Friday, June 1, 2012

The Thunder Discusses An SMWC Production: World 6

World 6

You know, if there's one thing I admire about this hack so far, it's that the overworld map music uses four different tracks. This includes Worlds 1, 2, 6, and 7. Personally, I'd really like to know how the hackers did that. I know that SMW Central had some kind of program that allowed different areas of the overworld to have certain music, but I think it was some kind of prototype and of course required pointing to free space.

Now before I get started with World 6, there's a couple of things I'd like to point out. First of all, the next two worlds don't really seem to have shortcuts despite still having two paths that lead to their castles. And second, you remember that back in World 4, I mentioned it was possible to skip the castle there? Well, guess what. It's the same deal for World 6! That's right, you get to skip this castle as well! Now I really have to wonder how Mario's gonna get all eight eggs if he keeps skipping castles like this. I'm telling you, it's an overworld event being cleared that allows you to enter Peach's castle and acquire the spacesuit in Toad Town. No eggs about it! Well, let's get started and pray to God this world is at least nothing short of mediocre. Here we go.

Dark Desert Night

"This is a nighttime level. Since the Sanctuary Fortress also went from day to night, and To Land Much Below! was daytime, doesn't this mean Mario is already late to deliver Peach's cake?"

Well, Vicky, let's backtrack for a minute, shall we?

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Is it? Is it? IT IS! Peach's birthday is tomorrow! And I remembered everything for the cake but the eggs!

He said TOMORROW!! That means he still has a whole day left to do the job! Man, where are your priorities?! Well, at least I can give the hackers props for checking their sources before just randomly tossing in a date for Peach's birthday. Because it is surmised to be September 13th.

Back to the level, apparently it seems to be nothing short of making up for all the chaos and hell you've endured for the past two worlds, as it's pretty straightforward from the beginning to the goal. All the enemies in the level are nothing new to Super Mario World levels, so... again, I can't believe I'm saying this, but... I don't have any complaints about this level. Not one. As for the secret exit, that's pretty easy too, at least in comparison to previous levels. All you gotta do is stick to the bottommost path to get the key and then backtrack to the highest path towards the start of the level where the keyhole is.

Buried Graveyard

The level really isn't all that dark, but I for one really dislike the custom music that was picked out. I know it was supposed to be spooky, but it's more like something that can make my ears bleed. Anyways, to get to the midway point here, you need P-switches of both colors and a shell to do random things to create the path, but you have Cape power you can skip out on that. Okay, now here's my first complaint about World 6. On your way to the midway point, you have to jump over some spikes, but the ceiling is only two 16x16 squares about the set of floor spikes! There's almost little to no chance of getting over without taking a hit if you're not small Mario! That's unfair game play! If the ceiling was up one more notch, that would have cut it. After the midway point, it's straightforward from there to the end of the level! You think there would be another setup or something. Now it's like, if you can reach the midway point, you're pretty much done with the level! What's the point?

Lakitu's Lag00n

Ugh... Why can't they just spell 'lagoon' properly instead of making another reference to Internet language.
Tip: Unique level names aren't necessary, but they're a plus.

*sigh* Whatever.

Hmm, aquatic pipe dwelling Lakitus, huh? Well... I actually can't really complain about them because they're not too different from pipe dwelling Lakitus behind walls as seen in the hack Super Demo World: The Legend Continues. This level also has some kind of sand blocks apparently, in which you pick them up and they dissolve. It's a nice touch, but in personal opinion, I really don't like their graphics all that much. They look like clumps instead of just whole sand like in Super Mario Bros. 2. I would have preferred that, but maybe it's just me nitpicking. Getting the secret exit is a bit more serious than in Dark Desert Night. When you hit the P-switch to turn the blocks into coins, you have to keep going and fast to get to an unblocked green pipe. The key is down there and to reach the keyhole, you have to be big in order to break through some turn blocks and expose a vine. But again, most of this can be avoided with Cape power.

Mostly Dead Desert

Okay, I'm cool with having many of the enemies use skull graphics, but what I'm not cool with is how the skulls were designed.
Tip: Original ExGFX are much more impressive than those imported from other games.

