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A Cast of Thousands: Count Bleck


((MAJOR spoilers ahead for those who have not completed this game.))

For some odd reason, these last few days in July have been particularly inspirational to the C-Bloggers here on Destructoid. I happen to be no different this time. But unlike my previous Monthly Musing entry which chronicled my first foray into an iconic series, here I will discuss a character that takes another iconic series and turns it on its head. After playing through Super Paper Mario again for the first time in nearly a year, I started to remember why I had loved one character in it so much before hand. Replaying the story only helped me to realize just why Count Bleck was such a striking role in the plot.

Count Bleck first enters the scene of Super Paper Mario in a very dramatic fashion. The first scene we witness in the game - before we even reach the title screen - is...Bowser being married to Peach!? Or, more accurately, Peach being forced to marry Bowser by one of Bleck's minions. What kind of bad guy has the iron cajones to forcibly overthrow years of Nintendo canon? Count Bleck of course. Quite the dashing figure in his white top hat, he speaks in the third person, frequently breaks out into evil cackling while plotting the end of the world, and has a pretty bitching theme song to boot. Sounds like your typical Mario villian so far, right?

Wrong. Despite the typical Mario platforming gameplay, this is still an RPG at heart, and like almost all RPG's, there's much more to this tale than what you first see.

Unlike other Mario titles, this game is not introduced as a "save the princess" story. During the opening cinematic, an unseen narrator introduces us to what is described as "a story of...love." No, I'm not exaggerating, that's what it seriously says word for word. Why? Because what sets this story apart from not just Mario games in general, but the very Paper Mario series from which it hails is the fact that Mario and his friends are not the focus of the story. Even though you control the four heroes of legend that save the world from utter destruction, the main purpose of the story is the relationship between our baddy Count Bleck, and a companion in your party named Tippi. By rescuing the Pure Hearts and completing your quest, you only help to bring their story to light.

And while that story may seem like your typical RPG fare of love, loss, revenge, and redemption (the plot is entirely too long for me to recount completely here), it shocked me that a tale worthy of a Final Fantasy game was found in a Mario game. And the way his character is revealed to you is very interesting as well. At first, all you see is the evil, cackling, monocled villian hell-bent on dragging all worlds into oblivion. However, through his dialogue with other characters, and snippets of flashbacks between chapters, the true depth of his person is slowly exposed. He was just an ordinary person driven by immense grief to seek power beyond his understanding, and found himself wrapped up in events beyond his control. Bleck even expresses remorse at what he has brought about by triggering such chaos, but is resigned to his role as the villian, even though the good man inside of him isn't as dead as he would like to think.

After defeating Count Bleck and seeing the real manipulator of the end of the world (a villian so awesome in his own right that I seriously considered writing this Monthly Musing on him instead), it's even Bleck's own wish for reconciliation and rediscovery of his former lover that helps you finally end the dark void that threatened to consume the universe. The end of all worlds was triggered by a union between two people never meant to be together, and it is stopped by the union of two people who were never meant to be apart. Even though he started the events prophesied to bring about chaos, it's through Count Bleck's actions that it's saved.

Cheesy? Yes, but like I stated, Count Bleck/Blumiere is a surprisingly deep character for a Mario game. Through his interactions with the other characters, flashbacks in between chapters, and eventual actions at the end of the game, he proves that he is far more than just evil cannon fodder for Mario and his entourage. In many other franchises he probably wouldn't have been as memorable, but precisely because he is such a departure from other villians in this series, he has made a permenant impression on me as one of the series' most iconic antagonists.
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About SWE3tMadnessone of us since 6:04 PM on 01.10.2008

-About Me-

A recent graduate in Biology, neverless my first love in entertainment and media has always been video games, even though I don't get a lot of time to play recent ones now. I still enjoy following the industry and gushing about the latest Nintendo releases.

A Critical Ear: Analyzing Music in Video Games

If there's one thing that I like more than talking about video games, it's talking about music in video games. As a classically trained pianist that has been playing for more than twelve years, I take a look at some of my favorite soundtracks and how they contribute to the gaming experience as a whole.

#0: Introduction
#1: Villain Themes and Leitmotifs (April, 2010)
#2: Anti-Music (June, 2010)
#3: They Wasted a Perfectly Good Song (July, 2010)
#4: Fight On! (August, 2010)
#5: More Than Just Noise: Nostalgia and Homecoming (September, 2010 Monthly Musing)
#6: While I Play Unfitting Music (November, 2010)
#7: Thinking Outside the Soundchip (December/January 2010)

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The Wrong Thing: The Root Of All Evil
Other Worlds Than These: Pokèmon
Music and Rhythm Games: A Classically Trained Pianist's Perspective
Feel the Hatred: Zant (Twilight Princess)
Instant Replay: Guitar Hero III
The Start of the Affair: Super Smash Bros. 64