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“But in addition the war is mine because by the sole fact that it arises in a situation which I cause to be and that I can discover it there only by engaging myself for or against it, I can no longer distinguish at present the choice which I make of the war.  To live this war is to choose myself through it and to choose it through choice of myself.”

                                                - Jean-Paul Sartre

 

This page is founded on two assumptions:

            1)  That anyone can master the rules and techniques needed to succeed, and

            2)  Super Mario Brothers is life.

Based on these maxims, this page will attempt not only to synthesize and amalgamate the existing material pertaining to the subject, but also to bring to light new, previously unknown facts and methods.  It will be argued that these methods can lead to a completely new conception of the task at hand, and thereby can improve on existing methodology manyfold.  It is the author's view that these new findings cannot be ignored, and will have a deep and profound impact on anyone who is truly interested in the subject-- that is, life in general.

 

We should begin with some basic definitions and terminology.  The key to winning Super Mario Brothers cleanly and efficiently is largely in the details.  Any fool can pull in times under 10 minutes, but only a true master can hone their skills to under the 7-minute, perhaps even 6:30 mark.  Such achievements require strict practice regimens and singular concentration.  The pages that follow will outline and delve into the specifics of the practices the very best of us use.

 

Definitions:

            1)  Fire Mario:  this is the only Mario that matters.  All other forms of Mario are substandard, only larval forms leading up to the fully realized Fire Mario, in much the same way as humans in general go through many stages-- sometimes almost wholly disparate except for the general outline-- in order to reach the final, enlightened being.  Note that the Tao of Mario would then validate the notion of radical change, suggesting that Satre may have influenced, if not actually programmed, the game.  As Immanuel Kant put it, "The simple consciousness is not, therefore, knowledge of the simple nature of the self as subject, such as might enable us to distinguish it from matter, as from a composite being."  Without Fire Mario, winning the game becomes a matter of chance and circumstance; those who win the game with inferior Marios are only paltry copies of the real thing.  Fire Mario's fireballs put him miles ahead of any other possible life form in Super Mario World, and it is the fireball that, in the end, will decide the battle with Bowser.  Note that this is not always true.

 

            2)  Corner jump:  the corner jump is second in importance only to Fire Mario.  Developed in the 1980's simultaneously and independently by many teenagers and honed to perfection by the author, the corner jump (aka the "double jump," an inferior term common among the unenlightened) is the tool that permits the player to retain momentum even when confronted with large obstacles.  The corner jump is in striking contrast to the long jump, which is easily achieved by untrained monkeys:  rather than crushing and holding the A button with Neandrathalian strong-arm tactics, instead a nimble tap is applied, producing shorter, quicker jumps.  The corner jump falls into this variety-- when ascending, say, the final staircase at the conclusion of a level, the player hops quickly to the corner (hence the name) of the third or fourth step, then quickly jumps again to clear the obstacle without losing momentum.  This is infinitely better than a clumsy long jump, which nearly always results in a collision between Mario and an obstacle, resulting in loss of speed.  Note that the next level, the triple jump, is possible, but is beyond the scope of this document, and perhaps may be added in further revisions.

 

            3)  Time:  time is perhaps the oldest creation in the known universe.  Throughout history time has played a central role, and in the realm of Mario– that is, in reality– its importance is just as great. Time was incorporated into video games since the very beginning, and has remained a cornerstore in most mainstream creations.  In Super Mario Brothers, we will have two concepts of time:  game time and real time.  The difference between the two is apparent if one watches the timer in the game, at the upper right-hand corner of the screen.  This counter not only counts in nonstandard time-- that is, it is not arranged into seconds, 60-second minutes and 60-minute hours-- but the units of time are also substantially shorter in duration than those we are familiar with.  The game here is drawing analogy between conformist time scales and Euclidian geometry, a system that was considered unquestionable for some number of centuries before finally its reign was toppled by Riemann, and later decapitated by Einstein and his followers.  The game poses the question: Why do we insist on placing the world in a stencil, the stencil of standard time?  Why have we come to rely so heavily on such an artificial construction as the time quanta?  Few have the audacity to propose that time is not continuous, and  yet we take this fact for granted in every so-called second of our lives.  The game, by playing by different rules, shows that the second is an arbitrary measure, and by challenging its reign destroys it.  Some players find this difficult to become accustomed to, and indeed, and only after many hours of immersion in the game can "feel" game time, against the insistent pull of the status quo.  However, for the purposes of this website, game time is relatively unimportant.  For us, real time is the stick with which we shall measure our achievements.  Thus we should lay out the rules for timing a game:  the clock should be started at the time the "Start" button is pushed at the Player 1/Player 2 screen, and should be stopped once the player reaches the ax behind Bowser.  This is the Official Time.

