To kick off this whole project, it only makes sense to go back to the beginning. However, seeing as I already covered what I believe is the first encounter I can recall with the game some years ago, we’ll just move on to what I remember as my second major encounter with the game I’d begun to be intrigued by:
Isn’t she a beaut? However, I’m not here to talk about the contents of the magazine (another time, perhaps), but rather, I’d like to focus on the cover itself.
One thing to get out of the way is that in hindsight, it’s kind of interesting that they refer to Super Mario Bros. 2 as simply “Super Mario 2.” I’m not sure if this began the trend of dropping “Bros.” from the title in casual parlance, or if it’s merely a result. But what I do know that when I was working on the magazine in its later years, while we might have been able to get away with using the truncated form of the title within the magazine itself, we almost certainly would not have been able to get away with it on the cover. Just goes to show how things change in time.
(On a related note, just beneath that is “Zelda – Second Quest.” It seems even less likely we’d have been able to get away with that.)
Moving on, something people take notice of right away (aside from the use of cool clay models) is that Mario’s colors are very mixed up. At this point in time, he was typically presented with red overalls, a blue shirt, a red hat, white emblem with a red “M” on said hat, yellow buttons, and brown shoes. Meanwhile, his hair seemed to vary from picture to picture, being either black like his mustache, or brown. These days, they seem to be going with a dark brown for both, at least in 3D modeled assets.
Mario’s overalls and shirt would settle on blue and red respectively over time, but the rest was still off. One might guess that with Mario seemingly adopting a new color scheme with each new appearance that Nintendo hadn’t settled on anything firmly yet, but I don’t think anything has been firmly said on the matter to this day — merely speculated upon.
That said, it turns out that the colors aren’t exactly wrong for Mario, they just more closely reflect an earlier game: The arcade version of Mario Bros., as seen at right. Though not a perfect match, it seems a more likely link that makes it easier to get an idea of where the cover artist might have been coming from.
Or someone just screwed up royally. We may never know, but some of the images used inside the issue itself would at least seem to imply it wasn’t solely the cover artist’s doing.
On a more personal level, what originally stood out to me about the cover was the first time I ever laid eyes on Wart. The cover’s vivid imagery combined with my imagination to immediately try to rationalize what I was seeing, and what I came up with was a bit… odd, to say the least.
Keep in mind, this is based on a first impression of seeing the cover and not yet having witnessed the contents inside. Part of that comes from my first time seeing it being a classmate’s copy at school, and I was fortunate enough to get to borrow it and bring it home, which eventually led to my parents subscribing for me. (Maybe I’ll delve into that more another time.)
Furthermore, I had not yet beaten the original Super Mario Bros., whose instruction manual obscured the visage of one Princess Peach, nee Toadstool. She wasn’t really featured in merchandise much yet at this point, either, so I basically had absolutely no idea what she looked like at all.
As a result of all these factors, I thought that this frog-ish guy with a very prominent crown chasing Mario was the unseen Mushroom King spoken of in the original Super Mario Bros. story. The logic of my young mind posited that if his daughter was Princess Toadstool, then it would make sense if she — and hence, her father — were the actual toads for which the term “toadstool” was coined.
So, in summation: I thought Wart was Princess Toadstool’s father, the Mushroom King, or “King Toadstool.” But that’s not where the rabbit hole ends, as why would the Mushroom King be chasing Mario? Well, I reasoned, it stands that the first game probably ended with Mario rescuing Princess Toadstool from Bowser. Plus, a not-uncommon trope of cartoons and other such fiction back then would involve a hero rescuing a fair maiden, only to discover her somehow undesirable.
Mario rescued Princess Toadstool from Bowser in Super Mario Bros., only to discover that she was a literal frog princess who must have fallen head over heels for her hero and want his hand in marriage. Mario, wanting no part of that, decides to get out of there, angering Princess Toadstool’s father, who sets out on a crusade to bring the plumber back to marry his daughter.
And from that one image, this is what I thought the story to Super Mario Bros. 2 would be. Well, for the few hours until I could read the issue myself, at least.
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.