|"No lessons learned. Thanks for reading, and may the good mojo be with you."|
|Dodging the Parabola Fish - Unabridged and Uneditted Version|
|Date: ||11/03/00 04:11|
|Game Type: ||Other|
|Labels:||Old Classic(1), Gorgeous(1), Great Writing(1), Long(1), Funny(1), Fan Fiction(1), Funny Comments(1)|
|Report Rating: , # of Ratings: 2, Max: 10, Min: 10|
Lifetime Rating for CynicalMagician: 8.7556
[Close up on Professor McKill's face]
Well, here we are again, once more in this situation. I've tracked you across the world Mr. Bond, and it's about time we meet again. Only this time, the tables have turned, for you see it is I who have project G.A.T.Y.R. (Golden Attack Trajectory umm.. Yak Rocket) on my side, while you have only your PP7. Who's laughing now Mr. Bond? I'll tell you. It's me.
Ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha!! Muahahaahahahahahahha!!! MUSHSSHSHAHAHAHAHAAHAHAH!!!!
Ahem. But of course I'll not let you die without telling you the details of my incredibly destructive and evil scheme involving the world's supply of toothpaste and literature containing the word 'Narnia'. Oh no, I can't let you die without knowing that.
[Professor McKill is shot 3 times in the chest. Camera zooms back, reveals James Bond holding a smoking PP7]
Check and mate Professor McKill.
Now that's what I call a sticky situation.
Hmm, I guess he's not a night person.
I thought Christmas came only once a year.
Oh for god's sake which sassy line am I supposed to spout off? I can't remember. [short pause] Oh wait, I know.
Would you like fries with that, Professor McKill? That'll be $2.99. Drive up to the next window.
[Bond shoots Professor McKill several more times in the back.]
Yes well, I suppose the Professor can't win them all. I'm your host, the Cynical Magician, and welcome to another BR about wax lips. And games. This time I'm doing something a little different. Actually, totally different. This is less of a BR and more of a short story. It's somewhat autobiographical too, aside from the few creative licensing rights I took advantage of. If you think of it as less of a straight out conflict, and more of a set of reflections about the game, then it will work out better. It's more of a character study than anything I suppose.
Whatever it is though, I hope you enjoy "Dodging the Parabola Fish - A Story of Two Brothers"
It was a sunny afternoon in the crisp air of September. A gentle breeze blew through the suburbs of Nanaimo, and the leaves were just beginning to change colour. Few of those who see the beauty of a northwest coast fall will ever forget it, and this year was no letdown for the few European tourists who were still on the island. The world was at peace.
* * *
"Did you see the size of that fire thing? I mean, really. What the hell. How was I supposed to dodge that? It's impossible to do unless you know about it already."
"What if you're Bobby Cox?"
"True enough. But I'm still not impressed. I'm on my zero life."
"Dude, Mario doesn't have a zero life. Your ass is grass. Game over."
"Fuck Mario. Who the hell decided not to have a zero life? Nintendo really pisses me off sometimes."
"Well, maybe if you played it Rob style you'd do better. I've got 2 lives left."
* * *
Every generation has it's own game that everyone knows and loves. Those that are in the 21-25 range had early computers with Bubble Bobble. Today's children have Turok and Speed Punks. As for those that were raised by Zack and Kelly on Saved by the Bell, the ones that thrived on the Macarena before it was just a 'remember when' song, the brave souls that lived and died the trials and tribulations of Monkey Island original. As for my generation, we had the Mario Bros. and their twelve thousand six hundred and ninety two spinoff products. It's theme song is instantly recognizable by teens everywhere, and is as much a part of our subculture as rap music and anti-Pokemon sentiment.
But not everyone jumped on the Mario bandwagon the first time it came around. Some were left in the dust of culture, deprived of the electronic console revolution when it first went by in roughly 1991-1994. Some might have had parents that wouldn't allow consoles in the house. Some might just not have had the money. Whatever the reason, some have only just hopped aboard this train. Two of these 'some' are myself and my best friend, Rob. We jumped onto this wild ride hoping to make up for some of the lost time. And we did ever.
* * *
"I can't believe it. It's 2 in the morning and I'm sitting here playing Mario. What are we?"
"Yeah. Or something. But we did make it past world 2. That's a plus."
"Good point. We've never made it this far before."
"What are you talking about? We got this far once before."
"Yeah, by warping. That's cheating. It doesn't work anyway."
