Saturday, May 19, 2012

The Thunder Discusses An SMWC Production: World 2

 World 2

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Am I the only one who noticed Mario's unusual behavior in this cut scene, much less throughout most of the cut scenes?

One down, seven to go. At this rate, we'll have Peach's cake in no time.

SLIENCE! PEACH IS WAITING FOR...I mean, ah, er, uh, a trap? No, this couldn't possibly have been a trap.

All right. Let's get going. Though, shouldn't you have let her known where you were going before we took off?

Whatever, Mom.

Doesn't that kind of bug people? Believe it or not, I have seen in other fictional stuff where similar behaviors, shown by their main protagonists no less, leads these characters into becoming villains. You heard me.

There was Jaden Yuki from Yu-Gi-Oh! GX. He was so hell-bent on rescuing his friend Jesse that he went through leaps and bounds, practically ignoring his other friends around him, including his so-called best friend Syrus. In the aftermath, after they decided to abandon him, Jaden became the evil Supreme King.

Then there was Vakama from BIONICLE 3: Web of Shadows. He became overconfident right from the start of the movie's plot line and Matau eventually got all up in his face about it, pretty much blaming him for their Hordika condition. So Vakama struck out on his own, gets captured, meets Roodaka (very manipulative) and is eventually tempted into becoming a bad guy.

So now we got Mario not exactly acting 100% cheery, yelling at Luigi and getting a bit overconfident. I know, he probably wants those eggs really badly because Peach is his love interest and it's her birthday and all that, but really. Well, fortunately, we don't have to worry about seeing Mario's dark side or anything crazy because it actually doesn't happen. So let's just drop this for now and move on to the first level of World 2. Yipee.

Craggy Heights

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Okay, so we got these deluded enemies known as Cragnons which can't even be taken out, so they have to be avoided. Got no problem with that. Next we have the return of the Muths from Super Paper Mario, which actually function the way the Big Bully custom sprites do. Again, nothing too special, save for the fact that they're tring to push the player into dangerous terrain or off a cliff. But yeah, nothing out of the ordinary, right?

Hydro Hills

"It isn't actually all that wet."

Not all that wet, huh? Then why call it Hydro Hills? Oh well, moving on.

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It seems that if you haven't figured out you can spin jump off Torpedo Teds by now, you're pretty much screwed. Cause in this level, that's just what you gotta do. After the midway point, you go through this cave with more enemies around, but that's nothing too hard. It's just Buzzy Beetles, Spike Tops, more Koopas, Chargin' Chucks, and even one unnecessary Blargg. Actually, I don't know which perplexes me more - the placement of the Blargg, in which it can't even harm the player at all, or the graphics they chose for it, which makes it look like some lava crocodile or whatever it is. To be honest, it just looks like the Blargg was just put in randomly to show off its graphics. Not the way to go, SMW hackers.

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As for the secret exit, it's just too damn simple! Use the P-switch to free the key, bring the key into the cave, and get to the keyhole. Bingo.

Weeaboo Manor

Hoo friggin' doggy.

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This is one of the first real complicated levels. As a start, there are Anti Boo sprites that creep up to you while you look at them. The second section is much worse and a lot lengthier. Basically, you gotta use ON/OFF switches and carry items to find your way out of what could be the game's first hellhole. If you can actually make it to the exit, you'll create a shortcut to the castle. Big deal.

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And the secret exit? Surprise, surprise! It's cleverly hidden! Just before the door that leads to the ON/OFF nightmare room, two stacked coins are right in front of a wall, which you can actually jump through! Take the P-switch and bring it to the broken staircase, where if you hit it, the coins will point to another fake wall! Inside is a door that can only be exposed by the P-switch. You'll have nowhere to go, so just find the key and the keyhole and be done with this beast of a level.

Yellow Switch

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The secret exit of Weeaboo Manor leads to the first of the four switches, and boy is this such a simple level! Just get the Starman item, plow through the Pokeys, and hit the switch at the end of the level.

"Isn't that just grand?"

Flooded Crater

Oh, boy...

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Get this. Even the author of this hack's walkthrough (Vic Rattlehead, was it?) is starting to express negative things about this hack.

"Author's note: I hate when pipes are used for torpedo launchers"

Okay, it's not a completely grammatically correct statement, but still, it's a good note to make. I don't like Torpedo Teds coming out of pipes either. That's just got mass confusion written all over it! Not to mention, this isn't the only level in the game that does this! Aw geez, first we got dead-end levels on overworlds and submaps, now we got Torpedo Teds coming out of pipes! What is wrong with this group hack?! There's also a so-called bonus room with lots of coins, but there's also a group of enemies and in the end, you find yourself placed earlier in the level and you've all but wasted your time. Not cool, hack. Not. Cool.

