There are a couple of things everybody should know about Nintendo. First, their developers seem to derive some sick pleasure from finding new and exciting ways to kill and generally infuriate you as you try to navigate their bizarre worlds. Second, their office must be in some dark, dank basement full of cubicles designed to isolate their employees from each other and humanity as a whole because multiplayer capabilities have always been not just an after thought, but intentionally complicated if not impossible.
And yet, Tophat and I agreed to play Super Mario Brothers Wii with my wife. Somehow we failed to connect the dots. Chicabonita bought the game on a whim during our first trip to Arcade Legacy and she was dying to play it. It seemed like a good idea at the time. Four player Mario? We can all play in the same world at the same time? The first level involves the brutal murder of Sonic and Tales? My childhood dreams have come true! Well, that last one remains in the land of clouds and mopey DiCaprios, but still.
The first hurdle to bringing this game to life is obvious. There are only two brothers. One could argue that Wario and Waluigi could join the fun, but they’re baddies and generally hated by the fan base. Especially Waluigi. Which is too bad because he was my favorite character in Super Strikers. So Nintendo fills out the roster with their default extras, Toads. Redheaded Toad is busy, he’s apparently high-ranking in the Toad hierarchy, so players three and four have their choice of Yellowhead and Bluehead. Remember the early 90’s when we thought Redheaded Toad’s name was Toad? Turns out the non-Toads in the Mushroom Kingdom are some sort of racists and don’t bother naming the toads. This was all too obvious when the Mario RPG came out for SNES and suddenly you had to interact with all sorts of Toads.
What’s interesting about the Toads are their ridiculous noises. Especially the noise they make when you choose to continue after expending all your lives. Chicabonita always thought they sounded like crows. And every time she finished off another five or so lives she reminded us that crows are actually really smart. Did you know they’re the only creatures on Earth aside from humans that are capable of making tools?
But why did my wife die so much? Well, because she’s bad at videogames. But also because NSMBW hates the fact that you have friends. The game is pretty straight forward old school Mario platforming. It’s really like the sequel to SMB3. Which is awesome. It’s full of clever level designs and absurd obstacles and does an excellent job of making a fresh Mario side-scroller. But if you remember the video of that Japanese guy beating SMB3 in like 11 minutes, a key tactic in the game is running through the level at top speed and getting some skilled lucky jumps in along the way. Try doing that with three people and someone is going to die very quickly. In fact, you will find yourself killing your friends by jumping on their heads, pushing them off cliffs, shooting shells at them, and generally getting in their way.
After a few worlds of frustration Tophat and I quickly began to accept this as part of the game. While we got annoyed we never ran out of lives, not really, and so on we went. Unfortunately my wife didn’t realize this until about World 8-4 or so. That’s about the worst time to realize your friends are killing you with an uncanny frequency. But Enosh, why did it take Chicabonita so long to realize this seemingly obvious game flaw? Is she slow? Well first of all, no she’s not slow, she’s quite brilliant. Second I would argue this aspect of the game was intentional. My wife’s slow realization can be contributed to a very specific game mechanic.
You see, if you feel you cannot successfully complete your assigned duty of navigating a particular stretch of a level you can simply press A and you will find yourself floating in a protective bubble that can only be broken by your fellow freedom fighters when they feel you would be relatively safe from the oppression of Bowser. My wife spent most of the game in a bubble. Remember, she’s bad at videogames. At this point I would like to point out that A is the largest, most easily pressed button on the Wiimote or whatever it’s called. This can be very annoying when I panic and start flailing like an idiot after Tophat and Chicabonita have either fallen or enter bubbles themselves. When all three of us are in bubbles we are kicked out to the map. Level over man. At least you don’t lose a life.
As you would expect the game introduces a few new power-ups to Mario’s arsenal. The box tries to tell you the ice flower is new. This is a blatant lie. But it does let you do awesome things like make icebergs out of fish and destroy dry bones. The game gives you a good substitute for the leaf, the propeller mushroom. It gives you a beanie style helmet that lets you launch into the sky then slowly twirl downward like a dope. As I said, it’s good but not great. It’s at least 100 times better than the second new power up, the penguin suit. It succeeds in making Mario look more gay than he did wearing the frogger suit and has no discernible use. At least the frogger suit made you an awesome swimmer. I think. I was always afraid to use it because it was so rare.
Despite the frustrating nature of the game we have soldiered on through the game. As I said we made it past world 8-4 and in fact have reach the boss. But it’s not about having fun anymore. We’re beating this game out of spite. We want to rub it in those demented developers faces that they can’t deter us from playing together with a game with awful co-op mechanics.
So ha! Take that you basement dwelling anti-social jerks. We made it all the way through your game and we did it together! Oh. Wait. Maybe that’s what they wanted after all. Touche Shigeyuki Asuke.