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August 21, 2011 / jwaxo

Super Mario Bros. 2 (Class Choice)

Mario never picks on someone his size.

As far as I can remember, there was no large timespan between us owning Super Mario Bros. and us owning Super Mario Bros. 2. This really opens up an interesting topic for discussion: as kids we didn’t automatically assume that Super Mario Bros. 2 was inherently better than the original. Maybe I’m just wrong in automatically assuming that kids should believe that “newer is better”, but it’s really something that confuses me. It had a 2! Why wouldn’t it be better?

Remind me to talk about Zelda 2 at a later date.

Maybe it was because the games were so inherently different. You didn’t jump on enemies to kill them; instead you had to pick them up and throw them at each other. Levels weren’t just “get from the left to the right” affairs, but fully explorable, diverse areas. You had a life meter, something that existed in only the hardest games that we had. And, finally, you had to pick one of four players to play as: Mario, Luigi, Toad, or Peach.

This was a big thing, although I’m sure we didn’t think of it at the time. We sure argued about it: should you go with the standard, jack-of-all-trades Mario? Should you go with the low-jumping but fast Toad? Or maybe Peach, who couldn’t pick things up very quickly, but could hover for a short while? They all had their advantages.

This feature, now something that appears in some way in almost every single game on the market, has such great analogues to real life. Do you go with a small, fast car, and borrow a larger vehicle when you need to move? Wear the black shirt that looks awesome but gets horribly hot on sunny days? Get the tent that’s very nice and roomy but takes days to dry if it rains? Here we were, being taught an important lesson: weight your options.

The choice is obvious, of course. No one flails legs like Luigi.

The option in choice of character continues to come back to haunt me on my slow, lazy days, though. Which character was really the best to go with?

I guess other Nintendo players figured these things out much earlier than us, or at least had to deal with it in their own ways. What was the optimum party to build in Final Fantasy? In Mario Kart you had to choose between fast and very lightweight, or slow but able to throw your weight around.

Most gamers nowadays will see the analogues in terms of weapon choice for their favorite first person shooter. Rate of fire over damage dealt; magazine size over setup speed. All of these statistics need to be weighed and compared. There isn’t really a wrong answer in these situations, ideally; just a wrong person for that option.

In classic role-playing game terms, and in the terms of the title of this blog, you have to choose your class. Which was something that came to be quite literal for me in high school.

Where all lessons have their mettle tested.

My high school was somewhat special in that it was among the first charter schools in Idaho. It had a focus on technology and a pretty nerdy credit requirement list that included four years of math and three of science, compared to the usual two years of each. I’m pretty sure it’s two years, at least, but my experience with vanilla high schools is pretty limited for obvious reasons. In any case, it was both a geeky and extraordinally normal school that was extremely close-knit.

Its election system was somewhat unique, though, in that you only really got two main elections: the decision to take Spanish or the “goof off and play volleyball most of the time” class, and which “track” you were on, which determined the rest of your classes. There were four tracks, and so four outstanding classes: programming, graphics, networking, and electronics.

Seeing parallels here?

Obviously it didn’t matter that much in the long run which you went with. Most of us kids from Charter ended up going to standard universities and pursuing whatever career it took us on, whether it was a technology-focused career or not. But, much like with Mario Bros 2, it seemed, on that character-select screen, to be the most important question of our lives.

Pretty heavy for a sophomore to weigh in on.

Of course, then the entire perfect analogy to Mario Bros 2 falls apart when Charter introduced a fifth career path: “engineering.”

There’s no room for you kids there!

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