Donkey Kong / Burger Time – Arcade, Atari 2600, etc

Do you really need a caption for Donkey Kong?

Do you really need a caption for Donkey Kong?

So things haven’t changed for me since last week’s entry. I admit, I wrote it about two hours ago. But that doesn’t change the fact that I’ve still had very little time to devote to games. But in order to swing that around to my advantage, I decided to look at some games I had wanted to write about since I began this blog, but never have for whatever reasons. I’ve mostly neglected arcade games due to their rarity, difficulty in completing them, and with the earlier games especially because I didn’t think I’d have much to say on the matter. But what the hell. Why not play a few rounds of some classic games and see what I could come up with?

First up, we all know people who have accused video games of some pretty horrendous things, warping our perspective on the world in such a way that we can no longer think in terms of reality and filter everything through video game terminology. Somehow, everyone born between 1980 and 2000 wound up with a craving for violence and the survival instinct of a lemming, as we clearly haven’t figured out that once you die, you don’t come back to life. Notice how Buddhists and Hindus kindly abstain from such criticisms. Besides, plenty of us have spent at least a little time looking out for lemmings, making sure they get safely to the exit. However, if one game has irreparably warped our minds so that we can’t change, the classic Donkey Kong wins that black mark for eternally damning us to play as characters who jump.

The premise of the game somewhat follows the end of King Kong, except instead of Adrian Brody climbing the Empire State Building to rescue a victim of Stockholm syndrome with absolutely no interest in him, we have a fat carpenter with the inexplicable ability to leap over Winnebagos. Unless, of course, he has a hammer with him. Then he plants himself firmly on the ground. In the background material, we learn that Mario kept Donkey Kong as a pet, but treated him cruelly. Nintendo never specified the nature of this mistreatment, but I can only assume he regularly punched Donkey Kong’s head to force-feed the ape live turtles. So you play as Jumpman–Mario–the psychotic dick of the story, trying to rescue your girlfriend from an Ape who probably only wanted to protect her from domestic violence.

Mario: So badass, he beats fire to death.

Mario: So badass, he beats fire to death.

In addition to the easily recognized first level, Mario jumps his way through three distinct obstacle courses as he chases down his questionably legal pet: one filled with conveyor belts moving pies, one with elevators and bouncing springs, and another, the top of the building, with precarious rivets that Mario must remove to collapse the building, thus knocking out the ape. Interesting fact, after Donkey Kong, Mario’s profession changes from carpenter to plumber. I can only assume that unleashing a giant, abused ape at the Acme Factory construction site and then demolishing all the progress made by the builders somehow motivated this career change.

As you can see, Atari managed a seamless port with absolutely no graphical reduction whatsoever.

As you can see, Atari managed a seamless port with absolutely no graphical reduction whatsoever.

While Mario probably won’t make it to the top without enough quarters to fund a minor war, the game actually shares a number of qualities with modern iPhone games that makes it fun to play–albeit much in the way that hardcore drugs provide a fun and exciting pass time until you realize you’ve pawned your car, house, grandmother, and both testicles in order to fund a habit that does nothing more than waste time. But it provides enough satisfying noises and flashing lights to get the endorphins flowing so hard that you’ll never realize how unimportant and inconsequential a goal your brain has set for you to accomplish. But you always have the option of aiming for a high score; if you do well enough, you get to enter your initials into the machine’s memory, providing just enough recognition to proclaim your skill while providing you with enough anonymity to avoid admitting that you’ve invested more money into the game than it would have cost to buy your own Donkey Kong cabinet.

But hey, you could always get a job, right? McDonald’s always needs fresh faces to assemble their disgusting food virtually void of any nutritional value beyond whatever it picks up on the floor, right? You might as well start training early. For that, I recommend Burger Time, developed by Data East and published by Midway. Not having branched off into a franchise, this once-popular game has faded into obscurity, but still represents the pinnacle of the ever-popular food-preparation genre. At least, I think more people like this than Sneak King.

