Wednesday, March 21, 2007

Sweetie, Take it Hot

It was found inadvertantly.



And then another was found.



And a third, easily the best of the bunch.


Sunday, March 18, 2007

Sex Flowers

Mostly at the suggestion of Ethan's cover story in this week's Independent, I dropped by Earl Warren for the Santa Barbara Orchid Show. The article actually made flowers I've otherwise associated with over-attendant housewives seem exciting. Besides, since I've lived here, I've let six previous ones go by, so I figured this Sunday would be the day where I would go look at the evolutionary freaks.

The evidence:

orchids9

orchids10

orchids14

orchids3

orchids7

orchids5

The grand-prize winner, which I found oddly turnip-like.

orchids17

orchids16

And the last one — the only photo that I felt had any artistic merit.

orchids19

I liked it to much I was tempted to fiddle with it, hopefully for the better.

orchids1

Mii-ness

The introduction of the Nintendo Wii to my life has effectively divided my life into two parts — B.W. (Before Wii) and A.W. (Anno Wii-i). In preparation to buy the system, I knew I’d be looking forward to the next generation of Nintendo software, but the added benefit of access to old Nintendo, Sega and TurboGrafx-16 has allowed me to also relive my otherwise squandered childhood. I like that.

What’s struck me most about the Wii, however, is the Mii component, which lets players cobble together little representations of themselves from an available selection of facial features, hairstyles, skin tones and such. Mere moments after Spencer, Aly and I had transformed ourselves into Miis — Spiincer, Alii and Driiw, respectively — we went overboard creating a host of Miis for other people we know — some flattering, some not so much and none to be mentioned here. And that’s not mentioning are vast collection of celebri-Miis, including Cosbii, Jiisus, Lii-Lo, Britnii (bald version), Bowii, Iiman, Niicole, Padma Lakshmii, Anna Wiintour and a host of others that don’t readily jump to mind. (Yes, Anna Wintour was Mii-ified. And I’d wager my house is the only one in the Wii-enabled universe to performed such a feat. Though, for the record, she could be easily switched to “Joan Diidion” and I don’t think anybody would notice.) Aside from functioning as your virtual Wii-vatars for functions like the Everybody Votes Channel — a Wii function I have yet to really understand — or sending and receiving email, the Miis also appear in games. In Wii Sports, the Miis are the ones running around and hitting balls, despite their notable lack of hands and legs. In the Wii version of WarioWare, the Miis also occasionally appear in the various mini-games, sometimes in surprising ways. (My head on a jack-in-the-box spring, for example. It’s neat.)

driiw
the mii me

Nintendo guru Shigeru Miyamoto — the man responsible for creating Super Mario Bros., Legend of Zelda and Donkey Kong, among others — has apparently been toying with the idea since the days of the original Nintendo system but hadn’t had a means to do anything useful with them. Finally, when Nintendo designers began work on Wii Sports — a game which initially was going to utilize Mario characters — they realized the possibility to give the world Miis.

I’m not the only person who’s hyped on Miis, it seems. A simple Google News search for “mii” gets a lot more results than I would have expected. First off, Nintendo has noted the popularity of Miis and has decided to expand what people can do with them. For example, they’ve announced a new Mii Popularity Channel, which I imagine would work like a Mii Hot-or-Not or something. Nintendo’s not the only one. Nintendo also recently Mii-ified two popular Japanese comedians and made them available to be downloaded by the general public. (The comedy stylings of famed jokesters Shuzo Matsuoka and Sanma Akashiya — on your Wii!) T-shirt company Mr. Cloud is now offering a shirt with your Mii’s face printed onto it.

Some whole websites have been created around Miis — specifically Mii Station, a site which functions only to help the Wii-tarded who can’t seem to create a Mii that resembles them. For a mere $5 charge, you send Mii Station a digital photo of yourself and they send you a finely crafted Mii in your image, which you can then add to you stable of ready-to-play Miis.

