Friday, June 1, 2012

The Thunder Discusses An SMWC Production: World 5

 
World 5

Well, what do you know! World 5 doesn't actually start off with a cut scene. Then again, that may be because technically there are two entrances to the world (remember the secret exit from Zephyr Manor in World 4?) and it was completely possible to skip the castle of World 4. Not that it matters because I'm willing to bet the player is gonna somehow get all eight eggs anyway. Oh, and it seems that World 5 is a sky area... again. What do I mean by that, you ask? Well, don't you remember Super Mario Bros. 3 and the Super Demo World: The Legend Continues? Yep. They had sky levels in World 5 too. Now, I remember saying that while Worlds 2 and 3 had noticeable issues that could have been fixed, World 4 was actually relatively mediocre in comparison to them. So, could this be happening as the worlds go on? Well, let's find out.

Cotton Course

Hmm, kind of a good level name here, but World 5 doesn't seem to start out that promising, seeing as you apparently have to bounce off an enemy just to hit a question block with a power-up item in it. Yeah, I know, this is World 5, so the difficulty is starting to pick up, but surely we don't have to have anything too fancy, do we? When you meet up with the level's first Bob-omb, you notice a trail of coins leading upward and wherever it goes, it obvious that you can't just simply bounce off an enemy to get up that high. Guess what that means? That's right, you have to use Cape power to fly up there!

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...Oh wait, never mind. Guess you could always use this cloud instead.

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Oh, now this is interesting. You know how in Lunar Magic, it identifies these diagonal-shaped platforms as Carrot Top lifts? Well now look. The hackers actually turned these platforms into carrots. Ha, ha! This has got to be another joke reference. The rest of the level is pretty easy, with one minor exception.

"but one 1-second cloud under a downward facing green pipe can prove troublesome if you're on the left side of the pad. Try to be as far right as you can for this one."

Okay, for once, I'm not gonna blame the hackers for this. Even if it is mildly difficult, when you design a level like this, you should at least except that the player has a good sense of judgment before just waltzing on forward. So anyways, you duck under the pipes and clouds while riding these timed lifts with neat graphics that make them look like clouds, and then jump off before they fall and take you with them.

Atop the Clouds

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Cool! Albatoss bombers! These guys actually make the level genuinely interesting. But I guess having a custom generator for them would be too much, because there is none. Oh, and the second section is supposed to be this thunderhead area, but... wait... What's with the custom music? Wasn't it also used in Weeaboo Manor? Ghostly music for a thunderstorm? Really? I'll be honest, but from my point of view, that really doesn't mix so well. And to make things more interesting, the level designers threw in those lightning bolt sprites spawned by Sumo Brothers, which turn into columns of fire. Hmm... hmm, hmm, hmm... I dunno, there's some part of me that's saying this is just sugarcoated, but at least it's not boring. Oh, and if you see a question block on the ground, you know there's gotta be something in it. In this case, it's the key! So you have to take it to the next area and find the keyhole somewhere... And there it is! Right to the upper left of the Amazin' Flyin' Hammer Bro!

Wieza Niebo

What the crap? Wieza Niebo?! What the hell is that supposed to mean? Weird name... Did the hack creators run out of ideas and start using a bunch of random shit for names? Ah, forgive me, I don't know what it means. And the custom music? Sounds like some kind of Super Mario World castle remix or something, like what they did for the very first level of the game. Anyways, you'll find that you need a key to unlock a door, which is located in the pipe to the left, but you'll discover in the room that not only are there two Phanto sprites, but they spring to life and come at you for taking any carryable item! Geez, what is this hack coming to? You'll face this problem again later in the level, so the difficulty is as what you would expect from a World 5 level.

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Gee, it looks like those crocodile Blarggs are back and... Oh no, so are those God-awful Reggie Bills! I seriously don't get the joke with those things, they're really bizarre. But I what I do wanna point out is where one of the Blarggs was placed. It's too close to the diagonal lava, so when it rears up and snarls, you can see how weird the sprite bottom looks and then the Blargg disappears instantly just like that. They're supposed to do that when they disappear beneath the lava! That's why they shouldn't be too close to diagonal lava! The same section also has upside-down Piranha Plants coming out of the ceiling, which I really think is a bother to be quite honest and also... an Amazin' Flyin' Hammer Bro? Really? Now, what was the problem with having these guys near lava from an Underground tile set? What was it again?
Tip: Never put a Hammer Brothers Sprite near lava. After being killed, it will still throw hammers until it sinks or goes off-screen.

