Harder, Better, Faster, Mario-er
Fix, Keep, or Ditch puts gaming’s favorite franchises under the microscope to see what makes them tick and what the sequels should strive to be. For those features that need some tweaking, a fix will be suggested. For features that absolutely need to return, a special mention will be made to keep them. Finally, some features are just dead weight and need to be ditched completely.
I’ve been controlling an Italian plumber all my life. I may have had to sit on a stool to reach the joystick, but I made him jump, climb, and hammer his way through a trial of fire (and barrels) to reach Pauline in Donkey Kong. Monstrous turtle demons were outwitted thanks to carelessly leaving giant axes next to bridges over lava in Super Mario Bros. I’ve made him abuse magic mushrooms, fly through the sky, swim through the seas, and mount a dinosaur all in the name of saving the princess. With my guidance he has defeated numerous challenges in what for him has to be a frustratingly long series of life-threatening booty calls that end in a kiss on the cheek and cake on a plate.
Nintendo has teased that a new 2D Mario side-scrolling action game is in the works for the 3DS. They have even registered the ‘supermario4.com’ domain, though we probably won’t know until E3 if this is for their handheld or a launch title for the Wii U. While 3D Mario experiences have virtually soared through the stars, the 2D games seem to have become… a little flat. Before you jump to the comments, Super Mario 3D Land is a 3D platformer that sometimes forces you into 2D sections; it's not a purely 2D experience.
So what, in my opinion, should the next 2D Mario game do to really remind us all why he is the king of the platformer?
It’s-a me! Mario!
Mario games just have a Mario feel to them. The height of his jump, the momentum and weight of the character, the bounce of the Fire Flower’s projectiles, and everything that other platforming games have been trying to duplicate for decades.
In both Super Mario Bros 3 and Super Mario World, there is a perfect nirvana that gamers can reach. The controller melts away and you become one with the Mushroom Kingdom. That is the mark of a masterful Mario game and that is the most important thing that should never be sacrificed in the name of progress.
Spin me round, right round
What happened to the spin jump? It was there in Super Mario World, heck even Mario Land 2: Six Golden Coins had it in a way. Mario is all about jumping. His original ‘stage name’ was Jumpman for Miyamoto’s sake! Sure, he has brought things he learned in Mario 64 back like wall jumping, triple jumps, and backflips… but why lose the mighty spin jump?
You couldn’t jump as high performing it, but you could break blocks underneath you and hit enemies for double damage. Not to mention the extra flair it gave to your powers. You could shoot fire in both directions, or become a tornado of floaty doom with your cape. Imagine how this could affect other powers like the boomerang suit or raccoon tail.
Sorry butt stomp. You sound silly, look ridiculous, and make the game too easy. We don’t want our hero plagiarizing from Bowser. Just spin it like a record baby. Right round round round.
So close ... and yet so far.
New Super Mario Bros Wii brought what many gamers had only dreamed of: simultaneous multiplayer Mario. Unfortunately, it was an experience so flawed that it personally got me yelled at by my own princess in my own castle. The game didn’t increase the coins and enemies when playing with more people, leaving little for everybody to do. It forced everybody to stay on the same screen, but didn’t adjust the level design to compensate. There were wild jumps into the abyss because the screen couldn’t show the other side of the pit if someone was too far back.
In an effort to allow players to help each other reach higher areas, they allowed bouncing off of heads, unfortunately this meant that trying to get players to all land on the same tiny platform was frustratingly impossible without resorting to people being carried. Coins only existed for the first person to get them. The game quickly became a single player experience in my house.
What Nintendo needs to do is take a week off and play the co-op in Rayman: Origins to learn how to do it right. Characters can interact without getting in each other’s way. The lums (coins in Rayman’s universe) are pooled together at the end. The game’s design allows for single player fun as well as enjoyable co-op. Allow it to go split screen, or even online, and it might become a game to pull out at parties. Mario games should bring people together not tear them apart.
Keep It !
Allowing you to hold a power in reserve is excellent. It allows you to hold on to that Fire Flower until you need it, like for a boss or underwater areas. Just bring back the way it was implemented in Super Mario World where you keep whatever powers you collect if you quick exit back to the map from a level you’ve already completed. In recent games, you only keep these powers if you complete the level again. When you're trying to get to a star coin that requires a certain power in a later level, it's frustrating to have to replay the same earlier level that you know has that power-up you need all the way through each time.
What’s the point?
Does this make Mario the 1%?
Let’s talk coins. Why am I collecting coins? Do I get to spend them? Nope. Every 100 gives you an extra life. Oh goody goody. In a series that has evolved into both saving at the end of every level and having unlimited continues, having another life is about as useful as a glass of water is to Poseidon. Coins barely have a point, even if they ironically do give you points.
The three hidden star coins per level are a step in the right direction, but we can do better. Why did the coin mechanics of Mario 64 disappear? Collect a hundred coins in a level and you got a star. Well, why not reward thorough players for their coin lust by giving them a reward for collecting with a star coin that pops up after a set amount of coins are collected in a single level? What about the masterful SNES side-series Yoshi’s Island with its 20 hidden red coins per level? That was awesome, no?
