Fireside Discussion: Chapter 4: The Soul of Mario

Dec 12, 2012


Chapter 4: The Soul of Mario

Joe got me thinking about something that has been an important part of my video game identity. I don’t know if that is real or not but to me it makes sense. Video game identity is or can be anything that relates to you as a person that is drawn from experiences you had with a video game, it’s many forms or with people that you shared those experiences with.  A good example and this week’s article is about my love for Nintendo and in particular the Italian Plumber who made a 7 year-old boy into a gamer, I speak of my boy-crush, Mario! At the bottom is an idea I had or part of one anyway for the perfect Mario game and one that would re-ignite a fireball of passion I once had… Click here to skip and see the game idea.

In my child years I spent many afternoons pretending I lived in Mushroom Kingdom. Living in the northwest provided as good a canvas as any as the landscape around here is full of hills, lots of green and a variety of color depending on the season, much like the polka-dot wonderland that is Mario’s stomping ground.

As a young gamer-in-training, Mario was my diet, he was the weights, cardio and everything in between that made me feel my gaming prowess was in shape. Video games were Nintendo, the two were synonymous, much different than experiences today.

My first big accomplishment was completing Mario Bros without dying. I was 8 or 9, I can’t remember now which, but I set out on a quest to beat the game without dying. It was in that victory that my V.I.D, began to grow. It took many tries and I began to look for ways to beat the game, not by completing it but by beating the programming ultimately and to this day I still play games the same way. Eventually I was victorious and my mom was so surprised she got me Mario 3 for a present.

I saw so many new things in Mario 3 that just boggled my mind. It had been out for a few years at this point but to me I had no idea. It felt like a brand new game, because the experience was so much better.

Years later, on a Christmas trip to my aunt’s house in Seattle, I got the Super Nintendo and Super Mario World. Wow is all I could say. By this point I had the game down and I attacked Bowser and all his minions with conviction. What surprised me was how good this game was over the previous 2, which I still played from time to time. My collection grew and Mario Kart was the next one on the list.

I remember one birthday playing Mario Kart for about 6 hours straight and falling asleep in a potato-chip and soda coma. Mario was the best thing to happen to casual entertainment this side of Disneyland. By the time I was ready for a new console the anticipation was about enough to kill me.

Now I look forward to the 64 and also paid more attention to the hardware capabilities as compared to the last system I had. I got the expansion pack and a few games but they paled in comparison to Mario 64, it is my favorite and the best Mario game that has been made in the last 15 years. I got all the stars, collected everything and time and time again went back for more Tick-tok-clock and Bowser kills. I think I was in love, this franchise is second to none, or so I thought……

My brother got a GameCube a short while after this and I checked out his new game, Mario Sunshine. I played it for as long as I could and I couldn’t see why people liked it, the only thing I could think of was that it must be good for them because it was the first one they played. In my opinion though, it was obviously my least favorite and a step backwards.

Then came Galaxy and Galaxy 2 and although they looked better and were more similar to what I enjoyed they still fell short of Mario 64, they just felt some what alien compared to all the other games. Thinking back to those times, I remember just playing because they were there, not because I couldn’t wait to sit in front of the TV and see what feats Mario could achieve. Sure, in part that is due to my age and change in lifestyle, but it is also due to the creative direction Mario was taking and one I would not follow unfortunately. In fact it wasn’t just Mario but Nintendo as a whole was beginning to look less and less appealing.

Since then I purchased a Playstation, Playstation 2 and an Xbox, my point in telling you this though is to illustrate the fact that I had lost my love for Nintendo as an exclusive gaming experience because the games were no longer there to bring me full circle in terms of enjoyment.

Not too long ago, maybe at some point 2009, I had an idea to write Nintendo to let them know I wasn’t happy, not just with their console, but with the direction of the company and ultimately Mario. I actually got a non-automated response which was surprising but without good news. I submitted a game idea for a new Mario title I wanted to see made or at least some Mario game that suited a more adult audience but they responded with a small message indicating that they cannot accept game ideas from just anyone, I needed to be a viable business with the correct credentials.

