Mario 30th Anniversary – Super Mario Bros. 2

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When you have a massive hit with something – a movie, TV show, a song, or even a video game, you know a certain question is going to be asked: what do you do to follow it up?

Even if the folks at Nintendo never voiced it out loud, that question did weigh on their minds. Now that they had gone nationwide with the NES and single-handedly revitalized the video-game market, they knew they had to keep that momentum going. Fortunately Super Mario Bros. had proven to be the lynchpin they had hoped it would be, and their third-party licensees were already hard at work making games for the new system. However, it didn’t take long for Nintendo to realize that the courageous Italian plumber was turning into quite the household name to kids everywhere in the U.S. and they knew that a Mario sequel would be just the thing to help keep momentum, and as luck would have it, the sequel was already done.


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Originally created for the Famicom Disk System in Japan, Super Mario Bros. 2 was an enhanced version of the original game, only with the level designs being more complex, character features were a bit more distinct, and there were even weather effects that could either help or hinder the player. As a result, players had a game that harkened back to the original, but with the difficulty amped up tremendously.

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As Nintendo of America studied the game, they came away from it feeling that the game would be too difficult for their audiences to grasp, and as such they had to find some other option. Given that the crash of ’83 was still fresh in their minds, NoA wanted their Mario games to be fun to their audiences, not difficult to the point of all-out frustration, which they felt would only make their games inaccessible to a market that was only just now recovering. As a result, they declined the original Mario sequel and requested a newer, friendlier sequel.

The timing was pretty good because right around this time Nintendo game director Kensuke Tanabe had already been working on a prototype for a new game, with help from Nintendo’s programming partner SRD. The prototype was essentially a model that put emphasis on levels that scrolled vertically with two players literally throwing each other in a cooperative way, and ascending by throwing and stacking blocks. Unfortunately the combination of both the scrolling and the multi-player action was deemed too much for the Famicom’s hardware to handle, and Tanabe sat on the prototype for a while until he was told to use the Yume Kojo mascots in a game. With help from Shigeru Miyamoto’s team, Tanabe took the gameplay concepts from his prototype and ended up creating “Yume Kojo: Doki Doki Panic”. The game was set in an Arabian environment, with four distinct protagonists: Mama, Papa, Imajin and Lina. Although all four characters are optionally playable, the game is never fully completed until the player clears all the levels using each protagonist.

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To convert this game into what would be Super Mario Bros. 2, several graphical changes were made to the levels and the characters, particularly with Mario, Luigi, Toad, and Princess Peach Toadstool being built upon the character models of Imajin, Mama, Lina and Papa. As a result the characters now had the physical likeness that audiences now recognize these days such as Luigi being taller than Mario. Plus when Luigi jumped he would not only jump higher but his legs would do a little animation as well, an idea Miyamoto himself came up with. Aside from the aforementioned changes, very little else needed to be changed, seeing as how Doki Doki Panic already had familiar elements like the Starmen, coins, POW Blocks, and Warp-Zones. However, the only other notable change was that instead of needing to use each of the heroes to complete each level, the player could finish the game with any combination of characters, and if he/she wanted to, they could just keep choosing the same character when prompted.

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In addition, the sound effects from the first Super Mario Bros. game were used, along with some new music cues courtesy of Koji Kondo.

So just what was the end result? Well, players were reintroduced to some familiar characters once again, only this time in a whole new way. Not only were Mario and Luigi playable, but so were Princess Peach and Toad, and instead of the Mushroom Kingdom the four heroes found themselves in a dream-world called Subcon and they had to try and find a way to free it from the clutches of the villainous frog known as Wart. To do this they had to defeat Wart’s forces using vegetables, bomb-plants, and POW Blocks, as well as picking up their enemies and throwing them at other foes.

Not only did the four heroes each look distinct, but they also had abilities that could be a big help, depending on the level and if the player knew how to use the characters well: Mario was a character who was the most balanced; Luigi could jump higher than anyone else; Toad was the strongest of the four and wasn’t hampered by whatever he picked up; and Princess Peach was able to hover for a few seconds.

