Super Mario Run is hardcore as shit if you give it a chance

smrs_marioSatan is ice-skating to work, pigs are getting their pilot’s licences and Mario is on the iPhone.

Yes, after years of ‘expert’ analysts saying Nintendo should make mobile games and Nintendo fans saying it shouldn’t, it’s finally actually happened.

The result is Super Mario Run, a game that’s split more people than a Hollywood divorce lawyer, with some saying it’s amazing and others claiming it’s a disaster.

Let’s break down why that may be, and why – cards on the table right away – I think it’s bloody brilliant.


The price

One of the main reasons people are losing their shit over Super Mario Run is the price, which at first glance is higher than most mobile titles.

super-mario-run-artThe free version of Super Mario Run lets you play through the first three levels of World Tour, which is the basic Mario-style mode with a bunch of linear stages.

To unlock the rest of the game, you have to stump up £7.99 / $9.99. For this you get all 24 World Tour stages and the full versions of the Kingdom Builder decoration mode and Toad Rally (which I’ll get to in a minute).

Here’s the deal. Super Mario Run is not a free-to-play game in the conventional style (with microtransactions up the wazoo and other optional player-shafters like finite lives or limited power-ups). It’s ‘free-to-start’.

Satoru Iwata first used the term back in early 2015 in an interview with TIME, in which he said:

I do not like to use the term ‘free-to-play’. I have come to realize that there is a degree of insincerity to consumers with this terminology, since so-called ‘free-to-play’ should be referred to more accurately as ‘free-to-start’.

At the time, some accused Iwata of quibbling over semantics, claiming that Nintendo was planning on releasing a free-to-play game but trying to sell it with a different term in the hope of Emperor’s New Clothes-ing the piss out of it.

It turns out ‘free-to-start’ was completely accurate. There are no microtransactions to be found here. There are some timers (albeit not ones that impede your progress) but once you pay your £7.99 you will never once be prompted to fork over a single gold coin more. ‘Free to start’ is indeed a euphemism, but for ‘playable demo’, not ‘free-to-play’.

Is the full game too expensive though? In my eyes, not in the slightest. Let’s put aside the argument that some people can spend small fortunes on free-to-play games’ microtransactions over time: it’s a valid claim but not everyone does that.

There’s a common misconception doing the rounds that Super Mario Run is an ‘endless runner’. Anyone who says this most likely hasn’t played it, and is using the term in a negative way to undermine the game’s scope.

337px-mario_and_bowser_smr(Just for the sake of clarity, an endless runner is a game in which you constantly run forwards forever until you die. Super Mario Run very much has an ‘end’, be it the flagpole in World Tour or the timer in Toad Rally).

This misconception also adds to the belief that the game isn’t value for money, compared to the likes of much cheaper endless runners like Canabalt and Temple Run.

Super Mario Run is not an endless runner. It’s a Mario game. Granted, it’s a Mario game in which one of the central mechanics has changed, but it’s still travelling through a bunch of different worlds, jumping on enemies’ heads, hitting the flagpoles, defeating Bowser and the like.

Just because its control method involves simply tapping the screen, this doesn’t make it any less authentic an experience: it just gives it a different feel. After all, for years gamers have complained some genres (including platformers) aren’t well-suited to mobile gaming because of a lack of D-pad or other physical controls, so this is just addressing those concerns.

What we have, then, is another Mario game in the same vein as the New Super Mario Bros series, but one available at less than half the price of its predecessors (most other NSMB games are on the £19.99 Nintendo Selects budget range now).

Of course, some people can’t see past the £7.99 / $9.99 price tag because it’s a mobile game and that means it has to cost pennies for some reason. But there are other games out there at a similar price point.

The iOS remake of Xbox RPG Jade Empire launched in October, also at $9.99. Same goes for the mobile versions of board game Carcassonne, Codemasters’ F1 2016 and Sega’s Rome: Total War – all launched recently at $9.99 without issue or scandal.

These games all have one thing in common: they’re high-profile names. There are over 630,000 games on the iOS App Store (that isn’t a bad joke: it’s literally well over half a million), and with the greatest respect to the vast majority of them, they’re probably terrible and certainly forgettable.

mario-and-goombaSaying Super Mario Run (or Carcassone or Rome: Total War) shouldn’t be $9.99 because it’s a mobile title is like saying Nicolas Cage shouldn’t have won an Oscar for Leaving Las Vegas. Sure, he’s been in an infinite number of shite films but that doesn’t mean his rare moments of quality should go unrewarded as a result.

The popular belief that mobile games should somehow always cost next to nothing is one partly influenced by the slew of free-to-play shite that’s tainted the industry for years. These sordid little money drains offer a low cost of entry and have helped devalue mobile games in the process: if Angry Birds costs £0.99 (which it did before it went free-to-play), then the impression given is that this should be the standard.

As such, a Nintendo game costing $9.99 – which on any other format would seem perfectly reasonable – is instead treated as daylight robbery on mobile.

Numerous analysts have been slating Nintendo for this since Super Mario Run launched. Many of the people who had been calling for years for Nintendo to move to mobile – doing so under the false pretence of having the company’s best interests at heart and wanting to see it make money again – are now criticising it for having the gall to actually ask for that money.

It’s a ‘damned if you do, damned if you don’t’ situation: Nintendo made it clear a long time ago it was steadfastly refusing to add microtransactions to the game, so the options were either:

• release it for $1.99, make little money but keep critics happy, or
• release it for $9.99, make money and get abuse for it

Me, I’ve already got my money’s worth, and that’s because of Toad Rally. But before we get onto that, let me briefly touch on…


World Tour mode

The main World Tour mode is the one that’s been gathering the most attention, partly because it’s the most familiar / easiest target (delete as applicable depending on how cynical you are).

