Monday, May 4, 2015

On Super Mario World

A few hours ago I beat Super Mario World, one of the main titles that haunted my childhood.  A game I’d play when at my Godmother’s it was a title of frustration for me because it was a well-made, challenging and time-consuming game.  And due-to my inability to play the game whenever I wanted, it was just one of those titles that got away.  Strangely enough, I also played Super Mario Bros and Mario Bros 3 at my Godmother’s (I think she had a NES and then replaced it with an SNES, only I’m thinking of someone else’s house for the SNES) but didn’t have the same feeling of being robbed.  I think it was because I had much more time to play SMB III growing up, and though I only beat it about a year ago (maybe more now) I couldn’t beat it because of its difficulty.  With SMW, though it is a difficult game, what prevented me from advancing, and what would likely be just another cause for my future neuroticism, is that I couldn’t advance because I couldn’t find the way to get out of the Forest of Illusions. Now of course know you have to go down the blue pipe in FoI II (if memory serves) but without a lot of time to explore, I felt deprived of my rightful gaming glory by my pedestrian parents; who were too simple-minded to understand the virtue of Mario’s quest.
I have to say, I still prefer SMB III to SMW.  There’s just something about the stages and the difficulty that’s just right.  It also is a lengthy game with lots of additions like the item tray.  SMW has Yoshi, and the cape which is comparable to Raccoon Mario, but not being able to use any potentially saved-up items (save one) can be frustrating, particularly towards the end of the game which I’ll get to momentarily.  The game is a bit short and felt sporadic with its difficulty.  While SMB III was a gradual uphill climb more-or-less, SMW will have many easy levels throughout the game, and have difficult bosses or random levels here-and-there.  I know it’s not in the Mario tradition, but some of the bosses (the first and last one before Bowser to be specific) seemed so tough if you’re not experienced with the mechanics of hitting the Koopa Kid in the lava that part of me thinks that this game should mimic Mega Man and have a check point before the boss.  Also only having a checkpoint in one of the castles was a bit frustrating but overall something I didn’t mind much.
However, what I did find frustrating to the nth degree was the second last level of the game.  It begins with a fairly easy moving line of blocks that you have to stay on for the majority of the challenge while maneuvering around swinging balls of death.  Simple.  For the next area you have to dodge Magickoopa’s shape blasts while dodging Dry Bones and waiting for Magickoopa to hit yellow blocks that go straight up creating a wall preventing you from advancing.  This part needs serious alterations.  First off you really should get rid of the ball-and-chain part of this level; the Magickoopa is difficulty enough and it just becomes incredibly annoying that every time you die you have to do this over-and-over a-gain.  Not only that, but if you were playing the game on the SNES or “honestly” on a emulator, when you get a game over, you’d have to do the last few stages over again, get to the castle, pass the ball-and-chains and without recent exposure or a chance to practice get killed by the Magickoopa a-gain. Also the mechanics of the Magickoopa should be changed.  He follows your movements too accurately and appears to shoot another blast too soon.  If I jump, he’ll shoot almost exactly where I was when he fired his blast, which makes it difficult when you’re not trying to trick him into hitting the block wall, but instead trying to simply avoid his blasts and jump on him perhaps.
The main problem however is how Magickoopa’s blasts work.  Here do one of two things.  Either get rid of the damn block wall that prevents you from moving, making it similar to Yoshi’s Island (Super Mario World 2) where the Magickoopa is teleporting and shooting beams at you before you fight baby Bowser.  And if you’re not going to do those, then in the name of Miyamato make his fucking magic blasts hit the blocks whenever they touch them!  It has to be precise; otherwise it just passes through it towards you.  And even when it does turn the blocks into koopas (if memory serves) the blasts still is heading towards you.  Make the blast pass transparently through the block if you want, but make it transform the block into something.  There were times were the time ran out because I was waiting for Magickoopa to hit the block just right.  And get rid of the possibility of the blocks turning into mini Thwomps. That’s just cruel.  They stay stuck in position with all the other blocks, until a block is transformed above or below it.  Then its pattern of movement becomes so limited to the area you need to go through that you’re going to get hit.  Because I saved my emulator to the beginning of the Magickoopa area, I could just re-load a-gain and a-gain but it was still incredibly frustrating.  If you only had a few lives left, and wanted to actually try to become skilled and experienced at this stage, when then tough shit, you just wasted a life and could very-well get a Game Over because some gray block that won’t get out of your fucking way, and because the Magickoopa won’t hit the blocks to let you get on with the stage.
I should say here that another reason I found it incredibly frustrating is my emulator wouldn’t save (or retain my saves) if I closed the application.  I dreaded going through the whole game again if the emulator crashed (which it never did) and I already had to go through the first three worlds or so three times because I closed out of the emulator.  It did steal from my gaming experience a bit, but I saved all of the main positions from the last two levels, so I can try to do it all in one go if I choose – which will probably never happen.
I found it a bit difficult to get the hang of kicking the Mechakoopas at Bowser, since I never had to kick a turtle shell directly into the air at any other point in the game.  The boss stage is of moderate difficulty, but I feel they’re a bit stingy with item blocks towards the end of the game.  SMB III was perhaps, and SMB definitely was, but for some reason it seemed to not be as much of a problem in the former.  The latter I beat in High School by only playing stages 1-1, 1-2, 4-1, 4-2 and the entire last world, so I feel I don’t have a right to complain about the stinginess of items or difficulty.  Overall however, the first Mario probably is the hardest.  SMB III and SMW are probably about tied, but SMB III seems easier to me because I’ve played it more.  Also I’m honestly not used to playing with Yoshi, and the movements of the dinosaur just feel a tad clunky and awkward.  Not at-all like actually playing as Yoshi in SMW II.  The only point in the game where I needed to look online to see what to do was one of the Ghost Houses, and I probably could’ve figured it out, but like I said I wanted to finish the game quickly so I wouldn’t have to play three-quarters of the game over again.  If they changed the second-last stage to the game, I would say with little uncertainty that this game is reasonably tough and deserves almost as much praise as SMBIII as being one of the best platform/sidescroller games in existence.
Now I just need to be Crash Bandicoot and my childhood will be complete.  Though it’s not as if that’ll stop me from being a perpetual man-child.

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