Pandora’s Tower is finally coming to the US. This means that Operation Rainfall, the internet campaign designed to bring three European-exclusive Wii games to our shores, is now, officially, a complete success. For younger gamers, this might not seem like a big deal, but for gamers like me, there is something quite astonishing about it all. We live in an age where the internet has changed the face of media. Your favorite comic book is getting cancelled? Go online, rally your fellow fans, and make your voice heard. That’s what fans of the Marvel comic Spider-Girl did. While the book did eventually come to an end, it continued for years longer than it was going to. But is this extra power always a good thing? We, as consumers, have gained a voice, but what did we lose in exchange? I can’t help but look at a Nintendo classic and imagine how different things might have been. I’m talking about Super Mario Bros. 2.
For those unfamiliar with the origin story, the game that most people know as Super Mario Bros. 2 started life as a different game over in Japan: Doki Doki Panic. Nintendo took a look at the game they’d released in Japan as Super Mario Bros. 2 and thought gamers in the West might find it too difficult. So, rather than risk the series’ popularity, they took Doki Doki Panic and gave it a Mario makeover– and younger fans like myself didn’t know the difference. We didn’t know Mario, Luigi, Peach and Toad had replaced a set of characters we probably couldn’t pronounce the names of. It didn’t matter.
While Super Mario Bros. 2 has always been considered one of the stranger games in the Mario series, the impact that it had on the franchise (and Nintendo in general) is still felt to this day. Elements such as Luigi’s flutter jump, Peach’s dress float, and the androgynous Birdo have been Nintendo staples ever since. Heck, the game’s even responsible for the most iconic Nintendo Power cover of all time! When you look at the Japanese “Super Mario Bros. 2” (known better as The Lost Levels, over here), I can’t help but think that the game wouldn’t have been nearly as successful in the US. Nintendo was right. The game was really, really hard and a little too similar in design and tone to the original Super Mario Bros. Released as is, it might have even damaged the Mario brand.
Why is any of this relevant? It occurred to me that in our technologically plugged in age, we probably won’t see anything like the Super Mario Bros. 2/Doki Doki Panic switcheroo happen ever again. Take a look at most internet forums and you’ll find a healthy dose of scepticism and jadedness, sometimes before we even see the first screenshot of a game. One only need look at the reaction to the first images from The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker or Metroid Prime, for a couple examples. They ended up being two of the greatest games of all time, but they also started with an uphill battle in the court of public opinion.
It’s not hard to imagine the amount of vitriol that would be thrown Nintendo’s way if they dared to do this today. What would the internet fervor be like if we heard that Nintendo wasn’t giving us the new Zelda, but instead we were getting a game called Pocket Monsters that was being converted for our audience? No matter what the quality was, or what it brought to the table, we’d all cry foul. Sure, Nintendo brings games over with a new twist all the time. Pokémon Puzzle League started life as Panel de Pon, after all. But Super Mario Bros. 2 is unique in that it wasn’t just an offshoot of the Mario brand. It was the Mario brand.
Lots of Mario staples began their life here.
As I look at all the amazing things we’ve gained from the internet age, I can’t help but think about what this generation of gamers is going to miss out on. When a worldwide network of news, tips, strategies and even like-minded fans is always at your fingertips, a little bit of magic gets lost. I remember the excitement of testing out that theory I heard in the lunchroom about Mew being hidden under a truck near the SS Anne, or jotting down the Konami code so I wouldn’t forget it. These are the things that made people like me into gamers in the first place.
The internet has completely changed gaming. We can download games. We can compete against gamers from all over the world! The very way that companies like Nintendo do business has been forever changed. Amidst all the good, it’s easy to miss the little things that we’ve lost. I suppose that’s just the way technology works, sometimes. And while I love that this technology is the reason that I’ll get a chance to play games like Pandora’s Tower, I can’t help but think of Super Mario Bros. 2, and how it will always be a real Mario game to me.