 

With these definitions in mind, we can now proceed to the actual playing of the game– or, as I have taken to calling it, the Game.  The rest of this page will be devoted to the actual playing of the Game, proceeding in a logical level-by-level order.  Before that, however, some time should be devoted to considering the mindset in which one approaches the task at hand.  Too many aspiring young prospects pick up the Nintendo controller, so masterfully and lovingly designed by the genius Shigeru Miyamoto, with an attitude of ambition and haste that produces feelings of frustration and mental asphyxiation after only a few attempts, precluding all possibility of success.  These youths believe that they can conquer the world quickly, and when confronted with cold reality, throw up their hands in acquiescence.  Such is the state of the world today.  Like newborn babes in the Garden of Eden they are, ignorant of the trials and tribulations of life, ready for anything except that age-old requirement:  devotion.  Diligence.  Courage in the face of an obstacle.  In this day and age, where media, television and, yes, society itself promotes an attitude of impatience and advertises instant gratification, many fail to appreciate the pleasure of, at long last, coming to the goal of a lifelong quest, or even the euphoria that comes with continual pursual of a goal, even a perhaps unattainable one.  Was it not great Neitzsche himself who suggested– nay, asserted– that it was the pursuit of a goal, rather than the attainment of that holy thing, that generates life?  In the cockles of their hearts the misguided know this, and yet run from it like teardrops from an overexcited Mallo, hiding in the darkness of their own ignorance.  In light of this, our current project becomes even more important-- nothing short of a humanitarian goal, a point of personal pride.  In gaining the skill we here discuss, one can join the ranks of the all the great thinkers and leaders in our country's, our world's great lineage that worked at a grand task, crafted a scintillating success out of cold, lifeless nothing, or changed the course of history forever.  Those who complete the jouney ahead should be filled with an inspirational content, that obstacles can be overcome as easily as a level-ending stairstep by a corner jump, that one's dreams are as close as the color-shifting ax shining behind Bowser, that evil can be quashed as easily as a Goomba under Mario's mighty feet, if only one lets the very engine that drives us lay silent.  Was it not Confucius who said, “A gentleman gives the first place to Right.  If a gentleman has courage but neglects Right, he becomes turbulent.  If a small man has courage but neglects Right, he becomes a thief”?  Then let us embark.

 

Level 1-1:

            Although this is, without question, the easiest of the levels you will encounter, in a sense it is one of the most important-- the beginning of our rejuventating passage.  Beginnings can be as important as endings, and so you must take care to begin with a clear mind.  Descartes’ First Rule for the Direction of our Native Intelligence, after all, was “to direct the mind with a view to forming true and sound judgments about whatever comes before it,” and we shall follow it here.  Thus you should take care to monitor closely your morale, mental state and breathing patterns.  In general, you should always be running at full speed, except where noted.  Thus, begin the game running pell-mell toward your objective.  Ironically, the first goomba is one of the most difficult in the game in that it is completely unavoidable:  to get the first mushroom, which is essential, you must either kill the goomba or jump over him.  I advocate the latter:  in addition to conforming to a wise non-violence policy, it is usually quicker to avoid confrontation, as the after-hop Mario performs when dismounting a defeated opponent takes extra milliseconds and is counterproductive.

            After striking the mushroom box, wait until the mushroom is nearly to the edge of the final brick before running towards it and jumping.  You should intercept the mushroom in mid-air, pause to grow, and then continue to the top of the upcoming pipe.  Under no circumstances should you jump onto the platform:  this wastes gross amounts of time, as you then have to turn around, which should also be avoided in general.   Just as a warrior, when part of a charge towards the enemy, cannot turn around to retrieve lost items, you should also remember that your task is continually before you.  Behind you is the past, and though there may be mistakes there, they are done, and the only choice you have is to go on.  Proceed to the third pipe and warp down it.

