After talking about mini-boss Mouser last week, I thought this week would be a good time to talk about the character who replaced him in one of his three encounters, Clawgrip.
A lot of people seem to think that just because the Yume Kōjō: Doki Doki Panic was the foundation for the western Super Mario Bros. 2, all Nintendo did was swap out the Arabian family for heroes of the Mushroom Kingdom and call it a day. But as we’ve seen so far in instances such as Subspace, that’s not really the case at all, and I’m pretty sure we’re going to see plenty of other instances over the course of the year.
As for Clawgrip, this mini-boss of Subcon was not in Yume Kōjō: Doki Doki Panic; he’s a true Mario original — in more ways than one.
Unlike Mouser or Tryclyde, there is only one Clawgrip battle in the entirety of Super Mario Bros. 2, and that’s at the end of World 5-3, following a battle with a red Birdo. As Mario and friends drop into his chamber, this unique boss wastes no time in assaulting you in a most unique way: By throwing small boulders.
It’s easy to overlook, but the battle with Clawgrip is really like no other battle in the game. Literally every other boss is defeated by using items that can be found elsewhere in the game: Bombs for Mouser, Mushroom Blocks for Tryclyde and Fry Guy, and even common vegetables for the Big Boss, Wart himself. Even Birdos and their eggs are included in this by virtue of their sheer abundance throughout the land, sometimes even appearing in the middle of stages.
But Clawgrip’s boulders are a one-of-a-kind object in Super Mario Bros. 2. Stacked in a pile beside him on his platform, this is his primary means of attacking you (there’s also collision damage to look out for), and your only means of attacking him. And unlike some bosses in the game, you can’t trade blows with him, as he has one more hit point than a fully powered-up player (unless you’re playing Super Mario Advance; then you can be on equal footing).
The boulders not only look unique, but act unique as well. Clawgrip chucks them like an expert basketball player, with most of his layups going down a convenient narrow chute in his lair (why wasn’t this guy in Mario Hoops 3-on-3, Nintendo? You denied him his big chance to shine!), but he’ll also occasionally chuck them sideways, where they’ll bounce off a nearby wall and along the floor — a perfect opportunity for a rebound and to return to sender.
An additional interesting little tidbit is that while you can make your way past Clawgrip to his boulder pile with little difficulty, Mario and friends are unable to just grab them and start pelting him from behind. No technical fouls here.
As with other characters featured in Super Mario Advance, Clawgrip’s character is expanded upon slightly in that version of the game.
When you approach Clawgrip in Super Mario Bros. 2, whether in the Nintendo Entertainment System (NES) version or the 16-bit Super Mario All-Stars version for the Super NES, he’s already fully-formed and ready to go. But in Super Mario Advance, you’re greeted not by Clawgrip, but a simple Sidestepper — the crablike enemies who took two hits to overturn in the original Mario Bros.!
Bubbles that look like those used by Wart rise from the bottom of the screen, surrounding the once-common foe. After encasing it for a moment, the Sidestepper is transformed into Clawgrip, who declares in a pirate-y voice (provided by Charles Martinet), “Arr, you’ll make a tasty treat!” Cue the boss music, and the battle begins with what is, in effect, a Super Clawgrip.
What’s most interesting about this sequence is that it may have been planned from the very beginning, as the Super Mario Bros. 2 manual says of him “He grows suddenly, and he is surprisingly skilled at throwing rocks.” So this may have either been a cut sequence, or perhaps someone on the Super Mario Advance development team was inspired by this bit of minutia.
Like other characters of the day, Clawgrip was featured across all manner of Super Mario Bros. merchandise, though that began to wind down as Super Mario Bros. 3 hit the scene. Despite being something of an “American original,” he didn’t really see much in the way of prominence in other mediums, however.
He did appear in The Super Mario Bros. Super Show! in a few instances, typically whenever our heroes were near water, sporting a pirate-styled bandana across his, er, head? Meanwhile, appearances in the Nintendo Comics System Super Mario Bros. comic were even rarer, limited to a crowd scene of aquatic foes. He actually fared better in the Nintendo Adventure Books, appearing in two stories and leading to a potential Game Over in one.
Sadly, Clawgrip’s legacy is by and large short-lived, never appearing in any other Mario games outside of the general Super Mario Bros. 2 lot. However, he does have something of a spiritual descendant in the form of the Huckit Crabs that debuted in New Super Mario Bros. Wii, who attack by throwing either rocks or balls of sand.
In addition, what legacy Clawgrip does have is sadly marred by the rigors of rough Japanese-to-English translations back in the day, his name in the credits of the game itself being spelled as “Clawglip.” This misspelling would remain in Super Mario All-Stars and even the Japanese version of Super Mario Advance before finally being corrected for the English version of the latter game (which amended a few other errors as well).
So on this day, we salute you, Clawgrip. May your most unique place in Mario history never again be overlooked, nor forgotten, and always respected.
Clawgrip art, Sidestepper art, Huckit Crab art, and The Super Mario Bros. Super Show! screen courtesy of Super Mario Wiki.
David Oxford is a freelance writer of many varied interests. If you’re interested in hiring him, please drop him a line at david.oxford (at) nyteworks.net.