Super Mario Bros. 2 was ushered into the Nintendo universe with about as much fanfare as any video game could garner. Specifically, this was a cart that served as sequel to the game which made millions of people buy a NES to begin with. The Nintendo Revolution would've started much later in my house had it not been for my seething jealousy whenever I went across the street and watched my friends bask in the glory of Super Mario Bros., and it was for that very reason that my trusty Atari 7800 became a decoration for the closet's top shelf. Once I saw that chubby plumber hopping down pipes to eat comically oversized coins while avoiding deadly mushroom creatures wearing cadet shoes, I knew I'd be a Nintendo fan for life.
So it would seem strange that, with so much riding on the sequel to this landmark game, Nintendo decided to simply revamp an existing Japanese cart called Doki Doki Panic and rename it 'Super Mario 2.' It's not strange because of the cheap and lazy methodology - if this was any other game, it would've worked fine. It's just surprising that they'd choose to take such a risk with what was (somewhat arguably) their largest franchise title ever. They're lucky it turned out as well as it did - there were very few who realized Mario II was 'merely' a remake, so to most, this was a game that redefined what Nintendo could do while supplying ten times more than anyone could've hoped for from the sequel.
Super Mario Bros. II is, well, strange. The doctored storyline centers around Mario and friends trapped in some sort of dream world where most of the villains wear gas masks, where flying opera heads chase anyone who picks up a key, and where giant reptilian birds are sometimes transvestites. No really, it's all in the manual. You were given a choice of playing any one of four characters - Mario, Luigi, Toad, or the magical flying Princess. Each character had their own particular strengths and weaknesses, and mastering the game entailed that you figure out which guy (or gal) to use on a specific level. Toad was the strongest character, so on a board where you had to dig through a lot of sand, it was probably best to use him. On a board that required you to make long jumps while doing really retarded things with your feet, it was probably best to use Luigi. The Princess, while weak, had the superpower of being able to glide across the air for a second or two. Mario was the Prince of Average - he wasn't really that great at anything, but he didn't suck at much either.
The levels themselves were interesting beasts, each as colorful as they were unique. There were stages in worlds of ice, stages in deserts, stages in the mountains, and so on. To get through the levels, you'd have to do everything from hitching rides in rocket ships that blew up to reaching new heights by letting a whale blast you with his blowhole mist. Even if people thought the game sucked, it would take weeks to draw that conclusion since what goes on within the stages is so strange and confusing - by the time you understood why mice who wore sunglasses were throwing bombs at you, it was almost time for Super Mario Bros. III.
In either a bit of brilliance or sheer luck with the timing, Nintendo ended up creating quite the monstrous trio of Mario games. Since they were simply redoing an existing title, this sequel came out much faster than anyone could've hoped for. The extra time to make a true sequel ended up fashioning one of the NES' best games ever, Super Mario Bros. III, just in time to coincide with the global release of The Wizard - Nintendo's two-hour commercial disguised as a Fred Savage adventure flick. Without this series to support the industry's big boom, the masses might not be playing such kickass games today. In a strange, roundabout sorta way - people who love their Grand Theft Autos and Metroid Primes have that little trollish Toad to thank. So, thank him already.
Getting back to the topic at hand, Super Mario Bros. II presented some pretty interesting villains. Since these enemy characters were really made for the Doki Doki Panic game, they seemed real out of place in the Mario Universe. That doesn't mean they weren't fun as hell to stomp on and throw around, though. In today's article, I present a special tribute to these could've-been-missed pixelated devils, the villains of Super Mario Bros. 2!
If you've played the game, enjoy this reintroduction to some of Mario's weirdest adversaries. If you never played the famous cart, this is what you missed out on...
Shyguy (Red): The most common enemies are Shyguys - masked Jawas who try to get past their innate bashful tendencies by walking into Mario headfirst. Shyguys don't look very evil, but admittedly, they would if someone painted a furred brow over the eyeholes on their masks. Deliberately slow and easily defeated, the deep red version of the Shyguys are too stupid to avoid walking directly off the edge of cliffs, into oceans or bottomless pits.
