Desire is a strange word. The OED defines it as a notion of requirement. If you desire something, you require it. While there are varying degrees of requirement, the OED also describes desire as an indicator of craving something. So, if I am to understand things correctly, if you desire something, you both crave and require, want, or need it.
Right now, I desire to get my hands on Super Mario Galaxy 2. Bear with me, if you will. I know this has been a recurring theme in this blog, as of late, but Nintendo have done a superb job of building, or manufacturing this desire within me, over the past few weeks, with its YouTube campaign leading up to the game’s release on Sunday.
I’m a huge Mario fan. That’s a given. I enjoyed the first Super Mario Galaxy a great deal, and was looking forward to its sequel, to some extent. I wasn’t craving it to the extent of hopping across my room with excitement whenever I see or hear anything new of the game, however. Nintendo have done a brilliant job of drip-feeding information about the game to its public, and they’ve done so fantastically.
If any of you are unaware of the current campaign going down on Nintendo’s YouTube channel, a new ‘transmission’ (from planet Mario, I assume) is uploaded every other day, which is a minuscule snippet of in-game footage, never longer than a minute or so. At the start of each video, you’re shown a ‘progress bar’, made up of planets, which denotes every trailer leading up to release. Instantly, you can see how much content you’re going to receive over the course of the campaign, which is already a good incentive to check back. The trailers themselves are brilliant, never showing too much, or too little; just enough to whet your appetite. Each trailer shows off one new gameplay element, such as a playable Luigi, various new power-ups, new level designs that incorporate 3D and 2.5D cleverly and seamlessly, and the return of Yoshi, and his functionality as character. The latest trailer was absolutely fantastic. To quote my recent tweet, “I almost just crapped my pants with excitement” on watching it. Quite.
Any fan of Super Mario 64 will instantly see what I mean, when I say that this made me excited.
Nintendo have created a cunning way of enticing Mario fans, old and new, into finding out about Super Mario Galaxy 2. By not releasing all the information gleaned from these brief trailers all at once, they don’t overload you with information, and deliver their content in a way that is much more exciting than a boring old ‘Info’ page on a website, that no one really reads in great depth anyway. These videos sort of make me feel like I’m piecing together a puzzle, which is exciting. That, I think, is something you don’t see enough of in advertising today, in my humble opinion.
I talk an awful lot about control on this blog. Control of expectations, but also control of emotions. Nintendo have made me want this game in a way that not even Rockstar have managed, with their imminent release of Red Dead Redemption tomorrow (in the UK). Red Dead Redemption is a game I’m also very excited about, but in giving me an almost daily reason to want their game, Nintendo have succeeded in making me truly crave Super Mario Galaxy 2. Good on you lot.
Super Mario Bros. 3 was the first game I ever owned. I was four, and failing to know what else to buy a hyperactive four year old, my parents bought me a NES for my birthday which had the game bundled with it. This seemingly random event spawned a life-long love affair with the cheeky Italian plumber, and the eclectic world of the Mushroom Kingdom in which he resides. Since then, times have changed, and computer games have progressed in leaps and bounds, but Mario seems to be a mainstay that never tires, or becomes boring.
I can happily say that I’ve never played a bad Mario game to date (that being said, I never did play the ’92/’93 ‘edutainment’ title, Mario is Missing). Mario games are generally awesome, and reek of the high quality Nintendo magic that we’ve come to expect from the developer. Indeed, where others have tried, and failed in the past, Super Mario has stayed strong, innovated, to keep with the times, and has throughout the years won over our hearts, and developed into a much cherished part of the gaming canon.
I’ve very recently turned 22, and briefly before this event , when asked by a friend what my favourite games were, I started reeling off the names of titles I enjoy. When I hit ‘Super Mario’, I was met with surprise. Why? I assume it has something to do with the fact that I’m no longer a child (which I most often do regret), have long hair, and maybe, to some, look like I should be riding the icy Nordic seas aboard the longship of true metal. I don’t think I give off the impression of someone who’d get a kick out of again, what to some, might seem like a childish series of games. I love it, though, and love them. I’m sure that many others, of similar ages and dispositions, agree with me.
Why do I love Super Mario, then? Simple. Because Super Mario games are great, and consistently deliver an enjoyable and expected experience. I feel this is a very important part of the Mario proposition. Where other major titles and series’ have been destroyed by over-complication, and what I think is a bastardisation of the original formula that made these games such a success (I am, of course, referring to Sonic the Hedgehog here), Mario has stayed true to his roots. While Sonic games have ‘evolved’ (for lack of a better word) to the point where the origins of the series can hardly be glimpsed, Mario is still doing the same old song and dance. Sega’s most recent addition to the Sonic catalogue, Sonic Unleashed, has the speedy rascal transforming into a were-hog, at times. There have also been numerous other additions to the series’ character roster, and I honestly couldn’t tell you what is, and has recently been taking place on planet Sonic. On the other hand, I can tell you exactly what Mario is up to at this point in time. Saving the Princess.
I think Mario’s success lies in the fact that all Super Mario games are vastly similar, yet all very different at the same time. They all follow the same format. Bowser, king of the Koopas, steals Princess Peach. Mario then needs to recover her from his clutches by jumping on things, to a great degree. Since Super Mario 64, the element of ‘power stars’ has been introduced, where to progress, Mario has to collect said stars by completing ‘missions’, as it were, but his focus is still the same. Mario games never overburden you with a complex plot, which makes the games ideal for jumping in and out of the action, even months apart. As a result, our expectations are controlled, which is really quite vital in producing and maintaining a winning series of games. We know exactly what to expect (perhaps, however, not how to expect it), and for this reason, I’d wager the majority of people are supremely satisfied with each iteration of the Super Mario saga. Each Super Mario title involves, amongst other things, a great deal of jumping. You pick up different caps, which each endow you with a different ability. You stomp on a generally well-established cast of enemies. You also know exactly where you are, all the time. I mean this in more senses than one. All of the enemies, and indeed, most of the characters in the games are instantly recognisable. This also applies to the power-ups (you know what a 1UP mushroom looks like and does, or even what a 1UP mushroom is), and to a large extent, the music. True, the signature title theme has been pushed off the title screen, into other areas of the most recent games, but generally it’s a delight to hear new, revamped versions of the tunes that accompanied our goomba stomping right from the start.
That’s not to say that the series has gone stale, which is nonsense. Every successive Super Mario game seems to develop the wonderful Mario formula in some way, most recently sending him into space. The thing I’m actually most excited about in the impending Super Mario Galaxy 2 is the return of Yoshi, who we haven’t properly seen in years, not counting the strange, juice-vomiting yoshis of Super Mario Sunshine. Even with rampant innovation, the core elements that made the series a success still remain, however, and this is something that Nintendo realised very early on. It’s also something that all developers could learn from. If you’ve got something good going for you, stick with it, please.
That’s why I love Super Mario.
If you haven’t seen Nintendo’s awesome YouTube channel already, which is updated regularly with mini-trailers for Super Mario Galaxy 2, in anticipation of its release, then take a look!