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Thursday, December 08, 2011

Thursday Night At The Arcade - Super Mario 3

In most cases, I find sequels to be somewhat hit and miss.

For the most part, I find sequels to be a bit on the unnecessary side. Not that I don't appreciate them, because some of them are well-done, and carefully thought out. But sometimes a movie franchise will take it a bit too far. Did we really need five Final Destination movies? Was there really a need to have six Saw movies? Was there any need to make Scream 4, years after the third movie was released?

Again, some movies have sequels that measure up to the original quite nicely. Take Home Alone 2: Lost In New York, for example. The sequel was basically a retelling of the first movie, only in a different city, and yet it managed to be just as funny and entertaining as the first one. Home Alone 3 and 4...should have NEVER been made.

Same deal with Lethal Weapon. The first two movies were great. The third one lagged in places, but was more or less enjoyable. But the fourth one wasn't exactly all that memorable. When the first scenes involve Murtaugh stripping to his underwear because Riggs tricked him into doing so, it pretty much told us that we were all getting to old for this...well, you know.

The truth is that in the world of film, sequels can do well at the box office, but more often than not fail to make as huge of an impression as the original film.

In the world of video gaming, however, sequels seem to have the opposite effect. In most cases, the sequels end up performing better and sell more copies than the original games in the series. I could go on and on about the various titles that have had successful sequels. A perfect example is the Final Fantasy series. Granted, none of them have the same characters in between game to game, but some games in the series sell better than others, and is still a force in the gaming industry. The Spyro series spawned two successful sequels before another game company took over future game projects and made the series crash and burn. Sonic the Hedgehog continues to launch successful hit game right after another. And I suppose in recent years, Grand Theft Auto and Call Of Duty are examples of sequels doing very well (even though I myself am not a fan of the series).

And then there's the Super Mario series.

I talked about Super Mario Brothers 2 way back in June of this year, and how while it was a game that was largely created by plagiarism, and was not originally a Mario game, was still enjoyable to play. Well, today's entry is all about another game in the Mario series that outperformed and outsold both the original Super Mario and Super Mario 2.

Super Mario Brothers 3 could arguably be considered to be the best (or at least one of the best) sequel to the original Super Mario Brothers game. The Nintendo game was originally released in Japan in 1988, and came to North America approximately a year and a half later in 1990. Upon its release, Super Mario 3 had become one of the best-selling video games of all time. It was ranked #6 in the Top 200 Nintendo Games ever made by Nintendo Power magazine, sold more than eighteen million copies worldwide, and made almost half a billion dollars in revenue for Nintendo.

Oh, and it was one of the gifts that I found underneath my Christmas tree from Santa Claus the same year the game was released...just three months after I saved up and bought my Nintendo console.

Part of the reason for the game's success? It actually appeared in a movie about a year before the North American version was released. In 1989, a movie was released called The Wizard, starring Fred Savage. Although the movie was critically panned and was highly regarded as a 90-minute commercial for Nintendo, the movie boasted one feature. It allowed people to get an advanced screening of Super Mario 3, as it was one of the games played in the video game competition that one of the characters enters.

I happen to know quite a few people who only saw the movie to scope out the game, and the few scenes that people saw in the movie was enough to make them desperate to play it the minute it hit the stores.

I can also attest to the popularity of Super Mario 3. Before I got it as a Christmas gift, I actually had to be put on a waiting list to be able to rent it from the video store. That's how you knew that a game was hot!

And Super Mario 3 was definitely a game that was addictive. I recall spending hundreds of hours playing that game, not stopping until I found every secret, every 1-UP mushroom, every coin, every power-up...everything. I even found both ways in which you could defeat Bowser at the end of the game. (HINT: One way involves fire, the other way involves destroying the floor.)

One reason why I enjoyed the game was because it was similar in gameplay to the original Super Mario Brothers. The basic goal was to play as either Mario or Luigi, and make your way through the Mushroom Kingdom, killing bad guys and collecting coins to rescue Princess Peach from Bowser's castle. That is the standard, basic plot in every Mario game ever made, and it will likely be that way for future Mario games to come.

What was different was the way the game was presented. There were overworlds that Mario and Luigi could walk across, and unlike the more linear Mario games before it, you could choose whatever paths you wanted to take.

Each of the worlds in the game were styled after a specific theme. And while Super Mario 2 toyed around with the idea of creating different levels with different types of weather, Super Mario 3 expanded on this concept.

The eight worlds of Super Mario 3 began with a standard grassy knoll level. Consider it an intro world, so to speak. As the game progressed, Mario and Luigi would pass through a vast desert, an island nation with lots of rivers and oceans, a land where the enemies are three times the size of Mario, a city in the clouds, a frozen tundra level, a maze that proves to be a plumbing nightmare, and ending off in Bowser's lava-filled domain.

