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Another Portland Blog

Thursday, May 04, 2006


Last Action Heroine

Like many who grew up in the '80s, I spent roughly 30% of my childhood parked in front of a Nintendo. Sure, I could have been out catching fireflies, setting up lemonade stands or collecting baseball cards but, when you get right down to it, none of that is nearly as fun as running your own sports franchise in Baseball Stars.

I started losing interest in Nintendo around the time Mario went 3-D in Super Mario 64. What can I say, I prefer to guide pixelized Italian plumbers through two-dimensional imaginary worlds filled with anthropomorphic mushrooms. Ever since I was a middle school brat completely incapable of dribbling a basketball, I've pined for a follow-up to the Super Mario World games. Old-fashioned, side-scrolling Mario. the way he was meant to be.

And now it's here, kind of, in the form Super Princess Peach for the Nintendo DS. The game's playing field is as flat as a pancake and, aside from a few new features, it plays like a long lost classic from the Super Nintendo era.

So here's the "plot." This time around Bowser decides to cut right to the chase and kidnap the Mario Brothers instead of bothering with Princess Peach. It took him twenty years and a few dozen games to finally come up with the ultimate invasion tactic. With the Marios out of the picture, the Mushroom Kingdom is completely SOL. Oh, who will save this enchanted land from Bowser's tyranny and his legion of turtles that mindlessly pace back and forth?

That's right, for the first time since Super Mario 2 Princess Peach steps up to the plate and decides to go all Samus Aran on the forces of G-rated darkness. With only a talking umbrella, a pair of pink pumps and a collection of all powerful "vibes," the former damsel in distress sets off to rescue her male counterparts.

Yes, "vibes," or, more specifically, rampant mood swings. The Mario franchise can now officially add "sexism" to its growing stack of insensitive stereotyping. Peach's emotions, which range from calm to ecstatic to depressed to incredibly pissed off, all play a part in the game. A budding bean stalk invites the player to trigger her depressed mode, causing her to drip buckets of tears, encouraging the plant to grow and serve as a ladder. Peach's incredibly pisssed off mode sets her aflame and allows her the ability to set things on fire and stamp her foot so powerfully that she can cause minor earthquakes.

Super Princess Peach covers familiar ground found in al ofl the Mario games post-World. There's a Boo House level, Bow-Wows, Koopas but, sadly, no Yoshi. The umbrella takes his place and can be used as anything from a flame thrower to a canoe. Another neat feature: the coins Peach collects can be used to purchase upgrades.

Like many other DS titles, the game requires the player to use the system's microphone feature. Peach wips a submarine out of nowhere for an underwater level. The vehicle's bubble gun only works when the player blow air on the mike. A mini-game requires players to yell "JUMP!" over any over again to move Toad through a series of hurdles. Actually, yelling anything in both cases works just as well. I spent an hour last night acting like I suffer from Tourette's in front of a video game meant for children living during Bush Sr's administration. What did you do?

For an average gamer, the title would be archaic and simplistic but, as someone who grew up with these games, it makes me feel like it's 1989 all over again. Now where's Super Mario 4, you jackals?

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