus that’ll be when we start our tribute for the regular Game Boy:

Games we’ll look @:

  • The Super Mario Land games
  • Wario Land ( Seriously: it’s not a Super Mario Land game )
  • Donkey Kong
  • Dr. Mario
  • Kirby’s Dream Land I & II
  • The Donkey Kong Land series
Posted in GBC Tribute, Video Games

Unpopular Opinions: Wario Land: Shake It! vs. Wario: Master of Disguise

Yet ’nother case o’ popular opinion contrasting my own, & ’nother wherein I could ne’er read much o’ a reason given for why the popular game is so great. It’s simply entered into popular canon that Wario: Master of Disguise was a bad game, for unexplained reasons, while Wario Land: Shake It! is underrated. ( In the market — which one should ne’er be so silly as to use as a yardstick for quality, since the market isn’t e’en consistent, the minimum criteria for a logical measurement, as EarthBound’s rocket from an infamous flop to 1 o’ the most-bought Virtual Console games proves — neither was successful ).

There is 1 fundamental divergence ’tween me & most o’ the people who talk ’bout these things online that may ’splain it: I’m quite fond o’ creativity, while most people online seem to want to spend mo’ money on the same game with the most minimal o’ changes.

Indeed, what I loved most ’bout the Wario Land series was how much it switched things up. Wario Land II wasn’t ’fraid to completely o’erhaul physics & general gameplay, turning the series from an awkward copy o’ classic Mario to its own puzzle platformer with a focus on exploration & puzzle-solving o’er action ( which is good, as the physics for all the 1st Wario Lands, including the 1st, weren’t good for fast-paced action, being wonky & bumpy as all hell ). Wario Land 3 made up its own cool key & treasure gimmick that made it sort o’ a hybrid o’ Super Mario 64 & Super Metroid; Wario Land 4 gave you freedom to play through worlds in any order, added multiple collectibles per level, changing the nature o’ what “beating” a level meant, & gave full emphasis to what that guy who wrote that pretentious book ’bout it called “folded design”, which was used quite a bit already in Wario Land 3 & in 1 level in Wario Land II.

Wario: Master of Disguise, which as a kid I always considered to be ’nother Wario Land game & was confused why they didn’t just call it “Wario Land 5”, furthers that trend by replacing the Wario Land II4 status effects with disguises which you collect throughout the game & put on & use through the touch screen. For instance, you draw a circle round Wario’s head to turn him into a space man who can shoot lasers @ where you touch the screen; you can turn Wario into a painter by drawing a box with a line through it o’er him & draw things onto the screen, including hearts to reheal yourself, blocks to reach certain places or push switches, & li’l walking dookies that appear if you try drawing anything else. This last 1 seems like a silly li’l joke to patch up any unforeseen uses o’ this tool, but it’s actually used in a clever puzzle boss who has a phase that turns their head into a toilet & must drop a dookie in to attack it. It’s clever ’cause it challenges you to rethink a mechanic that seems like just a patch or an easter egg that has no game significance into a useful game mechanic — a “Magikarp Power”, as they call it in the mean streets, chili dog.

Contrast that with Wario Land: Shake It!, which heavily copies Wario Land 4, but without the clever design that made Wario Land 4 great. While every Wario game before it had a unique core level mechanic, — find the exit, complete some goal using status effects, get the key & chest using status effects, hit the switch & return to the start using status effects, get to the boss room using disguises — Wario Land: Shake It!’s mostly just Wario Land 4’s “return to the start using status effects” ’gain, but with less emphasis on status effects & nothing interesting to replace status effects. Whereas Wario: Master of Disguise has its clever disguises, Wario Land: Shake It! has a litany o’ well-worn platformer cliches controlled through motion controls: swinging on vines, shooting cannons, conveyor belts with switches, submarine controls, things that make you go fast like Sonic. Most o’ these have been used many times by Donkey Kong Country games — & in much better ways, too ( face it: Wario Land: Shake It! couldn’t come close to competing with Donkey Kong Country Returns ).

Now, Master of Disguise needed touch controls for its gimmick. The only way you could draw a circle round Wario’s head would be to move a cursor with a control pad, & that would be wretched. Using button combinations or a select screen would sap any fun out o’ it. Meanwhile, Wario Land: Shake It! doesn’t need motion controls for anything it has. We know this ’cause, as I established, every mechanic it has was taken from games that didn’t have motion controls. Games have had aiming cannons with buttons for years, & they were mo’ accurate & less wobbly; having to slam the Wiimote down to do some earthquake move is annoying & the Wii’s typical use o’ motion control simply as a simple button.