"Doesn't work? How do you mean?"
"Ok, the worlds in Mario are in a specific order. They go from easiest to hardest, from 1 to 8. I think we can agree on that, right?"
"Well, the worlds of Mario are all basically training grounds. In each one you learn a different skill, such as precision jumping, defeating the hammer bros, et cetera et cetera et cetera. Therefore, by jumping ahead and skipping a few worlds you're cheating."
"How is that cheating? People skip grades of school all the time, and that's not cheating."
"Yes, but they deserve it. When you cheat in Mario to make it past world 3 and you've never beaten world 3 then you're missing out on all the training that world 3 would've given you."
"But is that really cheating?"
"Well, you're only cheating yourself by missing out on that education, but it's cheating nonetheless."
* * *
The first game we played a lot of was the original Mario. We had a number of other great games for the good ol' 8 bit system, but almost inevitably we'd end up back at Mario after playing the others. In the beginning it was really very hard. We had a lot of trouble dealing with Bowser, the jumping system was hard to master, and for some reason the koopa shells moved so much faster than they should... But we played. We played a lot. We grew both our mastery of the skills needed to beat Bowser, and our character. I realized one day when we were playing just how many life skills you can get out of Mario.
For example, the emotion or motive of greed plays a large role in Mario, and in real life. Let's say that you hit the block and a mushroom comes out. At this point you are small, so you need the mushroom, but in jumping for it you will almost certainly fall into a pit of instant death. You may go for the mushroom the first few times, but eventually you will learn that dying is bad and that you shouldn't get greedy. You need to accept what you have, and not expect more, because expectation and desire lead to unfulfilled goals, and unfulfilled goals lead to unhappiness. In this way, Mario shows us the light of truth.
Another example of a life skill being taught in Mario is that of creativity. A hypothetical situation is a level that you can't get by, perhaps one that seems to be impossible due to the extreme number of random bullets that fly at you from all angles at 4000 miles an hour. Well, you're stuck on it, and you need to get by. But instead of making you beat your head against a wall, Mario teaches you to try something different. Perhaps you can fly over the level, perhaps there is a hidden star somewhere, or it may even be as simple as finding the right vine to climb up. When what you're doing isn't working, you have to try something different.
Finally, there is the lesson of compassion. At many times during your romps through Mario you will find that you will be handed your ass on a platter by a stray koopa troopa shell that was kicked into a wall by yourself, expecting it to be out of your life forever only to have it bounce back at you faster than a fat kid jumpin' on a Smartie, knocking your teeth out of your fat Italian head like a sledge hammer going through chiclets. And why did this happen in the first place? Because you killed a passive creature and kicked his shell.
Who'd've thunk you could learn so much from a game about a pair of pudgy plumbers?
* * *
"This level is prejudiced."
"Well, look, I can't get at those coins up top there."
"So? It's because you're small. Eat a mushroom."
"I should be able to get anywhere that the big people can! I'm no less of a Mario."
"Actually, you are. By eating a mushroom you're showing that you've risked life and limb to achieve your goals, and this is your reward. It wouldn't be fair to just hand the coins to someone who didn't do anything to deserve them."
"What? I didn't have the opportunity to get the mushroom. It wasn't fair. It should be equal for Marios of all sizes."
"Are you a communist?"
"Of course not. What the hell is this, McCarthyism?"
"Well, if you aren't a pinko, you sure sound like one."
"Screw you, I do not!"
"You're saying that everyone should be equal, and should have an equal chance to get the elusive coins. If that's not a major tenant of communism, I'm not sure what is."
"What? That's not communism. That's the key belief of Canada! Opportunity! By living in Canada, you accept the chance that if you work hard enough you'll be a success! There are books and books and books about people who came to this continent with nothing and ended up with millions based solely on their own raw effort and drive to suceed! We're living in the golden land of opportunity my friend! Why do you think people brave the seas of the Pacific for weeks on end just to immigrant to Canada? This is the promise--"
"Dude, you just died to a goomba."
* * *
Mario became our fall back for whenever we didn't have anything to do. Some kids go out and get drunk. We played Mario. I distinctly remember several occassions where we would get done with some party or whatnot on a Friday or Saturday night and go back to Rob's house to play Mario for an hour or so. It was a social thing as well. We were both amused by the game, therefore eliminating any awkward silence that an abscence of conversation might have created, but it wasn't so engaging that we couldn't talk if we wanted to. It worked out rather well.