Unlike SMB, SMB2 had an actual life gauge for the characters. So unlike the first game – where if you touched an enemy you shrank and lost all your abilities – with this gauge you could take a hit and not worry about dying unless you were at your final life point, and it would only be at your final life point where you would also shrink.

In keeping with its predecessor, SMB2 also had Easter Eggs, but they could only be gotten to if the player found a magic flask which, after being thrown would activate a doorway that would access a hidden area known as subspace, where the level’s grounds appear black with the exception of the sky, the vegetable sprouts could be picked up as coins instead of actual vegetables, and if the player threw the flask in just the right spot, he/she could find a mushroom that could increase their maximum life gauge by one once picked up.

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Plus, the jars that work like pipes – gateways to hidden spots – could also be used as Warp-Zones if one knew where to look.

Not only that, but the coins that are collected in the subspace could be used for the bonus round at the end of each level, which was a slot machine game that could earn the player more lives if they could match up certain characters.

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Now even though the game was significantly different than its predecessor it was still nonetheless enjoyable, plus being able to play as Toad and the Princess as well as the Mario Bros. made it all the more fun, plus there was still enough of the gameplay that carried over from SMB that didn’t turn audiences off, which made Nintendo of America sigh in relief.

As a whole, the game ended up doing very well (ten million sold) and became the third highest-selling game for the NES at that point in time. The Nintendo Power magazine even said that although it wasn’t originally released as a Mario game, it was able to stand on its own merits and its unique takes on the series’ trademark format, and it is very difficult to dispute that.

Although the original Super Mario Bros. 2 would eventually find its way to U.S. shores years down the road, it is still nevertheless impressive to see how the sequel we received was different yet still didn’t break the elements that made the original SMB great. And the game’s staying power still holds up even to this day, given that it has been re-released countless times since the dawn of the new millennium, from the Game-Boy Advance to the Virtual Console on the Wii U.

Mario and his friends may have taken a little detour into a dream world, but it was one that was still nevertheless fun for all, and every gamer who has played it can attest to that.

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But even with this little detour, gamers were going to have to brace themselves for things to get super once again within a year and change, but this time on a much grander stage, both literally and figuratively…

Mario 30th Anniversary Spotlight: Super Mario Bros.

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Hit of hits.

Beyond a classic.

The game that helped restart an industry’s dead heart.

These are only but a few statements that can accurately describe this gem of a video game, but even then, that isn’t enough to describe the awesomeness of it, let alone its significance to the world of video games.

In fact, without this game, the industry – no, the entire world itself – would be much poorer without it.

But what is it exactly about this game that makes it a classic, and just why is it that even after thirty years, it still resonates with gamers?

Well, to better understand this, let’s go back to the beginning.

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It is the year 1986, and Nintendo’s American division had managed to bring the Family-Computer (or Famicom) to the U.S. in the form of the Nintendo Entertainment System, but it was only a moderate success, given that they had only released it in two test markets at that point: New York City and Los Angeles. Although the end results of those tests weren’t smash hits, they were enough of a success that Nintendo of America decided to go ahead and go nationwide. What they needed though, was a lynchpin; Something that could be used to sell the NES in such a way that people would buy the system just to play that game, if nothing else.

Fortunately over at Nintendo’s Japanese headquarters just such a game was on its way, and it all started one year before…


Jumpman Goes Super

By 1985 Shigeru Miyamoto had given his character Jumpman quite the evolution since Donkey Kong (1981). Originally he had made him a carpenter who chased after a gorilla, and then in 1982 Miyamoto officially changed his character’s name to Mario for Donkey Kong Jr. with his occupation changing to that of a plumber one year later, as well as gaining a brother named Luigi in the co-op game Mario Bros. Up until this point Mario had appeared in games that only had one screen and that was it. Even if the scenery changed, the action remained contained to one screen. However, with this upcoming game that would become Super Mario Bros., all that was about to change.