Don’t get me started on the submarine, which falls into the classic case o’ fake difficulty in easy games through limiting you by making you cumbersomely slow. Contra’s known for being a hardcore game with true difficulty, & yet it didn’t need to slow you down; Super Meat Boy made the main character1 move swiftly, making the game feel action-packed, while still making the game challenging. It amuses me that a much easier game felt the need to fake difficulty through bad physics when much harder games for those who want high difficulty didn’t feel the need to do such. All it does is make the former just as easy, just less fun, while the latter attain both difficulty, & fun & games that don’t do such, like Master of Disguise2, are both easy & fun. Shake It! gave something up & gained nothing.

In general, the Wii’s motion controls were inferior to the DS’s touch controls ( which ’splains why touch controls are the standard for mobile devices, while motion controls are still rightfully treated as a gimmick; e’en the Switch still has touch controls for basic menu manipulation, but only uses motion controls as a rare supplement for some games3 ). Wario Land: Shake It! suffers from this. But then, to be fair, Wario Land: Shake It! might’ve been better if it actually made a game mechanic ’hind its motion controls as Master of Disguise did; ’stead, it just slaps on motion controls onto a bootleg Wario Land 4.

The only notable innovation Shake It! makes are the extra level challenges, which are lame & annoying & it’d be a cold day in hell before I e’er bother to try them. They involve dumb shit like “don’t touch some random block” in a level that happens to have that block fall down on you from offscreen. Most levels have a challenge wherein you must get to the end within a certain time limit, which requires going a certain path that you won’t know till you go through it. It’s just a ’scuse to make you play the same level repeatedly till you memorize the level & don’t get gotchaed, like many games o’ the Wii era ( looking @ you, Donkey Kong Country Returns ). That would be fine if the levels were short & sweet, like a good action game ( like Super Meat Boy ) would have, but they’re not: they’re rather long levels that clearly expect you to explore, & yet punish you for making li’l mistakes, which you’d naturally do in exploring, since the whole point o’ exploring is trying things out & seeing what happens. This is yet ’nother example in this gaming era ( looking @ Super Mario Galaxy ) in which developers couldn’t see what made action platformers like Super Meat Boy good with their short, pixel-perfect expectations & what made puzzle platformers like Wario Land 3 good with their complex levels that expected you to explore & try things out without punishing you & making you redo entire levels ’cause something fell on you from offscreen.

To be fair, Wario Land 4 had this problem sometimes, such as a collectible in “Doodle Woods”, which gave you 1 chance to time your jumps just right while rolling unstoppably through some platforms. However, those were scarce & oft only important on Super Hard difficulty. On the other hand, a’least Wario Land: Shake It! gave you a checkpoint right before unlocking the exit, unlike Wario Land 4, so a’least you could just kill yourself if you screwed up the 2nd half. But then, this creates the conundrum that a game that leads you to intentionally kill yourself so you can accomplish something is probably a badly designed game. @ the very least, Wario: Master of Disguise ( nor Super Meat Boy, which outright gave you a suicide button ) ne’er had this problem ’cause they understood what genre they were trying to be.

People praise Shake It! for aesthetic & writing reasons, which is shallow & baffling. Though I like Shake It!’s cutscene animation, I find its attempt to use hand-drawn animation in gameplay looks stiff & awkward. This is usually the case with these attempts, as the stiff genericism o’ programming doesn’t work with the fluidity & spontaneity o’ good animation. To this day, I still usually find video game graphics that look like video game graphics look better than attempts to make video games look like animated cartoons, & Master of Disguise vs. Shake It! is no exception.

While people praise Shake It! for its music, I prefer Master of Disguise’s. Shake It! has good variety & better instrumentation ( being on a mo’ powerful console ), but many o’ its melodies are forgettable. Some o’ the jazzier songs, like “Gurgle Gulch”, “Mt. Lava Lava”, & “Glittertown”, sounded somewhat catchy; but most o’ the songs sound like cliché soundtrack music. “Wreck Train”, which also has a lazily stupid name, sounds so trite, it must’ve been stolen, same goes for “Derailed Express” & “Bad Manor”, which also has an awful name. A few o’ the songs seem to remix “Greenhorn Forest” from Wario World, but unfortunately don’t do so with the energy that makes that song so fun.

