Friday, August 29, 2008

The Forgotten Jar Pixies

Anyone that actually played through the first Super Mario Bros. all the way to the end of level 8-4 should remember the game’s ending: a generic thank you from a pixelated mess that is supposed to be Princess Peach followed by Mario’s inexplicable reappearance back at the beginning of level 1-1. Only now the game’s levels were populated with the hard-to-kill beetle enemies. Beetle World, my brother and I called it.

Super Mario Bros. 2 offers something a little more cinematic.

When Mario — or, as the case may be, Luigi, Peach or Toad — does in the game’s final boss, Wart, by tossing a sufficient number of vegetables into his mouth, he dies, causing to materialize a door that leads to a plugged-up vase. Mario — or, again, whoever — pulls the plug and out spring eight strange-looking fairies whom the game hasn’t previously mentioned in any way. They don’t introduce themselves, but celebrate their liberation from their cruel amphibian captor and push his corpse crowd surfer-style into oblivion. (Yes, the game is strange.)

Then, of course, Mario wakes up, revealing the whole of Super Mario Bros. 2 to be a dream. As he snoozes away, the “cast” scrolls by — again, very cinematically, even more so than many games since. Included in the list of characters — in the list of enemy characters, no less — is the mysterious fairy. Its apparent name: Subcon — a fairly lame play on the word subconscious. Which is especially strange, since the name of the place in which Super Mario Bros. 2 takes place — per the game’s instruction manual and its intro screen as well — is also Subcon.

See for yourself:

images courtesy of the video game museum

The obvious conclusion would be that the little characters are, in fact, called “Subcon,” and the fact that they share their name with the place they live in is either a happy coincidence or some great symbolic association. (They are their country. Like America Ferrera or something.) As any keen-eyed person who has ever played Super Mario Bros. 2 through knows, however, the end credits are chock-full of typos. Birdo is “Ostro.” Clawgrip, the rock-throwing crab boss, is “Clawglip.” And so forth. So perhaps the Subcon fairies’ names are screw-ups as well. “Ostro” and “Clawglip” have been fixed down the line in various Super Mario Bros. 2 remakes, however, and the “Subcon” name has remained.

So who or what the hell are these things?

As far as I know, they’re just as mysterious in the game’s original version, Doki Doki Panic. (If they’re better explained and you know this and you’re reading this now, by all means please tell me.) And while a lot of that which populates Super Mario Bros. 2 was eventually pulled into the stable of regular Mario game elements, these little weirdos never showed up again.

I guess we’ll never know. Unless we’ve played through Doki Doki Panic and know the secret, in which case you probably do know and should tell me pronto.

EDIT: Just found the Doki Doki Panic ending on YouTube. Cleared up nothing.

Except that the Arabian family owns a pet monkey.



  1. Anonymous9:26 PM

    if you really MUST know, i have heard that the one in the upper left is named fran.

    so stop asking.

    1. Anonymous7:30 PM

      Nobody asked you shit, faggot.

    2. Was it necessary to be a dick?

  2. Anonymous12:05 AM

    Perhaps they are supposed to be "Subconians" (as in, they are... say, the descendants of people who established Subcon)?

  3. They are the people who asked Mario for help in the first place, putting him in the dream. They could be the rulers of Subcon. Just like Vulcans are from Vulcan, Subcons are from Subcon.

  4. Anonymous10:47 PM

    The kids in Doki Doki panic that you rescue look awfully similar to the kids from Nights into Dreams...

    Subcons are probably just the 'Toad' of Subcon.

  5. nibbles1186:37 PM

    I actually don't think SMB2 was a dream. for instance, Bob-ombs first appeared there, as well as shyguys, and they were kept in the universe of mario. i think mario actually DID fight wart and do all that stuff, but they were pushed out of the sub-con by the subcons, who wanted to protect theire world, while wart and his minions stayed there and died although the bobombs and shys managed to escape, and the subcons are probably the true inhabitants of the sub-con world. That or they were meant to be in the game but the creators were too lazy to put them in. the second one is probably true, but a little imagination doesn't hurt!

  6. I disagree, nibbles118. It makes more sense to me that Mario would've dreamt of things existing in his universe, coupled with a few things from his imagination. The Bob-ombs never "came" from Subcon, they just weren't in the areas Mario visited in SMB1 and 2(J).

    1. No no no no no!!! That is not right at all! I can understand that SMB2J takes places after SMB1, but it would be wrong to not include SMB2USA (Even if it was a reskin of Doki Doki Panic with improvements) which has Bob-ombs, Shy-Guys, and Pokeys. The "Head Canon" of "Ask Toad", Pocket-Arsenal, said otherwise about your disagreement:

  7. I've been looking at the Japanese Wikipedia page for Doki Doki Panic to try to clarify the Subcons' story. It seems in Japan they're called the Muu (a combination of "mu", from the Chinese character for "dream", and "u", meaning "outer space" or "the heavens"), and their world is called the Muukai, which translates to "Muu World". I guess the localizing team looked at "dream space," decided that the concept was similar to the subconscious, and shortened the name to "subcon."

    As for their Doki-doki story, it starts out with two kids, Piki and Poki, reading a book brought to them by their pet monkey Luusa (weird) about the subcon. In the book, the subcon are living peacefully in Subcon, the land of dreams, thanks to the dream machine. The dream machine creates good dreams so that the weather stays beautiful. However, Wart (known as Mamuu, which could translate to "evil muu") messes with the machine so that it would start making monsters. The subcon were then able to beat Wart with vegetables. However, the two children end up ripping out the page that shows Wart being defeated, which causes Wart to reach out of the book and capture the two children. The playable characters notice the book, get sucked in, and the game begins.

    Of course, none of this explains why the localizing team didn't bother calling it "Subcon World" or "Subcon Land," but it shows that the subcon had a more important role than just showing up at the end.

    (Hopefully the above makes some sort of sense!)

  8. Godaigamer: Wow. Thanks. This actually explains a lot. Thanks for helping this Japanese-illiterate out.

  9. Is it possible that "Subcon" is meant as a play on/abbreviation for "subconsciousness"? As in the parts of one's mind that come into play in dreams?

  10. Oh, totally. It has to be. I must have neglected to mention that because I figured it was a given.

  11. Like most classic NES games, the backstory for the game is written in the instruction manual, albeit quite poorly.

    "The story of Super Mario Bros 2.
    One evening, Mario had a strange dream. He dreamt of a long, long stairway leading up to a door. As soon as the door opened, he was confronted with a world he had never seen before spreading out as far as the eye can see. When he strained his ears to listen, he heard a faint voice saying 'Welcome to 'Subcon', the land of dreams. We have been cursed by Wart and we are completely under his evil spell. We have been awaiting your arrival. Please defeat Wart and return Subcon to it's natural state."

    It goes on for a bit about how some curse is on Mario that is never referred to again and making no mention whatsoever of any dream machine in the backstory, but then making reference to the dream machine in Wart's bio. It also correctly identifying Ostro as Ostro and Birdo as Birdo but refers to Birdo as a male, etc, etc.

    Nevertheless, it's heavily implied that the Subcons (the forgotten jar pixies) are the ones who ask Mario for help, and this is why at the end of the game Mario (or whoever) frees them.

    I also agree with trlkly's 'If you're from Vulcan then you're a Vulcan' argument.

  12. Albino: Thanks for this, but I was familiar with the English-version backstory for the game. In posting, I was looking for someone to fill me in on what the deal was with the fairies in the original English version of the game.