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My Expertise: A Moustached Hero


Before I start rambling about my skill of choice, let me ask you a question. Have you ever had a hero? You know... That one person that you elevate above yourself and admire more than anything else in the world. Until recently I've never had a person like that. I remember walking through the park with a friend of mine. She was really big into Elijah Wood at the time and had recently had the chance to meet him in person at a movie convention. She wasn't just some dreamy fangirl in love with the man or anything like that. She just deeply respected him as an actor and as a person.

I was listening to her excited tales about the meeting when she caught me off guard with this question: "Don't you get this same feeling about the guys in Iron Maiden?". I'm a devoted metal head and Maiden always was my favourite band. When they're on stage, I'll be in the front row with my hair down, chanting The Number Of The Beast at the top of my lungs but was I really interested in the people behind the music? No, I wasn't. Sure, I respected them as artists and they are amazing at what they do but still, I always saw them as simple people doing their job.

Ever since I was seven years old, my life has been dominated by gaming. I would get home from school and the first thing I'd do was turn on my NES. When I grew into my early teen years, my parents were never worried about alcohol or drugs as I frequented cyber cafes and played in clan wars rather than going to wild parties. Instead they were worried about whether I'd ever be interested in anything else. I've had a bit of a pause during college but otherwise, nearly all of my life has been somehow related to gaming. Of course it's obvious when you think about it, but I had never taken the time to sit down and realise that there were actually people behind my favourite passtime.

It all changed when a certain flash cartoon came out a bit over a year ago. It depicted Shigeru Miyamoto encountering a pipe which took him to the universes of his most popular creations. I remembered how I played Super Mario Bros. for the first time in a supermarket near my house. I remembered how I first borrowed Zelda from a friend and spread out that huge overworld map on the floor. This man all the way over there in Japan, had deeply touched my heart and the hearts of millions of other children all over the world. A deep feeling of respect surged within me and that's when I knew: Shigeru Miyamoto is my hero!

To this day I, and many fellow gamers with me, still believe that Super Mario Bros. is Miyamoto's greatest masterpiece. Think about it. Back in 1985, games mostly consisted of single screens with a black background where we'd eat dots or shoot down invaders, possibly from space. Not to mention the video game crash of '83 that was still strongly in effect. Super Mario Bros. hit us in the face and probably kicked us some more while we were down. Suddenly we were running over land and through caves, swimming in the oceans and even climbing beanstalks to the heavens. The crash of '83 was officially over and little kids everywhere were nagging their parents to death for a NES.The little 8-bit wonder has managed to outsell every single game to date until it was finally dethroned by Wii Sports. How fitting that Mario introduced a blue sky as its background. Gaming had just been through a harsh winter and Super Mario Bros. was its spring.

This is a game which I will keep playing until the end of time. I know every green pipe, every hidden coin and each and every koopa troopa by heart. I've often indulged in the geeky pleasure of speed running the game, leaving my friends' gaping jaws dropped to the floor. In later games, I make it a sport to finish levels while touching the ground as little as possible, bouncing off of every koopa or goomba I can find. It has even come so far that my reputation precedes me. At a party on new year's eve, a friend's friend whom I had never met before approached me with the words "I've heard you're a real Mario wizard. Let's see what you can do." and before I knew it, the beer in my hand was replaced by a controller. Off course there isn't much to say about Super Mario Bros. that hasn't been said many times already, so I'd like to take this opportunity to bring up a few alternate versions of the title.

Vs. Super Mario Bros.

As most people will probably know, Nintendo was making Arcade games long before they ventured into the home console market. Even after their NES/Famicom turned out to be a major hit, they continued making Arcade games and one of such projects was the Vs. Unisystem. These were essentially modified NES games that you could play head to head. Some of the cabinets had multiple screens and control sets that ran two simultaneous games on the same motherboard. They looked like a pair of conjoined twins sharing the same vital organs. I mean really... Look at it.

Vs. Super Mario Bros. was the Unisystem's incarnation of Miyamoto's masterpiece. While most of the levels are essentially the same as the home console counterpart, there are a significant amount of subtle changes designed to mess with experienced players. Later levels were redesigned entirely from the ground up and were MUCH more difficult than the original game. You could actually see this as a bit of a bridging title as a lot of these harder levels later came back in the Japanese Super Mario Bros. 2. I'm not going to go into detail about that game at this time but keep an eye on my River City Retro series in the cblogs because next week, I'm going to tell you all about it.

All Night Nippon Super Mario Bros.

This is a very weird and extremely rare entry in the Mario franchise. Only 3000 copies were ever printed. I can only imagine what kind of wtf-face you must have sprouted when you saw these screenshots. Let me explain how this oddity came to be. All Night Nippon is a popular late night radio show in Tokyo that has been on the air since 1967. For their twentieth anniversary, they contacted Nintendo and asked them to develop a special version of Super Mario Bros. Nintendo agreed and in December 1986, all 3000 copies were given away by lottery to listeners of the show.

All of those strange sunglassed weirdos you see replacing goombas and piranha plants over there, are actually Japanese celebrities that either hosted the show or were in some way affiliated with it. The game doesn't stop at these alterations though. For starters it ran on the Super Mario Bros. 2 engine which included its physics tweaks and slightly updated graphics although a few sprites here and there were reverted to their old looks. Many other gameplay mechanics newly introduced in SMB 2 were also removed. Again the later levels were made much harder than the original ones and usually consisted of modified versions of SMB 2 levels. The solutions to maze levels 4-4 and 7-4 were also changed.

Super Mario Bros. Special

This is another Mario game that we will most likely never see and it's probably for the better. Japan got a bunch of computer system that never saw the light of day in the western world. The NEC PC-8801 or simply PC88 was one of these systems. The name probably doesn't ring a bell for most of you but some of its developers will. Square and Enix, back then still two different companies, both developed exclusive titles for the system while Konami developed PC88 games that shared a release with the MSX. This time though, we'll ignore these big names and go straight for the oddities by the hands of Hudson Soft.

Vivid retro gamers will probably remember Hudson Soft as the people behind the magnificent Adventure Island series. Their part in the PC88's history comes from close cooperation with Nintendo as they were officially licensed to port NES games to it. Among others, the system got ports of Excite Bike, Balloon fight, Ice Climbers and a horrible butchering of Super Mario Bros. While Hudson has always tried to keep their ports as true to the original as possible, for SMB they decided to make a whole new game. The levels have been completely redone and several enemies from Donkey Kong and the original Mario Bros. make an appearance here. Most significantly, the game is no longer a side scroller.

The hardware couldn't handle the smooth scrolling of the original and instead we are stuck with a twitchy system where the screen pans as you touch the outer edge. Koopa shells bounce off of the right edge of the screen even if there are no obstacles and since you can't see what's up ahead, you often have to take blind leaps. The controls are horrible and the graphics flicker like they're actively trying to induce seizures. If you have an eight year old little brother and want to punish him for whatever he did to you, I suggest you make him play this game!

Thank you for reading my blog. I am Metallion and I am a Super Mario wizard.
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About Metallionone of us since 4:11 AM on 10.14.2009

I'm a dude that used to write cblogs regularly but doesn't do that any more.