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Thursday, October 17, 2013

Is Mario Losing His Touch?

Super Mario Bros. was the exact super charged jolt that the video game industry needed in 1985. Not only did it revive the North American video game market after the crash of 1983 convinced most people that gaming was a lost cause, but it was also a game changer. Gamers had never seen or played anything like it. Mario would go on to star in a plethora of other titles including numerous spin-offs but Nintendo would make sure that they would never forsake Mario's platforming exploits. This plumber is one of the few icons in gaming that has managed to be consistently good in both 2D and 3D. Most importantly, Mario's games have always been fun. However, for some gamers, simply being fun isn't cutting it anymore.

We play video games to have fun. If you aren't having a good time, what's the point in playing? Mario, perhaps more so than any other video game character is the embodiment of having fun in video game. His nickname is Mr. Video Game, for crying out loud. While Mario's games are still entertaining, I'm hearing more people voice their opinions that a lot of Mario's platforming games have been fun but not much else.

[New Super Mario Bros. Wii] The multiplayer
was chaotic but still a nice, new addition to
the series.

I should clarify that I'm not talking about all Mario games. No, I'm strictly referring to the Super Mario series because these are the ones that get the most flack. Despite Nintendo's stubborn refusal to get ride of that cursed Blue Shell, the Mario Kart series hasn't been met with same criticisms that the Super Mario series has from fans.

I've heard numerous reasons for the supposed "decline" in the quality of Mario's platforming adventures. Some say that despite the fun that many of the levels bring, that there's a lack of atmosphere that was present in the earlier games. The magic from the NES, SNES, Super Mario 64 and even Super Mario Sunshine is missing. Being a gamer that was raised on Mario since the days 8-bit days of the NES, I guess I can admit to liking a lot of Mario's earlier games more than his modern day outings. But even so, when a new Super Mario game hits, I'm all over it like white on rice on a paper plate in a snow storm. So while I can sort of see where fans are coming from with that, it isn't something I can completely agree with. Fans of any medium usually hold firm to the belief that no matter how good something is now, it will never be as good as it was back then.

[New Super Mario Bros. 2] Coin Rush mode
added a ton of replay value.

Some say it's far too easy to rack up on lives in the current Mario games. Well, OK, that one is definitely true, but the same goes for the older Marios. Easily stocking up on extra lives was something you could do in the original Super Mario Bros. Everyone knows about the 1-up trick in World 3-1. Stomp the on the Koopa Troopa coming down the stairs, bounce the shell against the steps with Mario in just the right position and bam! You've got more lives than you know what to do with. Funny thing is, Nintendo didn't even think gamers would come up with the idea to use that Koopa Troopa to gain lives so quickly. Every New Super Mario Bros. game has had some variation of the Super Mario Bros. 3-1 1-up trick in honor of gamers being savvy enough to come up with a fast way to gain extra lives. Giving the new Mario games grief for doing something you could just as easily do in the older games seems quite pathetic.

Are certain power-up making the current Marios a cakewalk? Do the levels give you too many power-ups that are specific to the level you're currently in? Some fans think so. Power-ups by their very nature are meant to give the player some kind of edge but I certainly don't think they make the current Mario games a breeze. I speculate one reason we haven't seen the Cape Feather return from Super Mario World is due to how broken it was. Any skilled player could skip entire stages with it by staying in the air. Yoshi was limited to one stage per world in New Super Mario Bros. Wii to prevent players from having too much of an advantage. The Tanooki Suit and Super Leaf powers from Super Mario Bros. 3 helped making precision platforming easier, yet some fans complained that the Tanooki Suit made Super Mario 3D Land too easy, even though the Special Worlds were quite difficulty even if you had a tail.

The games need newer enemies, some fans say! Bowser's band of merry mooks are some the most recognized in gaming. If Nintendo invents new enemies, fans will say the new baddies suck and demand that the old ones make a return. Never mind the fact that Nintendo is using new enemies as well as the old ones.

Do you see where I'm going here? Some of these complaints are well grounded, but a lot of them are just stupid. It's like the fans want to praise the older Marios for being so great and never acknowledge their faults but bash the newer ones for their faults and not give them respect for the ton of good that they've done. It goes back to that whole "everything was better back in the day" argument, much of which, I might add, is fueled by nostalgia and in some cases, and a hate for current day Nintendo.

[Super Mario 3D World] As much new content
as it's bring, I'll bet some fans will still find
some reason to say it isn't as good
as the older games.

I can understand fans getting weary of the New Super Mario Bros. titles. When the original game hit in 2006, it was a wonderful breath of fresh 2D air because there hadn't been a new 2D Mario game in over a decade. So everything old was suddenly new again. Fast forward seven years later and a lot of the New Super Mario Bros. games don't feel so new anymore and the games are starting to feel pretty similar. That being said, I think these are a great way to get a 2D Mario fix and I have no desire to see Nintendo hang up the series. Do change up the music, though.

With everything it has going for it, Super Mario 3D World is looking to be one of the most impressive Mario games since the original Super Mario Galaxy. Four player multiplayer in a 3D Mario game, new power power-ups, all of the playable characters play just as they did in Super Mario Bros. 2 (YES!) and the level designs looking ten times more clever than they did in Super Mario 3D Land. Even Charging Chucks are being brought back! Yet, for all the cool stuff this game is jam packed with, somewhere some group are fans will have their reasons why the game sucks. Sometimes I think Nintendo can't win no matter what they do.


Adam said...

nothing can really compete with the older games, but I still really enjoy the new ones. Major or spinoff

Chris Clash said...

What's really wrong with recent Super Mario Bros games is that there's nothing "New" in them. Nintendo has gotten lazy. Each classic SMB had its own unique athmosphere, its own improvements. The "New" SMB games are all identical and are just reashing the same things over and over again. I can't believe that NSMBWU having a cohesive world map is considered as a major improvement since NSMBW ! Super Mario World already did it better, hackers did it better in Newer Super Mario Bros Wii. People are now used to blindly buy Nintendo games, so they don't even try anymore. These critics about new enemies, too many power-ups and stuff are futile. Nintendo problem is much deeper than that.