Actually, it only worked out rather well until I got home at 3:00am one time only to catch my mother in the middle of a post-midnight snack. I got checked into smackdown hotel pretty hard that time. As I recall it came down to me trying to convince her that I had been at Rob's house playing Mario, and her thinking that I was drunk. Apparently there's a mental stumbling block that comes between a parent and believing her son who is trying to convince her that he was playing Mario for the last two hours. I'm unaware as to why it's there, but regardless, it kicked me pretty hard that time.
As a result, I realized that contrary to popular belief, you shouldn't try to use Mario as a legitimate excuse.
* * *
"Oh come on. The princess is always in another castle. Why the fuck isn't she ever in the world 1 castle?"
"Because that's not stylish at all."
"And somehow it's stylish to make us run across the globe to find this ditzy bitch in the first place?"
"She's the princess. It's what she does."
"Phh. I tell you that she'd better be a damn good lay at the end of this ordeal, or I'm going to be pretty pissed."
"What? She's taken an oath of chastity! She's not going to have sex with Mario and Luigi, I'm sorry!"
"An oath of chastity? She's not a nun!"
"Yeah, but she's a princess. When was the last time you ever heard of a princess having sex? Or doing anything but getting captured for that matter."
"Never. She's a big dumb virgin."
* * *
I think our defining moment in Mario original was when we couldn't get past world 5, but we could get past every other level in all the previous worlds with our hands tied behind our back. We started playing theme Mario, where we would play according to a particular role. For example, we had anxious Mario, who's goal it was to run as fast as possible through the level. There was also genocide Mario, who killed EVERYTHING. My personal favourite was minimalist Mario, aka Gandhi Mario. The idea behind it was that you didn't kill anything, get any coins, points, or powerups. This meant that you dodged treasure, and at the end of the level instead of hitting the flag, you waited til your time ran down and you got the least amount of points possible. I think once we made it to world 4 only getting 13000 points.
There was one incident to do with this theme Mario that I look back on with some regret, because it shows how my mind operates. Regardless, it's part of the culture, so I'll tell it. Rob accidentally broke one of the bricks open, and it just happened to contain a star. He then accidentally grabbed it by some weird flick of the controller, and the ultra fast star music kicked in. I said, and I quote, "Hey look! Gandhi Mario has achieved enlighenment!!"
To which Rob eloquently spit pop across the room.
* * *
"Hey, what are you doing? You missed that mushroom! When the lovable fungal kingdom of the mushroom world gives up a member of it's community to you, you shouldn't just pass it off. Sheesh. Like casting pearls before swine."
"You mean like casting musical talent before rappers?"
"Yeah, or casting Chardonnay before an Irishman."
"Casting a book to an Alabaman!"
"Casting rehab to a Californian!"
"Casting logic to a girl!"
"Casting tasteful clothing to your mother!!"
"Ohhhhhhh..... Low blow..."
* * *
Science is everywhere, as is math. It has infested everything about our culture. For example, one Thursday Rob and I decided to go over to his house and lay some serious smack down on Bowser's mutant warriors after school. We fired up Mario original and made it to world 2-1 faster than the greys can gang probe a farmer. For the uneducated infidels that don't know, world 2-1 is one where you run across a broken up bridge and dodge flying fish. You have to jump occassionally, but generally the Paranoia Principle applies, that is to say that if you run fast enough and pretend that you will die istantly if you stop, then you will win.
Anyway, it was my turn, so I ran up the first bridge. Soon afterward a fish leapt from the icy waters below and I noticed something. Oh wait, one other thing before I continue. Our last class of the day was math, and since we'd been doing graphing and parabolas and all that, my mind was still a little math oriented. But that's mostly just a sidenote. The important thing was that I noticed that the fish travelled in the path of a parabola, as did the other flying fish. Also, the parabolas seemed to have stretch factors anywhere from -1/4 to -4. It was amazing. I never noticed how much math influenced everything until then. I mentioned this observation to Rob, and soon after we started seeing conic functions in other places in Mario, such as speeds of the floating platforms (which is a circle), the flying koopas, and all of the powerups that bounce around (ie. stars).
Soon after this, we theorized that if we had paid more attention in class we would be able to instantly recognize the basic forms of the Mario physics, and soon after predict the trajectory of everything, including the jumps that Mario made. If we could've mastered that, it would've been like in the Matrix after Neo figures out what the hell is going on and he starts killing everyone and he doesn't even have to try and then there's a really stupid ending with him flying really high up towards the camera and then I get all annoyed but I still buy the soundtrack because it's so damn cool. Or something like that.
