Thursday, May 24, 2012

The Thunder Discusses An SMWC Production: World 3

World 3

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I've come to notice that for the past two worlds, there have been shortcuts through finding secret exits that skip about half of each world's levels and go straight to its castle. Now, it is said that shortcuts exist in hacks for the possible purpose of what is called speed runs, which is, in a nutshell, a quick play through. Not a bad idea, considering all the hell you'd probably end up going through. But while the past two shortcut levels had it easy, the one in this world is absolutely, ridiculously tedious! So to waste less of my time on this, I'm gonna do less explaining of how to actually do the levels, like Weeaboo Manor from the last world, and more on actually discussing what's in the levels and of course what's wrong with them. Is there anything wrong with World 3? Oh yes. Definitely. So let's get this over with.

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We start with yet another cut scene in which Mario learns through Peach texting him that Toadsworth is missing. That's actually quite odd, considering that Peach is clearly at her castle and Toadsworth is the kind of guy who wouldn't leave her side for a minute being the overly worried steward that he is. Luigi then concludes that Toadsworth left some time before they did because Mario had been sleeping in. And the only thing they know? Toadsworth had gone north of the Mushroom Kingdom before he went missing, so they think they might find him in wherever they are. Now since I played through the whole hack, I obviously know what all this eventually leads to, but since it's a spoiler (possibly irrelevant because this hack is old now), I'm gonna be Mr. Nice Guy and not tell. But I will say this much and tag a spoiler to it to be safe.

WARNING! SPOILERS!  This post contains spoilers regarding the Super Mario World hack "An SMWC Production".  View at your own risk, or try not to look for that matter, if you want to play the hack and find out for yourself what happens.

Mario and Luigi do find Toadsworth, but not till the beginning of World 4.

Now then, let's move on to World 3's levels.

Underground Falls

You know, I actually don't know what bigger level tiles represent to be honest. Sometimes I think they point out that the level is longer, but there's plenty of stuff in this hack to prove otherwise, so I'm just gonna ignore this altogether and talk about the level itself. Well, what do you know! Quicksand blocks! I have to admit, they've always made hacks more interesting since their existences in Super Mario Bros. 3 and I guess I can't imagine for the life of me what the excuse was for not including them in Super Mario World. But never mind that.

"The biggest troublemaker is right at the start, just wait for the football kicker to launch his ammo, then take him out and move on."

The only "trouble" I see with this is that the level designers apparently chose to stick a ramp against the wall that leads smack into this Puntin' Chuck. And there's no straight ground leading to the ramp, only slopes. Jeez, what's the point of all this? This is sheer redundancy! The ramp is totally unnecessary. And the only reason for the Puntin' Chuck to actually give you any trouble is because you're trying to go up a slope and jump up to have to bop him on the head. Biggest trouble in the level? Nope. I don't think so.

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Okay, now we're swimming through waterfalls. Well, considering this was technically done in Super Mario Bros. 3, it's really not worth a fuss.

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But here's something that might be worth a complaint as far as aesthetics go. We have Spike Tops acting like muncher tiles. This means that these gray Spike Tops are not sprites at all. They're objects. Call me a nitpicker, but I really don't think there's any worth in this. I know hacks might wanna show off and decorate things a bit instead of possibly boring players to death with the same old shit from Super Mario World. Oh, and notice those coins pointing down to that quicksand pit. They only appear when a P-switch is it and the coins obviously indicate that there's something in that pit. And there is. Lo and behold, it's the secret exit! Of course, the P-switch is completely unnecessary. All it does is point out the way to go, that is if you're not using Lunar Magic to cheat, which I ended up doing because many of the later levels were ridiculous to solve on my own. But here's what bugs me. The teleport blocks below this quicksand pit leading to the secret exit were placed individually instead of a group. That's just crazy! They were all the same Map 16 tile, so why didn't the level designers just expand one block instead of shoving in three? That doesn't make any sense. But moving on now, so we come to a second ramp. This time, it's more worthy because you have to run up the wall, but unfortunately, there's a good chance of running smack into a Clappin' Chuck at the top. Kinda sloppy, really. I seriously think the staff members and moderators were slacking off, I really do. The Spike Top statues are annoying enough.

"Sand in ya shoes!"

Sorry, pal, but even humor isn't gonna cut it here.

Cave of Lost Pride

Oh. My. Freaking. God. I almost don't wanna discuss this level, it's so long and dreary.

"You might lose your sanity, too!"

Hell, yeah! I mean, look at this level! There are objects that look like enemies, multiple paths, sideways vines (I don't care for the reasons they're there, they just shouldn't be), ON/OFF blocks, spikes, munchers, twists and turns... Where do I even begin?