My mother used to point at the exposed air ducts in McDonald's and tell 5-year-old me that they used the tubes to transport hamburgers. Now I know better; real kitchens actually look like *this.*

My mother used to point at the exposed air ducts in McDonald’s and tell 5-year-old me that they used the tubes to transport hamburgers. Now I know better; real kitchens actually look like *this.*

Players take control of Peter Pepper, as he prepares burgers four times the size of himself by running across the ingredients, which someone has kindly stacked on multiple levels of some sort of building complex. The ingredients drop down to the next level, knocking any subsequent ingredients down one further level, and you continue burger-stomping until all ingredients have fallen onto the plates below the building. While making burgers with a technique often saved for making wine, Pepper must also avoid anthropomorphic food items, hunting him down to slap him with their sausage, rub him with their pickle, or otherwise leave egg on his face. No. I did not make this premise up, and honestly the fact that someone obviously did does worry me slightly, as much as I enjoy the game. In a culture where we often need to ask what goes into our food, I’d hope to avoid answers like, “The chef’s shoe and whatever crud he stepped in on the way to the diner.”

But while short-order cooks tap dancing across your lunch may not pass a health inspection, it definitely passes muster as a game. The food monsters take skill to avoid, and multiple play-throughs help in observing their behavior. Of course, you do have five blasts of pepper which, while they may add flavor, texture, and probably extraneous grit to the burgers, will stun the enemies briefly and allow you to pass by safely. But technique doesn’t stop there; burger ingredients function as much more than a dance floor or jogging track; you can also crush enemies by dropping ingredients on top of them, or with enough skill, you can trap them on top of a falling ingredient, which will cause that part of the burger to fall three levels instead of one. And be honest; you know you’d forgive any dirt on your bun as long as the cook surprised you with an egg in your meal, right?

As you can see...I can't beat the default score even with unlimited credits.

As you can see…I can’t beat the default score even with unlimited credits.

Honestly, they don’t think up games like this anymore. Well, they didn’t for a while. Again, Burger Time reminds me of an iPhone game or a flash game. Simple, yet difficult, and abstractly rewarding. Having spent the better part of the last five hours writing, I feel completely void of witticisms to close this entry with. Should you play these games because of 8-bit noises and high scores? (I think even among games like Angry Birds, we’ve lost the value in playing for a high score. Of course, that doesn’t mean I give a damn about your boring-as-hell quest for that high score. ) Yes. Do I expect that to make any sense? No. But games don’t have to make sense. They have that going for them. Finnegan’s Wake doesn’t have that luxury. Neither does most modern art. Show me a red square in a yellow rectangle and I’ll look at it briefly. As I move my head across the room. To see if I can find any interesting displays. While I look for the clock to figure out if I can leave yet. But give me a game with a sadistic animal abuser re-creating 1930s horror films, or an epic-yet-unsanitary battle against starvation in the kitchen of my local Perkins, I’d play that for hours.

Yeah, it looks bland and unappetizing, but I hope the decreased resolution also dulls the flavor of ABC gum and spilled beer.

Yeah, it looks bland and unappetizing, but I hope the decreased resolution also dulls the flavor of ABC gum and spilled beer.

Please note, before I leave, that both of these games have their own slew of ports, remakes, remasters, and upgrades, but each one comes with their own nuances, sacrifices, additions, or shitty Atari graphics, so I’ve only categorized a few of them here. I’d like to add a disclaimer that if you pick up anything but the original arcade versions and experience an utter disappointment, I warned you that not all ports live up to the original.

Starting next week I should have more free time. I hope. I promise to think of something funnier to say by then.

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Super Mario RPG: The Legend of the Seven Stars – SNES

Here we see Smithy at his forge, creating the Republican Party platform.

Here we see Smithy at his forge, creating the Republican Party platform.

