I mean, the first in-depth look I'm going to take is, again, quite possibly the most important title in video game history. How can I do this? What can I write about this game in a way that everyone else hasn't?
But, hey, I took it upon myself. I guess I just gotta do it.
I've played Super Mario Bros. every now and then over the course of my gaming life. I never had it on NES, but I did play it's updated incarnation in the anthology Super Mario All-Stars on the Super Nintendo, and I downloaded the original title for kicks on the Wii's Virtual Console service. For some reason, though, I never sought to complete the game. It was a good game, no doubt about it, but I never was never captured by it in the same way I was by Super Mario Bros. 3 or Super Mario World. Was it too simple compared to it's subsequent bretheren? Was the game simply stuck in the realm of the 80's, enjoyable only by those who had lived to tell the tale of that famous era?
Was I just born too late?
I wasn't sure.
I do have an (functioning!) NES, and I have a Super Mario Bros. cartridge. Not the version coupled with Duck Hunt. Just the plain old cart. I think that was the one that was originally bundled with the system, right? Whatever the case, I got it on eBay for a buck.
And after spending the past month with the game, I can affirm for myself that the game is anything but simple, and is serving as a very valuable teacher to the 8-bit era of video games; one that I, unfortunately, do not have much experience in.
It's 1985, and things looked quite bleak for the American video game industry. Numerous varying game consoles began to flood the shelves, from the Atari 5200 to the Intellivision. As the number of consoles increased, so did the inevitable swarm of bad games rushed out to the market. Countless money was being spent on pricey acquisitions, the most notable of these crafty locusts was none other then a supposedly horrid video game spin-off of E.T. the Extra Terrestrial released for the Atari 2600, which attempted to ride on the success of the movie, but failed miserably and not only became a huge loss for Atari, but remaining copies of the game were dumped in a New Mexico landfill.
As the shelves continued to be swallowed up, stores ran out of space and game publishers, having run out of money, fled the market and pursued other electronics. As games were dumped in the bargain bin, retailers became convinced that video games were just another fad, and were ready for its replacement; that is, the next hot new toy.
That is, until a plumber and a robot came forward to turn things around.
This is R.O.B.
Pretty cute, isn't it? Like a real life version of WALL-E.
R.O.B's role in reviving the video game industry has often been compared to the Trojan horse. No store wanted to touch anything related to to video games, and considering the crash, who could blame them? Our pal R.O.B came in handy. When Nintendo's american branch was presenting the Nintendo Entertainment System to New York retailers, they made sure to present their secret weapon as not a flashy game peripheral, but a toy.
Somehow, it worked. When the NES launched on October 18, 1985, there were two games compatible with the robot, Gyromite and Stack-Up.
I heard they kind of sucked, but that didn't matter. Having successfully penetrated into the impossible fortress of the video game market, Nintendo quickly abandoned its horse and charged on ahead.
It's all about the money.
Needless to say, R.O.B doesn't pop up too much anymore. If you look around carefully, though, you can spot him making a quick cameo or two in some titles. Recently, he starred as a hidden character in the DS iteration of Mario Kart, which was welcomed with hearty chuckles, and joined Nintendo's all-star lineup in Super Smash Bros. Brawl, which caused the internet to erupt in a gigantic shitstorm and forever scarred the hearts of those who would rather have wanted a giant purple dragon or random ass Pokemon to be included instead.
I'm just as confused as you are.
This is Mario.
Does he really need an introduction? Do I really need to tell you how much he's influenced my life? Do I need to tell you that the child in me lives on, wanting to hold on to him tight and never let go?
My very first video game experience was Super Mario World for the Super Nintendo, and ever since then, this man has been an ubiquitous icon in my lifetime. I haven't played all of his games, but I know all of them. I can name them. Super Mario Bros. Super Mario 64. Mario Kart Arcade GP 2. Paper Mario. Mario's Cement Factory. Hotel Mario. I know all about about him. Ever since he became Nintendo's official mascot, he has starred in several cartoons, played golf, tennis, and basketball, traveled into space at least three times (soon to be four! And if you count the spin-offs...!), has briefly held occupations such as a doctor, referee, and villain, thrown ten parties, has ridden a dinosaur the name of Yoshi that can eat anything, took a lesson from Final Fantasy and has entered the RPG arena more then once, has repeatedly broken the laws of nature and physics to do whatever he wants, and perhaps most importantly, appealed to children the world over, including myself, thanks to his shining bubbly demeanor.
In short, he is the greatest man to ever live.
And it's all thanks to this one game.
Mario had previously appeared in two other titles before Super Mario Bros. There was Donkey Kong, in which he was a simple carpenter by the name of Jumpman, and Mario Bros., where he teamed up with his brother Luigi to defeat some nasty critters who had invaded the sewers.
These games did not skyrocket Mario into pop culture. This one did.
And back then, he looked like this.
Do we really need to ask why a plumber of all people is going out of his way to jump on evil turtles, travel through Warp Pipes, throw fireballs, travel the underground, and liberate the Mushroom Kingdom and its princess? Of course we don't, and that's why this game is so much fun.
To make the impossible possible, that's what Mario games are for.
Hey, that was funner then I thought it would be.
I'd better get this thing done before Super Mario Galaxy 2 comes out, though. The moment that game enters my Wii, I might as well be in a comatose state.
Next time: World 1-1, What the Game's About, and How the Game Works.