Shyguy (Pink): Pink Shyguys aren't much different from their red cousins, but these guys are smart enough to turn around before plunging off the end of some grassy log into the fiery hells below. Other than that, they could be twins! Both versions of the Shyguys are, according to the manual, charter members of the '8 Bits' - a club of creatures from this world of evil dreams. I'm not sure what goes on when the 8 Bits have their weekly meetings, but I'd love to get my hands on some of the minutes.
Tweeter: Tweeter is a pitiful bird who wears a mask out of sheer embarrassment because it can't fly. Their haphazard hopping movements makes them more difficult than the usual enemies - Tweeters are really much too spastic to get a handle on. While being hit by his mighty beak can critically injure your character, Tweeter can be swiftly vanquished by jumping on his head, picking him up, and throwing him at one of the other enemies.
Snifit (Red): Another one of those damned 8 Bits demons, Snifit is essentially a Shyguy with enough money to afford a mask that shoots bullets. Still, they're not exactly doing themselves a world of favors with that purchase - the mask is apparently so heavy that red Snifits lose their ability to walk. Instead, these guys will typically stand in a certain spot while spewing bullets - it doesn't matter if you're standing anywhere near them, they'll spit bullets anyway. They really love spitting bullets.
Snifit (Gray): The mysterious and elusive gray Snifit had a competitive edge over his weaker, younger red relative - these Snifits are powerful enough to jump before spitting their bullets. This makes it much tougher for Mario and friends to simply hop over and avoid contact with the beasts. It takes patience and good timing to defeat the gray Snifits. Not a whole lot of patience and good timing, mind you - just enough to where you feel sorta proud after killing one. It took a little effort. You killed a little monster. You looked fear right in the eye, took your dick out, and piss-spelled your name all over its ugly head. You did good, my son.
Snifit (Pink): The Ultimate Snifit. The pink ones are able to jump and wander about while spitting bullets. Of all the preliminary characters, you'll likely lose the most lives to these guys. Yes, pink Snifits are also members of the famed 8 Bits. And they're very proud of it.
Ninji: According to the guidebook, Ninji is a little devil who appears in the dreams of Nintendo players. That's a bit of a stretch, because I can't recall ever dreaming about Ninji. Then again, I might not have remembered it if it wasn't an exciting dream. If all the Ninji did in my dreams was mow the lawn, I probably wouldn't remember it. So it's possible - it's possible that we've all dreamt of Ninji at one time or another. And who's more deserving? Here's a fast little guy who runs after you while jumping, much in the same way you dog does when you get back from a weekend trip. Only unlike the dog, Ninji's dark embrace could potentially make you decrease in size by 50%. Avoid at all costs.
Ninji 2: Ninji's brother, Ninji 2, is the family's shame. This dolt just stands in a specific spot while hopping up and down. Mario can walk two inches from his face without fear of losing power. Alternately, Mario can stand right in front of the guy with a lit bomb, and still, Ninji 2 will just stand there jumping around like a complete idiot. Every family has a discouraging secret, and this guy is the reason why the Ninji clan can't gain acceptance into any country clubs.
Beezo (Red): You know how some people are just born with the genetic luck to have an athletic or otherwise superior build? It's the same deal with the Shyguys. Some are born without any real talents, having to build and build and build just to get to the point where they can walk in a straight line successfully. Others? Well, some of the others are born with flight wings. Beezos are, for all intents, flying Shyguys. Being able to fly is impressive enough, but these guys have also mastered the fine art of stabbing people with a pointy staff.
Beezo (Pink): Pink Beezos are talented heat-seeking deliverers of doom - much like the red ones, they know how to fly and they know how to stab. Unlike the red ones, they also know how to zoom directly towards Mario and his friends. I know it's a sad commentary when an enemy appears much more dangerous simply by recognizing where Mario is on a particular stage, but what can I say? The masks all these guys wear can be pretty blinding. Pink Beezos are a rare sight-driven commodity in a realm of potluck triggermen. That sounded so regal.
