Saturday, September 28, 2013

Super Mario Bros. 2, Part Two: The Sequel: Return to Subcon

I’m basing my choice more on nostalgia than anything else, I realize, but Super Mario Bros. 2 remains my favorite video game — not just of the eight-bit era but of all the eras of hopping and bopping.

I’ve probably written about it here more than any other video game, and its look — peculiarly Arabian, and an odd fit even among the always-surreal Super Mario games — grabbed ahold of me in a way no other game aesthetics ever did. Unfortunately, the rest of the world doesn’t agree, and it rarely gets the love from fans or industry types that the first, third and fourth Super Mario games get. That’s slowly changed in recent years, what with a quietly Super Mario Bros. 2-themed track in the newest Mario Kart game and Donkey Kong Country Returns concept art that shows the develops had planned a major shout-out, at least in the early stages.

But Super Mario Bros. 2 may yet get a second moment in the spotlight — in the form of Super Mario 3D World, an upcoming Wii U title that features Mario, Luigi, Peach and Toad as equally playable characters for the first time since Mario 2 was released in 1988. (Yep, Peach hasn’t gotten a chance to star in a regular, platforming, non-sports, non-RPG, non-kart-racing Mario game in twenty-five years. In a 2009 interview, Shigeru Miyamoto blamed the prohibitively complicated nature of animating her dress as she moves about.) I did always like playing as Peach, especially in a “real” Mario game, as opposed to just a spin-off, and there’s something awesome about the idea of her getting to do everything Mario can.

In heels, no less, Ginger Rogers-style.

So far, however, Nintendo hasn’t specifically stated that Super Mario 3D World was intended as a big Mario 2 callback, but I’m starting to think it is, for one specific reason: this image.

Not the orange, Yoshi-looking dragon, but the pink character flitting above Toad.

Unless I’m way off, I think Nintendo has brought back one of the most obscure characters in the history of the Mario games: the Subcons, the little fairy things you rescue at the end of Super Mario Bros. 2, whose identity is complicated by the fact that the share their name with the setting of the game. They’re Subcon. They live in Subcon. It’s weird, though I suppose no weirder than the Vulcans being from Vulcan.

Here’s how they looked in the original version of Super Mario Bros. 2:

And here’s how they looked in the ending to the Super NES remake, as they disposed of the big bad’s battered corpse in a cutesy, Nintendo-y fashion:

The resemblance isn’t dead-on, but that pink character easily could be the result of some Nintendo designer wondering how those fairies might look twenty-five years and five console generations later. (She is a bit closer to the thumbnail-sized official artwork you see here.) And I suppose I’ll find out if I’m right soon enough, but for now I’m just happy thinking someone at Nintendo might feel as strongly about Super Mario Bros. 2 as I do. And that’s gratifying enough: just the possibility that I’m being catered to, that someone else still remembers these obscure characters that meant a lot to me back when I was a kid and maybe still do.

Wart Mam=u 夢工場 ドキドキパニック

Video games obscurities, previously:

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