Square must have cornered the market on awesome with Final Fantasy. Yes, I can say “I love those games!” emphatically as though someone had offered a roomful of people a potion that would make orgasms last fifteen minutes each, and they will only give the potion to the loudest, most excited person in the room, but I still might understate the effect of those games. See, people keep going to Square and handing over the rights to their personal characters, requesting they scan them, digitize them, and build a game around them. And this doesn’t mean any yahoo on deviantart with a thrice-yearly web comic about a stick figure super hero who beats up all the people who called him names in high school. No, Square has people handing them Batman. And Disney (which means we’ll likely see Darth Vader team up with Sora in Kingdom Hearts 4). And, of course, Nintendo’s own Super Mario. Apparently, Shigeru Miyamoto felt his favorite character still wallowed in obscurity after his debut fifteen years ago, and thought that redesigning his game into an RPG might help Mario find his niche.

Obviously "Mushroom Retainer" doesn't refer to a feudal warrior bodyguard. Perhaps it means the Princess regularly pays Toad for legal council?

Obviously “Mushroom Retainer” doesn’t refer to a feudal warrior bodyguard. Perhaps it means the Princess regularly pays Toad for legal council?

The game opens with the Super Mario Super Cliche. Bowser kidnapped Princess Toadstool. Mario goes to the castle to rescue her. Pretty standard stuff, and thankfully, Square only subjected us to that torturous redundancy for the first ten minutes of the game. In the middle of Mario’s duel with Bowser, a sword big enough to loosen even Crocodile Dundee’s bowels falls from the sky and embeds itself in Bowser’s keep, presumably until a titanic-sized King Arthur comes along to declare his rule over an entire solar system. But in absence of giant boy kings, the sword declares the glory of the Smithy Gang, and claims the Mushroom Kingdom in the name of Smithy. The force of the colossal impalement sends Bowser, Mario and Peach flying to various assorted parts of the game. Mario assumes a quest has begun, although no one ever really states whether he wants to rescue the princess or defeat Smithy, but both those points become irrelevant about five or six hours into the game when he meets up with Geno, a spirit from the Star Road, searching for seven star pieces destroyed in Smithy’s latest giant knife-throwing circus routine. Without the star pieces, the world will have no more wishes. And go.

You can't ignore fan theories as crazy anymore. Mario officially lives in a world with psychadelic amanita mushrooms.

You can’t ignore fan theories as crazy anymore. Mario officially lives in a world with psychadelic amanita mushrooms.

The design team attempted to create an RPG that still had the feel of a Mario game. As such, Mario retains his signature special abilities. Namely, he can jump, and subjects of the Mushroom Kingdom constantly request demonstrations and/or autographs from him. In fact, other than his basic attack, Mario can only either jump on or shoot fire at enemies in battle, and leveling-up only teaches him upgraded versions of those two attacks. Jumping in battle consumes three flower points, the game’s version of MP, except the party shares one communal total of FP rather than giving each character their own. So if Geno shoots off his beam too much, Mario simply won’t have the energy in him to jump, and will have to resort to blunt trauma instead. Until the battle ends. Then he can jump until his shins shatter without even stopping to catch his breath. While the game functions perfectly from a technical and mathematical standpoint, that inconsistency really marks the game as confusing, to say the least.

After jumping over these things since 1981, do you think you could help me out a bit, Princess?

After jumping over these things since 1981, do you think you could help me out a bit, Princess?

For instance, the first half of the game sees Mario hunting down Princess Toadstool and rescuing her from a bizarre man-child with the most severe case of Asperger’s syndrome I’ve ever seen. The game relegates her to the role of Damsel in Distress because, let’s face it, if she didn’t enjoy the thrill of a good kidnapping, she would probably have upgraded her security after SMB 3–if not after the original SMB. For contrast, the introduction to the title screen shows her sitting alone in the middle of a field staring at flowers when Bowser swoops in–on the same clown-duck thing he used to kidnap her in Super Mario World–and carries her off. After you rescue her, though, she joins your party and, despite fighting with stereotypical glove slaps and healing spells, actually shows a remarkable competency in battle. So, uh, Princess…how about rescuing yourself for once? Sound like an idea? Give Mario a day off and bust out of Bowser’s dungeon yourself.

