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Saturday, December 14, 2013

Super Mario Brothers 3 - The Ice World

I'm going to offer up a little bit of a confession here. I will admit that I am kind of cheating today in regards to today's topic.

As you know, we're smack dab in the middle of “THE POP CULTURE ADDICT'S ADVENT CALENDAR”. And, if you've been keeping track, we're currently on Day #14 of the event.

Of course you know that for the first twenty-five days of the month of December, we will be featuring a series of holiday themed entries, in which every reference has something to do with the Christmas season. But I knew that right off the bat that once I hit the second Saturday of December, I would be struggling.

You see, ever since I began doing the Saturday Smorgasbord theme day, I had decided that the second Saturday of the month would be dedicated towards video games. Problem is, how many Christmas themed video games are there in the world? Not very many. The only one that I can think of right off the bat is “Parasite Eve”, and unfortunately, it's one of those survival horror games.  Somehow, a possessed opera singer who sets people on fire in the middle of Carnegie Hall isn't exactly the best way to wish somebody a merry Christmas.

No, for today I wanted to make the theme fun.  But with such few selections for holiday video games available, whatever would I do?

I know!  What if I "cheat" a little by doing a blog topic on a video game that I received as a Christmas present years ago?  And, what if the blog topic had to do with a level within said game that could really make anyone feel as if they're in a living, breathing Christmas card?  

Well, a Christmas card that has huge pits to jump across and flying turtles who have an insatiable appetite for plumbers from Brooklyn, New York.

I'm sure that most everyone has heard of the video game "Super Mario Brothers 3" for the Nintendo Entertainment System.  Originally released in Japan in 1988, the game hit store shelves in the United States and Canada in early 1990, and quickly became a best-selling video game.  For years, it held the record of being the best-selling video game of all-time.

And it was a game that I had gotten for Christmas when I was ten years old, making the year 1991.  Of course, it wasn't as if I hadn't played the video game before prior to owning it.  I did rent it at least once a month from the local corner store!

But what a spectacular game it was!  It was the first game to introduce the seven Koopalings (Iggy, Larry, Lemmy, Ludwig, Morton, Roy, and Wendy), it was the first game to introduce warp whistles, it was the first game to introduce a small inventory screen in which you could carry up to twenty-eight different items at once, and it was the first Mario game in which Mario gained the power of flight, as a raccoon leaf could make Mario soar to the clouds!

It was also a very challenging game at that.  I remember many instances in which I was playing Super Mario Brothers 3 and wanting to throw my controller through the screen of the television set because I could not manage to find a way to get through a level without depleting my 1-UP supply.  And, that was actually a good thing.  Nobody ever wants to play a video game that was too easy!  Easy games were boring games!

I still remember the day that I first played Super Mario 3.  I had rented it from the corner video store for a weekend, and I wanted to play it so badly.  Here's the kicker though.  Because the game was the most rented video game at that store, I had to be put on a waiting list in order to play it!  And, when I finally got the opportunity to play the video game for the first time, I couldn't even figure out how to even make the first level begin!  Unlike the first two games, in which the level automatically began when you pressed the "START" button, the third game began with a map screen.  And, believe it or not, it took half an hour for me to come to the conclusion that you needed to move Mario to the location on the map and that the game would not do it for you!

(Sigh...I shudder at how naive I was as a child.)

Anyway, once I figured it out, I ended up doing not too badly.  Sure, I got quite a few game overs on my quest to rescue Princess Toadstool from the clutches of Bowser, but that was all part of the fun.  After all, practice made perfect, right?

And certainly, Super Mario 3 was one of those games that amped up the difficulty.  After all, it did have eight distinct worlds, each one with its own distinct theme.  Some worlds were quite easy to navigate through, like Desert World or Grass World.  Some were quite mystical, but fun to get through like Giant World or Sky World.  And some really tested your patience, such as the case with Water World or Pipe World.

But of all the worlds found in Super Mario 3, I have to say that one of them really made me want to just shut off the game and not play ever again.  One world in which I used up all of my lives just to get through!

And, while most people find World 7 or World 8 to be the hardest world in the whole game, my world of frustration happened to be World 6.

And since we're keeping in theme with the Christmas spirit...which in my home country of Canada means near frigid temperatures, snow covered trees and pavement covered with black ice...why not talk about the world which gave me the most trouble in Super Mario Brothers 3?

World 6...the Ice World.  In my opinion, the hardest world in the game.  I find it even harder than World 7 and World 8!

Did you want to see a screenshot of the world that I found most frustrating?  Have a look.

And, while we're at it, let's listen to the theme music of this world.  It's a calming, but haunting melody at the same time.  The perfect soundtrack to a world that I found nearly impossible to get through!

Now, you might be wondering...what's the big deal?  Upon first glance of the screenshot, it doesn't look that intimidating.  A world with only three levels, a small castle, and a couple of Hammer Brothers guarding treasures.  Why would I absolutely despise this world more than any other one in the third Super Mario game?

Well, you see...I only showed you a small part of the ice world.  Here's the rest of it.

That's right.  With ten regular levels, three fortresses, and an airship level...not to mention at least three Hammer Brothers wandering around the world, the Ice World is the largest world in the whole game!  I swear, trying to get through the sixth world of the game was absolutely insane.  

