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 comment:

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

    so stop asking.