Most shocking of all: an article headlined “Can Nintendo’s Mii Concept Kill MySpace?” The article discusses how Miis could allow for third party constructions that could build an actual social network around them.
Gaming industry analyst Richard Doherty, research director for Envisioneering Group, said that it is a smart move by Nintendo. "Absolutely. Within a year, the Wii may be the most successful and valuable social-networking community on the Web," Doherty said.

"Nintendo is creating a framework for an open environment that will allow other developers to add value," he explained.
So very weird. And I just want people to be friends with Cosbii.

Speaking of which, anybody Wii-powered reading this now should become my Wii friend. Wii?

Kongs, Tiny and Candied

One of the more striking aspects of the newly released remake Diddy Kong Racing DS: bit player Tiny Kong's transformation from the extended Kong family's kid sister to a full-grown sexpot. Given Nintendo's split with Rare, it's odd to me that Rare would have still developed this title, but they did. And it's also notable that Rare excised non-Nintendo properties Banjo and Conker from the cast of playable characters in favor of Dixie Kong and her once-younger sister Tiny Kong.

What's even weirder, however, is Tiny's apparent growth spurt. Here's Tiny Kong as of her Donkey Kong 64 days, looking every bit Dixie's little sister.


And here's the notably more mature Tiny, looking more like Dixie's babysitter.


Nice bared midriff, Tiny. Very strange, if for no other reason than it makes me uncomfortable to watch an anthropomorphic animal become womanized, if not outright sexualized. (It's also got to be strange for Nintendo purists, especially because Dixie has yet to age a day since being introduced to video gamedom back in 1995.) Tiny's transformation reminds me of what happened to Candy Kong, Donkey's girlfriend and notably the one recurring simian in the Donkey Kong Country universe yet to appear as a playable character. Note the original version, looking all blonde and pink and more-or-less a Kong analogue to Mario's Princess Peach.


And note what she's evolved into: a bikini-clad monkey babe with visible cleavage, as evidenced by this bit of promotional art for Candy in DK: King of Swing.


It... makes me uncomfortable. Not just the boobs, but the idea that Rare would create a Tiny and have her first ape Dixie and now ape Candy.

Ha. "Aping."

Friday, March 16, 2007

The Backpack

As the seven hours of war protest activities scheduled for tomorrow have rendered my Saturday into a work day, I took today off and went to the zoo. It's my third trip. The zoo has animals. See?

flamingo 2

elephant

gibbon

some simian

gibbon 6

gibbon 5

gibbon 4

giraffe 2

I'm happy to report that this zoo trip afforded me my first-ever opportunity to photograph the Santa Barbara's famed crooked neck giraffe, who, as its description implies, has a crooked neck. See?

giraffe 3

As anybody who's read this blog beyond this past year knows, I was, for a brief period, obsessed with anteaters. The psychosis has subsided, for the most part. But that hasn't stopped me from spending a good half-hour at the anteater pen, waiting and anticipating the moment Momma and Baby Wobbly Nose would wake up and entertain me. You see, I've been aware of the anteater born at Santa Barbara Zoo since October of 2004, when I found that my friend Val worked there and had ready access to the pair. The zoo staff was in the process of selecting a name for Baby Anteater. (Val suggested "Little Lafawnduh.") Eventually, someone came up with "Mochila" — Spanish for "backpack," as the newborn little freak had a habit of riding on his mother's back. Cute, huh?

Like I said, that first awareness of the anteater happened more than two years ago. You'd think that Mochila would have outgrown the need — or at least the habit — of riding everywhere piggyback.

Not so.

It turns out that anteaters don't stop doing that, as I learned today. What initially looked like horrendous mother-son humping soon revealed itself to be mere affectionate piggybacking in spite of Momma's nearly buckling legs. Mochila, after all, looks to be close to full-grown. My take: Momma needs to say "no."

