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Playing catch up: Super Mario World

posted on June 18th, 2007 by jay

I was a Sega kid. This means different things to different people — I was deluded, I had bad taste, or maybe I loved action games? Yes, somewhat and no. Sega’s consoles gave me plenty of great games to play growing up, and I don’t regret knowing the Phantasy Star and Shining Force series as well as other gamers know the Final Fantasy and Dragon Quest series.

What I do regret is how little I know about the Final Fantasy and Dragon Quest series. Everything in life costs something, even if only time, and playing so many Sega games necessarily meant I had little opportunity for Nintendo games.

Here is a partial, embarrassing list of titles I missed that I still hope to play:

Any Final Fantasy before 6
Any Dragon Quest before 7 and after 1
Link to the Past
Chrono Trigger
Metroid
Super Metroid
Ocarina of Time
Super Mario World

Before yesterday, I had never played Super Mario World. As of today, Bowser and his smiling hover boat thing are toast. I still haven’t found my way into the Star World so my girlfriend informs me that I “didn’t really beat the game.”

Of course I enjoyed the game. It made New Super Mario look less amazing, but I still say 3 is the best game in the 2D series. The levels were cooler, each had a sectioned off large map and it had some of the oddest power ups in gaming history. Any game that lets you ride in a boot is better than any game that does not let you ride in a boot.

Power ups in Mario games are almost pointless, though. This was made painfully obvious when NSMB gave us the giant mushroom. And these last few days, while I can say I enjoyed riding Yoshi (though he was no boot), I can’t say it was anywhere near necessary. Besides an odd secret here or there, you don’t need any power ups.

Contrast this with adventure and role playing games. Adventure games tend to require you to acquire new items in order to progress in the game. Link needs that fishing rod if he wants to catch that red fish to lure the abominable snow man into a snow boarding race.

RPGs don’t really change when you get a new piece of armor but collecting new crap is part of the charm of the genre. Now and then it becomes apparent that the mindless grinding and min/maxing I partake in are actually sort of breaking a game by removing all challenge. But again, being anal retentive and collecting every last piece of gear and maxing my levels is part of the joy of an RPG.

But in a Mario game, the challenge of each level is what makes the game fun. Power ups make the games less challenging and, for me, ultimately less amusing. I don’t want to fly over a level. I bought this game so I can play the levels.

It can be persuasively argued that power ups aren’t only about changing the difficulty in the players favor, they also allow us to play with different game mechanics. This is true, but doesn’t convince me I like giant mushrooms because of one thing — power ups don’t just change the gameplay, they make it easier.

If I’d wanted easy, I wouldn’t have dusted off a 16 year old console. I just would have called your mother.

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2 Comments

  1. Matt said on June 18, 2007:

    Yes, jay, you have not completed Super Mario World until you get to Star Road. Actually, not until you get “96*” on your save file do you get to say you’ve beaten that game. Ahhhhh. So many memories…. Also, the idea with the items never being a necessity in Mario games is because of the little kiddies. Nintendo (as well as many other kids games devs) think most levels should be beaten without the help of special items. Makes it easier for them to actually beat the game and think they’re somehow special.

  2. chris said on June 18, 2007:

    Hey, at least be glad the games you have to catch up on are mostly easy. :) I still have to beat the Phantasy Star series! Far as pointless crap goes… I think the main point is just what you said, to play with different game mechanics. Stomping on goombas? Not so fun. Setting goombas on fire, flipping them with your cape or eating them with yoshi? More fun.

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