Peach slaps the snake. Should we interpret that as a euphamism?

Peach slaps the snake. Should we interpret that as a euphamism?

Beyond that, Mario displays quite a few skills that would have come in handy in some of his other games. For example, touching monsters without throwing himself to the ground, screaming in pain. Maybe taking more than one hit, or having the ability to block? He apparently can shape shift, which he uses in lieu of language, but not for anything practical like a stealthy disguise or a hilarious mistaken-identity comedy-of-errors. Maybe, though, these abilities mean to offset his nasty habit of standing around in silence watching various major enemies escape. I mean, yeah, he catches up with them later, but why not make the game a little shorter and fight them now? At least the weapons he can equip show some consistency. Mario can use hammers, alluding to his days fighting Donkey Kong; a turtle shell, an obvious reference to his side-scrolling, koopa-stomping adventures; and uh…gloves, which hearken back to his ability to break blocks with his fist? Maybe? Or referencing his time as a referee in punch out? Super Mario RPG really excels at these nods to Mario’s history, which players of the older games may appreciate more than those just coming into the series in the last fifteen or twenty years (god, I feel old…they released this game eighteen years ago!). One room in the penultimate dungeon even requires you to leap over barrels thrown by an ape.

I don't know what bothers me more; that I only had a 10% success rate with three choices, or that they put "Yoshi" in quotation marks.

I don’t know what bothers me more; that I only had a 10% success rate with three choices, or that they put “Yoshi” in quotation marks.

So I’ve put this off long enough–I know everyone loves this game, but yes, I found issues with it. Three-dimensional platforming didn’t work well in Super Mario 64, which felt like playing skeeball blindfolded. The attempts at action-platforming on the Super Nintendo upgrades that analogy to…let’s say, playing piano blindfolded while wearing hockey gloves over numb hands. Also you can’t hear the piano. For most, but not all, attacks, special abilities and items, you can tap the command button at a certain time during the animation in order to receive an upgraded effect; however, counting for the difference in animations, the uncertainty of whether or not the attack has an upgrade, and the lack of a clear point to double-tap the button makes this…uh, let’s say like playing banjo in hockey gloves? (Hey, I don’t have a limitless supply of analogies and I just have to make them up based on what I see in the room!) Geno’s special “charge” attacks almost never worked for me, but honestly, regular attacks outclass special attacks by so much in this game that I rarely used flower points for anything but healing. Square included these elements in order to give the game a more action-oriented feel. Thank you, Square, for interpreting the challenge in turning Mario into an RPG as “How to make it feel less like an RPG.”

Yes! Level 2! Now to just finish off the final boss...

Yes! Level 2! Now to just finish off the final boss…

Also, Square populated the Mushroom Kingdom with enough enemies to rival a plague of locusts or an invasion of army worms. In a genre where people criticizes most games for repetitive, time-consuming battles, “adding more enemies” really doesn’t make up for a short game length. And no, the solution employed–handing out exp with the generosity of a Republican in a soup kitchen–doesn’t really fix the issue. In fact, if I spend twenty-some odd hours in battle alone, I’d appreciate it if I could finish the game a little higher than level 25. Character growth, for the most part, remains static, so no matter who you use in battle, they all level up at the same speed, and learn their predetermined skills at a predetermined time, allowing for no more customization than adding one or two points to your choice of stat at each new level. Because fighting Smithy with an attack power of 225 made a world of difference compared with 200. (And before you ask, I dumped all of Geno’s bonuses into his special attack, and even at level 25 his physical attack did more damage.)

...yo, is this racist?

…yo, is this racist?