See Mochila's arrested development in action.

zoo 17

zoo 16

zoo 14

zoo 4

zoo 3

Tongue and all. I'm seriously so impressed with myself.

zoo 13

Momma and Baby in action, courtesy of YouTube:


The Warios

This cover for +N, a Swedish gaming magazine, has already been well-circulated online, but I haven't yet heard anyone discuss something odd the artist implemented in the image. And I'm not talking about the lady Wario in the front row or the too-cool amalgam of The Warriors and Smash Bros.

warios-thumb

Whether it's wishful thinking or a case of someone knowing more than I do about upcoming releases, artist Kamekichi made some interesting choices regarding who he included in this Nintendo all-star line-up. At first glance, it would seem to be a take-off on Smash Bros., but take a second a closely look at exactly who's here. (And try taking that close look here, since the above image is so small. And while you zoomed in, by the way, just try not to notice that the Wario at the front-left is sporting a raging hard-on. Ha.)

Anyway, start with Wario — make him six o'clock — and move clockwise.
  • The Luigis directly above and behind the Warios
  • The Links
  • The Captain Falcons
  • The Waluigis
  • The Pikachus
  • The Marios
  • The Toads
  • The Koopa Troopas
  • Some shirtless guys in the back-left that I can't identify — possibly Kirby, by process of elimination, or maybe even someone from Punch-Out!!
  • The Samuses
  • The Ice Climberses
  • The Captain Olimars (form Pikmin)
  • The Balloon Fighters
  • The Pits (from Kid Icarus)
  • The Marths
  • The Zeldas
  • The Fox McClouds
  • One great, big ROB
  • The Yoshis
  • The Nesses (from Earthbound)
  • The Donkey Kongs
  • The Peaches
  • Conspicuously missing: Bowser and Jigglypuff
Just very odd that the artist managed to capture most of the actual Smash Bros. line-up, but would also include randoms like Balloon Fighter, Waluigi, Toad and Koopa Troopa. Probably wishful thinking in my part, but I have to admit they do all look good together.

Kamekichi's site is in Japanese, so I have little-to-no idea what anything on it means. However, there's more cool video game-based art available that you don't have to be multilingual to understand. For example, he has a Star Wars parody up involving various Nintendo folk.

"you're my only home... to find me in another castle."

There's also "Setting Sun," a take-off on Super Mario Sunshine, featuring Mario embarrassing Luigi.


And then there's an image of Luigi, theoretically embarrassing Mario if Mario was around to see him.


Kamekichi apparently has a thing for making the Mario Bros. inappropriately display their bulges. I tried Google-translating his site for some insight into his artistic method. What resulted was the following text, which accompanies the above image of Luigi.
There being a your strange edge, the Swedish game magazine “+N” you drew the cover of the March 6th sale number. The news item picture which with the sight “morning eye newspaper” which you have taken care usually is announced is opportunity.

Never, like this it is and can receive fish story with we did not think even in dream, but because it is the with special care opportunity, shaking the arm, you drew. Some kind of picture it cannot show here, but if perhaps the Nintendo Co. game fan, rejoicing, you think that it has become something which it can receive. Various news items (?)It is trained, die (laughing.)

Lastly, giving this kind of opportunity, as “+N” the people of the editorial staff, been the morning eye newspaper curator giving opportunity desk vessel cat, in those which in addition I draw thought gratitude is said to the people and everyone who are the [ku] from heart.

Thank you truly very much.
In short, not a clue.

Sunday, March 11, 2007

Self-Description

protests 004

It's just been one of those days. The 47-hour weekend just doesn't cut it.

Saturday, March 10, 2007

Doo Wop-Singing Piranha Plants

A strange Japanese commercial for the video game Super Mario RPG featuring a trio of doo wop-singing Piranha Plants.


I actually played this game and can attest that it features precisely zeor doo wop-singing Piranha Plants. Why the director decided to meld the game with the musical Little Shop of Horrors is beyond me.

Wednesday, March 7, 2007

Sweetheart, Curves Can Kill

Sometimes the news itself writes itself in such away that the reporter can employ not even the slightest bit of creatvity in the writing in order to make it interesting. The following lede, for example:
A jazz musician was injured Friday after jumping from a burning motor home driven by a one-time roller skating stripper from Lodi.
Spencer sent me this bit, which originally appeared in the Lodi News-Sentinel. You can read the full article if you like. Bonus points: The stripper is male.