            A note about warping:  there are proper and improper ways to warp.  Improperly warping includes stopping before pressing the down-direction on the control pad, or skidding over the pipe in question.  Properly warping takes two forms:  the crouching stance and the running stance.  They are, time-wise, indistinguishable; however, I find the running stance more aesthetically pleasing, and I hardly doubt that any other true afficionado would fail to see the advantages.  To attain either, take a running jump onto the pipe and press down while still moving forward.  In the crouch stance, Mario will crouch while warping, whereas in the running stance, he will run in place.

            After warping into the pipe, run directly to the exit pipe, ignoring the upper row of coins.  Mario will reappear near the end of the level.  Jump and run over the goombas, corner-jump over the stairway, and reclaim the castle.  Here you are participating in an age-old tradition of staking territory, an instinct that goes back to our very animal origins.  The marking of territory, seen here by the changing of flags, is one that is reflected in every form of media, and of course is a simple motivator in the world of video games.  The physical presence of a region or thing that is under the player’s control is a way of linking us, in the physical world, in to the virtual world of the computer.  By taking control of the virtual world we become more enveloped in it– indeed, few of us have not felt that sudden deflation after completing a game in which we realize that all the holdings we have worked for were, in fact, simply conceptions in an artificial, nonexistent universe.  In fact it is this deflation that is the prime indicator of the failure of video games, as of yet, to connect in any real way, with real life.  Whereas a book or a movie can continue to enrich our lives long after we have read or watched the it, a video game has not yet the resonance to alter lives, except for the exceptions of obsession or pure entertainment.

            A note about flags:  there has been some debate about where one should mount the flagpole in order to minimize one's Official Time.  A few rebel pseudo-scientists hold that running off of the final rockpile, onto the ground and then laying hand on the pole from the very bottom is a quicker, not to mention more realistic, method for reigning in the evil symbol.  The author has studied the dynamics of pole-hopping in depth and has concluded that it makes no difference where Mario attaches himself to the pole, as he switches sides at the bottom only when the flag itself has descended.  One caveat, however, remains:  avoid jumping to the absolute top of the flagpole, in the 5000-point region, as this possibly takes a split second longer.  The true concern is the issue of fireworks, an extra obstacle to a truly perfect time.  Avoid finishing levels with a time ending in 1, 3 or 7– this temporal concern should rule your decision rather than the spatial ones.

            A final footnote about the initial level:  keep in mind that Level 1-2 does not begin directly, but follows a small interlude wherein Mario enters a warp.  Stay in ready position but do not be fooled into trying to run:  save your energy for when the level actually starts.

 

Level 1-2:

            Level 1-2 is the level in which Mario finally attains his full status as Fire Mario.   Take this leg of the journey seriously– some players exhibit a tendency to relax after passing the test of Level 1-1, thinking perhaps that their fingers have now attained innate skill merely as a result of generic use.  This is untrue.  In fact, Level 1-2, as its digits would imply, is actually more difficult than its predecessor, and there are many subtle pitfalls that amateur players can easily fall into.  Keep your wits about you and your goal always in the forefront of your mind.  Your finger should begin to apply pressure to the right side of the directional pad moments before the level actually begins.  Run to the first block and strike it, then procure the fire flower without letting the goombas interfere.  As was stressed before, killing enemies is more often than not a poor strategy.  Remember that these are merely the servants of a greater evil, one that will not surrender no matter how much damage you may do its subjects.  Thus you should avoid these goombas.

            The astute player may object that this entails either attempting to jump over the fellows while under the questionable blocks– surely a folly!– or reversing direction, which was emphatically warned against before.  Player, here you must learn one of the great lessons of Mario, and a life lesson as well.  Do not let the rules you have learned set like so much concrete– in this way they will harden into dogma, which is a dangerous thing indeed.  Once you have stopped questioning the things presented with you, you have surrendered your very humanity.  For the freedom of judgment is the very thing that separates us from beasts– nay, from even the rocks, from inanimate matter!  Dogma is what led the Crusaders to Jerusalem, what exiled the Hollywood Ten.  Take all that you hear with a grain of salt, and your meals will be bettered forever.

