The Nintendo Issue

The Nintendo Issue
The World in a Chain Chomp

Kyle Orland | 19 Apr 2011 13:49
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Rushing through means forgoing the opportunity to lounge around in the coin-filled floating oasis hidden atop level 2-4. It means not stopping to swim in the floating waterfalls of World 4, or appreciating the random Cheep-Cheep that bounces between icy puddles in World 6. It means not spending a half hour and dozens of lives trying to collect 78 coins in level 6-7 to get that white mushroom house with the near-worthless anchor (an meta-goal that predated the Xbox 360's Achievement system by at least 15 years).

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Rushing through meant missing out on Kuribo's Shoe, gaming's equivalent of the Girl Scout cookie. Found exclusively in level 5-3, the Shoe is a tasty treat, but its abilities are relatively plain. The frog suit provides the same high jumping and awkward forward movement, after all, while a fire flower can just as easily dispose of those Spinies and Piranha plants that Kuribo's-shoe-equipped players just can't seem to get enough of jumping on.

But, like Girl Scout cookies, we revel in the experience of the shoe because we don't know when we're going to get to experience its uniqueness again. Just getting to level 5-3, even with warp whistles, is a process that takes ten minutes or so for most Super Mario Bros. 3 players, and once the level's complete you can't climb in that shoe without starting the entire world over. Later, save-file-equipped re-releases might change that equation, but the sheer ephemeral nature of each level in the original Super Mario Bros. 3 made it an experience you wanted to savor before it was gone for good.

Which brings us back to that escaping chain chomp. The more I think about it, the more I think that broken chain was a part of a conscious effort by the developers to pack the title with as many unexpected, memorable moments as possible. I think of it as part of a pattern of design decisions intended to impart to the player that nothing in Super Mario Bros. 3 is necessarily what it seems. Here is a world where what's coming around the next corner might not be like what was around the last one, but it'll definitely be worth seeing.

To me, that broken chain represents the Mario team breaking free of the genre conventions they themselves had created, and pledging to ensure a Mario player can take nothing for granted.

Kyle Orland is a freelance journalist with over ten years of experience writing about games and the issues surrounding them. He's giving even odds that Kuribo's Shoe will be in the upcoming 3DS Mario game.

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