Sunday, May 4, 2014

You Got Mario in My Zelda!

While Nintendo went crossover crazy in a big way back in 1999, when the first Smash Bros. game finally let players pit Mario against Link against Samus, I feel like Nintendo crossovers happen more frequently today. For example, who would have ever expected a Sonic the Hedgehog game getting bizarre Zelda- and Yoshi-themed stages? Why else would Nintendo have made the pack-in launch title for the Wii U Nintendo Land, which re-envisioned beloved Nintendo classics (and also Castle of Murasame) as one big amusement park? And how else to explain the Nintendo Remix games, which shake up old NES titles and let the pixels fall together in various mix-and-match ways?

But that’s not actually the case: Nintendo has always been down to let elements of its franchises bleed into others, subtly and not so subtly. I remember playing the fourth Legend of Zelda game, Link’s Awakening, and thinking the presence of Super Mario Bros. enemies was cool and surprising, but I just recently found out that the very first Zelda game has a Mario shout-out that I’d seen but not understood.

The third dungeon boss in Legend of Zelda is Manhandla, a spinning, four-“headed” plant, though if you play through the game without that information you’d be forgiven for thinking it’s actually just a lobster-claw monster. (And yes, that name seems a little suggestive. Its Japanese name, Testitart, is even more curious.)

Lobstery-ness aside, this monster is a plant, but not just any plant. Legends of Localization, an awesome website chock-full of trivia about old-school video games, offers a translation of the text from the Japanese manual: “A four-limbed, jumbo-sized Pakkun Flower. Speeds up with each limb lost. Possesses somewhat powerful offensive strength.”

And Pakkun Flower, in case you didn’t know, is the Japanese name from the Piranha Plant, the pipe-dwelling, Mario-eating flowers that first appeared in Super Mario Bros. The Zelda version of the monster even has the same blue-coloring as the underground Piranha Plants. It’s actually a very similar design, being pixelly chomping mouths and all, but I never noticed it despite having played through these games dozens of times.

(That’s not the only connection you can make with Pakkun Flowers, BTW. What do you think the Pac in Pac-Man means, anyway? Hooray for mobile mouths in video games!)

Legends of Localization also points out that the fifth dungeon boss, a hideous vagina monster named Digdogger, is also a crossover character: It’s one of the overgrown sea urchin bad guys from Nintendo’s Pac-Man wannabe, Clu Clu Land. Where they got that clunker Digdogger however, I can’t imagine. (Degodoga? Does that mean anything, Japanese-savvy people?)

Finally, something I found generally interesting: If you played Legend of Zelda in Japan, your game sounded very different than did the version we got here in the U.S. This handy page lays out all the differences, side-by-side — with samples.

Nintendo trivia, previously:

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