Hoopster: These tiny insects aren't really bad - they're just caught in the wrong place at the wrong time. See, Mario will sometimes need to climb strange vines if he wants to advance to the next level. Problem is, Hoopsters live on those vines. Making matters worse is Hoopster's toxic skin - if Mario touches him, it doesn't feel very nice. So we've got quite a conundrum here: kill poor Hoopster - who hasn't done anything wrong - or simply forget that we need to save the princess or wake up or whatever the fuck we're supposed to be accomplishing in this game. Most opt for killing Hoopster. Sure, we'll feel a little guilty about it. Sure, it may keep us up a few extra minutes on some night many months from now. But there's gotta be a certain level of grace violence allowed towards anything that's named after what will surely end up being a Disney movie about a dog who plays basketball. Sorry, Hoopster.
Phanto: In Super Mario Bros. 2, you'll occasionally need to use a key to get past a locked door. Why there's locked doors in the middle of abandoned grassy mountains and ice caverns is up for debate, but what's there is there and you've gotta deal with it. Unfortunately, when you pick up a key - any key - Phanto will chase after you until you drop it. It wouldn't be so bad if Phanto wasn't accompanied by such ominous thunder. It makes him seem way more powerful and godlike than the stupid pointless flying mask that he is. Unless you're in the habit of standing completely still for a full minute while admiring a really heavy key that you're holding over your head, Phanto shouldn't be too much of a nuisance.
Trouter: These evil fish will jump out of waterfalls when they sense Mario's presence. Okay, that's a lie - they'll jump out of waterfalls whether you're there or not. But if you are there, try to avoid hopping into them. They don't like it, and you won't like it much either. As an added bonus, and I regret the need to be crass with this - Trouter looks like a vagina with googly eyes. Gamers can still get laid.
Ostro: Since the Shyguys aren't too effective on their own, they've taken to training the monstrous Ostros. These beasts of burden are fast and powerful, with surprisingly shapely legs. Though tall, Ostro is only somewhat large enough to support the weight of a Shyguy - it slows them down just enough for you to have a good chance of nailing them with a turtle shell or some other heavy, life-threatening object.
Bob-Omb: Perhaps the most famous villain to come out of Super Mario Bros. 2 was Bob-Omb - the walking, living, breathing, card-carrying, official, shoe-wearing bomb. The manual mentions that Bob-Ombs become angry pretty easily. This is a problem, since they tend to make themselves explode when they're upset. Bob-Ombs seem to walk with purpose, but don't be fooled. These guys don't have any lot in life aside from exploding. Hence, they're not to be trifled with. Even if you're taken by their cutesy little red arms and feet, don't go anywhere near these bastards. They're TROUBLE. But they're so cute! But they're TROUBLE. But they look adorable with those tiny bright slippers! NO, stop it. They're TROUBLE.
Albatoss: Wow, did Nintendo pay this game's developers by the pun? Albatoss is a wily condor who appears in the skies above Mario, ready to drop Bob-Ombs on his head. It's mentioned that Albatoss was formerly just a normal citizen in Dream World, seduced by the dark side. Shit, what's the point in going all out with the evil if all you're gonna do is drop a few easily avoided bomb thingamajigs? If Albatoss really wanted to take the plunge, he should be trying to peck Mario's eyes out. I'm a little disappointed, but not to the point where I can't recognize how cool a bird who drops living bombs out of the sky is. This stuff makes me plum giddy. Like when I'm browsing through the vegetables at the supermarket and that swank mist hose turns on. Giddy just like that. I love seeing a miracle.
Pidgit: Friend or foe? Though Pidgit looks sinister enough, he's essential to your success. See, Pidgit can't fly, so he uses a magic carpet. But if you jump on Pidgit's head and beat the fuck out of him, the flying carpet is yours! Be cautious, though - while the carpet is able to support Pidgit's minuscule weight indefinitely, it can only handle your character for a brief few seconds. After that, just as magical as its ability to bring flight, the carpet will mysteriously vanish. If you're above a river when this happens, you'll drown. Drowning won't help you win the game. I'm serious, it just totally will not help the cause one bit.