It consists of 24 stages (six worlds with four in each), and is fairly standard Mario fare.

For Mario experts, clearing the levels can take you around an hour in total: you’d break more of a sweat scratching your nose.

super-mario-run-pic-3That’s not to say they aren’t fun, mind. Much like the other New Super Mario Bros games, Nintendo has ensured none of these levels consist entirely of stuff you’ve already seen in the game: each one introduces a new enemy or obstacle to keep things varied.

For some that doesn’t cut it: they’re looking for a challenge and they won’t find it here.

There’s one temporary solution to this in the form of the coloured coins. Each of the 24 stages has five pink coins tucked away in awkward locations: you have to grab all five in a single run to tick them off.

Manage this and the next time you play the level they’ll have been replaced by purple coins, which are harder to find and reach. Get all of these and next time it’ll be black coins, which are even trickier.

The result is you having to essentially play at least 72 times rather than 24, adding a little challenge and longevity to the mode.

Ultimately though, anyone who’s an expert and dismisses Super Mario Run because the World Tour is too easy is missing the point. You see, this mode isn’t for them.

super-mario-run-pic-2Super Mario Run was partly created to bring Mario to a new audience. Existing Nintendo fans already have three decades years of 2D Mario platformers to play through, so another 24 levels offering more of the same were never going to yank their cranks.

The World Tour mode is aimed at people who’re aware of Mario and like the character but may never have played a Mario game. Kids who use their parents’ iPad but don’t have a 3DS, for example.

To them, these levels feel fresh, original and, yes, challenging. It’s these newcomers that World Tour mode is aimed at – if it was aimed at experts who already play Mario games, why bother putting it on mobile in the first place?

No, if you’re a Mario pro then World Tour isn’t for you. Instead, you’re supposed to be getting your teeth into…


Toad Rally mode

By this point you may still be wondering why I described Super Mario Run as ‘hardcore as shit’ in my heading. Now, 1500 words later, we get to the reason. Sorry about that, I tend to go on a bit.

Toad Rally mode is for Mario experts. And it gets bloody difficult eventually.

super-mario-run-pic-1The idea is that you choose a type of stage – grassland, underground, airship, fortress and the like – and the game will generate a random looping level made up of different chunks from the World Tour stages.

Given a time limit, you have to get as many coins as possible. Simple.

The twists are as follows: firstly, you’re competing to get more coins than another player. Specifically, the ghost of a player who’s already completed the same course variation as you.

Beat them and a bunch of Toads will move into your kingdom, letting you unlock more buildings and scenery in the Farmville-style Kingdom Builder mode. Lose and some of your Toads will say “fuck you, we’re off” and leave your kingdom.

The other twist is Coin Rush, a special state you can trigger by filling a blue bar. You do this by defeating enemies, but also by performing tricks: air spins, rolling jumps, hurdling, doing combo bounces of enemies and the like. Doing well isn’t just a case of collecting loads of coins, then: it’s doing it in as stylish a way as possible.

It’s the perfect response to the moaners who have been claiming for the past decade that the New Super Mario Bros games are too easy, as if Nintendo was expected to make a game just for them and tell younger gamers and newcomers to piss off.

kingdombuilder2Toad Rally mode is Nintendo saying: “Oh, it’s too easy, is it? Okay. Why don’t you show us how easy you can make it look, and let’s see if you can do it better than another player? You smart-arsed wank.”

With Mario constantly running and the Coin Rush feature increasing his pace drastically, it quickly becomes clear that what you’re playing isn’t an endless runner, as the ignorant types who haven’t bothered playing it lazily claim. It’s actually a speedrunning game.

Speedrunning: the art of ploughing through each level, the sprint button permanently held down, dodging enemies and obstacles at maximum speed in order to get the best result possible. Sound familiar?

As you play more Toad Rally and more Toads join your kingdom, you’re matched against players with similar quantities of Toads. Although sometimes this just means they’ve played the game longer than you, much of the time you’ll end up finding an opponent who’s a real challenge to beat. That’s right, a challenge in a Mario game. Have some of that.

More importantly than all this though, Toad Rally is the complete opposite of World Tour: the yin to its yang. Whereas World Tour is aimed at newcomers, Toad Rally will chew them up and sloppily spit them into the nearest bucket.

Get good at it and you’ll find yourself pulling off ridiculous flips, jump combos and the like. It becomes a challenge, but more importantly it makes you feel cool as fuck. Here’s me proving this on an airship stage: tell me this isn’t some Matrix shit here:

Super Mario Run is for people who have never played a Mario game before.

Super Mario Run is for people who’ve played every Mario game to death and want to see how they stack up against other die-hards.

Super Mario Run is a relaxing game you can play without too much mental stress.

Super Mario Run is an intense speedrunning high-score challenge where the perfect run is always just out of reach but you keep wanting to aim for it,

Super Mario Run is a new revenue stream for Nintendo, one that can help it potentially make the F-Zeros, Metroids and the like the fans have been requesting of years, but would ultimately be commercial failures.

Super Mario Run is worth your £7.99 / $9.99. So stop moaning about the premium price: it’s for a premium game.

3 thoughts on “Super Mario Run is hardcore as shit if you give it a chance

  1. I wholly agree. Great write-up! I thought I was done with 2D platformers, but Super Mario Run has made me fall in love with them all over again, mostly thanks to Toad Rally.

    Friend me and I will do my best to beat that crazy airship run you posted!: 2388-7549-3758

    Like

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s