Unfortunately though we haven't been able to achieve this zen of Mario, so we are stuck with the old fashioned methods of dodging the parabola fish, that is to say, "Running around like idiots and jumping in a random manner."
* * *
"Alright, I'm really getting frustrated with this whole world 5 bullshit. Want to play a different game?"
"Sure. Which one?"
"Have we played Mario 2 yet? I've only tried it a couple times."
"What? Mario 2? Are you out of your mind?"
"What do you mean? It's a Mario product. How bad can it be? It can't possibly be worse than Mario Paint."
"Well, I'll tell you one thing. It's not Mario. It's moronic."
"It's not even a Mario game!"
"What are you talking about. It has the name 'Mario' on the box."
"Yeah, but it's totally different from Mario 1. It's all artsy or something."
"Have you ever played it?"
"I've only seen it once or twice."
"Well, try it out and tell me it's not all abstract. It's like Picasso made a Mario game with the help of the Beatles. It's on that many drugs."
"Fine, I'll take your word for it. What do you wanna play then?"
"Mario 3. It's a godlike game. Hmm, speaking of which, I guess Mario 2 did have a silver lining. The only reason they made Mario 3 was because of the amazing shittiness of Mario 2."
"I'm not sure I follow."
"Mario 3 is an apology for Mario 2."
* * *
There's an interesting thing about Mario and the people who play it. A constant of Mario is that there is always someone who knows more about the game and knows more secrets than you do. Always. There's always some kid that you know from elementary school but rarely see anymore that was a demigod of Mario. He knew how to get from world 1 to world 8 in less than 4 minutes. He could beat Bowser without his left hand. He was, in short, a Mario guru. But even he had someone that he turned to. After all, he found these secrets and tricks from one of his friends at some point.
This is where the kid from Vancouver comes in. If you aren't very good at Mario, you have a best friend who is. If you're the best friend, you have the kid from school. If you're that kid from school, you know a guy in Vancouver that knows everything about Mario. And the kid in Vancouver? Either he writes for Nintendo Power, or he communes with God nightly. It's a chain of command of sorts. No one finds secrets on their own, they have them told to them by other people.
The culture of Mario is an oral tradition. There are no scriptures of Mario, it is passed on from mouth to mouth.
* * *
"You know what I wanna know?"
"Oh, what do you want to know? I'm dying to know."
"First, I want to know why you're such a whore. Then I want to know why Mario can suddenly fly when he gets a leaf."
"You mean you don't know?"
"Well, it doesn't really make any sense. One minute he's just Mario, then after he gets an oversized leaf he grows a tail and his hat grows ears. Somehow this makes him fly. I'm not making the connection."
"Sigh. OK, here's what it is. Mario is a druggie. He gets the 'leaf' and suddenly he thinks he can fly. What do you think he's doing with the leaf? Taping it to his back?? No! He's injecting it into his veins! He's doing a rail of leaf! Taking a hit from a leaf bong! Mario probably has trackmarks on his arms from all the leaf he's done. He's hard-assed core, man."
"But why a tail?"
"That still doesn't really explain why he can fly. If it's a hallucination that means it isn't real."
"If you believe in something hard enough it becomes real."
"Don't try to be wise. It hurts."
"And now, a question of ethics... do I wink at you or not?"
"And now, a question of ethics... do I punch you in the groin or not?"
"I think we answered each other's question."
"I think you're right."
* * *
Just as there are two Mario brothers, there are two types of Italians. Mario is headstrong, confident in his ability, verbose, and good natured. He's short and jovially fat, fairly attractive, and he always gets the girl. He's the leader of the operation, fairly clever, quick on his feet, and an all round honest guy. However, he has the flaw of stealing the thunder. Often he will let Luigi do the work before he shows up, jumps on Bowser once, and then steals the coins. This isn't to say he's not a great guy, but credit where credit is due, you know?
Luigi on the other hand is everything that Mario is not. He's shy, timid, has many self esteem issues, and doesn't seem to be sure of anything. Where Mario is short and fat, Luigi is tall and lanky. He has shifty eyes, small hands, and he never gets the girl. He's terrifying to children, and he isn't really very respected. However, he is the brains of the Mario Bros. The Mario Bros are nothing without Luigi, as it is his planning and hard work that make the rescue attempts on the Princess possible. He's an integral part of the Mario bros.
