Why we love….Super Mario World

I’ll admit straight up that this isn’t going to be entirely objective. A lot of my love for this is personal. This is the Mario game I grew up with, the one where I learnt the basics and mastered the complex parts, the one which (and this isn’t an exaggeration) defined gaming for me. Every platform game I played after this was compared to it, and let’s be honest, very few even come close (off the top of my head: Space Station Silicon Valley, Donkey Kong Country, other Mario games). That kind of sucks actually that the first game I played couldn’t be matched, it would be like if the first punk album you heard was London Calling. Ideally your first game should be like your favourite film as a child, objectively kind of bad but you have nostalgic love for it (For me, Short Circuit, which watched as an adult is so mildly racist).

This actor is white, the character…not so much

So yeah, this was the first Mario game I loved, yet was the third Mario game I ever played (after two Game Boy games, Super Mario Land, and the obviously titled sequel Super Mario Land 2). Yet it was only about five years ago that I completed it. The difficulty level of this game is just right, there’s no “and this is where it starts to get really hard” level. It’s a slide from “if you die on this level, how?” to “you only lost twenty lives this level, nicely done” that is so gradual you don’t really notice it until you go back to the earlier levels and realise you can probably do them with your eyes shut. Not that you should keep your eyes shut, as that means missing on the visuals. Now I’m not going to lie and say “the graphics for this still hold up to modern games”, as that’s a lie. But that says more about modern graphics than the graphics of the game itself. I think 2D platform graphics peaked at this, there was no “well it looks okay, except for….”, everything looks lush and gorgeous. The clouds look so fluffy they’re practically candy floss.

chocolate
Disappointingly this game isn’t edible.

But now it’s time for the ultimate question; is this game “good for its time” or just “good”. There are many games I loved growing up that have not aged well. Primarily it is 3D games, as graphics were so blocky then and are so smooth now that it can be hard to believe what was considered life-like. Games like Tomb Raider for example, once held up as graphical perfection, looks plain ugly now. It’s not just graphics, gameplay has moved on leaps and bounds, mostly in sports games and FPS. I don’t know if you’ve tried to play a Fifa game from before 1998, here’s my advice; don’t. As a genre it’s moved on so much that it’s impossible to play older ones without thinking “this is missing something”. Same with FPS, because so many of the things it innovated are now commonplace, even Goldeneye is kind of terrible by today’s standards.

207063-goldeneye_007___execution

This game, though? It never feels lacking. There’s no moments where you find yourself attempting to do something from a later game on reflex. Want to know how well this game still holds up? Look at the reviews on gamefaqs.com. The lowest one is 2.5/5. That’s the lowest. Nobody on the internet actively hates this game, and that’s the internet, they hate everything. Even the low review seems to be done mainly so he can have the lowest score on it. There are reviews from this year which declare it near perfection. There are people still playing it today. This game came out almost 25 YEARS AGO in Europe, and there are people still playing it. That to me is the mark of a good game. It’s not about sales, it’s about retention, about being so good that people don’t want to get rid of it. Back In Black is one of the best-selling albums of all time yet I have never seen it in a second-hand shop or a boot fair, because almost everyone who owns it loves it and wants to keep it. Almost everything is iconic, the music, the look, the level design, oh my god the level design. You know how when you’re playing old Tony Hawk’s games (never THPS5, nobody plays that), and almost everything in the game is laid out to perform perfect lines? That’s what this game is like. Everything’s laid out so you can get through it with the right rhythm etc. There’s also the sense of exploration. You can just go through the game as it looks and complete it. But you can also explore the levels, take different routes, and you’re rewarded for that.

blue yoshi
At one point reward by this little guy. Who is awesome.

I suppose the true brilliance of this game is when you beat it you don’t want to move through to another game, you want to play it again. It really kicked off the “100% completist” attitude to console gaming which Rare later perfected (or exploited, depending on your attitude). When you spoke about it, it wasn’t just “have you beaten the boss?” it was “did you find this level?”. I didn’t know until two years ago there’s a secret level in the second world which is basically the platform equivalent of a motorway service station, with weapons and extra life in there. Now that’s it about Super Mario World, let’s hope Odyssey can match it. Join us next week when we’ll be (hopefully) talking about Airplane. If you have any thoughts on that, this, or anything else, let us know on the facebook or in the comments section below. Until then, if you need awesome looking shirts, cushions, or bags, check out Let Lou’s here and check out what they’ve got, some amazing designs available.