Many will surely disagree, but I found the melodies to songs such as “Cannoli’s Theme”, & the remix, his e’en better boss battle theme, to be mo’ memorable, & in the latter case, exciting. “Head Honcho Carpaccio” & “Terrormisu” ( way to be a spoiler, song name ), other boss themes, also sounds mo’ exciting & energetic than anything Shake It! had. The final level theme, “Allergia Gardens”, is also memorable & has a nice mix o’ sadness & excitement to work well with a final level. The final level o’ Shake It! is “Bad Manor”, which I’ve already established is utterly forgettable.

To be fair, Master of Disguise had some forgettable songs, too. The song for its own spooky mansion level, “Blowhole Castle” ( which is a better name for a level than either o’ Shake It!’s & has a much mo’ memorable boss ) is as bland as the 2 songs in Shake It!. “Poobah the Pharaoh’s Pyramid” is generic desert music.

& Master of Disguise does have what Shake It! doesn’t have: absolutely obnoxious songs. Listen to this delicious file selection music. The minigame music can also get annoying after the 20th time you’ve heard it.

Wario Land: Shake It!’s level themes are as generic as its level design: it’s the same grasslands, volcanos, caves, & lakes as every platformer, with a casino or train level thrown in. E’en the pirate ship level wasn’t memorable — probably ’cause ’twas a tutorial. Master of Disguise had some generic level themes, like the aforementioned pyramid, but it also had museum, a cruise ship, a laboratory, & a mushroom-filled sunset garden that sort o’ reminds me o’ “Angel Island Zone” from Sonic 3, which are much mo’ exotic for platformers.

People praise Wario Land: Shake It! for bringing back Cap’n Syrup, but ignore the way they messed with her characterization & how insignificant she is to the game. Rather than fighting directly gainst Wario, as in all previous games, she acts sweetly toward him, — e’en calling him handsome @ some points, which doesn’t fit her previous characterization @ all — all for a twist it, ironically, ripped off from Master of Disguise. Indeed, Cap’n Syrup’s new characterization in general is a rip-off o’ Master of Disguise’s Tiramisu, ’cept Tiramisu’s makes sense, since she’s a new character whose whole character is established this way, whereas Cap’n Syrup’s personality is changed to fit this new character’s personality. It’s worse written, a rip-off, & a letdown: ¿wouldn’t it have been better if you actually fought gainst Cap’n Syrup ’stead o’ some generic monster villain? Or hell, if they were going to make Cap’n Syrup a hero ( a’least temporarily ), they should’ve let you play as her.

She’s the only character you could maybe call interesting. The villain, as mentioned, is a generic monster. The princess & other characters you save are just cute creatures. Honestly, I can barely remember any o’ them.

To be fair, Wario Land 4 didn’t have — actually, Wario Land 4 had that cool cat & that hilarious prospector, so I take that back: e’en Wario Land 4 had better character design than Shake It! & was a far superior game in… every other respect that makes Shake It!’s blatant attempt to copy it that much mo’ pathetic.

In addition to Tiramisu, who also tries to suck up to Wario to ( try to, a’least ) backstab him in the end, Master of Disguise has 2 other antagonists, Count Cannoli, a Victorian-style chap in a dark cape & cartoonishly long top hat who was the original owner o’ the wand, using it to pull off his clever gentleman-thief stunts on his TV show, & who’s now bitter that Wario has stolen his wand that gives him his disguise powers & who tries to take it back from you throughout the game, & Carpaccio, a smug pretty boy with shining shades who likes to snap his fingers & who also tries to steal the wand. There’s a twist ‘mong these 2 & the wand @ the end, but you can look that up yourself if you’re interested in such spoilers. They’re not exactly Shakespearean… actually, now that I think ’bout it, Shakespeare wrote some caricature characters, so maybe they are. OK, they’re not exactly Tolstoyan; but they’re a’least memorable to the point that I wished they’d bring them back into ’nother game.

Master of Disguise’s enemies also have far mo’ character than Shake It!’s, who look like Wario Land II rejects. Nothing Shake It! has will e’er come close to “Buffy the Dolphin”, a buff dolphin with phat pex & a speedo who flexes his muscles to shoot electric balls out o’ his armpits; “Blow Globe”, a giant water ball with an eyepatch worthy o’ a James Bond villain who, ’pon being shot to death with lasers, turns into a water drop that can feed beanstalks to make them grow; or “Puffy the Dolphin”, a dolphin with an afro that shoots dangerous fur balls @ you.

Ironically for me, Master of Disguise has mo’ writing; but its writing actually isn’t that bad, & is better than Shake It!’s. Shake It!’s just a bland story o’ rescuing a princess from a villain, while collecting money; Master of Disguise has Wario make a device that puts him in a TV & becomes a superhero after stealing some famous guy named Cannoli’s wand &, in his quest to collect money, gets embroiled in a mythic plot while trying to avoid falling to Cannoli’s revenge to take back his wand, laced with allusions to The Scarlet Pimpernel & Arsène Lupin, Gentleman Burglar.