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Well, it is true that we do have these closets in Japan with sliding doors and behind those doors it is very dark and I remember as a child being kind of afraid of that darkness. Or even going into the mountains as a kid and finding caves and whatnot – that sort of exploration lingered in my memory until later on in life when I did started making video games – it kind of came back into play in my imagination. And so Mario then became the perfect game for kind of this jumping around and active expression – and just the motion on screen really became the best game for that type of action.

-Shigeru Miyamoto

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Drawing heavily on his own childhood, as well as the experience he had gained since working on Donkey Kong, Miyamoto and his team of developers set to work on creating a game that would maximize the technology of the Famicom, and boy would it. Instead of containing the action to one screen, this game would take Mario out of that usual environment and place him in a much bigger world. Instead of climbing ladders and moving on platforms, Mario could now run through a colorful, wide landscape with giant mushrooms, caverns and castles. As one could imagine, there was no way to fit all of that in one screen, so instead the camera would follow Mario as he made his way through this two-dimensional world. Arnie Katz, who was the editor of “Electronic Games” at the time, dubbed it a “side-scrolling” game. Now SMB wasn’t the first ever side-scroller, given that games like Defender, Super Cobra and Scramble pre-dated it by several years, but the action, sense of humor, and cartoon-like graphics made the game stand out from what had come before. Not only that, but the idea of a game having Easter Eggs – a concept created by Warren Robinett in 1979 with the Atari game “Adventure” – was taken to a whole new level with Super Mario Bros. Not only could you find hidden items in certain places as you make your way through the game, but you could also find shortcuts to other worlds – i.e. Warp-Zones – and even a hidden underwater level that had no end.

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But not only was the action and look of the game amazing, but the music itself was also an ear-grabber. Despite having very limited tools to work with at the time, composer Koji Kondo was able to make magic in such a way that players would find themselves wanting to hum/whistle the music as they’re playing. So infectious are these themes that even now to this very day you could whistle any theme from Super Mario Bros. and people will recognize them instantly. Granted, while Kondo didn’t set out to compose songs that would be timeless three decades later, he nevertheless composed music that would be exactly that three decades later.

Once the game was finished, Nintendo Company Limited (NCL) released the game in the arcades and was a tremendous success. As a result, Nintendo’s developers decided to create a home version which wasn’t a direct clone of the arcade game, but it was close enough to the original. And in one bold maneuver, Nintendo made the decision to package the game with the Famicom. The end result was such a massive success that Hiroshi Yamauchi and Nintendo of America (NoA) President Minoru Arakawa decided to do the same thing in the U.S. It took a few months to create an American version of the game, but once it was complete, Nintendo was able to package it in with the NES just before NoA went national by the end of 1986.

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(My parents bought me this set for Christmas, and let me tell you, the look on my five-year old face was priceless.)


Legacy

So going back to one of the early questions: what is it about this game that makes it a classic? Well, I would say that Super Mario Bros. is a classic because it took the best concepts of video game creation and combined them all into something that none of us had ever seen before. This is all the more impressive when one considers that video games were still in their infancy and there were still many development concepts that hadn’t been discovered yet, let alone evolve into what we know today. Once this game came on the scene, other game developers wasted no time in trying to emulate the styles/concepts for their own games. Not only that, but given that the video game industry had crashed just a few years before made SMB very much an eye-opener to consumers, especially kids. This game helped prove that video games were not some passing fad. This was an entertainment medium that was here to stay, and Nintendo – a Japanese playing card/toy company that very few people had heard about at that point – set out to prove it, and as the years would go by they more than proved it, with plenty of other games and characters to follow.  However, Super Mario Bros. would be the game that set the stage for what was to come.

But I believe the reason why this game resonates so well with gamers the world over – myself included – is that it shows that no matter what kind of concept you have as a developer, the number one thing you need to create a game above all is to make it fun, for it’ll be that specific element that will capture the player’s imagination. Once you have that, the rest will follow.

Mario 30th anniversary

Happy 30th Anniversary Mario!