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Now, I know that at SMW Central, users continually joke about munchers, having them do what Cookie Monster from Sesame Street does whenever he gobbles down a cookie. And look! The animation is making the munchers even say it! It's like a nod to their little joke! Oh, and... what's this? What's this? Munchers on the ends of vines?! Good. Lord. I don't believe it! This hack is so over! You know what munchers on the end of vines do to any hack? It turns it into a kaizo hack! Is that what the creators wanted? A kaizo hack?! This is... this is like... difficult incarnate! Man, just looking at this level again even in Lunar Magic is just making me lose all desire to go on with this level, so I'm just gonna stop here. So... good luck getting through this level in one piece. If you do, you create a shortcut to the castle of World 3. Is it worth it? Hmm, I dunno... You decide.

Unearthly Hollow

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I'm gonna be brutally honest here, if I haven't been already, but I really don't like the setup of this level. It's really confusing more than anything. The trees are objects that are passable, but it took me a while to figure out that I could stand on top of tree branches. Really, I have to be harsh with this one. The layout and design is not good. It's gonna boggle people's minds. Seriously. And then there's the ghost house structure in the middle of the level.

"Here, the background and foreground sort of blend in to eachother, so watch your step."

Well spoken. Hackers, way to make a hack more complicated than it already is. I don't know about you, but I really could do without foreground and background that look strikingly similar to each other. It's bad enough already trying to figure out what to do in the level, especially in later worlds where you don't even get any real hints.

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To get the secret exit, I had to bring two trampolines to designated areas of the level where I needed them. And only just now I learned that using the so-called reset pipe while carrying one was also an option. Didn't even think about that.

Mining Outpost

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Now this level wouldn't be so bad if wasn't for the absolutely crude custom Thwomp sprite and the poorly designed section to go with it! The Thwomp pretty much follows you around and tries to crush you from above. One thing that really sucks about the section is that these outlined blocks are actually solid, and yet the Thwomp goes right through them. Okay, seriously, if you're gonna make a block act solid, even for only Mario, then make it look solid.

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Remember those Goomba blocks from Super Demo World: The Legend Continues? They didn't look that bad and they gave players the impression that enemies could just waltz right through them while Mario couldn't. No such hints with the ore-crushing Thwomp. So why couldn't the level designers just create a Goomba block or something more decent than those outlined blocks? Well, it actually doesn't matter because this section was difficult enough without them.

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And getting the secret exit is no easier. Well, getting to the section that leads to it is relatively simple, but getting through the section itself is a nightmare.

"It's the Hellivator."

Definitely yes. As impressive as it is to use the vertical scroll custom generator, it's still not pretty trying to get through. You end up having to dodge two Grinders and two Thwimps as you ride what only looks like an elevator upward. Things get really hairy when the Thwimps drop in, but if you manage to survive, the secret exit is yours for the taking. Good job. You actually survived.

Switch of Many Hues

Really? Switch of Many Hues?

"Many switches of many hues, but the one you want is big and blue."

Then why not just call this level Blue Switch?

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Apparently it's because there are these colored switches that make respectively colored blocks solid or passable and you have to use this to your advantage somehow. The Fuzzy graphics look really bizarre here, almost to the point where you can no longer tell what kind of enemy it's supposed to be, and the one thing wrong with that is that if you don't know what the enemy is, you don't know what it does and you have to figure it out. Geez, isn't this hack difficult enough already? Apparently not, because in the next section you have to use the colored switches to get a Fuzzy across the room just so you can spin jump off it to reach the door. This of course was extremely complicated for me, so I don't even wanna discuss it. Anyways, if you can get past all this shit, the Blue Switch is yours for the stomping.

Danger Mines

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For the record, I'd say I was more disturbed about this level's improper entrance than most of it being in black and white.

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Look at this. With Mario's starting position coming only halfway out of the pipe, it's insanely obvious that the level entrance is now considered improper. And moderators actually allowed this? Aren't they supposed to be these extreme nitpickers, hell even like the Guardians of the Universe from Green Lantern? Now they're just opening the doors to allow all the level errors they like? This is just crap! Oh, but don't worry. It gets worse from here. In a section that's not black and white, but all fiery, there's a sprite command with a setting that should never, EVER be used - a Fast Auto-Scroll. Put plainly and simply (and I don't give a damn what the hell the circumstance is), this kind of sprite is not meant to be used in any hack at all. But guess what? Hack, you've gone and done it now. You used this sprite command, which is more than capable of ruining this hack if it hasn't reached that point already. So what is this, hackers? Every staff member and moderator on SMW Central is extremely nitpicking about even the smallest cutoffs, and it's bad enough that they're probably going around saying, "We're in charge of SMW Central and we can do what we please" like the corrupt users they usually are, but now they've decided to ultimately slack off by not even bothering to fix a simple improper level entrance and abusing a sprite command thinking they can get away with it? I don't believe this. It's absolutely exasperating.

