The Shocking Truth of Super Mario and Me

5 12 2011

I’m hitting a large brick wall creatively working on my latest movie, so I’m going to take time to talk about my relationship with one of the most famous video game mascots: Mario.

It's-a me!

 When I was a kid, I begged my father for a Nintendo Entertainment System.  Begged him.  The reason was, I wanted to play Super Mario Brothers, a game that came free with the system (along with Duck Hunt).  I played Super Mario Brothers in the arcade every chance I could get (yes, youngsters, it was an arcade game) and so the chance to play it every day in my home, whenever I felt like it, was mind-blowing.  Eventually he consented and I played Mario every chance I could get.  As a kid, I was exceptionally bad at games, so it took me a long time to get to world 8-8 and beat it… and when I did, I felt a sense of accomplishment that has rarely been equaled.

Now that you know what happens, you don't have to play it!

Time passed, and Nintendo would release Super Mario Bros. 2 and 3 for the NES, but for some reason I just wasn’t interested.  Most of my gaming attention was spent trying to get someone to pony up the funds for a copy of The Legend of Zelda II (all of my kid effort would be in vein, though).

In case you were wondering, I finally DO have a copy it, and I love it.

When the Super Nintendo was released, my Father agreed to rent one for the weekend (yes, kiddos, you use to be able to rent game systems) and I chose Super Mario World to be the tag along game.  It blew me away.  I actually called my father into the room and made him listen to the game music because I couldn’t believe how awesome and real it sounded; but while I lived at home I never owned a Super Nintendo, and when I did buy one years later (I was 18 or 19, I think) I bought it to play Super Metroid, not Super Mario.  I eventually did get Mario World, but I never beat it.  It was more of an afterthought.  I did, however, get Super Mario World 2: Yoshi’s Island on release day.  I loved that game and played it all the way through to the end, making sure baby Mario was returned home safely.

Next was the Nintendo 64.  I was jazzed about it; but had no immediate plans to own one.  But when I had the chance to play Super Mario 64, I was so impressed I bought a system and the game right then and there.  My friend Marcus and I had an active real-time contest to see who could beat the game first.  It’s still one of my favorite games of all time.  Love that game.

It's the best game ever. Take THAT, Angry Birds!

But after that… I don’t know… Nintendo’s next offering, Super Mario Sunshine, just didn’t appeal to me.  I’ve gone back and played many times since its release in 2002, and it just isn’t a game I can get behind.  I find just about everything about the game annoying, from the music, to the camera, and most importantly the gameplay.  Mario Sunshine is almost universally loved, but I just can’t seem to share my heart with a game where you spend most of your time washing goo off streets and buildings.

Seriously... the plot is you've been arrested and are forced to clean. That's way too close to my every day life.

Mario had the chance to redeem himself in my eyes with Super Mario Galaxy for the Nintendo Wii.  This time Mario was taking his trademark “Ya!  Wa!  Hoo!” to the outer reaches of the cosmos as Princess Peach was kidnapped (again) and taken into space!  Reviewers raved!  Fanboys frothed at the mouth in anticipation!  And there I was again, day 1, hungrily feeding my Wii Mario’s latest and greatest.  I was on board at first, exploring planets, bopping goombas, and collecting stars… but somewhere along the way I ran out of steam.  You see, I have a love/ hate relationship with the Wii.  I love the classic selection of games it offers, and some of the system exclusive titles it has are really top notch; but I hate waggling the controller to control a game.  I want a D-pad and buttons.  Eventually, the constant wigging and wagging made me turn my back on the famous plumber… that is until people started talking up Super Mario Galaxy 2!  They said, if the first game was a masterpiece, then the second was a masterpiece’s masterpiece!  It received perfect scores from reviewers!  People stood in line so long to procure a copy that the defecated on themselves (I made that up), and so I gave in a got a copy… used, at a discounted price.  And…  I hated it.  Not only did the game include more waggling than before, now you had to point the controller at the screen constantly to get the on-screen characters to do what you wanted.  I was used to lazily holding controllers slightly off lap, not having to be acutely aware of where I was pointing them.  Maybe it speaks to my age; but one time I was so confused as to how to work the controls that I actually paused the game and looked up how to make things work in the instruction booklet.  Who reads game instruction booklets???

That was the turning point for me.  When I was a kid it was so simple:  press forward on the directional pad to make Mario move.  There were two buttons: one made Mario jump, the other made him run faster when you held it down.  One on a Wii there are two controllers, one with 3 buttons, one with a joystick and an additional button, along with vertical and horizontal shaking moves to make Mario do everything from a triple jump to, a butt-stomp, and even twirl around like a ballerina.  And then you have to worry about where you’re actually pointing the controller!

It's shouldn't take this much effort to tell you how to move your character in a video game.

Later, Nintendo would release New Super Mario Brothers Wii, which was a “traditional” Mario game like the original Super Mario Brothers; but it was designed to be played cooperatively with friends, and I don’t like playing games with other people so much, so I felt even more alienated from Nintendo’s super portly mascot.

I WILL CRUSH YOUR HOPES AND DREAMS!

When I think about it, I have a good feeling for Mario games.  Super Mario 3D Land just came out, and I’m excited as ever for it.  But when I look back, I only ever really enjoyed a total of 3 of Mario’s 9 super games (I love Donkey Kong, Mario’s first game… but he wasn’t Super Mario yet… back in 1983 he was just “Jumpman”): Super Mario Brothers, Super Mario World 2, and Super Mario 64.  Sometimes I feel a little guilty that I get no joy from his modern day adventures.  So many people like them… what am I missing?  Or am I just a gamer that technology is passing by?  After all, I have about 500 games from the years 1984 -2005 and only one console game that was produced in the last year: Kirby’s Epic Yarn for the Nintendo Wii.


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