Thursday, May 17, 2012

The Thunder Discusses An SMWC Production: World 1

Okay, so the plot of this hack is that Bowser has issued a public dare to both Mario and Luigi to go to his castles and collect eight of these so-called "legendary" eggs, which are said to be better than ordinary eggs in the Mushroom Kingdom. Mario needs eggs to finish Peach's cake for her birthday, so he decides to take Bowser up on his bet and Luigi reluctantly accompanies him. And that leads me to... World 1. Here we go.

World 1

I'm gonna start by saying that the overworld and submaps were actually nicely made. I mean they look pretty basic for a hack put together by over 200 users, but overall it suffices for my tastes, I guess. There's actually one level here that's completely useless and it's Mario's House. There's absolutely nothing here. What a waste. Toad Town is the next level up and it's a bit more interesting because it apparently features avatars of a few SMW Central users in its bar & grill, not that I recognize any of them and sure as hell don't want to. There's also a shop for spending your coins, but the player will obviously start with zilch, so... gotta come back later. If you visit the level Peach's Castle, a message will pop up and force you out of the level until you have collected all eight eggs.

Now that these non-action levels are out of the way, it's time to discuss... the action levels! Basically, you can choose to start in World 9, the sewer area, by doing the level Deep Dark Drains, or start in World 1 with the level "And So It Begins...". Since clearing Deep Dark Drains does nothing for now, you'll have to do World 1 eventually, so let's just get started already.

And So It Begins...

Wow! What a way to start off! And the custom music is pretty darn good too! A remix of the original "Overworld" music from Super Mario World! This is a basic straightforward level with the average difficulty of what anyone would expect for a hack's first level. Even the enemies are pretty basic to start off with - Goombas, Koopas, Chargin' Chuck, Rex... granted their graphics have been given a bit of a makeover, but I guess that's to be expected for any hack really. Oh, and after the midway point, you have to carry a trampoline to a certain point in order to move on. Again, nothing too fancy, just kind of basic in which you learn most of the original Super Mario World's game engine, mechanics, flavor, techniques, and such just to get into custom stuff later. Okay, so no real complaints with this level...

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Wait... what?! What in the hell is that?! Is that...Banzai Bill?! Oh, geez, what did these users do to it?! Well, I stand corrected, here's my first complaint: Banzai Bill's new graphics. Not only does it look really weird and mentally disturbing, but it also isn't good for the hitbox. See, Banzai Bill is a 64x64 sprite, and its hitbox is roughly the same. I know users might know how to handle this, and this is just me, but we're talking general audiences here! That's right. If SMW Central users wanna make SMW hacks, they should take into consideration what makes a good game instead of just a hack. After all, they do realize that any non-user can come in and download anything they please, so anyone could play this hack and this level and end up seeing this "Kill Bill". Hmm... well, I guess the staff has yet to acknowledge this. Okay, the level's pretty much over after this.

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In order to get the level's secret exit, you'll need to have cleared the Green Switch level first, which isn't until World 7. Okay, fine by me.

Now, I wanna just say something quickly about the bonus game chosen for this hack because it is awesome! I honestly wish I could figure out how to make bonus games different for my hacks, I really do, so I guess I envy this one a little. Basically, you're in a cannon and you press the B button to fire. But there's an interface that allows you to pick up distance depending on when you fire the cannon. You can shoot farther the more the meter is filled up and you clear enough distance, you can earn extra lives, from as low as zero to as high as five. In order to clear the number five sign, which marks how far you have to get to earn five lives, you must fire cannon when the meter is exactly full. So it's a timed effort. But yeah, I give props to this bonus game, which may just be one of the best things about this hack ever. Kudos!

Gramen Terra

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The second level picks up the difficulty a bit, maybe considerably because halfway through the level, a single Lakitu starts bothering the player by dropping Spinys. Bob-ombs also make their debut here as well. This level seems to be shorter, but once Lakitu appears, he hangs around for the rest of the level, and I would guess it's recommended that he should be taken out because for some odd reason, the foreground is raised to practically the top of the level where Lakitu can easily smack the player by getting in the way. Okay, this can get a little iffy because Lakitu isn't that easy to take out. Therefore, you'd probably end up using a Goomba or Bob-omb to defeat him.

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As for the secret exit, it's a dead giveaway. I mean, you can tell that there's something beyond the pipe you normally take to the end of the level. So you just jump over it, get past the swarm of enemies, and bam! There it is.