Tuesday, March 6, 2007

Shear His Hair

George has a post up about Harry "Without Me 'The Simpsons' Could Not Exist" Shearer's apppearance last Sunday at Campbell Hall, in which he notes an interesting tidbit Shearer let slip regarding the "John Jay Smith" episode, in which Homer befriends a mental patient Leon Kompowski. I quote:
Then he told about the time Michael Jackson was the guest artist (yes, MJ really did do the voice in that episode about the 300 pound white man from the asylum who thought he was Michael Jackson). When it's time to record the show, Jackson does all the speaking parts, but when it comes time to sing a song ("Happy Birthday, Lisa" a take-off of "Ben"), some white guy at the table sings. Shearer leans over to Yeardley Smith (the voice talent for Lisa) and says, "I guess we paid enough for the talking Michael and not the singing Michael."
And I thought that was cool.

Monday, March 5, 2007

Super Mario Compact Disco

Someone with a little too much free time spliced together animation bits from various ads for Mario products and set them to music. Enjoy. Don't question why.


Personally, I think the whole thing works better with the speakers turned off. VideoGamesBlogger states that the song in question is "Save Me With Your Charm," which comes from the album Super Mario Compact Disco. This 1993 Japanese release, performed by the Ambassadors of Funk, mixes techno beats with some basic bleeps and blips borrowed from various Super Mario games. While I can't personally vouch for the quality of the album, I think the cover art speaks for itself.


My favorite part: The fact that despite Mario, Yoshi and and Luigi wearing their hats backwards, their emblematic letters still face forwards.

The same Youtube user, DokiDokiJapan, made another one to a dance remix of Aneka's "Japanese Boy," one of the worst songs ever but also one of the most terminally catchy. This second video utilizes a lot of the same animation, lamely.

Sunday, March 4, 2007

Phaedra Is My Name

I made a to-do list in a word file nearly a year ago, just after I returned from Australia. It included various tasks, as to-do lists often do, from “get full-time job at the Independent” to “write more fiction.” Clearly, I’ve accomplished some and failed to attend to others. One of the tasks that has long been languishing on the list was to explicate the lyrics to three songs — David Bowie’s “Diamond Dogs,” Blondie’s “Susie and Jeffrey” and Lee Hazlewood and Nancy Sinatra’s “Some Velvet Morning” — and post the results on the blog. I like all three songs, in spite of that or perhaps because all three seem more or less nonsensical.

Today, I made a promise to myself that I wouldn’t put on pants without trying to clarify what at least one of these songs means. Since it’s my favorite of the three, I picked “Some Velvet Morning,” a decision which worked against my desire to get anything done quickly. You see, the first hit for “Some Velvet Morning” on Google is the Wikipedia page for it. I wrote that page. And I still haven’t got a clue what the song is about.

The video appears below. Please excuse the corniness of it all and keep in mind that in 1968 people didn't know any better. Also, note the description of the woman named "Phaedra."