            Jump on top of the mystery blocks, then leap onto the stone pillars.  Two jumps should be sufficient to carry you over these annoyances, and the final jump should propel you up to the top of floating bricks.  Although it is true that there is a star held captive within these stones, the quicker way is to go above, to transcend as it were, the entire level.  Break a hole in the ceiling (advanced players should only need to break one brick) and climb to the top.  From here, the level is straightforward:  run to the right and jump to the warp.  Remember to turn around just a moment before Mario actually comes to the edge above the warp zone, to minimize deceleration/acceleration times, and warp to level 4.

            A defense is needed here: many challenge the use of warps, claiming that they are a form of cheating and, as such, should be disregarded, and all those that use them should be disqualified from the international race for the fastest time.  To these people I would say that the warps are undeniably part of the game, in that one need only, once again, question one’s surroundings.  This being the case, the opposing argument breaks down into only preference that these few would force on the many.  If given food while fasting, should we then ensure that no one else eats?  A better but also rarer argument is that cheating collapses the game, doing away with the intracellular supports that give it structure, crushing that suspension of belief and pushing us away from the world that the game attempts to draw us into.  Cheating renders us unable to forget that we are only playing a game, and thus annuls any empathy with the characters we control or interact with, breaks any connection with the plot that is being created before our eyes, and transmutes the digitally represented but rich, organic world into a dull, computerized, mindless wasteland unable to convey any type of emotion.

            And yet I would propose that these are exactly the problems that hold computer games, and video games in general, back from becoming truly worthy of the title of “art.”  Many have called video games such in the past, and many continue to in the present, and a few, like the author, are sure that they will attain this lofty goal in the future.  However, although the word art is as slippery as the fish with which it shares to of its letters, few would argue at least that video games have attained the level of depth which books, and perhaps movies, have.  And the reasons that this medium has, as yet, fallen short of this mark, is exactly the complaints raised above.  Video games present an unprecedented opportunity to draw people into a story, into an entire universe, to teach and to discuss, to show and to tell, to ask and sometimes to try and answer.  This comes from that empty and abused catch word of which we are all tired: interactivity.  Yes, we all know that video games are interactive– and so is pinball, although we hardly consider that worthy of a lifetime of work, at least for those of us with all our senses intact.  But why not?  What does a book have that pinball does not?

 

Level 4-1:

            We leave these questions for now in favor of continuing our quest.  The trick in this level, as in much else in life, is to never stop running.  This is particularly clear, and simple, in this level.  Level 4-1 represents a plateau in Mario’s, and your, achievement and progression.  In the last level you achieved the high status of Fire Mario– now you must decide how to use your new power.  Be warned that with great power comes great responsibility, and learn well from the lesson of Thanos.  If you, in your mind’s eye, cannot control or do not want the power with which you have been vested, then you are surely destined to lose it, as well as the game.  So all ye unbelievers must now turn back, whereas those who began this journey with a stout heart will revel in the grace that can be attained in this level alone.  For this is perhaps the only level which can be completed in a single stroke, never breaking stride.  To do this we must study the method of the Fire Jump, pioneered by the author.

            The Fire Jump is closely related to the Corner Jump in that it requires nimble fingers and the ability to time two acts with extreme precision.  In the Corner Jump this precision is necessary in order to enable Mario to jump quickly before encountering an obstacle; in the Fire Jump the precision is required because of more immediate peril.  If the Fire Jump is not completely mastered, then surely pain and death are imminent.  The aforementioned similarity between this maneuver and the Corner Jump was not made lightly– they are exactly identical except for the fact that instead of pressing the jump button the second time, the B button is pressed.  This causes Mario to shoot exactly at the time at which he lands, destroying anything in his path.  Note that occasionally both the A and B buttons should be pressed if an obstacle is in your path after the enemy to be killed.