The power-ups have greatly improved as well. No longer does Mario have to rely on his grandpappy's mushrooms and fire flowers anymore. In this game, there's also a leaf power-up which allows Mario to transform into a flying raccoon.

Yes, I know what you're saying. In real life, raccoons cannot fly. In Mario's world, anything is possible. And if Mario runs fast enough, Mario can fly up to the sky provided that his power gauge is high enough. This new power can help Mario get through almost any level. Other suits that Mario can try on for size include a frog suit (which can help Mario get through those terrible underwater levels I hate so much), a hammer brother suit (my personal favourite, as you can throw hammers at things), and a Tanooki bear suit (which you can use to turn into an invincible statue if things get too tough).

One handy feature with Super Mario 3 is the fact that unlike other games, you could actually pick up items to be used at a later date. This feature would be re-used in other Mario games, but this one was used brilliantly. You could get items a number of ways to hold on to. You could get the mostly by visiting Toad in one of his many homes (seriously, how does a stupid mushroom dude own so much real estate in Mushroom Kingdom?) and by opening treasure chests. But you can also win items from killing off Hammer Brothers and Hammer Brother cousin enemies as a prize.

Yeah, that's another main difference about Super Mario 3 compared to earlier Mario games. Goombas could fly. Hammer Brothers could throw boomerangs, sledgehammers, and can breathe fire. Koopa shells could now be picked up and thrown. Oh, and pirahna plants can now try to burn you. What fun.

There's even more mini-boss action in this game...far more than the other games before it. Super Mario 2 attempted this the first time around with creative end bosses, but all of them were just a figment of Mario's imagination.  For one, you had various forms of a boss known as Boom-Boom that appeared in almost every fortress or castle in the game that one would have to defeat to unlock doors blocking your path.

For another, apparently in the five years that passed between Super Mario Brothers and the third game, Bowser fathered seven children. Who knew that there was even a Mrs. Bowser in the picture? Or maybe she left Bowser because of his unhealthy obsession with Princess Peach? All interesting, unanswered questions.

Alas, there's a little bit of business to take care of before you rescue Princess Peach. Each of Bowser's seven children has stolen a magic wand belonging to each world ruler in the Mushroom Kingdom, and at some point, you'll have to find a way to board each of the Koopalings airships to steal the wand back from them. What I find interesting is that each of the kids have their own distinct look and personality, and each one had their own battle strategies, making the game much more challenging.

The order of each Koopa Kid you encounter, as well as their main attack and what celebrity they happen to be named after are as follows.

WORLD 1: Larry Koopa (named after Larry King). Shoots magic beams from wand

WORLD 2: Morton Koopa Jr. (named after Morton Downey Jr.) Shoots magic beams from wand

WORLD 3: Wendy O. Koopa (named after Plasmatics singer Wendy O. Williams) Throws deadly red and white bracelets that bounce around

WORLD 4: Iggy Koopa (named after Iggy Pop) Shoots magic beams from wand, and bounces around room quite often

WORLD 5: Roy Koopa (named after Roy Orbison) Shakes the ground, immobilizing people if jumped on

WORLD 6: Lemmy Koopa (named after Lemmy Kilmister) Throws bouncy balls at Mario which bounce around room

WORLD 7: Ludwig von Koopa (named after Beethoven) Shakes the ground, immobilizing people if jumped on, bounces around room quite often)

Once the Koopalings are defeated, they disappear, give up their wand, change the world rulers back into humans, and from there, Mario gets a letter from Peach along with clues to defeating future levels, clues to finding warp whistles, and a power-up.

Oh, yeah, forgot to mention, there's three hidden warp whistles that can be found in Super Mario 3. These whistles can be used to warp between worlds. The more whistles you have, the best chance you have of making it all the way to world eight without having to play the game straight through (which came in handy given that the original NES version had no save files on it).

I won't reveal how you can find these whistles, but I can tell you that you can find two of them in World 1, and one in World 2. And, in the case of one of the whistles, you're going to need to have a hammer power-up. But that's all I will say. Besides, I'm sure those of you who have played the game know how to get them already, so I'll leave you to it.

All in all, Super Mario 3 was a fine game, and if anything, it proved that sometimes sequels can become much powerful and more well-known than their predecessors.

While the case may be largely true that if something isn't broken, don't fix it, this didn't happen with Super Mario 3. In fact, the sequel was so ground-breaking that it influenced several future games.

In fact, having recently bought the Nintendo 3DS game Super Mario 3D Land, I'm amazed at the similarity between it and Super Mario 3. It's like playing a three-dimensional version of that game.

No wonder why every time I play it, I get a sense of nostalgia...

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