Tuesday, August 7, 2012

The Terrific Typos of Super Mario Bros. 2

This shouldn’t be a spoiler, exactly, because if you didn’t know by now, you probably don’t care. But as the Nintendo-playing world of 1988 was shocked to discover, the big, concluding surprise to Super Mario Bros. 2 is that it’s all Mario’s dream. I’ve actually written about it here before, notably in the context of J.J. Abrams and Lost, before Lost ended and made us wish that was all a dream. But the end of Super Mario Bros. 2 works like this: You kill the big bad, you celebrate and then poof! — Mario is suddenly in bed and the game’s cast of characters scrolls over a looped animation of him snoring.

See, it looks like this, per the second iteration of the game:

But these end “credits” have had a few weird discrpencies in them over the years. The one people tend to know involves a boss that we never saw again in any game ever: Clawgrip, the big stupid crab. But due to that “R”/“L” thing that occasionally happens when translating from one language to another — and don’t forget, it’s not just Asian languages, because it happens in Spanish too — Clawgrip’s name was incorrectly rendered as Clawglip in the initial American release of the game:

That’s not the only irregularity that had to be edited in later editions. The main Mario series female didn’t go by Peach back then, and because Toadstool is either overlong or unfeminine or both, the credits initially identified her as if her name were actually Princess — you know, like a sad girl who’s so far the opposite of royalty that her parents try to elevate her with a “noble” name without appreciating the irony.

And a minor, otherwise unremarkable ladybug enemy, Hoopster, got mistakenly IDed as Hoopstar — a regrettable mistake that surely resulted in the firing of dozens.

But the real story here, my friends, is the awkwardness between Birdo — the egg-spitting dinosaur who made many a game-player ask “Wait, what is it supposed to be?” — and an ostrich character. Their names got switched in the original go-around.

There’s a certain weirdness to this. To this day, Birdo’s name in Italy is Strutzi, which sounds very Euro-cute and stylish but actually just comes from struzzo, “ostrich.” And when you get into it, a dinosaur that spits giant, softball-sized eggs isn’t actually all that different than a dinosaur-like bird that, in real life, also makes softball-sized eggs. Regardless, by the release of Super Mario All-Stars, the first of many Super Mario Bros. 2 remakes, the names had been changed… though not exactly fixed.

Which, yeah, maybe isn’t super helpful.

In 1996, the game was repackaged in Japan as a semi-sequel that was released with the title BS Super Mario USA. (The BS stands for Bandai Satellaview, a satellite modem peripheral released only in Japan, but those letters kind of make sense, given how the game is a “sequel” but also totally isn’t at all.) For this version of the game, the character names switched to their Japanese versions. And in Japan, Birdo has always been Catherine. I can only imagine that Ostro the Ostrich’s name was altered to follow suit.

Clearly noting the problem, Nintendo made a commendable effort to rectify it altogether for Super Mario Bros. 2’s inclusion in Super Mario All-Stars + Super Mario World. But while the intentions were good, the method was excessive.

However, every character being named Linda did make it a lot easier for new players to immerse themselves in the world of Super Mario Bros. 2, I guess, even if every subsequent Mario game would be jarring and weirdly lacking in Lindas. It may surprise you to know that the whole Birdo/Ostro confusion didn’t get completely sorted out until 2001, when Super Mario Bros. 2 got an additional tweaks and an aesthetic upgrade for its release as Super Mario Advance for the Game Boy Advance. And there, for the first time in eleven years, Birdo was listed as Birdo and Ostro as Ostro.

Right, but there’s the last one. Inexplicably, Mario’s name got changed to Hector Rodriguez, which only stuck for five or six years before everyone just reverted back to calling him Mario again. Conversely, Luigi’s name change remains in effect to this very day.

And that’s why Hector sister, Erma, is one of the most popular sidekicks in the history of video games.

This has been my exhaustively researched lesson in video game history. I thank you for your time.

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