            And killed it will be, if you have your wits about you.  Now, some may question the seriousness with which I broach this subject, commenting perhaps that most enemies are some distance away, if a jump is well placed and timed, upon regaining the ground.  And these people would be correct, in that for the most part this is true.  However, there is one enemy whose proximity cannot be avoided, and that is the monstrosity called the Pirana Plant.  Since these plants dwell in pipes that often extend quite high into the air, and usually come out of hiding soon after entering the screen, confrontation with them is all but inevitable.  Here you must abandon all peaceful parts of your character and concentrate on the task at hand, annihilating the plant before it has a chance to touch you.  I need not expand on the peril at hand here– not only does damage to Mario’s person temporarily freeze the game, throwing precious seconds to the wind, but it also dooms you to complete the game with a shriveled, inferior and infantile Mario.  As I stated before, the delicate path to victory with our babyish friend will not be covered here, however I would warn those who choose to walk that path that pausing further to regain your stature as Fire Mario will put you so far behind that the entire quest may as well be restarted.  But do not despair at the prospect of beginning anew, for in this there is rebirth as well as continuance, and as many have said before, practice makes perfect.  Did not the World-Honored One say in the Lotus Sutra, “Constantly practice perseverance,/have pity on all beings,/and do your best to expound and preach/the sutra praised by the Buddha”?  So be strong in your resolve, and strike the accursed vegetation down before it can poison your warrior veins.  This is the essence of the Fire Jump.

            With the Fire Jump in hand and mind, the level can be easily completed.  However I once again remind you not to be carried away with this new ability.  The mark of a true master is judgment and restraint; the knowledge of when and where to use his skill as well as the power to do so at will.  Remember that the creators of Super Mario Brothers were no less clever than you, and that they will attempt to lead you astray at every possible divergence of paths.  It should come as no surprise to you that the first pirana plant you encounter should not, in fact, be struck down.  Rather, if the player is skillful, Mario can jump over the plant as it recedes, then slip between the pipe and the first block, which should, of course, be ignored.  (This can be done by beginning your jump around the area between the first bushes.)  I have taught you the skills necessary to complete the rest of the level without difficulty or stopping, and only a few postscripts shall be added here.

            First, do not kill the thrower of the Spinies.  Not only would this cost the life of an innocent cloud, but it would also waste egregious amounts of time.  If you do as suggested and run throughout the level, then the Spinies will not even achieve the ground before you have passed them over.  There is only one dangerous jump in the rest of the level, and if you find this difficult then all hope is lost, as there are much more difficult ones in the world of Eight.  The most important thing is to practice letting yourself enjoy the flight, to watch the elegantly scrolling backgrounds and the exhilarating sense of speed while keeping your mind stout and agile, ready to encounter tasks, comprehend and overcome them.  The human brain is a wonder of nature, and works in massively parallel fashion, so that many separate streams of data can be dealt with simultaneously without degrading the performance of the organism.  Keep this in the back of your mind, that nature has dealt you a winning hand at birth, and that you have only to use it to win.

 

Level 4-2:

            By this point you have mastered, or at least had experience with, the main tools with which to defeat Bowser and to foil his evil scheme.  The Corner Jump, the Fire Jump, Fire Mario, all of these things you should now feel comfortable with and be able to use at will.  However do not underestimate the task before you.  The ability to complete the game you surely have, but to tune this path to perfection is your goal.  Never forget that the object of this so-called “game” is no longer simply to free the Princess and move to the second Dark World.  No, we have transcended this petty plot by recognizing the true genius in the game, the marvel that is Mario gameplay.  For in this day and age, no matter how many may open their eyes to the possibility, video games are not art.  I say this with a sad and yet hopeful heart, for reasons I will now expound upon.  It is helpful, in looking at art, as it is such a hazy subject, to proceed by comparison, finding markers in the vast cloud of ambiguity that is human language.  We will sidestep the dubious question of what art actually is to consider a more subjective standpoint– plausible, as art is the one truly subjective subject.  Consider the pinnacle of human knowledge and thinking, the book.  Writing is, by any standard, truly an art.  We celebrate great authors and their works, revel in the vast mixture of ideas, emotions and scenarios that books and prose can bring us, and consider writing to be the a way to achieve immortality.  Although the terms “writing” and “book” are themselves hazy as well, we must recognize that language is by definition (or lack thereof) imprecise, and therefore it would be folly to expect anything else.  How, then, do video games compare to books?