All Italians fit into these categories of personality. All of them. They can't exist without one another though. They are ying and yang. Neither superior, neither inferior, forever whirling in a circle. The circle of life.
* * *
"Do you ever wonder what the koopa troopas think about?"
"No, not really. They're mindless anyway."
"What do you mean? They obviously have some sort of thought process."
"Come on. They walk in straight lines in the hope that you'll hit them and you'll die."
"Ok, first off, there are class divisions in the koopa world, and this indicates the presence of a culture. Culture indicates thought, so therefore, they think. So what do they think of?"
"Wait a minute. Class divisions? They line up to die! There's nothing classy about that."
"Watch though. The ones with red shells that are on platforms don't walk off the edges. They turn around. The green ones plummet to their death."
"Alright fine. But how does that suggest a culture?"
"They have a difference in values! Green ones care only for orders, and the red ones have a sense of self preservation! That contrast alone indicates a form of society, however crude."
"Ok, I see your point. So what do you think they think about?"
"In other words, their minds are perpetually in the gutter, just like yours?"
* * *
We played a fair amount of Mario 3. Fair amount meaning a lot. However, we inevitably found ourselves frustrated by it as the levels were huge, there was no save game function, and also there was that dastardly ice world. And the water world. Even when we warped ahead, we found that the tank in world 8 was just too much. We started returning more and more to Mario original, but even it wore old eventually.
But then one day Rob called me up on the phone telling me to get my ass over to his house. Sensing that something may be afoot, I head over. When I got there he was just plugging in a Super Nintendo, which, in my opinion, is the best console system ever.
Anyway, it turns out he had borrowed the system and a bunch of games indefinitely. I shouted hurrah, and then again when I saw that Super Mario World was among the catridges he had. Our life had new meaning.
* * *
"Now it's a true test. Are you going to be able to resist the temptation to go for that dragon coin or not?"
"That's hardly a test. Of course I'm going to go for it. Why on earth wouldn't I?"
"Because the last 4 times you've gone after it you've died immediately afterward?"
"But aside from that."
"Pat, you're so greedy. Accept what you have."
"Never! I want more more more more more!"
"Sigh. The North American dream lives on."
"In each and every one of us."
* * *
There are a lot a secret levels in Super Mario World. I mean a lot. I would approximate that there are roughly 40 "points" to be acquired if one went through the game only doing the levels that were necessary, as opposed to the possible number of points that are available, which is, as far as I know, 96. Most of these are really really hard to find as well. You have to be in the right mindset to get them, as well as have fast fingers. To find a lot of them you need to be patient and observant, and willing to try seemingly stupid things. It's not rocket science once you adopt the proper attitude, but it takes a little bit of effort. Rob and I found a lot of the secrets, getting our total up to about 86 as I recall, but we played a lot of the game.
I still remember one day coming home from school and Rob got all excited while we were walking. He started yammering on and on about some special world that he found the night before, where the music was Latin, the women were easy, and only the strong survived. Shortly thereafter we went to his house and embarked on the Mario ride of our lives.
* * *
"Oh my god, why on earth do they have to make this level so impossibly hard?"
"I'm not sure. Moral victory over the people that play Mario?"
"I'm getting really mad! This is not physically possible to do! There are too many of those damned fire shooting plants!"
"You can never have enough fire shooting plants."
"Shut up. Just because you're not in the special world."
"Hey, I did my time. And I'm not really having any luck finding the exit to the star world from the butter bridge, so don't come bitching to me."
"But I want your job. I could do it easy."
"The grass is always greener on the other side."
"It certainly is. Let me have a try on the Butter Bridge."
* * *
As it turned out, Rob and I developed different skills in the Mario world because we relied on each other for both moral and emotional support. For example, I became really good at doing the ghost houses, bosses, and many of the castles. Rob became a god of the swimming levels, and he also maintained an expertise of flying and using the cape. I could execute only simple manuevers with the cape, but he could do everything with it, from elaborate dodging to cape attacks. Between the two of us we could conquer anything.
As I said to him one day, "You know, if you put both of us together, we'd make the ultimate gamer."
It was true too, and it became more and more clear as we worked on the special world together. There were some levels I couldn't complete, and there were some he couldn't. Some neither of us could. But we worked at them. Oh how we worked... It became our religious war. We would finish the special world or die trying.
