Quicksand. Flying carpets. Pyramids. Mario?
Nearly 18 years ago, these things and more combined to form the Captain Planet of video games, Super Mario Brothers 2. The first Super Mario game was a silver bullet aimed squarely at Atari, the previous king of video games.. rescuing video gaming as an industry and setting the stage for what we take for granted now. Super Mario 1 introduced a fantastic new world, innovative game features (side scrolling? unpossible!), and multiple worlds. For the inevitable sequel, you don't mess with a good formula, right? Let's compare..
SMB1 - Walking mushrooms, mushrooms that make you grow, mushrooms you can stand on, mushrooms that inform you that they are in fact NOT the Princess.
SMB2 - Carpets that fly, cloaked things that wear masks, cloaked things that wear masks and spit bullets, a whole lot of sand.
Could a throng of fans accept this total rework of their newly discovered hero? The answer is YES.
Rewind to December 1988. I was still unable to truly accept that the simple act of moving my video character to the right would reveal MORE of the virtual world he lived in. Space Invaders didn't have any of that - just shoot the blocky things and when you're done, they grow back and you do it again. Super Mario was the man, he had his own virtual KINGDOM, and the news that there would be another, EVEN BETTER Mario game was the talk of the town. In fact, Nintendo could probably have just taken the first game, changed the levels a bit, and put it in a new package with a large '2' and it would sell like piping hot cakes. Imagine our surprise when we get..
FLYING CARPETS. I don't really recall my first impression of SMB2, nor did I care much that the game was so radically different. What mattered was the game was mad wicked fun. I do remember just walking around the stages, tossing my opponents at my opponents, and figuring out little tricks that weren't really tricks at all but made me feel super intelligent.
(Protip: If you get low on health, find an area with weak enemies and start bashing them repeatedly. After a few go down you'll get a heart to refill your life meter. I thought I was fricking Zhuge Liang with this master 'strategy'.)
Another thing that seemed magnificent were the mini-bosses at the end of each stage. EACH STAGE. There would be a supercharged monster (transvestite bird, but oh well) waiting for me, mocking me, TAUNTING me in front of that big eagle head door. No one thinks twice about stage bosses now, but in Mario 2 they were new and chic. It gave a sense of satisfaction that you really EARNED your victory over that stage.
Did I mention flying carpets?
In stage 2 they are your first exposure to this mysterious quasi-Arabian setting. Mind you, I was 8 and didn't bother to psychoanalyze electronic games meant for children.. I saw a magic carpet and was like "Hey, carpet! Now I can get over that gap!". Ingenious lad I was. Further proof that we would accept anything if it had Mario and was inherently fun.
Fast forward to 2006. I've lost all sense of direction and feel a craving for throwing Shyguys at those DETESTABLE Snifits again. For those of you who've read my aimless rant this far, here's a summary.
Nintendo == instant win. Plumbers can fly carpets too. No one knows what's *really* under those Shyguy masks.
Almost 20 years later, perhaps the world still isn't fully prepared for that answer.