And then they went and did it, didn't they? Okay, so for some odd reason when it falls past this lava slope, it actually doesn't sink or anything. Maybe that's just a lava slope glitch. But seriously, you really don't wanna do this in your hack. If anything, An SMWC Production is not a hack to learn from, except of course from mistakes.

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And guess who's waiting for you at the end? It's the Big Boo boss sprite. All too easy. Sure, a lot of SMW hacks are probably gonna use this boss and try to spice up the battle by decorating the room with dangerous stuff, but in this case, it looks like the level designers didn't even try. There's just one additional Boo floating around and that's pretty much it. I have to wonder if any of the collaborative users who helped with this project were newbies and didn't know too much about SMW hacking. Then again, it's partially the moderators' faults that they actually accepted this what I sometimes tend to see as garbage.

Stratosphere Ride

Well, could it be that the creators finally decided to get serious with using Cape power to cheat? Maybe. Because in this level's first section, you can't fly. Period. But the "Ride" in this level actually refers to a series of line-guided platforms that have to be controlled with ON/OFF switches. And guess what? None of them are in the section that has disabled flight! Not a single one! No, they're in another section of the level where flight is not disabled! What's up with that? This is irony! Anyways, you might see a pair of switch blocks yellow and blue respectively, if you found and hit the switches that is. And look, it's a trail leading left with plenty of room to fly! Hackers, don't you know how easy it is to come to this level with Cape power? You did make it available at the Toad Town shop for what... only 500 coins? That's not all that steep of a price, except in the long run! So yeah, you can fly all the way to the left, or if for some stupid reason you don't have Cape power, you'll have to ride more platforms using ON/OFF switches. Well, the way to the left eventually helps you get the secret exit, which unlocks a level that creates a shortcut to the World 5 castle. Again, nothing special seeing that there's a shortcut in every world so far.

Nimbus Ascent

Now let's talk about the shortcut level. First we got another vertical scroll generator, but trying to collect stuff while going up is quite a chore because enemies are either falling on top of you or just plain getting in the way. And in the next section... I really don't know how any hacker can get away with both a scrolling screen and line-guided platforms. Also, I really don't think putting the goal at the end of a scrolling screen section is all that appealing. Horizontal levels should be ended properly, and by properly I mean that the camera should keep its focus by scrolling along with Mario up until the level blackens out around him. But hey, you know, whatever, that's just me. It's certainly not my problem if hackers wanna remove the game's aesthetics and such.

Pink 'n' Purple Path

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Now this level introduces us to the new graphics for Dino Rhino and Dino-Torch. Mm, I'd say I'm about lukewarm with them, but moving on. You know, I think I've come to realize just now that some of the custom generator sprites put in some of these levels are actually some kind of ceiling to prevent Caped Mario from flying off the screen. So, why couldn't this generator have been used towards the way to the secret exit back in Stratosphere Ride? It could have given players the incentive to ride the platforms instead of cheating. So this level has sort of a rosy palette to it. Big deal. You know there's a lot more to gaming than just simply stopping and staring at everything around you.
Tip: Even though good graphics may make people interested in your hack, what really counts is how fun it is to play.

What counts is how fun it is to play. Yeah, there's a tip these hack creators might have overlooked because a majority of this hack was anything but!

Snowflake Caverns

Now let's start covering the levels from the other entrance to World 5. Evidently, this one proves to actually be serious about getting its secret exit because it takes quite a bit of effort. Here are the generously given steps.
"1) Locate the springboard on a low platform after the first Bullet Bill launcher, use it to grab the blue p-switch above. 2) Move springboard left, under some brown blocks. 3) Take blue p-switch right, and use it on the blocks above the key. 4) Quickly rush left to the springboard, and clear out the coins before the p-switch runs out of time. 5) Take the blue p-switch from the area left, and bring it back to the key. 6) Hit the switch, grab the key, and rush to the right to the green pipe on the low part of the stage. If the p-switch runs out of time before the horizontal green pipe on the low end of the level, you're out of luck, you need to retry."