But the best writing in Master of Disguise is its treasure flavor text, which you can read when looking through the treasures in the menu. ¡What a collection o’ fascinating microstories o’ Hemingway-level succinctness!

Take, for example, the epic story o’ the “Infield Diamond Dirt”:

Infield dirt from a minor league baseball field. Drenched with the tears and sweat of disappointed players, it is rumored that eating this dirt will make your favorite team win the pennant.

Or how ’bout the tragic story o’ the “Scones of Sadness”:

These scones were baked with loving care for that special someone…who ended up being allergic to scones. How very tragic.

Or the fascinating story o’ the “Brilliant Bug”:

A weirdly beautiful bug that glows in 16,777,216 colors. If you stare at it, it shows the color you wish most to see. If you stare too long, you go color-blind.

( Note that 16,777,216 isn’t a random # they pulled out o’ their bums, but the # o’ colors in 24-bit color spaces common on computers. )

Or the “Crazy Delicious Bamboo”:

This is the tastiest bamboo you’ve ever had. Even the panda, mightiest and most cold-hearted of all creatures, will weep with delight when he samples it.

E’en if you don’t play this game, I recommend reading all the treasure descriptions, which I think might be the best part o’ the game.

Granted, neither game is perfect. Master of Disguise’s controls can get wonky. So the game works with people o’ both hands, the 4 face buttons do the same thing as the control pad; & thus up is jump, as well as the way to climb a ladder. This can lead to conflicts when trying to jump near ladders or trying to grab ladders while jumping. It can also make jumping while moving wonky, since you need to hit but up & left or right. I don’t see why they couldn’t make L & R be jump, since they’re not used for anything else. This gets particularly frustrating in the parts where the game forces you to race places. Thankfully, the vast majority o’ that is postgame & most o’ the game is puzzle platforming, where such wonky controls & physics are mo’ tolerable.

Shake It!, meanwhile, despite heavily ripping off Wario Land 4, makes its controls & physics worse. ¿What genius decided to make it so you can’t duck while charge-attacking to slide under alcoves? It took me a while to figure out why ground pounding half the time didn’t register till I realized you have to completely let go o’ left or right & just press down to ground pound in the air, a flaw also not present in Wario Land 4.

In short, Shake It!’s fatal flaw is its attempt to copy Wario Land 4 too much, as opposed to Master of Disguise’s wise decision to do its own thing. Shake It! simply couldn’t come close to Wario Land 4, & this futile attempt only left Shake It! as a redundant haphazard bootleg, while Master of Disguise a’least had some independent quality that made it useful for someone who wants something different. You could compare them to Yoshi’s Story vs. Yoshi’s Island DS. People generally rightfully prefer the former to the latter ’cause for all its shortcomings a’least the former was its own game, whereas Yoshi’s Island DS was inferior to a 2nd playthrough o’ the original Yoshi’s Island in every way.

This was a common pattern o’ the Wii & 3DS generation, sadly — probably inspired by the success o’ New Super Mario Bros. From New Super Mario Bros. to Donkey Kong Country Returns to New Yoshi’s Island to A Link Between Worlds, Nintendo was obsessed with trying to relive their former success with inferior bootlegs that only emphasized what has-beens they were. It’s clear that Wario Land: Shake It! fit that pattern: ’twas essentially “New Wario Land 4”, & unsurprisingly, Nintendo fans with eat it up for that same reason. Like I said, I haven’t heard any reason for why Shake It! is s’posedly good other than that it has Cap’n Syrup ’gain & that it’s yet ’nother Wario Land game. That these s’posed fans o’ Wario Land forgot that a big part o’ what made the Wario Land series stand out was that each game felt like its own game. Nowadays, no one tolerates that in games: a new game needs to be a carbon copy o’ its predecessor like any non-art product so coddled middle-class nerds don’t have to do something slightly outside o’ their soulless routine.