How about giving us something to do with our amazing wealth? Buying new characters to play as, or opening new worlds to explore. Bring back the powers inventory that we had in Super Mario Bros 3 and NSMBWii and allow us to fill it by purchasing powers from a shop. Would you collect 100,000 coins for the option to start a level in Kuribo’s Shoe? You’re darn right you would.
Heck, bring gambling into the series. There is a history of fun little games of chance throughout the franchise; make us support the Mushroom Kingdom’s economy by putting down coins and gambling for powers. I mean, how awesome would it be to have a Wario Casino where you gamble to play WarioWare style minigames for prizes? What about a Waluigi Pinball Arcade? Come on! As long as these are all just optional to progressing it would make for one sweet addition.
What happens in Wario Land ...
There’s more than one way to skin a level
Mario levels are pinnacles of game design. You can look in the nooks and crannies of most levels and find hidden treasures and secret exits. You can also run like mad and skip all that, reaching the flagpole in seconds. Most games design their worlds with either speed (looking at you Sonic) or exploration (Link, all you bro) in mind but rarely both at the same time. Because the series was born in an age of limited lives and continues, you had to play these levels over and over. They designed them to have multiple paths and let you experience them differently if you wanted to.
I wanna achieve!
Super Mario 3D Land was not the first to do this, but it put ‘stars’ on your save file for completing certain tasks, like defeating the final world or playing every level again as Luigi. It’s a good start but we can do so much better.
What if at the end of every level you were awarded a medal (gold, silver, bronze or perhaps mushroom, flower, star) based on how many points you got, or how quickly you beat the level? What about a list of optional level-specific missions you could complete? Get through this level without defeating a single enemy. Stay as small Mario through the whole level. Beat this level scoring less than 2000 points. Defeat every koopa in this level with fireballs. Collect every coin in this level. The variations are truly massive and would really give a completionist something to shoot for while giving them small rewards along the way.
It’s-a me… Daisy?
One of the bigger complaints leveled at the franchise is that we don’t get the option to play as different characters as we could in Super Mario Bro 2 (or Super Mario Bros USA in Japan). We sometimes get Luigi now, who is really just a higher-jumping Mario with slippery shoes, but I want more. Give me Toad, who may not jump quite as high but is super fast and stops on a dime. We may never get to play as Peach because Nintendo needs her as the pink MacGuffin that works as an end goal, but what about poor Daisy? Sure, Bowser prefers blondes… but why can’t the tomboy princess from Sarasaland join the rescue mission? You have a Peach clone Nintendo, use her!
Why has this only happened in Mario's dreams?
While we're at it, let’s see some variable costume options. Mario wearing Wario’s colors, a Toadette skin swap for Toad, or even a Peach-like pink dress for Daisy. Heck, let’s fully give the Mario clan a chance at Nintendo cosplay. Luigi wearing Link’s outfit? Daisy wearing Samus’ power suit? Toad dressed as Pit from Kid Icarus? Mario in an Olimar costume from Pikmin? If these are the kind of things I can unlock with more coins, you better believe I’ll work harder to grab them.
There can-a be only 1-ups!
A measurable life amount is an aging dinosaur that still has its teeth in Mario’s overalls. Sure, the series popularized 1-ups and it is a trademark of the series. So was not being able to run left for a while. You want to keep the iconic sound and green spotted mushroom? Fine. Make it so that if he collects one it allows him to absorb a hit before losing a power, effectively making it a second chance. Heck that would allow the worlds to be even more challenging.
We already have unlimited continues and saving at the end of every level, time to let extra lives retire.
Sharing custom levels
Why has this never existed? The very first thing people seem to do when they have a level editor (or hack a game to do so) is recreate World 1-1. You can’t take two clicks into youTube before running into a video of a modded version of Super Mario Bros. There is a very strong desire out there for manipulating the Mushroom Kingdom. Gamers love sharing custom levels so much Mister Rogers must be crying tears of joy from the great beyond.
Allow people to make their own custom levels. Allow them to share these creations online. If you want to be bold, give people the option to also download ghost data of someone beating the level in record time. You give us the blocks, Nintendo, and we’ll entertain ourselves for years.
Mutha-lovin’ Yoshi, yo
You give me a Yoshi that controls like he did in Yoshi’s Island, combined with the ability to take him with me when I finish a level? Day One buy. If you also bring back the ability to eat different-colored shells for different effects and the ability to gain wings, I’ll buy eight. You also include my costume idea to allow Yoshi to wear an Epona costume or look like he’s an Arwing? I’ll buy one for every member of my family.
What do you think? Anything I forgot to mention? Want to see a different franchise get the Fix, Keep, or Ditch treatment? Leave your comments below and we’ll keep the conversation going.
As always, this article is an opinion piece and the work of an individual writer. It does not necessarily represent the thoughts and/or opinions of gamrReview as a whole.