Why We Love….London Calling

22nd December 2002 is possibly the most important day in my life from a music listening perspective. The day Joe Strummer died. Some of you may be aware that The Clash are one of my favourite bands, and I’m not alone in that respect, they were widely called The Only Band That Mattered and they’re good enough that that name doesn’t seem like hyperbole. Which makes me feel even more guilty about what I’m about to say, I didn’t know who The Clash were when Strummer died, in fact his death was what made me a fan of the band. Not in a hipster-ish “I only bands who were underground so I wait for members to die” kind of way, don’t worry. I was sitting at home one day flipping through the music channels when he died, I know this as London Calling played on Q (I think), and it was labeled “London Calling – The Clash. Joe Strummer R.I.P”. For some reason it was the first time I had paid much attention to that song, and something clicked in my head about how good it is. Then I went through to another channel and they played Should I Stay Or Should I Go? I was amazed. How can one band perform two songs that sounded so different? Then the triangle of triumph was complete when a channel played Rock The Casbah. It was at that point I knew I needed to find out more about this band, so, Boxing Day, 2002 I went to The Shop Formally Known As Sounds Perfect and brought what would turn out to be one of my favourite albums of all time: London Calling. To those of you who haven’t listened to this album: you’re less of a person and you should fix that immediately. Since then I’ve heard the other albums they’ve made, and whilst they’re all good, they’re no London Calling. I think part of that is because of the experimentation shown on this album. Very few albums have as many different genres on show here: almost every song sounds different from the next, with some punk, some ska, some lounge, some R&B, some reggae, some jazz etc. In terms of styles the album is just a hodgepodge of different styles and clashes that combine to form something truly wonderful, in much the same way as London (specifically, Camden). This album is, still today, the sound of London in much the same way that It Takes A Nation Of Millions To Hold Us Back is the sound of New York. It’s not just the music, it’s also the lyrics. The album is not just good (in my opinion, whilst Sum41 may have named their album as such, this album is the true All Killer, No Filler album), lyrically this album is a masterpiece, covering the issues that needed to be covered right now. From unemployment through to racial conflict, drug use and the responsibilities of adulthood. Guns Of Brixton (a.k.a: the song that launched a thousand basslines, seriously, this has to be the most punk song which you could use as the backdrop for a hip hop song) has one of the intense opening lines of a song:

When they kick at your front door
How you gonna come?
With your hands on your head
Or on the trigger of your gun

The fact that such brutal lyrics were laid against one of the best bass backdrops in music history opened the casual listeners minds up to the situation. The trouble with a lot of punk music is it’s preaching to the already converted. If the Sex Pistols were singing to people who were punks, it was The Clash that turned these people punk in the first place. The Clash are like Bob Dylan in that they have influenced outside of their genre. The best way to gauge a bands influence is via tribute albums. Yes, The Ramones tribute album does seem to have a wide variety of bands (Metallica, RHCP, Rob Zombie etc) the only true completely strange one to see is U2. The Clash, however, on Burning London have not only the expected ones (No Doubt, Rancid, Mighty Mighty Bosstones) they also have some you’d never have expected (Ice Cube, Moby). If a band can lay claim to have influenced bands as diverse as that, they must truly be something special.

Now onto my favourite part of this album, how it was released. Now, the band had had trouble with their record label prior to this. CBS had refused to release the bands debut album in the US, released singles the band didn’t want, and asked them to clean up their sound. The issues for this album came from the band wanting to release a double album, the record label refused because they were assholes. They did, however, allow them to release a free single with the album. So the band put a free single with the album, it was just a single that contained a lot of B-sides, in fact, almost an entire albums worth of B-sides. Since the deal was that the single would be free with the album, this meant that the (now) double album would be released at the same price as a normal album. The band won as they got to release the album as it was intended, the fans won as they didn’t have to pay more, and the record company lost, which is exactly how it should be.

So yeah, that’s why I love this band, and why this album is one of the most important pieces of music I’ve ever heard. And why it makes me feel even worse that it took the death of the singer to realise how amazingly talented this band is. People can keep their 1959 plane crash, for me, 22nd December 2002 is the real day the music died, and the day it was reborn, out of the fire like a phoenix, into my head, and into my heart.

Like if you enjoy

  • Rancid
  • Green Day
  • Arctic Monkeys
  • Rage Against The Machine

After this, check out

  • Chimes Of Freedom: The Songs Of Bob Dylan Honoring 50 Years Of Amnesty International. A 4 disc tribute album to Bob Dylan, only one song is featured more than once, and every song was recorded specifically for the album. Dylan is one of the select few artists you could do this with, especially with the amount of talent on show: This is the only album where MCR, The Gaslight Anthem, Rise Against and Bad Religion sit alongside Mick Hucknall, Miley Cyrus, Bryan Ferry, Natasha Bedingfield, Sting and Adele.
  • Heartattack. I knew I had to put a modern punk compilation on here. Was going to put one of the Punk-O-Rama albums on here but then realised I listen to the songs from here a lot more. Featuring a bonus disc of new songs to celebrate Burning Heart records, this album features some truly fantastic songs.