Okay, so supposing you succeed in doing this and for some idiotic reason you don't bring the key with you.

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See this? While in Lunar Magic, they had the secondary exit for this all mapped out and everything, they forgot to even put the exit in! There's no exit tile anywhere! In other words, if you somehow forget the key, you're a goner. Bad? Hell, yeah! This is a fatal flaw, a fatal mistake! My God, didn't the level designers even test this part? Now for the rest of the level. And as a start, we see that the poorly coded upside-down Buzzy Beetles are back. Also, just before the first door that takes you onward is something that suggests that their use of munchers is a bit overdone. So for the first section, there are already several things wrong - the upside-down Buzzy Beetles, including one that's out of camera range and drops in on you unexpected, the Layer 1 priority because of the Bullet Bill launchers, and of course the secret exit part purely because there's no exit from the section. The rest of the level really isn't any better, especially the green-colored area because that has a lot of tight spots.
"You're welcomed to feel confused. This is probably the toughest segment of the level, due to some tricky jumps."

"The steep slope isn't fun to deal with, it could cost you a few lives if you're big."

Okay, this makes it sound like the level designers expect you to die if you're not small Mario or something. Doesn't this contradict another one of SMW Central's grand, magnificent tips?
Tip: Test your levels as all forms of Mario.

I'm gonna guess that the beta testers either did not do this or somehow persuaded the moderators to allow this hellish section to be kept in. Chances are, I'm willing to bet that the SMW Central staff and moderators who actually make stuff just love tormenting the players. Sheesh.

Aero Skyline

While this level is simple enough for Super Mario World veterans, I kinda wish that the time limit was actually 400 seconds instead of 300. It may be somewhat short, but there's a lot going on that could slow a player down easily.

Peaks to Puffs

This is the easiest level by far to get a Cape power-up, even more so once you clear the level and you're able to press Start and Select to bail out.

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But... oh, ho! What's this? Now this, whatever it is, is way cool! This hack was nice enough to put in a little something anime-related, not that it makes up for all the faults I've encountered so far and with the prospect of even more in the later worlds. But it's still cool anyway. And there's a 3-up moon here. Now, I came back here a second time and I saw that the moon was gone, so I'm guessing that the hack creators decided to do some kind of hex editing with the game's .srm file that makes it so that once a moon is collected, it's no longer there throughout the remainder of the game. Hmm, okay, that's actually kind of reasonable.

Chateau of Storms
"If you expected anything other than p-switches and springboards, you need to stop being so optimistic, my friend!"

Excuse me?! I was never optimistic about this entire damn hack to begin with, my friend! Especially since Worlds 2 and 3 started visibly exposing stuff that could have easily been tampered with. Anyways, this level, for only a mere 500 seconds, has quite a lot of hidden stuff to find in order to get to both the normal and secret exit. So, I'm gonna say that a slightly longer and reasonable time limit such as maybe 600 seconds would have sufficed just fine. If the creators were worried about having over 400 seconds remaining when a level is cleared, then they could have inserted that patch that takes care of it. The hack already has some surprisingly good custom ASM in it already, so I don't see what would be so hard about it.

Red Switch

A vertical switch level? Why didn't I think of that? Okay, the only things I see out of place with this level are the reflecting fireballs maneuvering in tight spots because it's way too easy to get hit and the Piranha Plants coming out of the ground. What's interesting about this section is that it has exactly 30 coins and that is what's needed to get a 1-up out of the green star block. The final obstacle is a Sparky guarding a pipe, but because of the minimal space you have to jump up and into the pipe, the Sparky really shouldn't be there. It's just too tight. So you hit the Red Switch and make the red switch blocks visible. And you get a message advising you to save your coins. Well, you do want that spacesuit, don't you? That and preserving your power-ups may be necessary, like that's easy to do.