Now here goes nothing: First, some things you should know about Lee Hazlewood. He wrote this song. He also wrote "These Boots Are Made for Walking," the song that transformed Frank Sinatra's pretty daughter into a notable singer in her own right. That song also employed the lyric You've been lyin' when you should have been truthin', however, so Hazlewood is not necessarily someone who thinks words should be used grammatically. More proof of this: the intro to his autobiography, The Pope's Daughter, which I wrote about in a previous post. Despite this tendency, I think Hazlewood is trying to get at something in "Some Velvet Morning." As far as the rest of his music is concerned, "Some Velvet Morning" stands out; it's psychedelic and less clearly influenced by country western music. And because it stands out, I’d say he wrote it for a reason. Why else take a departure from your usual fare if not to express something you feel necessary? Aside from being an asteroid and a genus in the spurge family of plants, Phaedra is a character appearing in Greek mythology and various subsequent works of literature. In nearly all of them, Phaedra has some connection with sex that usually results in something bad happening. (Such is the lot of so many women in literature, you know.) To the Greeks, Phaedra was the daughter of Minos, the Cretan King whose wife screwed a bull and gave birth to the Minotaur. (I suppose this makes the Minotaur and Phaedra step-siblings. Odd.) Phaedra is married to Theseus, the man who slays the Minotaur. Shortly after giving birth to two sons by Theseus, however, Phaedra falls in love with Hippolytus, Theseus's son by the Amazon queen Hippolyte and, thus, her stepson. Hippolytus rejects Phaedra, who then gets revenge for being scorned by falsely alleging that Hippolytus raped her. In all versions of the story, the claim directly results in Hippolytus being killed, whether by daddy Theseus's own hand or by divine intervention that Theseus asks for. (Best of these: At Theseus's request, Poseidon sends a sea monster to spook Hippolytus's horse and drag him to death.) In some versions, Phaedra subsequently kills herself out of guilt over her lie. In Seneca's tragedy based on the tale, Phaedra is portrayed as a sort of Deliliah figure, being amorally seductive and duplicitous enough to draw other people into the constant manipulations of the men in her life. Jean Racine offers a slightly more sympathetic take on Phaedra in his 1677 play, but not by much. In 1962 — just a few years before Hazlewood would have written "Some Velvet Morning" — Jules Dassin directed a film "Phaedra," in which his wife Melina Mercouri played the title character, a wife of a shipping tycoon who begins a disasterous affair with her stepson (Anthony Perkins.) Guess how it ends. Given Phaedra's spotty history, then, it's curious to me that Hazlewood would write a song that praises the character, at least would seem to on a superficial read-through. His working relationship with Sinatra persisted for many years after "Some Velvet Morning" and I don't think he'd have her portray a conniving, lying seductress. Thus, I think "Some Velvet Morning" might actually be an interesting reinterpretation of a generally reviled character — and quite a feminist spin at that. That's what I'm hoping a verse-by-verse examination of the lyrics should further prove, anyway. For the purposes of understanding the song, know that it’s a duet. Nancy’s parts are indented and italicized.
Some velvet morning when I'm straight I'm gonna open up your gate And maybe tell you about Phaedra And how she gave me life And how she made it in Some velvet morning when I'm straight
Okay, when Hazlewood says "straight," I don't think he means to use the word the way we'd use it today. Given the content of his other songs, I'd assume this means "sober" or "no longer a criminal." Note that right of the bat, Hazlewood is full of praises for Phaedra. He also might be making a weird sort of sexual metaphor with talking about how he wants to "open up your gate." Then again, it might just be an easy rhyme for "straight."
Flowers growing on the hill Dragonflies and daffodils Learn from us very much Look at us but do not touch Phaedra is my name
Nancy's part makes no overt references to sexuality, but all the natural imagery and flowers and stuff seems to put her in the context of the nymphs of Greek mythology — certainly not the context Phaedra occupies in the stories originally told about her. It's an odd switch. However, the nymphs were almost always sexual beings. I'd say Hazlewood wrote these lyrics specifically to conflate the actual Phaedra with some nymphy version of her. After all, Nancy's last spoken line in this verse is "Phaedra is my name."
Some velvet morning when I'm straight I'm gonna open up your gate And maybe tell you about Phaedra and how she gave me life and how she made it in Some velvet morning when I'm straight
Then Hazlewood re-speaks what he's already said. Nancy, speaking as Phaedra, gets different lyrics for her second part.
Flowers are the things we know Secrets are the things we grow Learn from us very much Look at us but do not touch Phaedra is my name
Again, Hazlewood is putting Phaedra in the context of natural wonderment and beauty. Also, he seems to be attributing a unspecified sort of power to her — "Secrets are the things we grow" and "Look at us but do not touch" being prime examples from that. These lines, I think, hint more at the kind of power that made the mythological Phaedra powerful, as she used a secret — specifically a secret about a lie she told — to bring down an entire family and all the badness arose from her being angered.
Some velvet morning when I'm straight
Flowers growing on the hill
I'm gonna open up your gate
Dragonflies and daffodils
And maybe tell you about Phaedra
Learn from us very much
And how she gave me life
Look at us but do not touch
And how she made it in Some velvet morning when I’m straight
This whole last verse combines the previously separated parts into a whole. Given the nature of the classical Phaedra and "Some Velvet Morning" itself, I feel like this is the musical equivalent of sex. Literally, the male and female parts are commingled, and going back and forth. Kind of funny in a way. And, if you buy this interpretation, it's pretty high-concept to use the structure of the song to actually convey meaning. What I take away from all this is the simple story of a male speaker praising a woman for teaching him the ways of love — if not necessarily the physical act of it, then the emotional response needed to be a good person. Whereas the myth ended badly, this song ends well because Phaedra specifically warns the man about her power — "Look at us but do not touch" — and the man knows to respect this. At a time when the feminist movement was an appreciable presence in American life, this seemingly surreal song actually seems to be making an interesting commentary. But I suppose that the sentiment expressed shouldn't be surprising, given that Hazlewood himself dedicated a sizable chunk of his songwriting career to aiding a talented and beautiful woman in her artist efforts — perhaps at the expense of his own. After all, this is the man who titled his autobiography The Pope’s Daughter.