But you know, if it were just a simple thing like having more levels than any other world, then it wouldn't be that big of a deal.  It would just take a little bit longer to get through the whole thing.  There had to be something else about the ice world that made it very challenging.

Well, how about the fact that in nearly every single level, there were ice blocks?  Slippery ice blocks?  Ice blocks that were so slippery that one false move and you'd slide completely off of a cliff?  And what was worse?  Nearly every single level was like this!  The first level of World 6 was extremely difficult unless you have a Fire Flower, because you not only had to slide around on frozen platforms, but you also had to dodge the projectile shooting plants known under the name of the "Patooie"!  Imagine trying to dodge those projectiles while trying to maintain your footing!  That's evil.  Really evil.

Even more evil was the fact that so many levels within the game were levels which had either automatic scrolling, or had so many quick jumps in rapid succession that you literally were biting your tongue trying to get through the level in one piece.  Nevermind the fact that some of these levels had wide gaps that were covered in ice which made an already difficult level even more impossible.  See worlds 6-2, 6-4, and 6-7 for examples of what I mean.  Or, basically any level that has the following soundtrack below.

(I grew to LOATHE that music after a while.)

I mean, really, the whole ice motif was probably the hardest part of the whole entire world.  For starters, one of the three fortresses was crafted entirely of ice...and all of the enemies in the ice castle were those horribly large, incredibly deadly Thwomps.  

You know, those giant rocks with faces on them that grimace as they try to make Mario flatter than a blueberry pancake served at IHOP?  Yep.  For me, the most evil enemy of the whole Super Mario 3 game cartridge.  When I first encountered them in World 2, I hated them then, and there weren't even that many in that world!  By World 6, I was completely done with them.

And, then there were those worlds in which there were coins that were trapped in blocks of ice.  And unless you had fire power that was granted to either Mario or Luigi by way of Fire Flowers, you could not grab them.  And in a world in which you were almost guaranteed to lose a life or two or twenty-five, you needed those coins.

(Because as true Mario savants know, one hundred coins equals one green 1-UP mushroom!)

Oh, one more thing.  There were enemies that were frozen in ice too...and if you warmed them up, the monsters warmed up and were able to hurt Mario and Luigi...which of course made the level even harder!

Now, I will say that some levels of World 6 were quite hard.  I wouldn't ever list one level in the ice world as being extremely easy.  I thought they were all challenging from 6-4's spinning platforms, to 6-6's underwater swimming, to 6-7's falling donut blocks.

But would you believe that there was one level in world 6 that for three years I never completed because I absolutely had no idea how to even complete it?  And, as someone who likes to try and complete every level in a Mario game, it bothered me that I couldn't complete it.

That level was World 6-5.

Apparently, it took me years to figure it out, but there was only one way out of World 6-5.  What you had to do was become Raccoon Mario, find the one and only Koopa Troopa (the turtle) in the level, stomp on it once, and fly up towards the ceiling with the shell and use it to smash the blocks that were obstructing the one and only exit in the area.  Going through any other exit would cause you to replay the level over and over again until you ran out of time.

It took me three years to figure out that trick.  Prior to that, I would have to use two Jugem's Clouds from my inventory, and use them to bypass 6-5, grab the Hammer Brothers suit from the Toad House that 6-5 was blocking, and use another cloud to bypass world 6-5 again!  It was very awkward for sure!

But I suppose that was where World 6 could be easy.  You didn't have to complete every one of the ten levels.  There were three instances in which you could choose whatever level you wanted to complete, and you could still make your way through the level.  You could probably get through a path that only used as few as six levels.  The only compulsory levels that you needed to get through were 6-1, 6-4, and well as the three fortresses.  All the others were ones that you could pick from.  You could complete 6-6 without having to do 6-5, or you could do 6-10 without having to do 6-9, and so on, and so forth.

But one final insult to injury in regards to World 6 is the airship level.  For the first seven worlds, Mario and Luigi have to collect a magic wand that one of Bowser's Koopalings had stolen from the ruler of each land, and you have to grab the wand and use it to change the king back to his human form (all the Koopalings changed the ruler of each land into an animal).  And, the boss of World 6 was my least favourite Koopaling, Lemmy Koopa.

Lemmy's weapon of choice was giant bouncy balls, and he basically threw them in all different directions, making it nearly impossible to get a direct hit on him.  I cursed the day I ever fought Lemmy Koopa because he was freakin' hard to defeat.  Not as hard as Bowser, mind you, but extremely hard enough!

But you know, practice made perfect...and after losing a grand total of seventy-six lives on my first playthrough of World 6, I survived the cold chill of the world...and while most people I know list World 7 as their least favourite world, I found it much easier than World 6!

And, that wraps up today's Saturday Smorgasbord as well as Day #14 of the blog!

Now, coming up tomorrow on Day #15...we take a listen to a Christmas favourite by a singer whose Christmas album got people "all shook up".

1 comment:

  1. Merry Christmas and Best Wishes for a Happy New Year!
    Bring you Good wishes of happiness.

    Sorry for greeting you earlier,, just don't want miss saying this.
    By the way, I'm prima. It's my first time visiting your blog. I am blogger

    too, and now try my best luck to open an e-store. Nice to know you.