I know everyone loves this game and it makes top-ten lists all the time. And in all fairness, I liked the cartoonish feel to it as well as traveling through a Mushroom Kingdom filled for the first time with people and villages and things other than jutting ends of pipes, piles of bricks and other mostly unfinished attempts at improving infrastructure. But the game feels more like a novelty than a masterpiece. Worth playing, maybe, but not often. Also, Mole Village gives off a vaguely racist vibe.

Mario (Galaxy – Wii) vs Wario (Land – Game Boy) – An alternative Prospective

Sorry guys, but I’m taking this week off. Hey, some games just take more than a week to play! Give me some time. Anyway, Anne agreed to take over, and since I don’t share the world’s love of Mario, she came up with a few thoughts on the subject. Enjoy.

I find it difficult to believe that this planet could support an apex predator of this size.

I find it difficult to believe that this planet could support an apex predator of this size.

Some games don’t need a long synopsis to help the player grasp the concept of the game play or the progression of the story. These games tend to change only minimally since the beginning of their series. When someone says they’ve been playing Mega Man you may feel the need to clarify, “classic, X or Zero series?” But regardless of their response, your mind probably fills with images of 8 boss levels of varying themes and everyone’s favorite tiny robotic hero and his blue spandex codpiece. The same goes, if not more so, for the Mario franchise. No, don’t start pulling up your emails to send me an angry rant pointing out Mario RPG’s originality or Mario’s cameo appearance in Mike Tyson’s Punch Out. We both know that the main series has changed only superficially since its 2D NES days.

Dude, he won't take the hint. Just tell him she's on another planet.


Dude, he won’t take the hint. Just tell him she’s on another planet.

So no, I won’t bore you with a long and tedious description of how the story of Mario Galaxy progresses or spend time lavishing praise over the colorful and creative level designs. For those few of you who have taken up hermitage since before the release of the Nintendo Wii and have only just come down off your mountains: Bowser once more kidnaps Princess Peach, this time into space, and Mario, still unable to take a hint, flies off to her rescue. This of course requires him to traverse the corners of the universe in order to save the least protected ruler of all time. He does this through using changes in the physics of the levels to his advantage as well as turning into the requisite Mario franchise creatures; in this case a ghost and a bee.

Princess Peach meets Jessica Rabbit

Princess Peach meets Jessica Rabbit

With that out of the way, we can get to the more important topic; why the hell doesn’t Mario just forget about Peach and take up with Rosalina? Kidding of course. The real question is, are we sure that Mario really is the hero of this franchise? I mean, we all assume that since the basis of the games’ quite limited storyline is always Mario saving the princess that he must therefore be a valiant and selfless figure, but many people on the Internet have theorized that Mario is in fact a rather morally ambiguous figure. To mention only a few examples, he murders helpless goombas who pose no threat to him unless he stupidly walks straight into them of his own free will, and in games like Mario Kart he shows his disdain for even his own brother. For more examples I will point you in the direction of the Game Theorist on YouTube and his Vlog article entitled ‘Why Mario is Mental’.

But that then begs the further consideration that, if Mario is not the hero but rather the villain of the tale then how can he have an evil doppleganger. I am of course speaking of Wario, the apparent anti-hero to mirror Mario’s supposedly altruistic persona. I would like to make the argument that perhaps Wario is, in reality, a hero in his own right and that we have been judging him through the colored lens of our belief in Mario’s goodness, and in that he looks like what we expect a villainous version of our protagonist to look like, cue all the jokes about profiling ever. But consider this, when we first meet Wario he is shown stealing Mario’s castle, which leads everyone’s favorite excrement clearer to start a journey to get it back. Yet, what if Wario was taking over for a good reason; what if, in fact, he really was leading a revolution in order to depose the tyrannical despot that has previously been ruling in order to give less understood creatures like the goomba and koopas a chance to thrive right along side their cuter, yet no more threatening counterparts, the Toads? The revolution is upon us, comrades! The proletariat will rise and shed the mushrooms and question mark blocks of our oppressors!