I explained in great detail what was wrong with Mario and have outlined Mario Universe (the title of my imaginary game) for your enjoyment:

Title: Mario Universe: Pipe-dreams of Fate

Platform: Wii-U (this was made post Wii but pre Wii-U details)

Genre: Action/RPG

Story: Mario awoke from a deep and dreadful dream one morning in Mushroom Kingdom. Walking outside, Mario realizes that his dreams or should I say nightmares seem eerily around him. Outside his house he finds a small graveyard with his pal Yoshi buried in it. The sky pulses with blue and grey energy and clouds roll across the horizon giving Mario the first taste of bitter cold, rain and solitude. (think heavy rain intro) He finds out Bowser doesn’t seem to be behind this and making his way across what once was a beautiful valley, discovers a jungle of broken pipes, debris, ruined castles and deadly monsters. Using his plumbing skills he attempts to put Mushroom Kingdom back together by accessing the pipe network and venturing around the Kingdom to rid the world of evil, darkness and whatever force is behind the seemingly impossible shroud that engulfed his friends and home. Mario finds himself deep underground and falls into a chasm containing a power up he has never seen before. Now Mario is given the ability to use the pipes to travel back and forth through time, to never seen before locales and some familiar although in a different time; in order to find the cure to his problems, where is Princess Toadstool and his bro Luigi?

Design: The color palette is going to be much darker than the previous games, in which lighting will also play a big role not only in how things look but how he reacts to what is around him. The game is open world and involves him to use his mind, plumbing skill, power ups, time travel and of course his jumping ability to navigate new places and familiar ones.

UI: Very clear HUD including current power ups, health and power, similar to a condensed and simplified “pip boy” from Fallout. Also would be gear and special items to be used. These could be similar to the items found in the Zelda franchise. IE: special boots/overalls or hats, plumber’s belt/tools, keys etc.

Combat: Normal combat seen in Mario 64 as well as scripted boss battles and event battles. Although with a spin of action oriented combat and quicktime events during special encounters, like huge monsters or while mid air off of a wall kick for example.

Scripted Boss Battles: These would be more intelligent versions of previous boss battles. In other words play style would remain the same, but would make you fight them in regards to their weakness, maybe the time they are found in or using the layout of the environment against them. In other words it’s you against him and anything goes, although the encounter is instanced away.

Event Battles: These battles would also be scripted and be a form of an instance. Separating the battle from other enemies not previously included whilst still keeping all the remaining structures and environment the same. (this would happen at nearly real time and include larger more complex fights with numerous enemies) Such as escaping a stronghold or laying siege to a large group of enemies. (different than just regular encounters on the map.

Navigation: 1st person for story telling and certain mechanics and 3rd person over the shoulder for game play with moveable snap to grid cameras for easy looks behind you or to the sides while moving as well as zoom controls. The world would of course would be available for you to explore, including a forest of mushrooms, trees, ruins, pipes, buildings, castles and enemy look outs. Here is the difference: Instanced Zones

Instanced Zones: Would still be connected to the world allowing for near seamless transition, but would again separate other types of encounters that are not part of the instance. This would begin when Mario reaches a certain proximity to a place of interest, giving him dialog and a description of what he sees as interesting as if thinking to himself but narrated for the player. Also part of the experience would be a change in music and camera angle depending on his vantage point. This is meant to happen real time and therefore no “dungeon” or special area would be accessed. The point is to illustrate what is happening around him in a tangible way and provide the player a means to “see it done” that is different with each new area.

Open World: The concept is very different but I think is important to a franchise like this as a means to bring old school ideas, new elements and put a spin on them that hasn’t been done before. Also Mario games have never really had a true exploratory note to them yet we all remember and love the world they are part of, why not expand that?

Ending: It is a surprise 🙂 The story takes a remarkable twist and there are multiple endings based on your experiences in game, not a last minute choice in dialog. There are also plenty of things to do after the game is completed, which is one of my most favorite parts about this idea and as such I am going to keep it to myself for now. I don’t think I will have a chance to share it with Nintendo anytime soon but someday I hope to bring this to life at least in some way, shape or form.

Reminder: This is my creative work, please give credit to Matt Miller of GWW and link to this post if you would like to reference it. You may read this but not copy it or post it somewhere else although you are welcome to reference it as I said above. This is an original idea and in no way supports the views or expressive art style of Nintendo, their affiliates nor plans for an actual game coming to their system or being produced.

Let me know if you like the idea or have something to add. Who knows, maybe someday we’ll see a game like this. I hope we do or something comparable because I miss Mario. Help upgrade this boy-crush to a man sized crush by leaving a comment or dropping us a line on twitter @ Geekswithwives.