Cobrat: Cobrats are huge serpents who usually hide in the many giant clay pots scattered around Dream World. Dream World really went crazy with the clay pot motif, Pier One must've had a clearance sale. Anyway, the snakes will pop out and lunge toward your character. They look more impressive than they actually are - you can defeat them just as easily as the Shyguys. Cobrats are apparently light eaters, since even the Princess can lift them over her head without much effort. Another tip: Cobrat's clay pots are often dimensional portals to secret rooms containing keys and other power-ups. You'd be surprised at how much can fit inside these pots. They're like the original Roly Poly kits.
Panser: At first glance, Panser looks like a harmless flower. If you get too close, it'll start vomiting fireballs all over you. So the decision here is easy enough to make - don't go anywhere near a Panser. Not as cool as the usual Piranha Plants found in the Mushroom Kingdom, but it's nice to know that there's murderous plantlife living even as far as Dream World.
Porcupo: Porcupo is completely covered in black spines, so you can't very well just jump on top of him. Especially the Princess, because Lord knows what would happen with that open dress. Instead, you'll have to throw something at Porcupo if you want to see him dead. Personally, I try to get by this guy without actually killing him, because I think Dream World is a much prettier place with cutting edge black porcupines freely roaming about. It seems strangely profound, and I don't want to fuck with art just to get a few bonus points.
Pokey: My favorite villain in the entire game. Pokey is a multi-chambered Cactus with a happy face. He definitely doesn't do anything evil, but since he's covered in tiny needles, you can't give him a hug. In fact, the only part of Pokey that Mario can touch is its head, which is detachable and great for chucking at other enemies. Additionally, Mario can hitch a ride atop Pokey through some abnormally perilous areas of the game. Again, it's hard to call him a bad guy. But you can still kill him if you really want to see a poor cactus die.
Autobomb: Shyguys sometimes ride atop these indestructible death machines, but if you're able to get rid of the little monsters, you can take a ride on them instead. They move quickly, and there's no way to destroy them, so be careful if you see one in your path. Each Autobomb has an 'M' etched onto its side. I'm not sure what the 'M' stands for. I kinda hope it stands for 'Massapequa,' because it'd be pretty interesting if Dream World was importing their torture devices from Long Island.
Flurry: Flurries only appear in the snowy levels, which isn't all that surprising when you consider that they're made entirely of snow. IT AIN'T LIKE YA'D CATCH THESE FOLK IN DA DESERT, AYE? Flurries try to catch Mario using ice skates, but they're pretty terrible at it since they'll usually glide forty feet past you if you're smart enough to hit the 'A' button when they draw close. Though they look innocent and taste not unlike candy, a Flurry is indeed evil and should be terminated with extreme prejudice.
Spark: Spark are electric monsters that circle around the floors and platforms of Dream World, waiting for a prime opportunity to electrocute Mario and his friends. There is no way to defeat a Spark - you'll just have to avoid touching him. You may be able to kill him with a bomb, but I can't really remember. Your only true defense against these creatures is by using one of the power-ups to temporarily stop time. Other than that, they're practically invincible. I say 'practically' because I never had a chance to pour water all over one of them to see what happens. If there is a way to kill a Spark, the method isn't available to you in Super Mario Bros. 2. Unless you throw a mushroom block or a Shyguy at one of 'em. Then they'll die. But for the sake of lore, we'll pretend Spark is a god.
Okay, those are all the 'preliminary' villains in the game. The final six are the boss characters - some appear more than once, but all have amazing evil powers and must be defeated if Mario wants to break free from this terrible nightmare. The boss characters are all pretty creative, and serve as a reason to keep people from complaining about Nintendo revamping an existing game for this sequel. I seriously doubt they could've came up with much better starting from a new drawing board - these guys made losing video game lives loads of fun...
