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Monday, June 10, 2013

Let's Hear it for the Man in Green

1983. This was a big year in video games. Nintendo release it's Famicom video game system, which made a huge splash in Japan. The North American video game market took a major nose dive and would remain six feet under until Nintendo brought the Famicom to the West to revive it nearly three years later. It was also this year that the first Mario Bros. game was released. Mario had had enough of tussling with that gorilla and changed his job occupation from carpenter to plumber and brought along his younger twin brother, Luigi, who would go on to become the gaming world's most recognized player 2.

Arcade cabinet artwork for Mario Bros., giving gamers
their first look at Luigi. 
Mario and Luigi can cooperate or screw each
other over.

I've always had a soft spot for the underdog. My first encounter with Luigi was with Super Mario Bros. Although he was originally nothing more than a pallet swap of his older brother, I knew Luigi had a special air about him. Yes, he looked just like Mario and he played just like Mario, and when he got a Fire Flower, he lost what little uniqueness he had, but he wasn't Mario and in the years that followed, this would become more and more apparent.

Super Mario Bros. 2 is one of the earliest games
to give Luigi is iconic look.

In 1986, Super Mario Bros.: The Lost Levels hit the Famicom under it's original Japanese name of Super Mario Bros. 2. This brutally hard game ditched the 2 player mode and offered a Mario Game and a Luigi Game. The Lost Levels is far and away from being on my list of favorite Mario titles (or even being a game I like for that matter) but it is notable for giving Luigi his higher, superior jumping physics and would be one of the ways he would one-up Mario. Unfortunately Luigi's mad air time came at a cost and that was terrible traction. Stopping on a dime was out of the question. But I think that was a small price to pay to give Luigi some individuality.

Luigi's first game with him was the star! It sucked. 
Mario goes missing again but this time in
a game that's actually good.

Instead of giving Americans and European gamers The Lost Levels, Nintendo game us Super Mario Bros. 2, a game that was vastly different from the original Super Mario Bros. Not only was Luigi selectable from the start (along with Princess Peach and Toad) but he retained his jumping skills from the Lost Levels. What's more, Luigi appeared taller and thinner than Mario, which gave him a look all his own, one that is still being used to this day.

New Super Luigi U looks to be much harder than
New Super Mario Bros. U.
Where is Mario? Probably sulking in a bar since Nintendo
told him to take a hike. 

Luigi has helped Mario save the Mushroom Kingdom time and time again, yet he can't seem to get any respect in from his peers or his adversaries. In Super Mario 64 DS, all the Toads openly dis him and Bowser can't remember his name in Mario & Luigi Superstar Saga. Heck, much of Superstar Saga's treatment of Luigi is that of a butt monkey. When he finally was given a staring role, it was in the pitiful educational game Mario is Missing!, a game where his name wasn't even in the title. Despite being terrified of ghosts, Luigi went into a huge haunted mansion to save his brother in Luigi's Mansion, a much better outing than that educational blunder. He even did it a second time in Luigi's Mansion: Dark Moon. He may be a coward, but he's a lovable, brave coward.

Luigi may not get much love from the folks that appear in the games along side him, but Nintendo and his many fans having nothing abut adoration for the man in green. Nintendo has declared 2013 the year of Luigi and to celebrate, we're getting three games with everyone's favorite high jumper. The aforementioned Luigi's Mansion: Dark Moon is already available on the 3DS. Mario & Luigi: Dream Team, the fourth game in the Mario & Luigi series is set to release in July and August across all regions. This month, the digital version of New Super Luigi U will be available on the Wii U's eShop service. The game features 80 plus brand new, ultra hard levels each giving you only 100 seconds to finish with Mario nowhere in sight. Even the "Bros." in the logo is crossed out in green paint. The game will be budget priced with a physical version releasing in July and August. Even though I don't yet have a Wii U and the difficulty will probably make we wanna break something, I'll be still be picking this game up. Ditto for Dark Moon and Dream Team.

As fun as it is to play as Mario, sometimes you just gotta get outta his shoes for a while. I was thrilled to be able to play as Luigi anytime I wanted in Super Mario Bros. 2 and I loved his high jump with the floaty feet. When I was a kid playing Super Mario Bros. 3, sometimes I'd start a two player game, kill Mario and not continue as him just so I could keep playing as Luigi. In Super Mario 64 DS Luigi makes some of the toughest stars "Wall Kicks Will work" a joke. And playing Super Mario Galaxy all over again as Luigi? Loved every hour of it, collected every single star.

UK timeline for Luigi.

I think Luigi is more than deserving of all the attention he's getting this year. For the longest time it has always, always been about Mario. Now Nintendo is giving Luigi, a character that's arguably more fleshed out than Mario, his much deserved time in the spotlight. Go Wigi!

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