IdLBwLoI would like to direct your attention to the original Wario Land series for the Gameboy where Wario does the exact same things that Mario does in all of his games; punching baddies, dropping through tubes, and more importantly collecting coins. He does this in order to purchase his own castle. Note: PURCHASE, not steal. Yes, he loots ancient treasures but if we as a society are willing to call Indiana Jones and Lara Croft heroes when they do the same thing, then we might be setting a bit of a double standard by villainizing Wario for that behavior. At the end of the first game he comes upon a young woman who has a genie that she orders to murder him. When this doesn’t work out she disappears, and Wario uses his wish, not to get back at Mario or anyone else who has slighted him–including the would-be murderess–but instead wishes for a castle. The size of the prize is dependent on the amount of money and treasure the player has collected to this point in the game (I’m not admitting that I have rarely gotten above the absolute base hovel in most play-throughs so I don’t want to hear any snicker in the back row. That means you!). This clearly shows the connection of his hard work paying off rather than him being given status based on what brainless royal he is currently dating.

I believe that Wario is not the monster portrayed by Nintendo’s over dramatized story-telling but rather the victim of a vicious smear campaign, perpetrated in order to hide the much more dastardly actions of his counterpart, namely everyone’s golden boy: Mario.

Dear God! He's gone full chia! Abandon planet!

Dear God! He’s gone full chia! Abandon planet!

Also, if you need further proof that Mario isn’t exactly the poster child for positive messages, just think about the underlying themes of Mario Galaxy, if not all of his earlier games. The viewer is expected to believe the Mario just happened to come into town on a star-themed festival day that also just so happened to coincide with the newest abduction attempt of his spiky antagonist and then goes rocketing off into space-sans helmet- in order to save his love interest. In the course of this trip he turns into animals, leaves his physical body to become a spirit, rockets around between a rainbow plethora of psychedelic planets with bizarre and often impossible gravity changes. I would like to present this theory to the reader: Mario is not out saving the damsel in a daring space adventure but rather tripping out on Reindeer Mushrooms that he picked up at the star festival and ingested.

Can you believe the earth looked like this when it first formed?

Can you believe the earth looked like this when it first formed?

First, a science lesson: Amanita muscaria, most known by gamers as the red and white Mario mushroom is, in real life a highly toxic mushroom found all around the world. In addition to its poisonous nature this mushroom also has another fun trick up its sleeve in the form of its ability to cause extreme and prolonged hallucinations. Reindeer that eat them in northern climates have been known to chase and even ram cars while hopped up on the effects of these diminutive fungi.

Doesn’t it then, seem much more likely that after seeing all of the star paraphernalia from the festival, ingests some of the country’s most common cuisine (do we really see any other edible foliage throughout the Mario series?) and spends the afternoon tripping out about the one thing he knows best: saving the princess. He even goes so far as to throw in an even hotter love interest and gives himself the power to ignore the laws of space and time. Now I don’t know about you but that sounds like a psychedelic trip to me.

I leave it to you to make up your mind about the accusations laid before you today but keep in mind, if we keep standing behind this possibly psychopathic drug addict we may have no one else to blame when he names himself the unquestioned tyrannical ruler of all.

Super Mario Bros. – 1993 Movie

Out of all the decisions this movie made that I don't like, I actually agree with their choice of tagline.

Out of all the decisions this movie made that I don’t like, I actually agree with their choice of tagline.

Not many people respected video games in 1993. I had spent the better part of four years obsessed with the idea, though, and after begging and pleading for my parents to let me buy a used Nintendo and a hoard of crappy sports games from one of my dad’s students, I finally got my wish and had my very own box of magic entertainment—which they promptly made me sell if I wanted to buy the Super Nintendo. Needless to say, I often felt treated like a leper for basically wanting to entertain myself. My community of friends at school extended about half the distance of a normal nine-year-old, so I had a great deal of trouble seeking out like-minded individuals to discuss the finer points of proper Mega Man boss order, how to make Link’s tools from scrap wood lying around the house, and whether or not a power-up mushroom would jump back out of the lava and let you grow to nearly the size of the screen (Note: It never happened…until the New Super Mario Bros. I think Nintendo had spies listening in on our playground conversations).