Tip: Use palettes that don't sear the eyes. A blazing bright yellow and a night-black are not eye-pleasing.

Hmm... Well, I wouldn't say this section completely contradicts this tip. I mean, my eyes didn't really burn trying to get through it or anything.

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The Blargg graphics are back (I don't know why they look like that, so don't ask) and now we have classic Piranha Plants coming out of lava. Now this wouldn't be a bad thing if the lava wasn't crooked. Again, call me a nitpicker who contradicts, but Piranha Plants coming out of lava look better if the lava is nice and smooth instead of jittery like we would expect it when riding the skull sprites. I'll accept the fact that Mario has to be big in order to reach the secret exit because it involves destroying a turn block with a simple spin jump, though. That's about the only real decent thing about this level. That and the secret exit leads back to the sewers for the convenience of getting back to Toad Town in a hurry in case you need to do some shopping.

Buzzy Bridge

"A nice, simple one exit level."

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Yeah, it's kind of like a breather after dealing with all the insanity World 3 had to offer. In fact, the only complaints I have about this level are the upside-down Buzzy Beetle sprites. Really, they're not all that good. They fall rather slowly and whenever they hit Mario, they temporarily vanish. All this amazing custom boss stuff and they can't make a proper upside-down Buzzy Beetle. It even turns into a regular Buzzy Beetle when it lands instead of spinning in its shell! Typical.

Oh Man! It's Hell!

"One of the most item grab-happy levels in the hack, fortunately it is really easy to find what you need, if you just pay attention to coin formations, and jump at impossibly high walls, you'll almost always find the invisible blocks needed to reach the items."

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Hey, wait a minute. Didn't I already file a complaint about hugging walls just to make invisible blocks appear? Those are not obvious hints! What part of that do these level designers not understand?

Sinister Dungeon

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This level actually starts off pretty good at first, but then in the next section, the level lives up to its name. Now we have a problem. See what happens is that throughout pretty much the remainder of the level, Mario's controls will be reversed every few seconds and then go back to normal. Now if the status of Mario's controls would just make up its mind, it wouldn't be so problematic. Like there's one level in the currently incomplete hack known as Brutal Mario in which Mario's controls are reversed throughout the level and they don't change back to normal or anything. Nothing the ZSNES can't go around. Maybe that's why the controls are constantly flipping here. Anyway, it's pretty obnoxious to deal with.

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What's this? Another giant-sized enemy that thinks it can pass itself off as a boss? Well, this one's pretty nicely made actually. To damage Giant Green Koopa, you pretty much have to keep stomping on its head. However, whenever he slams into a wall or slams the ground, he can stun you, in which he gets enough time to ram you for damage. After enough hits, he'll spring into the air and come down on you along with four regular green Koopas, which are more of a nuisance than anything. When you hit him for the final time, he will attempt a suicide attack by charging at you straight into the wall. You win.

But this hack certainly doesn't win and World 3 is just the beginning of all the things that can prove my words. This world has inaccurate level entrances, sprites that should never exist, confusion as to where anything is, kaizo references, issues from previous worlds, and of course overly difficult sections. I'd say World 3 alone contradicted quite a few of SMW Central's tips.

Tip: Make your levels increase in difficulty as you go up.
Tip: Try to make a hack that is both hard enough to be challenging and easy enough to be fun.
Tip: There's a fine line between difficult and unfair. Avoid the latter.
Tip: Fix any errors you see before any demos; "I'll fix it later" isn't a good excuse.
Tip: Make secret exits hard to find. Don't just give all the secrets away.

The last tip seems to be contradicted quite a bit, as throughout the first series of levels, pathways to secrets were put where it became insanely obvious to the player that the secret exit was right there. In the later levels, I ended up looking through Lunar Magic just to find them because at that point I was getting fed up with the difficulty curve of the hack in general. So overall, World 3 is where the hack problems really start to be noticeable. As an art school student having taken a Game Design class already, I'll say this much. I seriously think hackers need to start thinking about what makes a good game instead of just what makes a good hack. And I mean really, because there is such a difference. Well, now that this beast of a world is all done, World 4 is next on my list. Are we to expect similar problems that World 3 had the pleasure of introducing us to? You bet we are! And of course, that's not a good thing.

This means war, SMW Central!

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