Saturday, March 3, 2007

Gazebo Boobowski

Nate, who seems well on his way to becoming the Back of the Cereal Box's own little Tricia Takanawa, texted me the following:
I don't know how this ever escaped my attention before, but this wonderful statue is outside my city hall in a currently defunct fountain.

Pseudo Mario, Then and Now

or "mo-buigi?"

While browsing Kotaku today I saw a post about Mobario, a cell phone game developed by Aquajava. Let’s be extremely generous and say that Mobario is an homage to the Super Mario games. The story goes as follows:
Mobario is a classic jump and run game. The story is quite simple: Mobaria, the girlfriend of Mobario was kidnapped by the evil Pavo. You have to rescue Mobaria from Pavo's Castle, but you have to get there which is not easy. The land, the sky, the caves and even water are filled with nasty enemies waiting for you. In Pavo's Castle, fireballs make your journey more difficult. And at the end you have to fight Pavo, who is really strong, and you have to beat him 10 times, but take care with jumping on him.
Lord knows where “Pavo” came from. (I have to admite it took me a few to realize that Mobario’s name, which more-or-less sounds like an oppish translation of our favorite chunky plumber’s name, is a neat little portmanteau of "mobile" and "Mario.") It’s interesting that the description of the game I found here includes a note that the game includes a “submarine journey waterlevel,” which sounds like a call-back to the Marine Pop stage in the old Game Boy Super Mario Land.




As these screenshots indicate, the backgrounds seem to be pulled directly from Super Mario World, with the sprites varying from the Super Mario All-Stars version of Super Mario Bros. for the four-on-the-floor Koopa Troopas and the Shyguys from Super Mario Advance. (Curiously, Mario seems to be able to stomp them in this game.)

Below is a video of a nice British man explaining the game.


It’s interesting that he notes in the video that the game actually plays well. I’d assume it would blow, just judging by how much of a bite it looks like. Seriously, they even mimicked the classic Mario font. Then again, if you're going to steal an idea, I suppose it makes sense to steal a good one. Though I doubt I’ll be playing it anytime in the near future, news of Mobario makes now as good a time as any to discuss other Mario rip-offs I’ve heard of over the years.

Foremost is Great Giana Sisters — another obvious Mario rip-off, though this one is ever-so-slightly more less obvious. Released by Rainbow Arts in 1987 for the Commodore 64, Amiga and Atari ST systems, the game stars Giana and Maria, two Milanese sisters who enter a strange mushroom-populated world through the very Doki Doki Panic method of dreaming. Because the basic set-up, method of play and even design of the stages mocked that of the NES Super Mario Bros., Nintendo threatened a suit against the game's developers that effectively pulled it and any planned ports to other platforms off shelves.

giana herself, looking entirely too much like princess peach in modern dress.

look familiar?

Here’s the set-up, at least how a Great Giana Sisters tribute page puts it.
One night, when little Giana from Milano was fast asleep, she has a strange dream. Everybody dreams weird things at night, but no one will have experienced situations like little Giana is about to.