* * *
"Ha ha! I love getting stars on this level! You can get a million free lives!"
"True enough. You're at, what... 45 now?"
"I'm going for 69. I know that once I get 69 lives I'll be able to beat this god forsaken level."
"It's tough, alright."
"No kidding. Stupid ice levels. Why won't they stop making us do them?"
"Because the point of the special world is to seperate the Mario men from the Mario boys. It wouldn't do a very good job of that if all the levels were easy."
"Yeah I know, but can't they make them the same type of hard?"
"Thanks grammar. No they can't. It has to be a cross section of every difficult section of Mario. If you can beat the special world, you can do anything."
"Well, right about now I'd really like to be able to trade some of my 47 lives just to beat this level. I mean, it's not like I need them."
"Me too. I've got 37."
"We don't need our lives. Why can't we trade them?"
"Ha ha ha! It's so true! But at the same time, we don't even have them."
"Dude, we're sitting here at 1:30am on a Friday night. We don't have lives to trade."
* * *
The special world was a very large challenge for even experienced Mario warriors such as ourselves. We spent hour after hour in an almost predetermined cycle of playing a level, dying, playing it again, dying, getting frustrated, trying to get by the forest of illusion, getting frustrated again, then going back to the special world, and repeating as necessary. But the interesting thing was that the more we died, the more we wanted to beat it. It grew from a hobby into a physical need, much like Starcraft, Nibbles, XCom, or crack-cocaine.
This highlights an interesting point about human nature. The more we can't have something, the more we want it. There's something about that forbidden fruit that we just can't resist. I can't explain it any more than anyone can, but it seems to be there, deep within all of us. This also has to do with the "Grass is greener on the other side" principle that most people live by, that is that everyone wants what the other guy has.
At any rate, the special world became a kind of crusade for us, much like Stonehenge was to the people that built it. Part of us didn't even expect to be able to do it, but we would pass our knowledge onto the next generation.
* * *
"Oh my god. Why can't you just finish that level and get on with it? I've beaten one of the special world levels tonight. You're not holding up your end of the bargain."
"Hey screw you. The Forest of Illusion isn't as easy as it sounds."
"Come on. The Forest of Illusion isn't your problem. You're blaming your situation on outside circumstances. Do you think that's actually why you're having trouble?"
"Well, I guess I might not be very good at the game."
"That's not it and you know it."
"Fine. What is it?"
"You're Luigi. He's worthless. It's that simple."
"What are you talking about? Luigi does all the work and Mario takes all the credit!"
"Are you kidding? Mario does everything! There's a reason he gets the girl! Luigi just trips and falls all over the place, and if he happens to fall through the end of a level, good for him."
"You're insane. Luigi is as much a part of this team as anyone."
"Sure he is, in that you can't have competence without incompetence. Two sides of the same coin."
"I hate you so much."
"Join me on the M side."
* * *
Have you ever listened to the music in Mario? I mean, stopped playing, and really listened? It's really very good. The pieces range from upbeat bounces, ethereal underwater mixes, and even the foreboding castle themes. A veritable cornocopia of music. From the opening waltz theme to the dark and gothic cave songs, it's a masterful soundscape.
Now, some would have you believe that due to the fact that everything is based on midi, the music isn't very complex, and it has a flat sound. This may be true to a very limited degree, as there are only so many instruments you can get out of even the most advanced midi sound canvas. However, the different instruments, ranging from bells to tubas to drums, to strings create a full and convincing spectrum. It's all you need.
Take, for example, the underwater theme that you hear in Super Mario World. Not only is it a very waltz like piece of music, but it is a derivative from the main theme. The main difference is that it has a layered echo effect over top of it, as well as a sort of vibrato placed on it. Those give it a wispy, mistlike quality.
Or if you're not a big fan of atmospheric pieces, go to the special world and listen to the theme there. It has a very distinctive latin/Cuban feel, and it really makes you feel like you're in the middle of some South American or Caribbean nation, taking in the culture. Very simple, but highly effective.
So the next time you're in need of some good concept album-esque music, pick up the themes from Super Mario World. Rolling Stone gives it 10 stars, and Distinguished Producer Magazine (TM) says it's better than Dark Side of the Moon. Or something.
* * *
"Wow. I think we know who made this game."
"You mean the Free Masons?"
"Must.. not.. dignify that.. with a.... response!"
"Ohh right, it was the Japanese."
"Right. I mean, it's so obvious."
