I suppose before anything else, I should get the obvious out of the way: The Super Mario Bros. 2 Project is a complete and total failure. I haven’t touched it, or the site at all, since June. Part of it has been a matter of being busy, but if I’m being honest with myself, part of it has been a lack of motivation as well.
The idea was to see if I could do as I said, and basically write about something I love until the cows come home. And I guess at the end of the day, somewhere along the way, I just kind of burned out. As such, this year-long celebration fell flat just shy of the halfway mark. The ironic thing is that I do have some articles in the can that I haven’t posted yet, but wanted to have others posted first, so they’re just sitting around, waiting.
But failure or not, I couldn’t just let the actual anniversary of the game’s release — October 9th — come and go without saying anything, so here I am, ready to at least mark the 30th anniversary of Super Mario Bros. 2. I already said some things in advance over on one of my other gigs, Old School Gamer Magazine, but for this, I’m focusing in on one of the most timely aspects of the game’s release: It’s television commercial.
Of all video game commercials, this one remains one of my all-time favorites, even above such greats as the commercial for Super Mario Bros. 3. In addition to showing off clips of the new (and much better looking) sequel to the Nintendo Entertainment System’s smash hit, it blended set pieces that helped bring this new world of Subcon to life.
Let’s break it down, piece by piece.
The commercial begins with a bold and, to me at the time, interesting declaration: “Super Mario is back!”
What makes this interesting to me is that I became a fan of video games and Nintendo just on the cusp of Super Mario Bros. 2‘s release. Even though Super Mario Bros. had come out just three years prior in 1985, to me, he hadn’t really gone anywhere — I hadn’t even beaten the first game yet! But there was more Mario, and that’s what mattered.
On the visual side, we’re treated to a set piece of a brick wall somehow being demolished, a mysterious beacon of light shining through the dust and smoke left in its wake. “He’s blasting through worlds where no one has ever been,” the announcer continues, as the visual shifts to the in-game equivalent of what we’ve just seen, with Mario using a bomb to blast through a destructible wall.
As the announcer continues his spiel, we’re returned to our first-person perspective, maneuvering around cacti and other obstacles in a desert landscape, a part of these “worlds where no one has ever been.” The shot switches to a view of Tryclyde, the three-headed snake boss of the desert worlds within the game, ably struck by Mario with a thrown Mushroom Block as the announcer says he’s “taking on enemies no one else dares.”
The perspective switches back to rows of crops, with beams of light shooting upwards to a “popping” sound. This is in tune with the announcer stating “This time, Mario pops up power wherever he goes.”
Another switch to an in-game shot shows something interesting, as Mario (in his normal size) suddenly flashes and grows into Super Mario, before pulling up a vegetable to that same popping sound.
What makes this interesting is that the sudden growth isn’t something that occurs naturally in-game; rather, this footage seems to have come from the prototype/beta version of the game, wherein pressing a button would grant the player 15 hit points — a bit of overkill for a game which maxes out at four. You can even see the life meter glitch out at this function, just as it does in the prototype.
“So he’s bigger and badder than ever before,” the announcer says when Mario grows. They break from the alternating set pieces and game footage to move to footage of Mario fighting Mouser, then continues, “You’ve never seen features like these!”
“You’ve never had an adventure like this!” the announcer claims as we’re returned to the desert landscape, coming upon a pyramid with a large opening. The scene shifts as we approach the pyramid, now again to the in-game equivalent as Mario evades a Cobrat by leaping over a cactus, himself now approaching a pyramid very much like the one we just saw — and see again as the scene shifts back to the pyramid, fusing the two in our minds as we head into the entrance.
Inside the darkness of the pyramid, there it is: Super Mario Bros. 2, the object of our affection, the goal of our quest.
“It’s everything you’ve dreamed of, and worlds more!”
“It’s Super Mario 2,” the announcer declares, in the process teaching me that saying “Bros.” is not necessary when referencing the game, and starting the eventual trend of Luigi’s presence being omitted from the titles of games he’s in, before ultimately being omitted himself.
“Only from Nintendo!”, we’re told, as Super Mario Bros. 2 sits front and center among a selection of other titles and accessories now available for the gaming sensation that was now (well, then) sweeping the nation. And punctuating the whole thing?
“Now you’re playing with power.”
I do love this ad. While I love the music in the game, the commercial’s theme sets its own epic tone as you go on your quest of discovery — exciting stuff when you’re a kid. And the shifting back and forth between stuff you see in-game and a more “real world” version, it feels like the game is being brought to life and even amped up a little before your very eyes.
One of the more interesting aspects of the commercial, I find, is not in what it shows you, but in what it doesn’t. A key feature of Super Mario Bros. 2 is your ability to choose between four different characters, each with their own abilities, but this is never mentioned nor shown throughout the entire 30-second spot.
Despite the fact that this game would help propel Luigi, Princess Peach (who some of us had never even seen at this point), and Toad (as an individual) to superstardom, the focus remains squarely on Mario.
I can’t remember if I saw this ad before owning the game, but even after acquiring it, it would still get me pumped and give me an urge to play. Heck, I kind of want to right now. Alas, I have other things I have to do.
In searching for a version of the commercial with acceptable quality, I also came across this version, featuring a different announcer and a slightly different script:
I wonder what the story behind this one is? Doesn’t seem like it would be for Canada, or a number of other countries, seeing as there’s no Mattel logo on there.
Hm, maybe I should have gotten my screens from it instead. Maybe I’ll go back and replace them later.
Wow, over 1,000 words on this. Guess there’s still something here. Maybe I should look into continuing this thing anyway after all, but I’m not really sure.
In any case, happy 30th anniversary, Super Mario Bros. 2!
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.