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Japan Crate March 2015 Unveiling

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Japan Crate is a monthly subscription crate that is filled with Japanese treats.  There are three different size crates you can choose ranging from $12 to $30 with free domestic shipping. The premium box is the one I tried that was filled with about 2 pounds of treats.

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As you can see from the photo the box is packed full of different things. I think my favorite item in the box was the Mario pop!! I mean look at him; he is awesome! He is almost to cute to eat, almost!

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I love the packaging on this! It is just so cute. This item is a lolipop, it’s not bad. Its not a huge lolipop it’s actually the perfect size for just a little sweet treat.

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Milky is an evaporated milk flavored taffy. Don’t make the mistake that it’s like salt water taffy or something like that. This stuff starts out rock hard then softens up becoming something akin to glue for your teeth. It also doesn’t taste like anything at first, then it’s gets this awful taste that doesn’t want to leave you! This stuff is evil; I advise you to stay far away from it.

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This is a cookie with a chocolate filling. Its not to bad the cookie was a little dry and crumbly but the flavors were good. The filling was chips of chocolate but this isn’t a chocolate chip cookie. It’s hard to explain but it’s like the cookie is folded over the chips.

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This is a chocolate umbrella. It’s not anything weird just a cute novelty toy. The chocolate has a nice flavor. This one is just a basic fun candy.

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This is 12 separate pieces of chocolate. You would think by the front they are filled but they aren’t. They are hard pieces of chocolate with flavoring added to them. It’s kinda weird because they taste like they might have booze in them but they don’t. I checked. These are just very strange to me.

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Fits is gum. The package actually has magnets on it to help keep it closed. According to the information in the crate its club gum and is supposed to taste like alcoholic fruit drinks. I’m not sure what they taste like in Japan but this gum missed the mark, I think. It did however get the vile Milky’s taste out of my mouth.

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Mario!!!! Look at that face!! It was slightly weird shoving Mario into my mouth but the taste wasn’t bad. He is pure chocolate plumber! This is a fun novelty candy. I also love the packaging for this to, its complete with Bowzer and a piranha plant!!

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This is one of those DYI candy kits. It’s fun and annoying all at the same time! I mean I have to microwave chocolate then pour it into molds! The idea of giving this to a child is enough to give me nightmares. Its a bit of a chore for impatient adults. However it’s very cute.

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Okay this one is just weird!! This is another DIY to mimic an appetizer they sell in Japan, that is an octopus filled fried ball thing.  Again I’m going by the information in the crate. This one terrified me. Thankfully there wasn’t octopus in there just gummy ones. Again I’m not sure this is a good idea for kids and its weird.

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These are kinda like a combo! They have a cookie like shell with a green tea filling. They aren’t to bad but they do leave a funky after taste but it’s nothing compared to Milky! I’m serious just stay away from it.

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I thought Milky was the worst there was and then I got to this monstrosity. This is like an astronaut ice cream cone! Its a chocolate wafer cone with chocolate and vanilla styrofoam filling.  I’m always game to try something new which is why I think crates like this are awesome but sometimes there are things like this you just don’t want in your mouth!!

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This was pretty good. I would have drank a case of this. It almost tastes like the one Monster that my son drinks with out the ridiculous amount of caffeine. There is a nice lemon flavor but not a sour taste. Its even good at room temperature.

Over all I enjoyed the adventure that Japan Crate offers it’s subscribers. I also really like that you can choose the size crate you want so you can fit it to your budget.

Tales From The Game Grid #15

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tales 15 The images of Spyro, Pop Fizz, and Hot Dog are copyright Activision, Mario is copyright Nintendo, and Spiderman is copyright Marvel, so please support the official release. Tales from the Game Grid and all related material is copyright Joshua Jordan. Newslogo Follow us on Twitter: @taleftgamegrid

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Tales from the Game Grid #14

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TalesCatMario

The images of Cat Mario and Bowser are copyright Nintendo, so please support the official release. Tales from the Game Grid and all related material is copyright Joshua Jordan.

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