Giana suddenly finds herself in a strange mysterious world, where everything is completely different. Gravity has almost disappeared - sometimes one feels like flying away - and everywhere there are unexplainable buildings and structures. Old grottos and deserted castles seem to hide lots of secrets, and frightening and hideous creatures appear. This wouldn't be too bad, except that Giana can't leave this world unless she finds the magic, huge diamond. So she starts searching for this wonderful jewel.

However, she is not totally alone, for her little sister Maria can dream, too.
To its credit, the game would seem to have a more complex item system that the game it imitates. In addition to Super Mushroom and Fire Flower substitutes — a spinning orb and a lightning bolt, respectively — the Great Giana Sisters also features a more powerful fireball upgrades, clocks to put enemies to sleep and the like. Perhaps best of all, the spinning orb item doesn't just make Giana bigger, but morphs her hair into a mohawk that she can use to break overhead bricks. Gorgeous.

powered-up, punked-out and less peach-ified cover art for great giana sisters

According to the Wikipedia page for Great Giana Sisters, a new version of Great Giana Sisters became available for cell phones sometime in 2005. This page for British Jamster has a few screenshots, as well as an apparent method for downloading. It also has new character art, looking less punk, more anime.

is that the fresh prince of bel-air font?

The below video purports to be taken of an illegal Nintendo DS version of Great Giana Sisters, about which I can find very little information.


Still, it doesn't look terrible. Music is appropriate blippy and strange. Graphics bright and verging on uncanny in the way they seem very familiar but still somehow twisted into something new.

A while back, Retro Junk ran a feature titled "The Worst Rip-Offs in Gaming." While they didn't mention either Mobario or Great Giana Sisters, they did introduce me to a game I've not been able to find information about anywhere else: Super Mario World — Chinese Version. The article dings this unauthorized Mario for biting the Mario franchise as well as Capcom's Street Fighter II and their old NES Chip 'n Dale: Rescue Rangers. Seriously.


above two images taken from Retro Junk

From what I can tell from the two screenshots provided, the game uses a wholly new Mario sprite on backgrounds borrowed from the Super Mario All-Stars remakes. Says Retro Junk:
From beginning to end the game shows a fundamental lack of understanding in terms of what constitutes a Super Mario game. That said, this game qualifies for the list simply because it rips-off so many things on so many different levels. The title screen looks like Super Mario World, the backgrounds look stolen from Super Mario All Stars, the fireball attack seems like a special move from Ken or Ryu, Bowser looks like Concept art for the Super NES, and the throwing box/crate concept in this game is stolen from Disney's Rescue Rangers for NES! I really was almost amazed at their CREATIVITY in plagiarism.
If nothing else, I suppose we should take away from the "Hong Kong hack" that there's something to be said for ingenuity in plagiarism.

Finally, random internet browsing led me a while back to YouTube videos for a Hudson-produced game titled Super Mario Bros. Special. Unlike the other games on this list, Super Mario Bros. Special was actually licensed by Nintendo as a sort of semi-sequel-remake-thing to the NES Super Mario Bros released in 1986 for the Japanese NEC PC-8801. The Wikipedia page for it describes the game as having been all but forgotten by the gaming community until being "discovered" by U.K. games journalist Stuart Campbell in 2003 and written about in PC Zone magazine.

YouTube user powerfulnana has posted a wealth of videos from Super Mario Bros. Special in motion.


As you can see, the game doesn't exactly fit the label "side-scroller," as the background moves by one unit of screen at a time. Also, the Wikipedia article notes that Luigi doesn't appear, despite the "Bros." mentioned in the game's title. In spite of these glaring faults, Hudson designed the game with a few innovations — the inclusion of baddies from Mario Bros. for one and the hammer from Donkey Kong for another. Mario can also find the Hudson Bee, which allows him to continue after a game over. (The Hudson Bee later appeared in the Adventure Island games in a similar manner. I find this appropriate since the I always considered the Adventure Island games to be a sort of cousin series to the Mario games, given their similar play mechanics.)

Anyway, that's what I've got. I'm sure there are scads of other hacks, rip-offs and pale imitations — and for good reason. Drop a line if you hear about any other notable knock-offs that I didn't mention here.