King Koopa: Fearless, terrible, all-powerful, and obsessive germophobe

King Koopa: Fearless, terrible, all-powerful, and obsessive germophobe

Captain N: The Game Master and the Super Mario Bros. Super Show aired irregularly and infrequently, so when they announced a live action film version of the game, I just about had a nine-year-old aneurysm from over-stimulation. A video game movie! How did God approve that one? Did the grown ups know about this? Fuck yeah, they knew. They just didn’t care—as evident by the movie itself. See, I recently looked up this milestone film for old time’s sake…then shut it off halfway through. But then I obtained the rifftrax file to sync up with the movie and then…then! I could get through the film without vomiting out of my ears from the horror.

The keen observer may notice several subtly placed allusions to the Super Mario Bros video game series. To examine the effort they put into making this movie, I want you to read the excerpt from the NES instruction manual (I assume from the movie’s title that they decided to skip Donkey Kong and Mario Bros and go straight to Mario’s upgrade to Super):

“One day the kingdom of the peaceful mushroom people was invaded by the Koopa, a tribe of turtles famous for their black magic. The quiet, peace-loving Mushroom People were turned into mere stones, bricks and even field horsehair plants, and the Mushroom Kingdom fell into ruin. The only one who can undo the magic spell on the Mushroom People and return them to their normal selves is the Princess Toadstool, the daughter of the Mushroom King. Unfortunately, she is presently in the hands of the great Koopa turtle king. Mario, the hero of the story (maybe) hears about the Mushroom People’s plight and sets out on a quest to free the Mushroom Princess from the evil Koopa and restore the fallen kingdom of the Mushroom People. You are Mario! It’s up to you to save the Mushroom People from the black magic of Koopa!”

We all know about Mario's predeliction for sea food...no jokes about Bertha swallowing him whole, though.

We all know about Mario’s predeliction for sea food…no jokes about Bertha swallowing him whole, though.

Excellent! A single eighth of a page of source material, and the screenwriters have plenty of information to work with. The first sentence alone provides us with a premise, a setting, a victim, description of the villain and a pretty strong clue as to their methods. As a writer myself, I know exactly where I could go with mushroom kingdom and black-magic wielding turtles—obviously to mammalian, humanoid evolutions of dinosaurs in modern day Brooklyn. Perfect match!

Seriously, if you need compelling evidence that the free market economy does not follow natural rules that inevitably leave customers with the highest-quality product that will satisfy them, look no further than this movie (although any other video game movie offers pretty good support to this thesis). I imagine they met with the screenwriter and said, “So we have a simple premise. A plumber…”

“Yeah yeah. Whatever. Mario rides that Yoshi guy my kid won’t shut up about, right? Some story about dinosaurs. Got it, got it. Now leave me alone.”

I have to credit the writers with creativity, though. For those of you who know the premise of the game…well, forget it because it will only confuse you. A mysterious narrator who only appears for the film’s opening explains that the meteor at the end of the Cretaceous period didn’t kill the dinosaurs, but split them off into a parallel dimension where they evolved in a way that eliminated the need for hiring a costume design team. Koopa, in the only fraction of the film that resembles the game in any way (kinda), turned the King into a fungus using his…magical?…de-evolution machine and set himself up as an Orwellian despot, keen on invading neighboring dimensions for lack of any actual neighbors to invade. Although Princess…uh, Daisy (really? The one from the game boy? Okay then…), while not possessing a mushroom’s sack worth of power to challenge Koopa, happens to have a fragment of the meteor that somehow can unite the two dimensions, sort of like a cyberpunk Dark Crystal. Except her mother abandoned her in Brooklyn, where she grew up and fell in love with…uh, Luigi? Really? What, did the director really feel that fans would respond better to Mario dating someone out of My Cousin Vinnie than the Mushroom Princess?

