Posted by: seanmalstrom | December 17, 2013

Email: Challenge in 2d Mario

Hello, Master Malstrom!

I just read your blog post regarding what bugs you about modern 2D Mario.

It’s fitting that you call that forum poster a monkey, because he says “SMBWU”, but actually talks about Super Mario 3D World. It’s baffling that he gets the name of the game he apparently bought the console for wrong. But that misunderstanding aside (and yours, if you really believed that there are green stars in 2D Mario), the general point you made stands. I agree that it would make things more interesting in 2D Mario, if Nintendo dropped the star coins and upped the challenge in the main course of the game. People don’t need to be able to beat 2D Mario in order to enjoy it. I remember my father used to play Super Mario Bros. 3’s World 1 and then quit the game as soon as he reached World 2. He did that over and over again. That makes it clear that he really liked the game, despite never coming close to finishing it.

I like your idea of not being able to go back. The farming of extra lives and power-ups in Super Mario World is something I have repeatedly pointed out to people who ranted about how 2D Mario was so much more challenging back in the day. Super Mario World also introduced the separate more challenging levels (Star World Special), so the problems of the NSMB games can be traced back all the way to 1990.

Although I do think that the ability to replay all levels should be unlocked eventually. Taking a SMB3-like approach with individual worlds where there is no going back once you defeated the boss of a world, step 1 would be to make it to the end of the game. During step 2 the game allows you to go back in previous worlds after beating the final boss to play the levels you didn’t beat during step 1; levels you completed during step 1 would not be accessible, just like mushroom houses you visited would be locked. And once you completed every single level in the game, everything opens up again and can be replayed as often as you want. The player has conquered the entire game, so now it’s theirs. It then serves as a playground and to show off, but any player with a winner attitude won’t bother much with it and will instead start a new game to earn everything again. Alternatively, all levels will only be unlocked for free replay, if the player pulls off a clean run and beats every single level before facing the final boss.

Of course, in order to make the game satisfying, the amount of extra lives and power-ups needs to be dialed back to make those things valuable. There have been too many of them ever since Super Mario World. And that is before taking farming into account.

Anyway, it’s clear that 2D Mario needs a major overhaul. The “New” needs to be dropped, there needs to be new content and better production values. The latter half of the worlds needs to be more challenging, the designers’ attitude that everyone should be able to beat the game needs to go away. Because if everyone can beat it, what is special about beating it? I don’t think there’s any evidence that sales of Nintendo games go up, if they become easier. That’s not to say that we need The Lost Levels difficulty, just something more in line with Super Mario Bros. 3 that had the slippery World 6 and quite a few punishing levels in World 7 and 8.

Why ‘unlock’ anything? Just press ‘New Game’ to replay level 1-1. I don’t like how games have gotten to the point where we never press ‘New Game’. We are anchored to an eternal save file that remembers all our collectibles and other junk. I would like to press ‘New game’ more often in games to do the adventure again!

I would like the bosses to do something other than just sit there. In Super Mario Brothers 3, they at least tried to fly behind a level you hadn’t done yet when you died to them. Why type of boss sits in a room waiting for the hero to approach? That doesn’t seem logical. Why doesn’t the boss do something?

What if the elimination of the boss doesn’t mean victory of the world? The longer the boss is on the board, the more havoc he wreaks. (What if he makes a level all icy? Or he adds vicious goombas to another level?) And what if the experienced player wants the boss to wreak havoc on the levels to open up more areas within those levels? There are so many things that can be done.

Hell, why can’t the first world ‘end’ with Mario hijacking an airship and being able to upgrade it as he travels to other areas? Why can’t Mario get a hold of those cool Koopa Kid wands and manipulate the blocks, turn some blocks to different blocks? So many gameplay possibilities.

Our biggest problem is that Nintendo doesn’t want to make 2d Mario. With our luck, they’ll just keep reserving it for their ‘C-team’. It is difficult to get a good game when the game company doesn’t want to make it.



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