P-Switch Peak

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You know that SMW Central has disassembles of original SMW sprites? Well, that must be exactly what is used in this level, disassembles of P-switches. Why is that? Because their time has been shortened and in Lunar Magic, they are identified as custom sprites. So you start this stage going left, pick up a hidden custom silver P-switch behind a bush, and carry it into a cave where you use it to get past some munchers guarding a custom blue P-switch. Okay, you now have two options at this point. You can either carry the blue P-switch all the way to the right and use it to get past the blocks that bar you from getting the midway point. Or, you can use it to get a trampoline. If you get the trampoline, you'll have no choice, but to use it to spring up where four coins are lined up into a bonus room. Either way, you'll reach the midway point, so the level continues. Yay. Eventually, you'll enter a cave where you once again have to use silver and blue P-switches to continue. Well, at least the level's aptly named. But there's a snag. Once you enter this cave, you can't go back, as apparently the pipe you come out of is a reset pipe, which... well... resets the puzzle you're in. Not that it's probably necessary because the puzzle seems simple enough if you get know the level. The silver P-switch is used to turn munchers on turn blocks into coins so you can hit them and bring down a custom blue P-switch. This in turn is used to get past some blocks so you can get to the end of the level. Yeah. Well, maybe the reset pipe is necessary after all, you know, in case a switch timer runs out and you somehow screw up.

Football Canyon

I thought Weeaboo Manor was crazy for a level, but it actually pales in comparison to this monstrosity! Football Canyon is such a long level, I'm actually gonna cover the secret exit on the way to the normal exit. Speaking of that, a lot of this hack's levels seem to do that. I know it's common for a hack, but yeah. I actually don't really despise long levels to be honest. But maybe it's because I'm used to using save states in just about every SMW hack I play.

Okay. Football Canyon. Here we go.

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The first thing you do here is expose an invisible coin block to get up a high wall where a Puntin' Chuck is. Okay, but there's no hints or anything that indicates you gotta do this. I mean, I don't think it's common knowledge for players to hug the wall and jump assuming there's gonna be some invisible block to give them a lift up, so this could have been exposed a little better. Next up, we have a trampoline guarded by a Pitchin' Chuck and a Chargin' Chuck. I'm gonna bet a few chips here that the level designers intended for a player to grab the trampoline and get past the Pitchin' Chuck somehow, but that doesn't really work, so it's better to take out the Pitchin' Chuck first. Later, there's a message advising you not to kill the Chargin' Chuck ahead. If you want the secret exit, then you'll have to follow this advice.

- Warning -
Don't harm that Chuck if you want to find the way to the sewers.
It'll help you to get through some obstacles.

The sewers? Hmm, that can only mean one thing, that this secret exit will eventually take you to the sewers that you had access to back in World 1. So these sewers are considered warp points in a way that serve as shortcuts leading to each of the worlds in this hack. So there's no Star Road or anything in this hack. That's actually quite original... well, at least for a hack. So I guess the more appropriate word for this is interesting. Back to the Chargin' Chuck, the reason not to kill him is... Wow, look at this! How many test plays did this puzzle take before it was completed? Look at it! And you gotta navigate Chuck through it! Okay, I just got one minor complaint about this. Right before the part where you trick Chuck into smashing all the turn blocks, it gets a little tight to squeeze through without taking a hit. But it's just a minor setback compared to what's coming in future levels. So if you can get Chuck to smash these turn blocks, you can then get the key. But hey, if you don't wanna waste your time playing this little game and you just wanna take him out just because, you know, that's cool too. Just keep in mind if you don't, it's no key for you. Either way, prepare yourself for a dreadfully long cave coming up.