Wario Land’s a particularly potent example ’cause its era allowed for mo’ kookie but obscure gems. You know, I always got annoyed when people complained ’bout how there were no 2D Mario games ’tween Yoshi’s Island & New Super Mario Bros. ¿What ’bout Mario vs. Donkey Kong? “That’s not a classic Mario game”. What they mean is, “That’s not a bootleg”. This is ’cause back then, for the most part, the idea o’ just making a copy o’ an ol’ classic was rarer, & rightfully criticized when it happened. This was when people rightfully bashed Capcom for puking out Mega Man after Mega Man. Now people whine asking for Mega Man 11, ignoring the fact that only the 1st 3 Mega Man games were any good. I can only imagine how much worse the world would be if Capcom hadn’t made Mega Man X ’cause it wasn’t a “classic Mega Man” game or didn’t make Wario Land II ’cause it wasn’t a “classic Wario Land game” or Wario Land 3 ’cause it wasn’t a “classic Wario Land II” game, & so on.

So despite Wario Land games being some o’ my favorites, I’m going to disagree with those calling for ’nother Wario Land game. My request, ’stead, is, “Nintendo, please give me a new Wario game — & surprise me”.

Posted in Video Games

Sucky Stages: World 5-9 o’ Super Mario Bros. 3

Since I mentioned my favorite level from Super Mario Bros. 3 yesterday, ¿how ’bout I write ’bout my least favorite level today?

I’m sure I’ve mentioned in the my big “Super Mario Bros. 3 vs. Super Mario World” article how much I hate autoscrollers, or a’least those that don’t let you scroll ’head o’ them. They’re almost ne’er timed so that you don’t have to wait round most o’ the time. General rule: if I have to wait round doing nothing, your level’s not paced well.

Sadly, Super Mario Bros. 3 & Super Mario World have plenty o’ autoscrollers, & I don’t think any o’ them were hardly good or were improved by being autoscrollers. The 1 exception I can think o’ is the airship in World 8 o’ Super Mario Bros. 3, which is the only autoscroller that didn’t scroll @ the speed o’ slugs. That’s the 1 level ’mong both these games that uses autoscrollers how they, presumably, should be used: to force you to keep pace, which is the opposite o’ “wait round doing nothing”. & if ’twere the only level to have it, perhaps “autoscroller” would’ve been a fresh special gimmick rather than a cliché so trite we already have a well-known name for it. You have to admit, this is 1 thing the 1st Donkey Kong Country & almost all o’ Diddy’s Kong Quest ( “Castle Crush” is the only exception ) did better than classic Mario games.

The absolute nadir for Super Mario Bros. 3 autoscrollers is unquestionably World 5-9. ¡Just look @ its map & see for yourself! ¡It’s literally just “Wooden platform, wooden platform, wooden platform, wooden platform, wooden platform — ¡Ooo! ¡Now there’s a Fire Chomp with a janky hitbox!”! That must’ve taken, like, a minute to design. I praised Super Mario Bros. 3 for having mo’ focused levels than Super Mario World, but sometimes it took it too far into the realm o’ monotony.

But the map, which a’least looks short, doesn’t show how unbearably slow it moves. I guess the actually difficulty was s’posed to be surviving the Fire Chomps for a certain amount o’ time. So it’s a diagonal elevator level — ’cause everyone loves those.

In general, World 5 is a bit o’ a weak point o’ Super Mario Bros. 3 — with only World 8 as possibly worse, due to having a full 4 autoscrollers, 2 o’ which are impossible to distinguish ( though the real levels it does have are good ’nough to almost undo that ). A’least the upper sky part o’ World 5’s quite weak. Yeah, the lower part has that Kuribo’s Shoe level; but that level’s only truly good ’cause o’ Kuribo’s Shoe & the slightly funny joke o’ taking a pipe down into the sky o’ ’nother outside area; otherwise, it’s just a bunch o’ pipes & Piranha Plants. I guess that works @ demoing Kuribo’s Shoe & its ability to stomp on Piranha Plants.

To be fair, the upper area has some good levels, like 5-5 & it’s subtly clever brick & donut-block puzzles, & 5-4 makes a decent introduction to those fucking mental 2D fidget spinners, mate; but then you have 5-6, which is just a copypasta swarm o’ Para-Beetles, 5-8, which is just “Here’s Lakitu”, with level design as advanced as that you’d find in the original Super Mario Bros., & the 2nd fortress, which is just a bunch o’ simple jumps with Podoboos & magical ceiling lava that’s e’en less advanced than every castle level in the the original Super Mario Bros. — ¿& what the hell does a red, hot lava fortress have to do with the sky?

Now that I’m looking through World 5’s maps: 5-2 is a good level, but it’s an underground level. ¿What the hell is an underground level doing in sky world? That’s the exact opposite o’ the sky. The 1st part o’ this level, where you can skip the rest o’ the level with careful jumps o’er note blocks, is so memorable; but I thought I remembered it from World 7, where it fucking belongs.

Posted in Sucky Stages, Video Games