            Let me clarify the question.  I mean not to compare, as of yet, the mediums of writing and video games, but rather to look at the impact and weight of books and video games.  A book has the power to paint pictures, to construct vast landscapes, to tell involved stories, to entertain us, to carry emotional weight, to teach us and to ask us.  How, then, do video games compare?  We have seen the first three in many recent games: visuals have been an important part of games for many years, and seem to become more important to consumers every day; landscapes we see in every online RPG, and many before them; and the stories of games can be quite involved, as countless examples show.  The fourth, though questioned by many of the Old Generation, is clear by majority vote– this very document is a testament to that nature of games.  However, I would argue that the last three are far beyond the scope of today’s repertoire.  Games that carry emotional weight are few and far between, and few would argue that these are any more moving than the average Hollywood trash.  When we see Kane crushed by the pieces of his own Temple of Nod, does our rejoicing last more than the minutes it takes to watch the credits?  When we finally destroy the Enclave in a huge nuclear blast, saving the entirety of humanity, does it warm the cockles of our hearts for more than even a day?  When we, after enduring hours of seizure-inducing scenes soaked with flying lasers and spaceships, blanket enough fire on mysterious red crystals that they explode, is this moment burned in our hearts forever?  Only those who see only what is before them would answer yes to any of these questions.  For these people do not see the true potential of video games, the potential to move worlds in a more profound way than any maker of games has attempted.  When will video games move out of the realms of polished science fiction and gory action, and into the worlds of serious storytelling?  Of the gamemakers active today, few attempt to advance the history of this medium, to bring video games into a new era in which a video game can move a player’s worldview.

            But I sense argument and dissent to these views.  This is understandable, and I would even admit that the opinions expressed here are on the far end of the spectrum.  However, video games have languished too long, reveling in their own excess.  It is ironic that the most lyrical games came before even the advent of graphics, in the form of text adventures.  But this is to be expected, as these people at least recognized that what they were composing was more than a simple piece of entertainment to catch eyes.  Note that I do not contend that gamemakers put no effort or thought into their games.  This is obviously not true.  The industry is rife with extremely intelligent and clever people, making extremely intelligent and clever games, with intelligent and clever coding and interfaces and such.  But these games have no soul.  There is only the player (speaking here of only single-player games), with few companions that prove themselves worthy of any effort for exploration.

            There are many possible counter-arguments to this one, and many games that do, in some sense, violate the laws laid out here.  However, I believe that upon reflection, anyone will agree that compared to the possibilities for video games, even with technology of years ago, today’s offerings do not stand up to the test.

            But I have strayed from the task at hand, so we shall parlay all arguments until a later date.  The level which we have reached is, however, exceedingly simple, so little will be said.  The pits in the beginning are transparent to any but the most inexperienced player and the goombas fall easily to the might of Fire Mario.  (Be careful, however, and let not haste get the better of you– occasionally the fireballs will bounce between the goombas.  If this happens, do not panic, but fire again and they will surely be killed.)  If Mario ducks upon reaching the first ledge, he will fall under the question blocks, enabling him to jump through the gap between them and over the pit.  Here, of course, we will be taking the warp to the land of Eight, which is where the true fight begins.  First, however, the vine must be activated through a somewhat tricky set of maneuvers.  Do not strike all of the secret blocks at once– instead, strike the rightmost one, and break the first two bricks above.  Then fall back, secure the second invisible block immediately to the left of the first, and activate the vine.  Be wary of losing your grip on the vine– Mario is sensitive to this.  This procedure grows simple with practice.  Also note that you do not have to push up to climb to vine once you have achieved the second screen.  The mushrooms before the warp zone are easily navigated, especially if one realizes that Fire Mario will fit under the first low fungus.  Once again, reverse direction just before you fall into the warp zone so as not to strike the wall and lose speed.

 

Intermission

 

            We have come now to the middle of the game– behind you lie levels 1-1, 1-2, 4-1 and 4-2.  Completing these levels efficiently is no small task, and you should rejoice a little now that we have attained the middle mark.  However, I need not tell you that the road ahead becomes only more difficult.  In truth, your quest is only just beginning, and the stakes are higher now that you have come so far.  Now there is no turning back, save to start completely anew, which becomes more and more painful the further Mario penetrates into the land of Eight.

            But fear not, young fighter.  For it was Stalin himself who said, “One death is a tragedy.  A million deaths is a statistic.”  Do not doubt that it will take you many attempts to achieve a respectable score– indeed, competition with the self is a primary motivator in this game as well as in the game of life.  You shall try and fail countless times in this endeavor, but rest assured that in the end, with perseverance and diligence, you shall emerge the victor.  For what Bowser does not know is that Mario is in truth guided by the most steely of intellects, the most iron of wills.  And that is why he must necessarily fail.