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I honestly have to say that more often than not, this isn't the case. Take a look at the skulls in this level. They're flat, they're boring, and they hardly have any real effort put into them. I swear, the hackers didn't even try. The skulls might have been a lot more impressive if they had more shades than just black and white. And the secret exit? Too easy. The keyhole isn't even blocked off or anything and the level designers apparently thought they could pass it off by putting a Thwomp that close. Nice try. Actually, it wasn't even trying. The level design itself is sort of mediocre, but not really more than okay, but the graphics for the skulls are lame. They could have been designed a whole lot better.

Sand Castle of Doom

Again, like Dark Desert Night, the level's normal exit is straightforward. The only thing harder than usual is trying to hop from bone to bone while trying not to land on the munchers. The Volcano Lotus plants do not help either. But again, with Cape power, no fear. But the secret exit...
"Arrrrrrgh, this exit."

Uh-oh, sounds pretty bad. Well, when you find out where the key is, you'll find it's on a conveyor rope and you have to wait for it by moving slowly along with it. Pretty tedious. Once you have it, then you just have to figure a few things out and find where the keyhole is located.

The Counterfort

Now this is an interesting level. You have to go up to get to the normal exit and down to get to the secret exit. But there is one part where you get a blue Yoshi and you have to fly through the section. I'm not sure if this should be considered cheap, but at the end, things get really frustrating. If Mario is big, you have to duck under two 16x16 solid blocks and you get very little space to build up sliding momentum. Big complaint right here, folks. It's like you almost have to be small Mario to continue. I'm telling you, I seriously think the hackers really didn't do a good job with this. I'll even bet my chips they didn't even test half of things they did. Boom-Boom is at the end, so just beat him up like you would in Super Mario Bros. 3. You know, I thought things were bad when SMW Central declared that the homing Thwomp custom sprite being used a boss was overly used and redundant. Next thing you know, it's gonna be Boom-Boom. Just sad.

Hidden Oasis

Hidden Oasis? In this level, it's more like hidden shit.

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This is like the only good thing in the level. See those coins? There are invisible coin blocks above them. About time! We finally get a more solid hint! No wall hugging!

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"Observe the 3-up moon in the wall teasing you."

Okay, I'm really gonna go out on a limb here. I know you don't want to make 3-up moons easy to get, but do these hackers have to keep on sticking things in places they know the players can't get to? Really? Look, it's bad enough that SMW Central in general has lazy staff members, maybe even corrupt, but do they have to be part of something that enjoys torturing players? Don't they know that non-users might play this hack too? What kind of impression does this give? That SMW Central is not the most encouraging community? It certainly seems that way with what they're taking advantage of.

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And just look at what the water is sitting on top of! Ugh. Just... ugh. Why couldn't they just have their old friends the grey cement blocks instead? They gave them square edges because they're great nitpickers, but they do this instead? Puh-lease! Oh, and after all this trouble, the normal exit just takes you back to the first level. So this level is only good towards getting all 117 exits.

Cactus Cavern

If there's one thing bad about this level, it's that you have to wait around for almost every Pokey in the level to move out of your way. It's time-consuming and it's boring. I mean, the hackers do know that these Pokeys live up to their name, so it takes time for them to get going. And you have a time limit! There's also a horizontal pipe with ends on both sides, but the right end actually has a level exit! Now maybe it's my turn to be redundant, but that's just weird. Why not remove the pipe's left end and have a wall instead? Or just use a vertical pipe? I mean, there are turn blocks covering up the right end, so it's obvious there's an exit there, right? And this isn't the only time we see that! The pipe at the end of the level is also double-ended and its exit doesn't even take you to the other side! Why couldn't the level designers just bring the wall down so it looks like two separate pipes? I know it's probably unnecessary, but in terms of aesthetics, it's a little unpleasant.

Arbiter's Grounds

Here it is, the sixth castle in the game, and if the custom music doesn't possibly drop a hint as to who the next custom boss might be, I don't know what will. So you play through this level normally, dealing with practically nothing unusual because at this point, there's hardly anything this hack can introduce you to as far as level designing is concerned. But then you find stuff that shouldn't be there. Then we have a problem.