Palace Acropolis

Oh? Can it be? The Thwomps here have their original Super Mario World graphics! Hallelujah! But... holy cow! Look at those giant Thwomps! That and their graphics are not too shabby. You even get Yoshi in this level as well and you actually need him if you go one way! This level could be fun yet. It looks like this level has some kind of custom blocks that are only solid for a Yoshi (maybe any sprite, for that matter) to stand on. Now I think it was this level I was actually able to bring Yoshi all the way to the end, but I discovered that in a manner similar to Donkey Kong Country, Yoshi doesn't stick with you on the overworld map when you clear a level. Again, I'm pretty sure hex editing took care of that.

Sanctuary Fortress

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Ah, so here's our next cut scene! It looks like Mario, Luigi, and Toadsworth are just gonna barrel into this secret headquarters and start messing around like they have search warrants.

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Mario
Or Peach, for that matter. Let's get a move on. We already have half the eggs, and we're about to find another!

And just how do you think you did that if you decided to skip the castle of World 4?

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Wait a minute. Something's not right. Just getting to the boss was too easy and you have unlimited time in this level. Anyways, to defeat the Spider Guardian, you have to use a mechanism that operates with an ON/OFF switch. Toss a throw block up at the switch just before the little orb passes the middle of the upper track.
"This couldn't be simpler."

Hell, NO, it's not simple! The Spider Guardian is dropping bombs like every second, so you're dodging its one attack more than half the time!

Anyways, after the "easy" battle, you get to be Spiderman and you're now able to climb the magnetic tracks. Right. I'm sure you acquired this ability. But in actuality, the level was copied with Lunar Magic with the magnetic tracks now treated as vine tiles. Yeah, I'm a spoilsport, but anyone who has used Lunar Magic to an extent can figure this one out easily.

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So you use this magnetic ability that you totally acquired to get further in the level and after some snags and complications (probably nothing new in this hack by now), you'll arrive in the boss room where you challenge the Spider Guardian to a rematch. And what does the walkthrough say?
"This one is even easier, because you can easily hang on the far right side with a throw block and kick it up without worry of getting hit."

Is this guide trying to make me laugh? Because what it says is absolutely ridiculous! No, it's not easier, and no, you can't simply hang to your right and never get hit once, or at least you can't hope to. I mean, the Spider Guardian is dropping bombs every second! What do you think the odds are? But enough of that. You have to beat it pretty much the same way you did before, but now you have to give it three hits. Oh yes, this is totally easy. Let me tell you, it wasn't for me. And guess what? You're still not entirely done with World 5! There's still one more level to go!

To Land Much Below!

A post-boss level, huh? You know, I've got one myself for my own hack, but I guess this means I'm not the first hacker to do this. Maybe I never was, I dunno.

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Okay, this is gonna be the last cut scene for a while. Toadsworth thanks Mario and Luigi for their assistance and heads back to the Mushroom Kingdom while Mario boasts that he has only three more eggs to find.

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So we learn that Bowser is cooking up some kind of virtual reality project. What does it mean? Well, I know what it means, but I'm not gonna spoil things just yet. So let's get on with the last level of World 5.

Now I really don't like this level. Why? Because there are custom blocks here that set your timer to 20 seconds and your only chance of survival is touching more of them. That's pretty much the hardest part of this level and the last segment is actually a desert. It's sort of a sneak preview as to what the next world is gonna be. In this case, World 6 is a desert.

So World 5 is over, and believe it or not, like World 4, it's actually more mediocre than anything. World 1 started out fairly well with a few minor setbacks, Worlds 2 and 3 were basic shit and now Worlds 4 and 5 jump up to being somewhere in between. Now the story of the hack is original and creative, but the level design for a good part of the hack could have been way better and less frustrating. I know the worlds are supposed to pick up difficulty as they go along, but some of the levels have a cheap flow to them and could have been a lot better. Add that the boss here is also not a giant-sized enemy and we're probably wondering what kind of pattern is being used here. Okay, we're now halfway through the hack, having done five worlds out of ten, so I imagine this is the part where we're gonna hope it's not too late for improvement. Unless of course, you're like me and you wanna just fly through the levels when you're not hunting down the secret exits, then maybe it is too late, if anyone is getting fed up with this hack by now, that is.
 
This means war, SMW Central!

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