 

Level 8-1:

            Although statistically you are now through half of the game, in reality the trials have just begun.  The worlds in Level 8 are among the most difficult in the game, if not any game.  One should employ the Running Rule less dogmatically here than before, as there are a few areas which require meticulous care.  Most of the enemies in these lands should be left alone, and in fact avoiding them gives good practice for the skill of nimble jumping.  Level 8-1 is the most jump-happy of the levels, with many groups of enemies tidily spaces so Mario can thread, like a needle, through them.  Although there is much that can be said about the level, many small bits of information that I have garnered in my time in this area, I will say little more, as the best path is clear and these tidbits you would do best to learn on your own.  Here is the time which you must begin to wean yourself of my teachings, to think more and more independently, to use the skills you have creatively.  For improvisation is the heart of all things, and Super Mario Brothers is no exception.  I give you only the general advice that many areas can be completed without loss of speed, no matter how perilous they may seem.  In addition, do not neglect the star that resides in the third brick, which enables you to charge full steam through many enemies that would be tricky without.  Keep on your toes and you will not fail.

 

Level 8-2:

            Level 8-2 is undoubtably the most difficult level in the game.  This seems plausible at first, but becomes absolutely clear when one realizes that not only must you complete the level, which becomes fairly easy with practice, but you must complete it without taking any damage whatsoever, and this level is rife with pitfalls.  The middle portion, especially, is difficult with a larger Mario, as his size makes for more inertia and therefore less maneuverability– this may be one of the only levels where a small Mario is advantageous.  The best course of action here is to leap from one cannon to the next, thus eliminating entirely the possibility of a random event such as the firing of these cannons doing damage to your avatar.

            I find that here is a good place to discuss something which we have taken for granted for quite a while, that unsung hero of the Mario world being the hero’s jump itself.  Mario is a simple character.  His plumber and, farther back, carpenter lifestyles give some hint as to his personality but while we control him we see little of this– more hints to his character are given in the television series exploring not only Mario himself but also his relationship with his brother, Luigi, who we have not had occasion to mention here.  Mario lack of identity, however, is made up for by the physical properties of his person.  Indeed, the game itself is built not around the motivations or emotions under that red hat, but rather the powers Mario is vested with.  These include the ability to break bricks above him, to shoot fire after acquiring an abnormally large flower, to smash and stun enemies by landing on top of them, and to jump.  Among these powers by far the most important is the latter.  Recall that Mario did, in the beginning, live in a platform rather than a side-scrolling environment; in fact, Mario’s creator invented the entire platform genre.  And the one thing that a character in a platform game must do is to jump.  How else will the character reach the heavenly heights of salvation?

            In his side-scrolling world Mario’s jump becomes even more exaggerated, both in form and in importance.  Indeed, without the jump Mario would not have even passed the test of the first goomba, or the pipe immediately thereafter!  A landlocked Mario would have all the use of a handsome rock, to be cast eventually into the great sea of flawed ideas.  But empowered by the vertical degree of freedom, Mario can not only exist but dominate the environment in which he lives.  Mario jumps as you and I breathe; it is to him as natural and essential as the blood that runs through our veins.  We must then take note of Mario’s jump, as it is so important to him and all around him, and learn what we can from it.  For the jump of Mario is no normal jump.  As the reader doubtless knows, any human, any mammal even, has a certain procedure with which to assault the heavens.  It begins with a bending of the knees, a tensing of the muscles, and then a final release which propels the body upwards.  While in the air we have little influence on anything but our own bodies, and upon impact with another object or the ground some bending of the limbs is in order so that we can retain our balance.

            Mario’s jump bears little resemblance to the jump just described.  Instead, when Mario is instructed to jump, he merely moves to a certain position– one with one fist raised towards the path before him, legs in mid-stride– and rises into the air.  Mario remains completely rigid in this position until landing, at which point he makes no recognition of the event that has just occurred.  Rather, he continues in any fashion the player wishes, running, walking, turning, firing or even jumping again.  What are the implications of this form?  The conclusion is simple.  Mario’s mind does not work like our own.  Just as Mario inhabits a completely different universe– one in which only two degrees of freedom exist, one in which sinking into pipes is an acceptable and desired action, one in which crushed enemies disappear without a trace– the brain of Mario must necessarily march to the beat of a different drummer.  We may speculate as to the motivation of this beast, that perhaps his will and mind are so concentrated upon his one goal of saving the princess, that all momentary considerations as to personal safety are thrown to chance, that this is the cause of his abnormal ways.  Perhaps Mario, upon the kidnaping of his beloved and the infestation of his home with zombie-like enemies, became so enraged that he is now more machine than man, and quests mechanically towards his end.  Or perhaps despair has taken his soul, and the player is charged with guiding a broken man towards an empty victory in which he can find no solace.  However, speculation is pointless, for we may never truly know the mind of Mario.  So different a place does he originate from that his thoughts have no translation in our own language– he is as Valentine Michael Smith was to the eager world upon his so-called return.