Birdo: Straight from the manual comes this description: "he thinks he is a girl and he spits eggs from his mouth." Yes, Birdo is Nintendo's very first full-fledged transvestite, complete with pink bow and all. Later reissues of the game's supplement guides neglect this piece of character background for obvious reasons, but I've got it right here in print. Nintendo marketed a transvestite villain long before that sort of thing was acceptable. Because of this, Birdo's become something of a cult character, even being immortalized in a cameo spot for Super Smash Bros. Melee in recent times. In any event, he's a pretty easy boss to defeat. You can hop aboard Birdo's eggs, and after hitting him with three of them, he'll die off. The whole transvestite thing really comes to fruition when you do this, since Birdo lets out the girliest scream ever when he falls.
Mouser: A huge rat wearing sunglasses, Mouser moves quick while hurling bombs at our heroes. To defeat him, you'll have to be even quicker. When one of the bombs comes near you, throw it right back at him before it explodes. If you're able to rinse and repeat that three times, he'll be destroyed. Unfortunately, Mouser has a pretty good recovery rate and will return a few more times during the game. From the manual: "it is proud and it doesn't believe it is just a mouse." Nintendo guidebooks read so much like Shakespeare sometimes.
Fryguy: This semi-famous boss character often appeared on the old Super Mario cartoon shows. Fryguys spit fireballs at Mario when angry, and since they do this fairly often, I guess it's safe to say that they're really mad a lot of the time. To be honest, I can't remember how you're supposed to defeat them. Water comes to mind, but I could be wrong. Ah who cares. You probably stopped reading when we got to the transvestite dinosaur anyway. It's not like some stupid fire creature was gonna top that one.
Tryclyde: Okay, take three Cobrats, add steroids, and perform surgery to attach them all at the hip. Tryclyde is three kinds of terror. The first terror: he's a snake, and snakes are scary. The second terror: he has three heads, and nothing that's had three heads has ever been friendly. The third terror: I don't know, actually. I think he shot something deadly at Mario. I guess that'd be the third terror. Thank God he didn't have four heads - I'd hate having to fake my way through four kinds of terror descriptions.
Clawgrip: The outstanding Clawgrip has the ability to make itself grow larger like one of Rita Repulsa's clown-faced monkey pineapple monsters. This isn't how he defeats Mario though, no sir. Clawgrip is also the master of throwing rocks. This giant mutant crab is the main villain's right hand man, so if you've gone through this entire article wondering who's responsible for all the ill-will in Dream World, look no further - up next is the big bad boss of doom.
WART: If you thought Bowser was bad, get a load of this guy. Wart is a giant, reptilian baddie who dresses fashionably enough to hide his villainous intents. Again, my memory is sketchy - I seem to recall him having some kind of gigantic instrument and lots of poison bubbles that made Mario feel all sickly. When and if you were able to defeat Wart, Mario could finally waken from this terrible dream. Still, the coups of Super Mario Bros. 2 laid within the gameplay, certainly not the ending:
Oooh, what a payoff. We get to see Mario in his pajamas. That was definitely worth trying to beat the game for fifteen hours straight.
Still, this remains one of my favorite games ever. It was just too weird to resist, absolutely brim-packed with loads of enemies, power-ups, strange levels, the works. The fact that you could pick any one of four characters just made it seem that much more complete - factor in that collecting coins gained you chances in a bonus round slot machine, and you had one hell of a game on your hands. I've never played the original Doki Doki Panic, but we owe a great deal of thanks to its creators for setting up the template for one of the most popular, defining entries into our own world of gaming.
By the way, there actually was a real Super Mario Bros. 2, only released in Japan. You'll probably remember it as the 'Lost Levels' from Super Mario All-Stars. Evidently, the feeling was that Americans would find the game too difficult, so they went a different route. They were right - I can't get past like the sixth stage in Lost Levels. And even if I could, it wouldn't be anywhere near as fun without a flying princess and a mask that chased me whenever I tried to unlock doors. Great game, play it again sometime soon.
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