Who could forget the loveable, chestnut-mushroom...hulking ape-lizards that...dance?

Who could forget the loveable, chestnut-mushroom…hulking ape-lizards that…dance?

Meh. Forget the story. If you really want to understand how badly these guys missed the mark, they cast Dennis Hopper as Koopa. Dennis. Fricken. Hopper. Why not just hire Quentin Tarantino to write the script and hand it to Martin Scorsese to direct? Silence of the Lambs came out only two years earlier…I think Anthony Hopkins could have done an excellent job as Mario, don’t you think? Who casts Dennis Hopper in a light-hearted fantasy about mushroom people? And they didn’t stop themselves with turning Koopa into a calculating, predatory monster. Nope. Goombas (and I think koopa troopas?) became towering, 8-foot tall behemoths. Big Bertha became a bad-ass gangster woman who outweighs Mario and Luigi put together. Toad appears as a folk singer. A folk singer! I rather enjoy folk music, but when the source material describes his job as “Mushroom Retainer,” I expect him to pick up his sword and stoically fight off Koopa’s minions to his last feudalistic breath, not sparking up a doobie and serenading us about the evils of anti-union robber barons. The harmonica doesn’t quite have the same power to change the course of politics as a claymore to the skull.

Oh, God! Dennis! Keep that thing to yourself. You already make us feel uncomfortable.

Oh, God! Dennis! Keep that thing to yourself. You already make us feel uncomfortable.

Let’s run down a list of game elements that may potentially remind Mario lovers why they wanted to see this movie. Mushrooms? Nope. Castles? Nope. Fire flowers? A few enemies use flame throwers, but I think those found themselves in the film by accident. Jumping—you know, Mario’s original name? Accomplished once or twice—sorta—via rocket-powered shoes. Koopa Kids? Turned into Koopa’s cousins (well, one of them, at least), but bear a stronger resemblance to Dumb and Dumber than anything else. Yoshi? Looks like either an emaciated velociraptor or a baby skeksis who might die under the weight of a saddle. Turtles of any kind? They didn’t even spring for used costumes from the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles movie. Going through pipes? Maybe once, I think. They didn’t even have the decency to make anything in the movie out of bricks.

“Well, you got anything from the game?”

“Mario uses a bob-omb.”

“What? No catches?”

“Well, it wears Reeboks.”

“Perfect. They’ll love it!”

Over twenty years have passed since people started making movies based on video games, and no one has yet figured out that these movies wouldn’t epitomize the finest points of turtle shit if they bothered to write a script actually based on the games. I’d like to make an offer, and since most google searches that lead to my blog involve the terms “bdsm pc game,” I can reasonably expect plenty of viewers from Hollywood; I will, free of charge, write you a good script based on a video game. Absolutely free. I guarantee I know how to do it better than anyone who has ever written a video game movie. I only demand that if people actually like it, you have to do every video game movie the same way.

Mamma mia! Did we a-just make-a this piece-a of shit?

Mamma mia! Did we a-just make-a this piece-a of shit?

I’d love for a chance to re-make Resident Evil into a horror film, or write a Silent Hill script that follow’s James Sunderland’s crippling guilt. I wish I didn’t have to point out to Square Enix how they screwed up Final Fantasy: The Spirits Within by making it sci-fi instead of fantasy, setting it in New York instead of Midgar, leaving out swords, moogles, chocobos, airships, summoned monsters and everything else that actually makes it a Final Fantasy storyline. At least they haven’t gotten their meat hooks into Metroid or Castlevania.

And Hollywood, if you don’t take my offer…at least give us the Mario Bros remake with Hopkins, Tarantino and Scorsese. Now that I’ve had a chance to think it over, I’d actually like to see that.