Saturday, June 12, 2010

Super Mario Bros. ~View 5~ The Underwater Waltz

As I discussed earlier, you'll often find that platforming games like Super Mario Bros. follow a set pattern of levels. It's kind of like a required blueprint, in a way. You're always going to traverse through a field of grass, flowers and easily tromped enemies. You're always find yourselves in a desert surrounded by mountains. You might find yourself deep underground, or soaring in the sky. And, of course, you'll find yourself swimming underwater at some point or another.

To the non-gamers out there, here's one rule of the gaming fandom: Most gamers hate water levels! Often denounced as being notoriously difficult, many gamers feel that these stages are too troublesome to traverse in, not to mention sluggish. There's also the employment of obnoxious enemies and stiff controls. In short, they disrupt the pace of action.

Myself? I have to admit I was once partial to them myself. And I can summarize my former opinion in three words: Sonic the Hedgehog.

Back in the old days, we had a Sega Genesis and I found myself playing Sonic games every now and then. Now that I think about it, we had a couple o' games on there. Let's see...there was Vectorman, in which I was convinced he was Kermit the Frog in disguise, and some army game in which my style of play was to get both sides into the lake and drown.

Ah, the joys of foreshadowing and the masochistic joys of childhood. In any case...

It was like any other day. I was playing Sonic the Hedgehog 3 at roughly the tender age of five. It was just me, Sonic, and his buddy Tails the Fox. We were running through hills, escaping forest fires, encountered Knuckles the Echidna (Or as I labelled him, "Snuggles"), and fell down a waterfall following the collapse of a bridge, right into a water stage.

Moments later, this happens.

I want to make this absolutely clear: I didn't know what was going on, why this was happening, but I did know one thing. This scared the crap out of me. Immediately the forces of unbridled terror seeped into me and I screamed, ran upstairs and hid in my room. I didn't know what was going on but when the music stopped and I dared to tiptoe back, Sonic had drowned and I lost a life.

To this day, I still don't play 2D Sonic the Hedgehogs for this very reason. My cousin Joe said it would be perfect as an alarm clock, but I'm not willing to take any chances. God damn drowning music.

My water level experiences only got worse from there. In Super Mario 64, there was a GIGANTIC EEL in one of the game's early stages, Jolly Roger Bay, and I refrained from playing any water levels in that game too. There was also the threat of sharks in Banjo Kazooie, and Donkey Kong 64 also featured some rather disturbing creatures of the deep as well (FREAKING PUFFERFISH). Perhaps my fear stemmed from an uncomfortable fear of seeing beloved characters die on screen, in this case drowning, which was very possible if you weren't careful enough.

Unagi the Eel, the stuff of my nightmares.

Have my feelings changed? Well, I've certainly gotten over the terror. In fact, water levels are some of my favorite ones now. Water levels contain a nearly unprecedented amount of beauty that always gently enforce the positive effects of warmth and luxury, even though they are not without their dangers. Not only that, but they feature some really soothing music, one of which we'll be going over today. Today's evaluation will be a short one, but I promise you that we'll be going in much more detail about this enigma of gaming later.


So here's your standard Super Mario Bros. water level.

It's a pretty relaxing stage. You're just swimming on by, grabbing the floating coins and dodging squids and big-eyed fish.

The fish, Cheep Cheeps, are pushovers, but the Blooper squids have a penchant for following you around. This is one of the easier stages, but if you aren't powered up by a mushroom, that isn't the case. Those Bloopers can screw you over if they touch you, and they can suddenly reverse into a random angle, so watch out.

I've found that the fireballs especially shine here. Why are the fireballs working underwater? I don't know, but man is it satsifying frying these things.

So long, suckers!

This is actually the only underwater level I've encountered so far, and during my last attempt I was close to the end of the game. I've heard whispers of them being hidden amongst the many warp pipes, so I'll have to look harder.

Over the years, I've found that one is always guaranteed a pleasant experience in a Mario game's underwater level. They're not too complicated, but they're never overbearing on you. Best of all, Mario can't drown in the 2D games, and thanks to the ever-abundant source of air bubbles and coins in the 3D titles, there's a very low chance of succumbing to that threat. In fact, Super Mario Sunshine, Mario's breakout title on the Nintendo Gamecube, had the setting of a tropical island, so you'd always have to encounter a body of water in it's selection of stages. It was a punishingly difficult title, but it usually never had to do with h2o.

You know, for all of it's innovation, that game gets too much flak. You'll learn in future blog posts that gamers are not too welcoming of new ideas and diversity.

