The most I knew about Yoshi’s Island was the fact that most (if not all) people who play it find baby Mario’s crying extremely aggravating. In fact, I knew there were several Yoshi games out there, and I didn’t even know which one it was that included such a…unique feature. (I was mainly confused about the difference between Yoshi’s Island on the SNES and Yoshi’s Story on the N64.) When the Switch Online provided us with a collection of SNES games, I knew it was time to finally play Yoshi’s Island, the cover art telling me right away that…oh, this is the game with baby Mario. I see… Continue reading I Finally Played Yoshi’s Island
My earliest experiences with the Mario Brothers were not spent playing, but reading the instruction manual while watching my younger brother play the very first game on our Nintendo Entertainment System. As I scoured over the game controls and characters, my brother would play through this relatively new experience with the ease of a much older gamer. All of Mario’s moves seemed natural to him, as if he had traveled these fantastic worlds for years. The reality of the situation is that my brother has better eye-to-hand coordination than I do, but the level design of Super Mario Brothers had something to do with his genius as well.
Think back to that very first level, World 1-1. There was no tutorial, no overt guidance for the player; only a stubby little plumber standing on the far left side of a screen. Any attempt to travel further left would result in the player hitting a wall, so to the right we must go. Oh no, there’s an angry looking mushroom heading your way. Quick, try one of those red buttons on the controller. Okay, ‘B’ doesn’t do anything… what about ‘A?’ Ooh, you made Mario jump! Try to stomp that mean looking guy. Hey, you squished him, good job. No time to celebrate though; there is a timer counting down up there. Let’s get going.
The design of these early Mario games provided levels that taught players the rules without beating them over the head with exposition and hand-holding. Almost all of the necessary skills could be communicated through visuals and the experience of play. To sweeten the deal, these games had such a reliably steady difficulty curve. Each concurrent stage added new challenges, but they hardly ever put the player in a situation without the resources to learn and grow. This trend of difficult but fair level design has continued in the Mario Brothers series to this day.
Over the years, I have enjoyed many a title in the Mario series. I would consider myself a rather advanced player; not a genius like my brother, but someone who has played enough of these games to acquire skills beyond the average. I have put in the hours, completed dozens of stages, stomped many a koopa troopa. In other words, I am pretty damn good at Mario. However, I recently witnessed a charity event that humbled me to my very nerdy core.
Awesome Games Done Quick 2014 started on January 5th and featured some of the most amazing speed-runners playing games and accepting donations for the Prevent Cancer Foundation. Over the course of seven days, 115+ games were played continuously for charity, including a hearty block of titles from the Super Mario series. I just happened to tune in right at the start of a race between two players in the SNES classic, Super Mario World. What I saw in that live stream blew me away:
Video from Youtube User: SpeedDemosArchiveSDA
Just look at these guys- they never seem to stop running! They are using tricks within the game design that I have never seen before. It seems like every level is not merely a slog from left-to-right, but a challenge to discover new and inventive ways to speed through the game. While they do exploit some glitches over the course of play, the meat of their performance comes from intentional secrets and layouts within the level design. This is particularly noticeable in the stages made up of platforms or mushrooms suspended above bottomless pits. It looks like the placement of enemies was designed to be vaulted upon for a quick trip through difficult spots. It’s as if the designers wanted to reward dedicated players with the means to bypass the usual routes and discover entirely new ways for Mario to travel. This intention from the designers is made even more clear through the Super Play videos included in the more recent Mario titles.
That is the lesson I have come to realize in between the moments of actually playing games with the Mario Brothers. There is an amazing balance in the design of these levels so any player can pick up the controller and have a worthwhile experience. The novice player can discover a new hobby that eases them into the game with intuitive controls and a steady difficulty curve. World 1 will prepare them for World 2, which will prepare them for World 3 and so on. Behind the scenes, these levels have skilled routes carved into the background; perfect paths with a hidden time limit that provides a challenge to the expert who is looking for something new in a beloved game. For every level that made good use of my instruction manual studies, there is a stage that provided a seamless flow of play for my brother. It seems that across the long list of games in the Mario Universe, there is a level for every player.
For the record, the level for me is World 1-7 from Yoshi’s Island: Touch Fuzzy, Get Dizzy. But that’s just because I am a sucker for trippin’ dinosaurs.
“Super Mario Sunshine” has some nice music, most of which is soothing, island music. While some isn’t. So here are my top five favorite, with links to Youtube.
5. “Mecha Bowser” is a fast song played when you fight Mecha Bowser, of course. I especially like the beginning.
4. “The Manta Storm” is played during the episode of the same name, where the ghostly manta comes to Sirena Beach. It is fast, with a few strange-sounding parts, that fits well with a battle against a spectral sea creature.
3. “Boss Battle” is the music that plays during most boss battles, like against Petey Piranha. It is fast and fits battles well. (My descriptions are getting lazy.)
2. “Noki Bay” is played in the lovely Noki Bay, a bay surrounded by nearly vertical cliffs. The music is fairly slow and very soothing.
1. “Delfino Plaza” is a town by the sea and is the hub level of the game, from which you can get to all other worlds. The music here is very pleasant and upbeat.