Big Baddie Cave

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"It ain't that bad"?! I beg to differ. Just look! The awful Banzai Bill graphics are back! And now there's more than one! Ugh! Okay, so in this level, you just have to make your way to the other side, but you can either take the top way or the bottom way. Now, I really don't understand why directional coins are used. Usually, they come into play if you're going along one linear path and there's not a chance in hell you're gonna end up backtracking. But here, with an upper and lower path, quite frankly, I think an alternative should have been used. I know you can get one of the Yoshi Coins this way, but supposing you decide to backtrack and take the top path. What if you fall? Well, they say the alternative is to use the camera to get Mega Mole to appear and give you a lift across the muncher pit. But it looks like he can't do that if you clear the Yellow Switch level and then for some stupid reason decide to come back to this level. So I'd say this level was poorly designed for such a contingency. Either the directional coins go or the Yellow Switch blocks should not block the Mega Mole's path.

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Anyways, onto the next section, which involves using ON/OFF switches to make your way to the other side while dodging reflecting fireballs. This actually gets pretty irritating quickly, so I had to use save states for this. At least I think I did. The pipe on the far right will lead you out of the level, but you can make it to the pipe in the upper left corner, you'll go to a section designed nearly identically to the first, albeit with smaller enemies. The key is at the end of the bottom path while the keyhole is at the end of the top path. You know, I was actually pretty disappointed with this level in general, mainly because of its short time limit. In fact, several of the levels I've played in this hack have considerably short time limits, so I ended up reaching the goals with less than 100 seconds remaining. Did the level designers not count on the fact that a player might just want to stop and pick up everything along the way? I mean, hello, you've got a 6-digit coin counter! Why would you not want to try to get every coin you possibly can? Flawed. Definitely flawed.

Forgotten Forest

You know, I really hate overworlds and submaps that place levels in dead-end spots where clearing them does virtually nothing except add one exit to your total. I mean, what's the point? It's bad enough that in the hack Super Mario World: Vip Wall Mix 5 that some of the levels unlocked things on different submaps or overworld maps and you had to waste time looking for what you unlocked. But dead-end levels? Gimme a break. These kinds of levels should only be used for secret areas where you can get power-ups or something worthwhile, like in Super Mario World's Top Secret Area. But again, this is just me. I don't know what other users think, but if they don't get confused or anything, that's cool. Anyways, this is another straightforward level, nothing special. There is one hidden timed lift platform behind two trees, so you jump where the coins indicate to, you'll find it. Hmm, I guess the level isn't too special. Actually, it's not special at all because clearing it does nothing except give you credit for finding an additional exit (in which there are 117 altogether, I might add). And guess what? This isn't the only dead-end level in the game! It's just one of a few! *sigh* Aw man, one's bad enough really, but why bother to have any? Seriously, what's the point?

Sunny River

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And yet another straightforward level, except this one is completely linear. Yep, no alternate exits, side paths, or anything. Just another basic level.

Tip: Don't make levels perfectly linear; add bonus areas or make multiple paths.

Oh, joy. The first contradictory. Well, the second section has a sort of nice ring to it, making it look like you're going directly into a castle after hitting the goal. Apart from that, nothing special.

Treacherous Tower

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What's interesting about this hack is that apparently not a single stage has an intro that disables bringing Yoshi. I took the liberty of figuring out later that if you ever clear a level with Yoshi, he doesn't accompany you on the stage maps. It's kind of like Donkey Kong Country, in which even if you clear a level with an animal buddy, that animal will not be present with you in any other level. Now, this level has an interesting twist to it for being the first of eight castles. If you find all five Yoshi Coins here, you have the privilege to backtrack all the way to the beginning of the level where you can go into a door that is blocked off unless you have all the Yoshi Coins. Inside, you can find a handful of coins, a 1-up that you have to grab quickly, and a Feather, which gives you early Cape power. Nice!

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Okay, now it's time to kick some butt! Here's Giant Spiny, the game's first boss! Basically, you have to dodge its spinning attacks and fireballs and hit with throw blocks that drop from the ceiling. Three hits and it's toast. My opinion? Kinda rough for a first boss because I found myself having to use save states and spin jumps quite a bit to avoid getting hit. Also, the throw blocks seemed to take a while to drop in at first.

Okay, overall World 1 is pretty basic for a starting world, nothing too difficult, but not exactly easy either. Aside from one graphic complaint, one dead-end level, and a couple of questionable timed limits, there's little to nothing that could be considered genuinely flawed. World 1 isn't so bad. It's the later worlds I'm worried about.

This means war, SMW Central!

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