Nintendo We Volume 1: Super Mario Kingdoms
When it comes to Nintendo franchises, none even come close to matching the success and legacy garnished with the most recognizable and iconic character in video gaming history; Super Mario. Having first appeared in the Nintendo arcade game Donkey Kong where he was initially named Jump Man, and going on to appear in over 200 video game since, Mario is these days even more recognizable than the likes of Mickey Mouse. It’s also fair to say that the word-famous plumber has completely co-opted the name Mario, taking it beyond being a common Italian name. The character has also appeared in a lot of the most critically acclaimed video games of all time, such as the original Super Mario Bros trilogy, Super Mario World, Super Mario 64, Super Mario Galaxy 1 and 2, and of course, featuring as the main character of the Mario Kart series; the most successful spin-off series in gaming history.
But over the last few years, despite the continuation of strong sales figures, the Super Mario franchise has dipped up and down in terms of quality compared to where it was during the days of the original Nintendo Entertainment System and the Super Nintendo, dividing the opinions of both fans of the classic 2D side scrolling style of play and fans of the more recently pioneered 3D platforming style of play. Official statistics show that the 2D side scrolling games still stand as the more favourable out of the two, and my own personal opinion rings true to those statistics. But that’s not to say the latter of the two styles of play is bad by any means. Super Mario 64 and Super Mario Galaxy 2 for example, are among some of my favourite games, but I think the problem lies in the fact that as 3D gaming has evolved and gained popularity over the years, open worlds have become a lot bigger and more densely populated with things to do in the game and plenty of extra curricular activities, and the Super Mario franchise is behind the times in this sense. In every Super Mario 3D platformer, the goal is always the same; collect as many stars as possible and defeat Bowser at the end of it. Although gameplay has been modified differently with each instalment, making most of them decent games in their own right, I think that giving gamers more to play for would lead to a much better instalment.
For this first article, I came up with a new concept for a 3D Super Mario game that I like to call Super Mario Kingdoms. This game involves the combination of elements from one of the most highly rated video game series of all time, with elements from which is in my opinion, the most underrated video game of all time; Dark Cloud. Dark Cloud, the first game to be developed by Level 5 Studios, falls under the genre of georama RPG; a role-playing game with elements of city building games, such as Sim City and Civilization. The premise was that the main character had to rebuild his world using a magic stone called the Atlamilia, which resided on his hand. Elements of the world, such as people and buildings were kept safe in magic spheres called Atla, which the player would find in dungeons and use in overworlds to rebuild each individual town. With both how great and addictive a game I, and many other people, found Dark Cloud to be despite its obscurity, and the strong relationship established over recent years between Nintendo and Level 5 Studios in light of the Professor Layton series, I think the collaboration of both the concept of Super Mario and Dark Cloud would make for a very enjoyable 3D Mario game indeed.
In terms of story, Bowser (or possibly a new and greater threat) could one day capture Peach and destroy the world in the process. Meanwhile, Rosalina could save Mario from the destruction, and seal away the kingdom’s inhabitants and buildings in the stars synonymous with the 3D Super Mario games; similar with how the Fairy King saves Toan and seals the world’s inhabitants and buildings into Atla in Dark Cloud. It would then be up to Mario to find the stars and use them to rebuild the world, defeat the enemy and save Princess Peach. But unlike in Dark Cloud, I think I would develop it to not have such a strong RPG element and focus more on the 3D platforming element.
To do this, I would include a number of overworlds with multiple platform-based stages, similar to the one overworld and multiple stages Super Mario 64 or Super Mario Galaxy contained. For example, there could be six overworlds with ten individual stages each. In each stage, there could be a number of stars to collect, which in the overworlds could take the form of buildings and inhabitants that can be used to restore each individual overworld to how it was prior to the enemy’s attack on it; similar to how the Atla are used to rebuild each town in Dark Cloud. This would add much more to gameplay than any other 3D Mario game has ever offered, since the starts are put to more use within the game than ever before, and the overall gameplay concept also affords the inclusion of more side quests, such as meeting specific inhabitant’s needs regarding the locations of their homes throughout the overworld, and what they like most to have built near them. One RPG element I would keep from Dark Cloud, however, would be the inclusion of multiple characters with different abilities that would have to recruited from each overworld as the game progresses. I’d like to include a scenario whereby specific characters would have to be used to collect specific stars and to defeat specific bosses, thereby providing the game with possibly more variety than many other 3D Mario games; or even most Mario games in general.
I believe that these modifications would make for a 3D Super Mario game that is more interesting and fun-filled than many of their more recent efforts for a number of reasons. Not only do I think it would help to break the mould associated with most other games in the long-running franchise, but it would also help to possibly expand on the Super Mario universe, given he inclusion of more variable locations and characters; both payable and non-playable. Opinion has also been divided between fans of the series who want things to stay the same and for Nintendo to simply continue to perpetuate their perfected gameplay formulas, and fans of the series who want to see changes to the traditional Super Mario style of play, and who are sick of playing what may essentially be the same game with every instalment. Personally, I think it is indeed past time that Nintendo started to make significant changes to the Super Mario gameplay formula to keep the series as fresh as it can be. New Super Mario Bros U and Super Mario 3D World have made for two fairly good games, but both of them did make me feel as if the formula has been well and truly exhausted now; I was also bitterly displeased with the lack of any kind of innovation attached to New Super Mario Bros 2. With all due respect to both Nintendo, and anyone who may have enjoyed the game, I feel extremely confident that Super Mario Kingdoms would at least surpass New Super Mario Bros 2 in terms of quality.
It would also help to bring the georama RPG genre of gaming, to a much bigger audience, which in turn would lead to the creation of a whole new breed of games scarcely seen before. This in turn would help Nintendo to regain their reputation as innovators in the industry, and further cement Super Mario in gaming history.