Thursday, August 06, 2009

Mario is The Man, but the good still die young

Luigi should have been happy besting Mario in his second eponymous adventure. He could've spent his career scampering around in the forest trying to rescue squirrels from killer robots, after all (the link is to a video for which embedding is disabled by request).

Early Sonic games were so much more mind blowing (for votaries of the series, the video linked to shows the play of one of the best in the world) than Mario games were, but the cast--not just protagonists and antagonists, but items as well--of the latter were more endearing and memorable. Sonic zips around and pinballs into things. That's it. Mario picks up and throws things, hurls fireballs, and not only pounces on things from above but also bops them from below. He forfeits pure speed for versatility. Just as basketball is more engaging to watch than 5ks are, so Mario bested Sonic.

Further, the hedgehog is an ugly animal, and fighting a human to rescue delicate woodland creatures did not create affinity for it. As Agnostic has argued, kids don't tend to take the environmentalists' misanthropic bait. An every man-boy fighting a dragon-lizard to save a princess--now that's compelling stuff!

As is the case in virtually all martial arts action movies, if the bad guys ever had the brains to bum rush the hero at the same time, there'd be no saving Marian. How ironic that for so many years the Mario brothers tried to knock out the tyrant who inadvertantly allowed them to flourish:

10 comments:

OneSTDV said...

I must respectfully disagree. Sonic was way cooler and more challenging.

I liked the faster pace of Sonic and only its music could rival the classic Mario theme.

agnostic said...

More challenging? Ha. Go through the first Super Mario Bros without warping -- way harder than any Sonic game. Ditto Mario 2, and even Mario 3 to a lesser extent. Super Mario World is do-able for most people, as long as it is, but other than that, no way is Sonic more challenging.

Sonic definitely had more attractive landscapes, though. (The sprites weren't that much better.)

We're a tool-making and tool-using species. If that doesn't feature in the gameplay, it'll be hard for us to get really into it. The boys anyways.

They should've given Bonk some kind of tool or projectile, rather than just the ability to freeze enemies by smacking into the ground, and he would've been more popular.

agnostic said...

The other thing big thing that allowed Mario to beat Sonic was innovation. He picked up lots of new abilities in Mario 3, and even more in Super Mario World -- plus Yoshi.

The biggest improvement that Sonic got between the 1st and 2nd game was... uh, the ability to crouch and build up speed while still. Gay.

Interacting with the environment also didn't pick up much in the Sonic games. Compare to all the cool stuff you could do in Mario 3 -- sand, water, ice, underwater, the level where everyone's gigantic, etc. Same with Super Mario World.

The biggest change in the Sonic games, environment-wise, was... uh, those running bonus stages that were scarcely better than 3-D World Runner. Mega-gay.

popularsymbolism said...

I never noticed the Sonic 'environmentalism' angle - though if I recall correctly, in the first games he did save those forest animals that the evil Dr Robotnik had stored in those capsules.

I've come to the conclusion the Japanese like to sneak environmentalism into nearly everything - an environmentalist angle can be found in nearly every big Japanese videogame/anime movie under the sun. Misanthropic animals would be the least of your concerns I'd wager.

Nintendo is especially fond of the misanthropic animal cliche - Donkey Kong, Star Fox, Pikmin - Mario and Zelda would be an exception to the rule. I don't know WHAT Kirby is supposed to represent, though - a big fat pink blob - if I recall correctly they named him after an attorney that successfully defended Nintendo in court for King Kong copyright violations - so perhaps it's a social commentary on fat Americans :)

Jokah Macpherson said...

"...if the bad guys ever had the brains to bum rush the hero at the same time, there'd be no saving Marian."

The screen would freeze with that many sprites on it. The poor koopa troopas are limited by the physics of their 8-bit universe. Not that I have any idea what a "bit" is...

I saved Marian a lot with my cousin but he was always the one who won the grudge match at the end.

Sam said...

Mario games have made a successful leap to 3-D, starting with Super Mario 64, and most recently Super Mario Galaxy for Wii. Sonic has not flourished nearly as well; almost all his adventures in the third dimension have been unsuccessful, to but it euphemistically. With the exception of those rare cash-ins, gamers can always rely on a Mario game to be of good quality. Sonic games are the exact opposite.

Stopped Clock said...

I still play Sonic the Hedgehog 2 from time to time on a Genesis emulator because it has so many weird cheat codes that there's always something new to try. I'm more of a ROM hacker than a video game player anyway ... which is why when I play SNES games on my other emulator, I gravitate towards the kind of games that resemble Sonic 2.

Audacious Epigone said...

Re: Popular Symbolism's comment on environmentalism in video games, please see his recent post that deals with the subject in great detail.

OneSTDV,

I'd probably have to give you music, classic as the original Super Mario Brothers theme is. I think Hill Top Zone is simply amazing--it might be the nostalgia, though, playing Sonic and Sonic 2 with all of my cousins when my family came home from the northwest, at a time before I had a Genesis.

Agnostic,

Right. A character built on super speed isn't versatile enough for innovations. I'm hard pressed to come up with anything in the Mario universe that is more difficult than the 8th world in Mario 3, though.

Jokah,

Throwing the backwards elbow was a damage sink. Perpetual jump kicking combined with that probably would've been your best bet.

Sam,

Does Nintendo now have the rights to Sonic? For some reason I recall something along those lines taking place, but it looks like Sega still makes independent titles with him. Do they just sell to Nintendo, or to various consoles?

Stopped Clock said...

If it counts as Mario, Yoshi's Island had some extremely difficult levels, more so than any other Mario game I've played.

Jokah Macpherson said...

Re: Martial arts action movies

Is the Derb taking notes?