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Thursday, June 23, 2011

Thursday Night at the Arcade: Super Mario Brothers 2

Super Mario Brothers 2 is widely considered by many to be the black sheep of the Super Mario trilogy, released on the Nintendo Entertainment System.

Super Mario Brothers is known for saving the video game industry from complete disaster, and Super Mario Brothers 3 is considered to be one of the biggest selling video games of all-time.

But, why is Super Mario 2 seemingly ignored in the Mario world? 

Super Mario 2 was released in America in 1988, and it was a game that evoked some minor controversy.  Certainly, the gameplay was a lot different in the second game than it was the two surrounding it.  Instead of jumping on Goombas and Koopas, you had Shyguys and jumping birds with masks on.  And instead of hitting blocks to get items, you dug them out of the ground.

You didn't even get to fight Bowser, but some frog like creature named Wart.

It was like Super Mario 2 was a completely different game altogether from the other games in the Mario series.  If not for the fact that there were obvious characters from Mario in the video game, you'd think it wasn't even a Mario game at all.

Well, I have a shocking surprise for all of you.  For Super Mario 2 was in fact...


The game up above is a game that was initially released in Japan in 1987.  The name of the game was called Doki Doki Panic, and right away, you can see that there's something oddly familiar about the cover art.

Hmmm...let's investigate this further by looking at some actual gameplay.  First, let's take a look at Super Mario Brothers 2...

Now let's take a look at Doki Doki Panic...

What th-?  How is this possible? 

It's like they're the same game.

Because it IS the same game!

Here's the story.  Nintendo released Super Mario Brothers in 1985, and it became a massive success.  The following year, Nintendo made a sequel in Japan that was almost identical to the first game, only with much tougher levels and poisonous mushrooms designed to kill your Mario instead of making him big and strong.  The game was released in 1986, and became a hit in Japan, but when it came time to bring the game overseas, Nintendo of America refused to release it.  They claimed that it was too similar in development to the first game, and that the levels were simply too difficult for the public to beat.

Instead what they did was use the game Doki Doki Panic, slap Mario heads on the main characters, and marketed it as Super Mario 2.

In short.  Doki Doki Panic = Super Mario 2.

Now you might understand why Super Mario 2 is regarded as being the weakest link in the Mario world.

(For the record, the original version of Super Mario 2 was eventually released in North America in 1993 for the Super Mario All-Stars compilation for the SNES.  It was renamed Super Mario Brothers: The Lost Levels.  On a personal note, I do concur that the game is tough, but not nearly as impossible as they made it out to be).

The thing is...I don't see Super Mario 2 as being such a bad game, even if the whole idea of it was 5% persperation and 95% plagiarism.

The game did have a lot of good things going for it, and once we peel back the layers and dig through the Doki Doki influences, you'll see that the game itself did have some staying power, as well as influenced future Mario games.

One thing I liked about the game was that Mario wasn't the only playable character one could select.  In fact, you had four characters to pick and choose from, and each one of them had their strengths and weaknesses.

You obviously had Mario, who was more or less the average player in the game. 

You could play as Luigi, who had basically the same skills as Mario, only he could jump three times higher.

No longer is Princess Peach (or Toadstool) a damsel in distress.  She can yank veggies and throw things to the best of her ability.  She can even use her ball gown to levitate across waterfalls.

Then, there's Toad.  In the original game, he would piss you off constantly when announcing (almost boastfully) that the princess was always in another castle, but he really comes into his own.  He may not have the best jumping ability, but he can dig the fastest out of anyone, which made the pyramid levels easier to get through.

And, sure, the levels themselves were radically different from anything you had ever seen before, but at the very least, Super Mario 2 made an effort to bring different environments to the fold.  Yes, Super Mario 3 did it better, but Super Mario 2 tried.  They had the standard grassy knoll levels, yes, but there was also desert levels, ice levels, dark levels, etc.

They also had different looking enemies that were sometimes more challenging than the ones found in the original game.  With mini-bosses like Mouser, Clawgrip, Triclyde, and Fryguy, this game was hardly considered child's play.

Even some of the mini-monsters found in the game had staying power.  Birdos (the ostrich creature you have to defeat to beat a level), Bob-ombs (the walking bombs that explode without warning) and Pokeys (the little walking cactus creatures) have found places in future Mario games.  The game even had warp zones scattered throughout the game, provided you had a magic potion and warped into the red and white vase pipes before the potion wore off.

Oh, yeah...Super Mario 2 had rocketships, mine carts and whale geysers.  How cool is that?

In my opinion, Super Mario 2 definitely has a place in the Mario universe.  It was radically different from the other games, but it worked.  It has earned its place in the Super Mario All-Stars compilation.

Oh, one more thing.  There's a reason why I decided to choose this game as part of the Imagination and Fantasy week.

You see, Mario opened a door, found himself in the land of Subcon.  Had to rescue some fairies who were kidnapped by Wart, and once he defeated Wart, he, Luigi, Peach, and Toad were given a hero's welcome.  Just one problem...


Apparently, Mario has had just as many warped dreams as I used to have a child.  Maybe he should lay off the mushroom pizza at midnight.  What do you think?

Whatever the case is, I still enjoy Super Mario 2, no matter what its origin.

I could talk about it some more, but alas, it is...

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