|And she even gave it a gold ribbon.|
Super Mario Brothers 2 is released in Japan, and it's pretty damned hard.
Sometime in 1991, now. My own personal history. I'm a small child in the first grade, and both my parents work 9 to 5. I'm out of school at 3 PM and I'm far too young and spooked to stay at home by myself, so I go to visit relatives for the afternoon. They have children a bit older than I, cool teenager types, and they have one of those amazing grey boxes like I have. A Nintendo Entertainment System! Where I only own the first Super Mario Brothers, they have all three! I love them all! Especially Super Mario 3, but especially Super Mario 2! You get to play as all sorts of characters, and pick up enemies, and there's turnips and POW blocks and scary key guys and egg-spitting dinosaurs! What a fun game! Of course, then a voice from the future begins to bellow, its self-evident rage creating a rip in space and time, a Charged Vacuum Emboitment that loops back into the yesteryears when Mulroney was Prime Minister. A disembodied falcon head I had learned to trust flies off of the wall and attacks, the Voice Of Rage bellowing through it.
THIS IS NOT THE REAL SUPER MARIO BROTHERS 2. THIS IS JUST A JAPANESE GAME CALLED YUME KOJO DOKI DOKI PANIC THAT NINTENDO STOLE AND PUT MARIO CHARACTERS IN. IT'S BEEN STEALING FROM THEM AS RECENTLY AS 2001 WHEN SUPER MARIO ADVANCE CAME OUT! THE REAL SUPER MARIO BROTHERS 2 WAS TOO HARD FOR US ORIGINALLY AND THIS IS WHY WE DID NOT GET IT! THIS IS A SCANDAL AND REVIEW! WHAT THE HILL IS THIS SHIT?
I take this cynicism and shove vegetables down its fucking throat.
I think it's 1994 now, and I've escaped the confines of Negative Time to play around with family in Nova Scotia. My cousin's boyfriend has graciously left a shitload of video game stuff for me to toy around with. History tells me there's Game Boy games like Kirby's Dream Land and Metroid 2, a TG-16, a goddamn TURBO EXPRESS that I remember playing the Talespin game on, I rent the Power Rangers movie game, I play Super Mario World and need my other cousin's help to beat Bowser's final phase (which is especially funny when you consider that I'd grow up to do this). The important crackle comes when we visit a family friend who lives in this province now. His kids have one of those Super Nintendo things too, and we play stuff on it for a bit. There's Donkey Kong Country, a game that I would end up getting WITH my SNES. I die on the mine carts. Eventually I would impress friends of mine by being able to clear that flawlessly, and I'll be damned if that doesn't make me realize now, in the moment, that the path of Hard Game Beater was always mine to take. We also play a little game called Super Mario All-Stars, and it has all those Mario games I loved back home in Newfoundland in 1991! Plus something called the Lost Levels. I play a bit of this. It's kind of like Mario 1, but it's all-new levels. Wow! Did they make a whole bunch of new levels for this game? What a neat idea! I don't think much on it again.
1997. I buy a copy of Super Mario All-Stars from someone for 10 bucks. I don't play much of it. My SNES is in the basement, and a creature has taken residence there. An It, lurking within the confines of the Video Home System, scaring the wits out of me. A beast living in my basement, keeping me from playing a game with another beast lurking within it. Yes, it's true. What the cynical shouty voice will say ten years in the future is technically true. The "Lost Levels" are naught more than a 16-bit remake of the "original" Super Mario Brothers 2, a game balked at originally because Nintendo felt it would not be well-liked. 1993 was different, and it was re-branded as something else. In hindsight, we know now what this was. What Mario All-Stars was. This was Peko The Destructor, getting ready to reap. So does the link, and our original Project owner, say:
|"Scandal", my ass.|
A lost part of history that the shouty voice tries to convince you is a cover-up, a sham, a fast one pulled on you. And yet, the arc of history shows that Nintendo has done what so many shouty voices wanted: Disclosure. There it is, in the annals of... what did our original Project owner call it, when he came back here for a time? Ah yes. "The sole arbiter of, if not taste, at least what Nintendo culture was going to be." Here is your link in full. Lost Levels Havoc. At last, the Song Of Peko comes to us, a hoarse death metal scream to shake our bones. Power Players, take notice. Even the game's new logo used on the box and in the pages of Nintendo Power is menacing, somehow. The greens and blues and purples are darker colors, and somehow it conveys a darker tone. We could go onward with our exploration of history, but enough. Time to dive into the heart of the cloud. Time to play in Shadowland, in the Upside-Down. Time to find out just what we lost.
ACTUALLY TALKING ABOUT THE GAME NOW FOR A BIT
|Death, but not for you.|
True Despair can take on many forms. She is negativity, personified. In this instance, she is the cheeky death trap which has pulsed dark inspiration like a heartbeat pumping blood to the mind, but on a global scale. I am guilty as well. I have made difficult courses in Super Mario Maker, for expert play. I take my own experiences with the Destructor and True Despair, and craft my own spaces inspired by them. This is how inspiration works. But, I tone it down afterward. I send these monstrosities to a friend, and he plays them. Often, he tells me I have gone too far. In my remorse, I tone things down and make them better. Difficult, but better. The Lost Levels is admittedly quite light on this, having been designed by competent game designers. It is not a bad game, but it is hard in ways that make it feel like a dry run for a ROM hack. Which, really, that is basically what it was. There were tweaks to the graphics and the physics, but at its heart the Lost Levels is Super Mario Brothers: Really Hard Edition. The 16-bit rendition lets one save after every level, creating permanent safe zones along the way. That, plus the 128 lives thing, make it something akin to a modern masocore experience. Imperfect, but a relic of forgotten history that was unearthed. One can make it through. A Hard Game Beater like myself could relatively fly through it. Still finding a handful of difficult and tricky bits, but succeeding nonetheless. 32 levels of Mario Madness, and our Princess is saved. Ah. But Peko's Song is not over. There are more levels to be found, and it creates a ridiculous portrait. These are "Lost" Levels, and yet there are still five worlds left to conquer. 52 levels in total. They "lost" more levels than they put out in 1985! Ah well. Let us take stock in the horrific implications of what one in Japan would have had to do to access these extra stages. World 9 is reached by never warping, and clearing all 32 stages. Difficult, especially without the saving that All-Stars grants, but not impossible. The real trick comes in the original. This is a "bonus" world of sorts, an odd mishmash where you swim through the overworld. The end has a congratulatory message in Japanese... but the tricky thing is, you only get one life to beat it with. If you lose, you get another congratulatory message and the game ends. This is something lost in All-Stars, where you just go through it with your lives if you don't warp ever.
PEACE IS PAVED
WITH KINGDOM SAVED
HURRAH TO MARIO
OUR ONLY HERO
THIS ENDS YOUR TRIP
OF A LONG FRIENDSHIP
And may they be ever long, indeed.