Here's another iconic song from the Mario series. We don't see this song as often as the Main Theme from earlier, but it's always been a fan favorite. In fact, whenever I hear people humming Mario songs, this seems to be the one they have the most fun with.

And can you blame them?

Personally, I feel that if they got an orchestra at some waltzing party, this would be a huge hit. I'd just stay in the background and revel.

It's come to my attention that there's been an annoying issue in regards to the comments. Apparently, they won't show up after you post. I've adjusted the posting settings a bit, and it seems to be working out.

So, anyway, what's next....

I've actually been noticing there's a bit of a problem with the game that I haven't noticed on my other NES games. Weird fuzzy lines pop up every now and then and sometimes it freezes the game. The gameprobably just needs to be cleaned. We've only got a couple of posts left, anyway.

Man, I can't wait to move on to Kirby!


  1. I must admit that I am part of that overwhelming majority of gamers who hate waters levels. After all here are just a few miserable cases off the top of my head:
    1) Any level in Super Mario Brothers 3 with a Big Bertha (big Cheep-Cheeps that eat you in one bite for those who are confused). For that matter any Mario game with these things (Like Little Big World in M64).
    2) Water in any first person shooter, especially Half Life (Ichthyosaurs still give me the hibbly jibblies)
    3)Falling into the lightless void of an ocean in Sonic Adventure for Dreamcast. So dark, so cold.

    And as an special mention, literally being dropped from the sky into a huge sea in M64's "Dire Dire Docks". And don't even get me started on the Water Temple from the Ocarina of Time, or any Zelda water-related temple for that matter.

    And those are just the first things that come to mind. And I'm totally with you on the Drowning music from Sonic. While it doesn't freak me out as much (at least not now) nothing makes me panic and screw up more than hearing that short clip.

    Water levels always have good music though, whether it be a Sega or Nintendo game, though especially so for the later. The Super Mario Bros water theme is easily one of the most well known both in and out of video game circle. As for the comment about being perfect for a waltz I dare say you are absolutely correct. It would not surprise me if the theme was inspired by classical waltzes, such as "Blue Danube", a waltz named after, what else, a river.

    In closing I'd say I agree with your comment about Mario Sunshine getting too much flak. While I was among those disappointed with what we got (I wanted my wingcap!) there is nothing actually wrong with the game. On the contrary, it is overall a very solid platformer with an interesting setting and fairly original gameplay mechanics. Maybe I'll give it another shot.

  2. "For that matter any Mario game with these things (Like Little Big World in M64)."

    Eeeyaaaaghhhh, don't remind me.

    I actually remember being completely in love with Mario Sunshine when it come out (I was the tender age of ten), and at the time it was my second favorite game, only to fall steadily over time. I haven't played it in many years (It's at a friend's house and he can't find it, ergh), but I'm sure it holds up today. The game just had this really "new" feeling that for some reason I can't grab in the Galaxies, but I still feel it's the least essential 3D Mario. I've found that most games from that time, excluding the likes of Kingdom Hearts and Smash Bros Melee, still hold up today and really bring back some great memories (Lately I feel like playing Pikmin and Four Swords Adventures).

    HOW DID I FORGET TO MENTION THE WATER TEMPLE? Even when using a guide (and boy did I use guides back then!) I had a difficult time with it. For the most part though I'm cool with Zelda water temples (does Tower of the Gods count? I love that).

    Personally, I prefer the Dire Dire Docks theme and Mario Galaxy 2's Cosmic Cove to the song I presented in this entry, but it's all about the classics, you know?

  3. "For the most part though I'm cool with Zelda water temples (does Tower of the Gods count? I love that). "

    Wind Waker is general is just exempt from the Water level rule as the Tower of the Gods should be on the top 5 list of Best Zelda Dungeons, water or not. In fact I really enjoyed the water elements in Wind Waker (especially sailing, which others seemed to hate).

    I agree with your comment about most games from that particular segment of last generation holding up. Metroid Prime is still one of the best shooters out there and in my opinion graphically and mechanically smokes even newer FPS games, due to its vibrant colors, exotic environments, and skillful combination of fast paced shooting and careful platforming.

    And don't worry, nearly every OoT player used a guide for the Water Temple. It was confusing, long and miserable and its only two redeeming values were 1) Long Shot and 2) Shadow Link fight, which I hope is re-done in the newest Zelda game.

    I actually can't remember the Dire Dire Docks theme too well as I was usually too busy being terrified of the whirlpool, fish, and manta rays.