"What tipped you off? The Japanese names in the credits, or the fact that it's NINTENDO!"
"No no no. Just look at this whole game. It's totally the typical Japanese view of North Americans. A bunch of short fat plumbers trying to get laid. And they kill everything."
"Ha ha! It's so true!"
"Yep. Also, there's definite influence on Nintendo by eastern religious philosophies."
"You mean the karma thing?"
"Yeah, there's that, but there's also the way we've got multiple lives. Transmigration of the soul and all that."
"What are you talking about? That's a western religious concept if I've ever heard one. Mario and Luigi get reborn in their previously owned bodies. That's reincarnation, man."
"No way. If it was a Christian game, halfway through every level the Inquisition would jump out and arrest Mario for preaching Satanism and refusing to take the Communion wafer and then burn him at the stake. And this would be based on the testimony of Mario's ex-barber's cousin's dog's previous owner's son, who told their friend while they were drunk. And stoned."
"Either that or Mario would nail a list of reforms on Bowser's castle door instead of killing him."
"Then he would move to England and start his own church because he isn't allowed to have sex with the princess all the time."
"I can see it now.... St. Mario of Dinosaur World!"
* * *
One thing that still haunts me to this day is the issue of Yoshi in Super Mario World. Who was he? Where did he come from? It's something I've thought long and hard about, but I've come to no satisfactory conclusions. Let's take a look at the facts.
Yoshi is a dinosaur that you rescue from an egg in the level "Yoshi's Island 2". You ram your head into a question box and an egg pops out. Being exposed to sunlight, the egg soon hatches, and we are greeted by a small lizard creature that grows incredibly rapidly and can also talk. He tells you that Bowser imprisoned him inside the egg and that his 7 friends are also trapped inside eggs in the 7 castles. He asks you to rescue them, so you say yes. You're Mario, you can't NOT say yes.
So there you are, wondering along the level, and let's say that you lose Yoshi, and Yoshi being the giant ass that he is, decides it's prudent to run like a crack victim across the screen and out of your life forever. You're left thinking, 'What a dick.' You can try and catch him, but he's fairly singleminded in his escape, and he doesn't get slowed down by koopas or any of the rest of it. He can even run underwater.
So you think you've lost Yoshi forever, and based on what you've seen so far, you'd be right. Right? Wrong. Just walk a few feet into Yoshi's Island 4, and there he is again, trapped inside another question box. This raises a few questions. First, how can he keep getting captured when he can run so fast and so impervious to Koopa Troopas? He must give himself up to Bowser for some reason. Maybe he's trying to deal his way into Bowser letting his friends go free, or maybe it's something altogether more sinister and powerful.
Perhaps Yoshi is a spy for Bowser, intent on watching your every move and then running off to tell Bowser about your exploits. This would be in keeping with the rest of the situation, because Yoshi always shows up again in another egg just down the road. You can always get Yoshi back from a different egg. That's just the way it is.
But of course this brings up another issue. How can Yoshi run off of a cliff in one level, and show up perfectly fine in the next? There are two ways this could happen. One, Yoshi is not one dinosaur, but rather a whole set of dinosaurs, a giant organization where you only see 1 at a time. This is equivalent to Big Brother in 1984. Now, I know you're thinking, 'But at the end of Super Mario World you see all 8 of the Yoshi dinosaurs on one screen. They want you to think they are just 1 person.' And that's where the "Big Brother = Yoshi" theory falls down.
However, there is another possible explaination for Yoshi's surprise disappearances and reappearances, that is that Yoshi is an incarnation of whatever patron saint Mario has. Yoshi appears benevolent, always trying to be the nice guy, always doing Mario a favour. He shows up at the most opportune times, and then vanishes again into thin air. He acts like an Avatar of sorts, an incarnation of a higher being.
Who can tell for sure which of these, if any, is true? None of us. We may never know the true story behind Yoshi.
* * *
"Wow, these ghost houses are scary, eh?"
"Yeah, look at them. The dark blues and browns, floating things trying to kill you..."
"Don't forget the really big ghost. He's shy but he'll kill you in a heartbeat."
"Where's Scooby Doo and the gang when you need him?"
"No kidding. Plus if Scooby Doo and the gang showed up we'd get to look at Daffney's red hot body."
"She's a peach, alright."
"You know what I think though?"
"No, but I bet you're going to tell me."