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Here's the first. Okay, so we got a custom Ptooie sprite stuck in a block. Okay, SMW Central, I get it. You're sick of us taking out your prized custom sprites because it makes the level easier, right? WRONG! Did you or did you not design the foreground of the level? What do you think that is? If you're so concerned about your precious sprites, why do you need to stick them in blocks or walls? The only concern this really raises is that you have to come back this way quickly after hitting a P-switch block and you have only a few seconds to collect the coins before they turn back into blocks. Chances are you'll stumble on the Ptooie's little toy and get distracted. Why not just have a pipe showing the Ptooie and put some blocks over it? This hack doesn't even use level optimization (I know it probably didn't exist back when this hack was in production). Are you level designers really that lazy?

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Oh, now this is interesting. Squawks is here, all the way from Donkey Kong Island. I got a little worried when I started flying up because the camera wouldn't budge and once I did, there was the good ol' vertical scroll generator, to the rescue! So, any issues here? Yes, I can name one.

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So these Bullet Bills are being shot from pipes. Okay, I have no trouble with that for the most part. But the real deal is using a standard Bullet Bill shooter for places where clearly Bullet Bills can be seen firing in both directions. I don't care what anyone says about me on this because this little issue just looks plain awkward. Two things can be done about this. One, put in a proper graphic instead, or two, insert a custom Bullet Bill shooter that fires in one direction. The latter is certainly questionable as to why it wasn't used. Why? Because they've been available on SMW Central for like the longest time! They're like basic shooters! What's the matter?! Why were they not used? Did this hack finally run out of room for custom sprites much less shooters? Okay, enough of this, it's time to get on with the big, bad boss.

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Look, it's Tutankoopa from Paper Mario!
"This is actually one of the easiest bosses in the whole hack, but he has high stamina."

So is this guy actually easy? Hell, yeah! He's definitely easier than that awful Spider Guardian, that's for sure! But what really makes him easy is that you have the power to stop him from attacking, by stepping on his head! Okay, so Tutankoopa attacks with a Buzzy Beetle shell, a Chomp, and rocks up in the ceiling, just like his original self. He'll cycle through attacks randomly, but again, you pretty much get to pick. When he attacks you with rocks, you have to get under him so that the rocks hit him on the head, knocking him down, and then you can stomp on him to actually damage him. After 10 hits, he's ancient history, and you get to hit him from about three to four hits in succession if you're lucky. And that's that for World 6!

So, what did I make of this? Well, there were some things wrong with it, but then again, this was just about present in every world so far. That old issue from World 4 in which you get to skip a castle returns, so it's obvious that these eight eggs aren't really items or anything stored in an inventory interface or anything. It's just gonna be this one overworld event that when passed will grant you access to Peach's castle and the end of the game as well as give you the ability to buy the expensive spacesuit, whatever the hell it does. So what was bad in this world? Let's see... In Buried Graveyard, we have awful music, badly placed spikes just before the midway point, and the lack of relevance for even having a midway point. In Lakitu's Lag00n, the sand blocks are not aesthetically appealing. For Mostly Dead Desert, crappy skull graphics. The Counterfort has that point where you have to slide and duck and hardly have the space to slide, and it isn't even an icy level. Hidden Oasis has misplaced foreground and the placement of its 3-up moon is capable of driving players mentally insane. In Cactus Cavern, anyone can lose their patience. And in Arbiter's Grounds, we just have a few things out of place. Okay, so while Worlds 4 and 5 went from the barbaric shit that was Worlds 2 and 3 to simply nothing less than mediocre, now it seems that with World 6, that apathy is starting to lose its grip. And like all the other worlds, changes could have been made to make things more pleasing and somewhat less frustrating. Because as it is now, it's still extremely tricky to get through this hack in one piece without the use of save states, which if relied on could be a bad impression depending on a player's point of view. Well, six worlds down, four to go. And with crap stuff beginning to return, it really makes me worry what's in store for World 7. A water world, is it? Oh, man. What could possibly make these kinds of levels worse? I have a feeling I'm about to find out.
This means war, SMW Central!

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