When I first heard about Super Mario Bros. 35 I thought the same thing millions of other fortysomethings did at that moment — all my years of playing through Nintendo’s seminal classic will have finally paid off because there’s now a way to do so competitively. The elevator pitch is immediately entrancing; take the battle royale stylings of Tetris 99 and marry it to Mario’s first platforming adventure. As you play any coins and power-ups you accrue add to the constantly dwindling timer and any enemies you stomp and topple will appear on somebody else’s screen based on four arbitrary battle tactics you get to pick until there’s only one person left standing.
I play through Super Mario Bros. about once a year, sort of as a reminder to myself of where my interest in gaming started but also because its great design is timeless and worth going back to. With having played it so many times the game is more of a comfort than a challenge because the ins and outs are so ingrained within me at this point. Nintendo likes to futz with Super Mario Bros. from time to time which I quite enjoy, such as the dragon coin hunt in Super Mario Bros. Deluxe or the “move to the left” mentality of the Super Luigi Bros. bonus game in NES Remix. Super Mario Bros. 35 is most definitely of this vein. Not only is it a fresh way to replay the original game, it also happens to be one that gives the player a reason to brag about their inherent skills. I’m not usually an über-competitive person, but the desire to prove my worth burned within me.
Super Mario Bros. 35 is undoubtedly fun, being exactly the refreshing shake-up I was hoping it would be. But I ran into a problem – I got kind of bored with it after a while.
It was kind of a shock to the system at first; here’s a game that I know intimately and was now espoused with an evergreen design that warrants multiple playthroughs, but I suddenly wasn’t interested as time went on. I came in second once and never below the half mark during any run, but doing well lacked the satisfaction I was hoping for. That “one more time” refrain tickled my fancy in the beginning, but my appetite for being the best Super Mario Bros. player was summarily stamped out when it was all said and done. I had a hell of a time figuring out what the hang up was when I finally came to the realization that I couldn’t override my desire for finality, to end a journey as it were, with the notion that you just keep playing the game to “win.”
My first instinct was to think of it as some kind of personal flaw, but the truth of the matter is that I just look for something different out of games than what’s on offer here. I like the concept of Super Mario Bros. 35 and really like the underlying game that powers it; I just don’t like to play it repeatedly because I don’t find any kind of real gratification in being the best at it. This isn’t a new epiphany for me; looking back I enjoy playing competitive games up to a point, I just drop off of the excitement surrounding it a lot sooner than most folk. I had a lot of expectations of Super Mario Bros. 35 and my elation surrounding it, so when you come out on the other end and find yourself not as enamored it’s a bit surprising.
I’ll definitely go back to Super Mario Bros. 35 every now and again, but probably not on a regular basis. A run or two will probably give me my fill, if I’m being honest. I’ve played so much of it that I think it may have potentially ruined my personal cycle of playing the original game on a yearly basis. Perhaps that’s not a bad thing either; granted it takes like forty-five minutes to do a complete run, but it has me thinking maybe I should dabble in other older games in some sort of rotation. Who knew there was some credence to the old adage of there being too much of a good thing?
- DEVELOPED BY: Arika/Nintendo
- PUBLISHED BY: Nintendo
- PLATFORM: Nintendo Switch
- RELEASE DATE: October 1st, 2020
Having never played the game personally it’s readily apparent just from reading this book that there’s a lot of underlying psychological grotesquery within that’s brought to light as Drucker plays through the game and write’s about it. To put that in layman’s term — there’s some pretty fucked up shit in here. It made me more than a little uneasy at times, to the point where I’d have to put it down after a chapter and find something a little more uplifting to pull me out of the dark places it goes sometimes. But I’d always come back because I wanted to know more. I’m not about to go find a means of playing Silent Hill 2 myself at this point, but I did enjoy living vicariously through Mike Drucker and his sardonic sense of humor.
The cool thing about the Boss Fight Books series, and Silent Hill 2 in particular, is that having played a game isn’t a prerequisite for enjoying a treatise about it. Drucker weaves a lot of threads though his playthrough of the game from its inception to its reception, the publisher’s inability to market its product to the author’s own personal stories. It’s a history book that doesn’t read like one, thank God. Granted I’m nostalgic by nature and enjoy knowing how these types of things are created, but doing so doesn’t have to be dry and boring to the point of being a slog. It can be brisk and melancholic and sometimes disturbing but mostly entertaining. Drucker’s voice carries throughout the book and it’s all the better for it.
It’s what sets Silent Hill 2 apart from the stories that came before it. Drucker digs into his own past to shocking effect, but it also helps set up his analysis and critique of the game. You feel like he understands it better than most. Silent Hill 2 sounds like the type of thing that was ahead of its time; unappreciated back in 2001 for its lack of action and jump scares, it worked on a more subversive, intellectual way. It’s less about dealing with actual monsters (of which it has its iconic few) and more about those inner demons we try not to think about. Except Drucker thought about it. Like, a lot.
The heart of Silent Hill 2 (the book) is in the examination of its characters and what they mean to the story as a whole. There’s probably a bit of conjecture and interpretation involved in doing do, but it’s never too far off the mark as the world surrounding this sleepy, foggy town are meant to drive certain themes home. It’s pretty heady at times; the anguish and terror portrayed is pretty bone-chilling even by today’s standards, so I can’t even imagine what it would have been like playing this back in the early 00s.
Silent Hill 2 is exactly the type of title I get super excited about in the Boss Fight Book series. Seeing seminal classics written about is all well and fine, but it’s the weird and esoteric titles that pique my interest the most. The less I know about a game going in the more impressed I usually am by the end of it. Reading this was tense and made me apprehensive…but then I’d get blindsided by a goofy, self-deprecating joke and remember that this horror game dissertation was written by a really great comedian.
If somebody was going to convince me to read about “fucked up shit” it may as well be a funny dude.
A copy of Silent Hill 2 was provided to me by publisher Boss Fight Books for the sake of review.