"I think Daffney was just a pseudo slut. She was really hot and all that, but she didn't seem to get it on with anyone but the guy in the white jacket."
"The guy in the white jacket?"
"You know, the guy that wasn't Shaggy."
"Yeah. I think that Daffney was just kind of easy, whereas Velma was a total nympho."
"Velma was a nympho? I find that a little hard to believe."
"Well sure she was. She was a repressed school girl who never got to show her true nature except when she was in the Mystery Machine. But man, when she was in that Mystery Machine she'd mount anything that moved and many things that didn't."
"You're in denial. Who's worse?"
"Speaking of which, did you know that there was a laugh track on that show?"
"Really? I never noticed."
"Yeah, there is. You know the weirdest part?"
"It's a laughtrack of adults. It was supposed to be a kid's show."
"Hmm. That is rather scary. Course, if what I said is true and there was all the rampant drug use and promiscuity in the Mystery Machine, then it's no wonder that it was meant for adults only."
"Yeah. Before we know it Senator Leiberman will be all over Hanna Barbara for being a bad influence and all the rest of it."
"Stupid soulless border hopping Senators..."
* * *
It all ended at about 2:30 am on a Friday night... October 20th I believe. We had played for a long long time that evening, I'm talking 3 or 4 hours. The last level of the Special World was at our fingertips, and although it wasn't a particularly difficult level, it required some odd timing, and we were having a bit of trouble getting it down. I seem to remember something about an ice level or some such. You had to get the star so you were invincible to the parabola fish and then jump across these little blocks that were incredibly slippery. We managed to pull it off though. Oh wait, that wasn't the last level, that was the second to last level. They all seem to blend together. I'm starting to get old. A Mario veteran.
I remember now. The last level of the Special World was relatively easy. It was not a hard level at all, but they only gave you 200 time units to do it in. It was mostly just a race. But the prize at the end was worth it. The makers of Nintendo spelled out the words, "You are a Super Player" in big coins for all the world to see. And then you got to go back through Mario on a different coloured map with a whole bunch of trippy things happening.
I also remember the feeling we had after we beat the last level of the Special World. At first it was one of intense satisfaction and a real pride in accomplishing something that was genuinely difficult. We shook hands, gave each other a pat on the back, broke out the champagne and escort girls and all the rest of it, but afterward there was something else that filled us. It was a feeling of disillusion. The term, "Lonely at the top," is very true.
After we beat the Special World I also remember us rushing to beat the game, that is, kill Bowser. After all the experience we gained in the Special World, Bowser was not much of a challenge at all. In fact, compared to almost any of the other bosses, he was really a let down. He flew around for a while, occasionally dropped stuff out of his magic little cart, but really wasn't much of a challenge. The hardest part was learning how to throw those damned robot koopas into the air in order to hit him.
I guess that's why we found the ending to be a little bit anti-climactic. Of course, most people never get to the special world, so the ending is a large challenge to them. Again we see society pandering to the lowest common denominator.
Of course, maybe there's another special world, one that we didn't find. We're all the lowest common denominator to someone else, I suppose.
* * *
"I can't believe we just beat Super Mario World."
"Yeah, I'm a little stunned too."
"As of now we're privvy to information that very few people know."
"You mean the names of all these enemies?"
"Yeah. It's weird to know there's a face behind the enemy that we've been destroying all this time. It's kind of creepy."
"Haha, the big brick things are called thromps."
"This is like that book, All Quiet on the Western Front."
"Bullet Bill. I like it."
"What if all of the koopas we killed had families? What if they aren't so much different from us? After all, they are just following orders."
"Actually, I think the big red lava thing has the best name."
"When is a soldier responsible for his orders? Oh my god, I'm not going to sleep tonight!"
"Blarggh!! He's named after the sound he makes!!"
"Christ, I just killed a million potentially innocent troops! How are their children going to eat tonight?"
"Blarggh!! Blaaarrrhgh! BBLAAARRRRARRGRGH!! I love saying that! BLAAArRARAGAGAA!!"
"What the fuck is the matter with you?"
"Blaarrrggg! I'm the big red lava thing!! Look at me!"
"I can't take you anywhere."
"Oh well. I'll wax philosophical to myself."
"Hey! Look at that! A new winner for the best name!"
"Rip Van Fish!"
"Ha ha ha! That's awesome."
"So shall we call it a good day?"
"Definitely. It's been a slice."
"Do you want a ride home?"
"No, I've got some thinking to do. I'll walk."