Super Mario Shineduck
I recently played “Super Mario Sunshine” yet again. In this game, Mario and Princess Peach go on vacation to Isle Delfino, but lo and behold, there is trouble. Strange, goopy graffiti has been found all over the island, and the Shine Sprites have fled, causing much of the island to be covered in, well, not quite as much sunshine as usual. Worse yet, Mario has been mistaken for the one who’s doing all the vandalizing, a character we later learn to be Shadow Mario. (Even though Shadow Mario is all blue. I guess the island’s resident Piantas aren’t too bright.) So like usual, because Peach sure as heck isn’t going to get off her royal butt and do something for once, it’s up to Mario to clean the graffiti off the island and get the Shine Sprites back.
Luckily, Mario has FLUDD to help him, a device that shoots water, has a hover nozzle for…hovering, and has various other features that you unlock later in the game, like the rocket nozzle. This is very useful for cleaning up graffiti, hovering to places farther than Mario can jump normally, squirting enemies. And for spraying people just to make them unhappy.
As expected, the entire game takes place on Isle Delfino, and so all the levels are island-themed. There’s the harbor, the beach, the fancy hotel. I guess you can say there isn’t as much variety in this game’s levels as other “Mario” games, but I like it. It’s relaxing. Like a little vacation in a game. I love running around on Gelato Beach (when those stupid Cataquacks leave me be). Climbing around the cliffs of beautiful Noki Bay. Looking at the sunset outside of Hotel Delfino, then going inside said hotel and sneaking into people’s rooms because Mario’s a bit of a peeping tom that way. It’s just fun.
Most of the time. The game can also be quite difficult and frustrating. Especially when it comes to these levels that are not island-themed, but are purely platformer-based. There are these dreadful “secret” levels that take place in this big area of nothingness, and you have to cross all these platforms and stuff. Without FLUDD. It can be quite difficult and is the bane of my existence. (Well, except for that one thing with Yoshi, which I’ll get to.) And those areas just plain creep me out.
My other problem is that I don’t like the story. Sorry if I spoil some things, but it needs to be mentioned. Needs to be. Skip this paragraph if you don’t want spoilers. There eventually is this thing where Bowser Jr. shows up and says that he kidnapped Peach because she’s his mom, and she seems to believe it. Really, Peach? I think you would know if you were the mother of one of Bowser’s kids. You don’t just find out one day that you’re the mother of a giant turtle thing’s kid. There are so many horrific events I won’t get into that she would certainly remember if that was the truth. That scene was just plain silly.
But, it certainly isn’t a bad game. Stories have never been that great in “Mario” games. Everything else in this game makes up for the strange story. The game is a lot of fun. It also has very nice graphics for the Cube, I think. And that water. Lovely. And I want to live in Delfino Plaza. It’s such a pleasant place. And another thing is that I like how in different areas, you can see other locations. Like you can see Ricco Harbor from Bianco Hills and such, and for some reason, I always like that in games. I don’t know why, but I always have. I guess it makes the locations feel more real when you can see where the places are in relation to each other. I don’t know. All I know is it pleases this bird.
It’s also worth mentioning that Yoshi appears in the game later on, which is mostly fun. You have to bring the right fruit to the Yoshi egg to make him hatch, and then Mario can sit on poor Yoshi to his heart’s content. And then you can go around making Yoshi squirt fruit juice out of his mouth, which is rather bizarre, unsanitary, and a bit ill-mannered. And when the juice is orange, it’s a bit gross…. While I like using Yoshi, one thing is quite annoying. Yoshi can’t go in the water, which can be a problem when the game takes place on an island in the middle of the sea. This resulted in what I believe to be the worst Shine Sprite in the game ever. It was in Delfino Plaza. Yoshi had to wait for these boats, then, ride it to the next boat, but Yoshi’s jumping isn’t good, so you can guess what happened. It filled me with rage like no other Shine Sprite ever did.
But, despite that one Shine Sprite and those creepy “secret” areas, I like this game very much. In fact, I think I like it the most of all my “Super Mario” games (not including “Paper Mario”). I didn’t realize how much I really like this game until now. For one thing, I like that FLUDD’s hover nozzle kind of gives you more control over Mario’s jumping. You don’t have to be so perfect because that hover ability lets you still reach safety if you jump a little wrong. I’ve always been bad with Mario’s jumping, but FLUDD gives you a bit more security. You make me feel safe, FLUDD.
And another thing. I like that the locations are…normal. Y’know, worlds in “Super Mario 64” were strange. That big lava place. That area where you change the water level. They often weren’t like normal places. “Super Mario Galaxy” was really weird. All kinds of floating, random places. Some levels were normal, most were weird. “Super Mario Sunshine” has a town, a beach, an amusement park. Normal. I can’t even describe the levels of “64” or “Galaxy” in one word because they were, not normal. I don’t know if the duck makes sense, but I like that about this game. It makes this game stand out from the others for me.
But, anyway, I like this game a lot. Other than the story, it’s great. And it’s a challenge, which is nice. I would like to mention that I was able to get all 120 Shine Sprites a couple of times. I almost didn’t make it this time. I searched everywhere for one final Blue Coin (ten buys you a Shine Sprite). I searched for hours, then, finally found it hidden in the sands of Gelato Beach. I celebrated when I found the thing. Victory for the duck! I deserve some baklava! Now somebody make me some!
Super Mario Duckshine