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The next message block tells you of some apparent danger wherever bones are present. Better heed its warning because one misstep and... Whoa! It's a Sand Croc! From Cave Story! As a matter of fact, all of the custom sprites in this section are actually enemies from Cave Story! This whole cave is a cave story! *sigh* I really wish that joke wouldn't work. Anyways, to get the keyhole, stick to the low path beneath some strange custom blocks that prevent you from jumping up above them and you'll come across this...updraft. Wait...are these...what I think they are? Are these the elusive Wind Up Down blocks?! I've been dying to use these for my own hack! So you jump into this updraft and press down to lower yourself. If you end up reaching the top, there's no going below, so try not to. Stick to the low point and you'll eventually find another updraft that whisks you up to the keyhole. As for the normal exit, I almost don't wanna cover this because it gets a little tedious, but here we go anyway. In the next section, you end up lagging behind a Hothead, which gets boring. Next up, we're back with dealing with Cave Story enemies again. This next part gets really tricky. You have to bounce off an enemy to get up a ledge, squat and jump to grab a key, and move quickly before a Sand Croc snaps you up for plumber a la mode! Yeesh. Now, how many save states did this take me to accomplish? Either I can't remember or I lost track. This time, the key is used as a bridge to get across two munchers. *sigh* Why not just have one? Why do these level designers keep making tasks even harder than what they already are? Anyways, you then have to use a silver P-switch to get past munchers and grab a blue P-switch. Next, you have to trick a Sand Croc into popping up so you can use his head and get up a ledge where you can use the blue switch to get past more blocks. It's either that or hug the wall and jump to reveal an invisible coin block. Please don't tell me wall hugging is the only hint you get to revealing invisible coin blocks in this hack. Please! Now the next section is actually quite intriguing. As SMW hackers all know, floating and/or stacked munchers are an automatic no-no in any hack, so instead, we make graphics for them. In this case, it's Boos. Make your way to the Starman item and run across the Boos to the end of the section. Hey, what do you know, the Big Boos here have their original graphics intact! Once you get out of the section, it's straight on to the goal post from here. At last, we're done!

Swampland Passage

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I'm gonna take a stab that hex editing was used on the upside-down Piranha Plant sprite. While it obviously doesn't show in Lunar Magic, it does show in-game and apparently uses the same tile as the classic Piranha Plants. Nothing special, just something worth noting, which I discovered while using Lunar Magic to dive into this hack.

Since this is yet another straightforward level, I have no real objections to it, but one thing does stand out like a sore thumb. There's a goal point question sphere sprite at the end to make it look like Mario is leaving via a pipe. Okay, so they couldn't use a goal post in this level, but still, why not just have a goal post in a separate section?. The original Super Mario World did that quite a bit. Now this is what could be nitpicking coming from me. Anyways, clear this level, and you have access to the sewers from World 2! Bravo!

Grinder Castle

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By the way, I really don't like the Thwomp graphics used in this hack. They just don't really look like them, that's all. But enough of that, let's get down to Grinder Castle business. First off, there's some rather clever animation that tries to pass off as stationary Grinders. But even the message block states that a player cannot spin jump off them, so they're more of an annoyance than anything. Also, you have a choice to go to a whole shitload of trouble for a blue P-switch and when you finally find out what it's used for, guess what? There's practically nothing of value past the blocks that you use the switch on! Just a power-up and a multiple-coin block! That's it! This is so freakin' annoying! So, on to the last section. Who's up for a little game of 'Guide the Koopa'? Cause that's what you gotta do! You have to use ON/OFF switches to control Layer 2 foreground and get the Koopa to a point where you can borrow its shell and get past some turn blocks. My God, that's cheap! The first time I did this, by the time I figured it out, I had less than 100 seconds on the timer, so I was all but forced to die. So this is yet another level with a poor time limit, especially if the player stupidly decides to take a longer detour to get the P-switch with no apparent purpose. This is just crap, I tell you.

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Fortunately, to make up for all that, the boss of the second castle, Giant Monty Mole, is kind of easy. All you gotta jump on his noggin when he pokes out of a hole in the wall several times over and you win. Easy, right? Well, not easy as pie, mind you. You see, after a hit or two, he starts throwing rocks at your location, so you gotta start dodging. You can actually take out the rocks pretty easily too. Just jump on them. And after you beat him, you see a cool destruction sequence and the level is OWNED!

And with that, this review of World 2 comes to an end. Now, I gotta say, it did pick up the pace quite a bit, but there were a few points that could have been toned down here and there. Add on that two of the levels were hellishly long, which actually isn't worth complaining over as much levels that need longer time limits.

Tip: A good time limit is your average time + 100.

I seriously think there's more to this tip than just what it says. Generally, I think that by average time, it means how long it takes to explore every area of the level, not just the linear path. I'm gonna guess that for the most part of this hack, beta testers and level designers only created time limits based on durations spent in the level's linear area, in other words the main path. I know they don't expect us to dawdle or anything, but I don't think they expect us to explore the entirety of their levels either. This is a complaint I issued back in World 1 and it apparently exists in World 2 as well. Kinda makes you think what could possibly be waiting in the worlds ahead. Ugly graphics, limited time, megalomaniac puzzles, whatever there may be. Well, World 2 is done, World 3 is next. Oh, joy.

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