            No, Mario’s thoughts will forever be his own.  But we could not have expected anything else.  For the game gives us no possible insight, or even a reason to wish it.  Super Mario Brothers is a game of actions, a play of movement and story rather than intellect and dialogue.  We see now that any investment in the characters or story of the game is utterly our own, and that no reciprocation is possible.  This is why the Time Trial is justified.  In imposing our own set of rules and goals upon the game, we invest weight into the game– our own weight, yes, but still some kind of purpose.  Some would argue that we strive for nothing, that we practice and suffer for an illusion, that of a goal we have conjured up for ourselves.  But this is the state of video games in reality.  There is no goal as yet that invests in us; rather, all the emotion created in video games is actually created by the player.  I reiterate that in the games of today, the player is alone, alone in a dry world created only for superficial pleasures and purposes.  In other forms of media the characters and plot take on a life of their own, and although we play a part as well, we are also vulnerable to pushes and pulls.  Video games as a media have tapped little of this power, a power that is potentially very great since their innate interactivity can enhance the back and forth play between the medium and the player.

 

Level 8-3:

            Now we are fast approaching Bowser’s castle, and the final confrontation.  This level is most of the reason that Fire Mario is so important, for the wasteland that leads up to Bowser’s Keep is populated by many Hammer Brothers, those infernal nuisances that can take huge amounts of time to safely defeat if one is not properly equipped.  Confronted with the secret of fire, however, they are all without hope, and cease to be obstacles.  Only be careful of the cannons, whose positions you will quickly learn, for they are, as always, volatile, and will take advantage if you let down your guard.  Prepare yourself, young Mario, for your final confrontation.

 

Level 8-4:

            Bowser’s castle is a vast labyrinth of winding passages and rotating fire sticks.  If the wrong path is chosen then entire minutes can be wasted attempting to find a way back, which spells death for our cause.  I will outline the way here, but it is no easy thing, and a few runs through are needed before it becomes comfortable.  First, be careful not to go too hastily down the steps, for you will surely fall into the lava, and your quest will go to ruin.  Run through the plateau, over the White Goombas, ride the platform over the lava and under the rock, taking the first pipe immediately after the lava.  Then jump over the helmets, strike the hidden block just in front of the floating pipe.  This will enable you to reach it and use it (you should be able to do this before the winged devils come near).  Now run quickly, for the flying fish will surely have you if you are not quick– take the first warp after the pit.  You will enter the ocean, but do not let the peaceful music sap your will.  And do not be tempted to slay the octopi.  They are but distractors from your true goal, which now lies close before you.  Upon exiting you will encounter what would be the final obstacle between you and Bowser, but for your duly procured and faithfully kept Fire Mario.  Annihilate the gatekeeper in one blast, and proceed to the dread Enemy.

            Do not let Bowser’s size alarm you.  Within that bony and fearsome exterior lies a weak heart, a lonely heart turned fiery and angry from years of tormented solitude.  Look upon the fell beast and pity his frozen face and mindless eyes.  His mind has long left his body, and now he waits day and night for your fated approach on this very bridge.

            The choice of whether to kill the poor animal yourself or to commit him to the fire that he meant for you is your own choice.  Only mind that if your are struck then violence will be done to your time as well, for reasons already mentioned.  One way or the other, the Princess is yours once more and the quest, for now, is over.

 

Epilogue:

            Laid out above is a guide with which Super Mario Brothers can be completed quickly and efficiently.  If you have followed through to this point, then you are a true warrior are share in the pleasure of a quest completed.  But the work of our kind is never done.  Although Bowser may lie in the lavas of Hell, and the Princess in your arms, you battle is still not won.  Indeed, your battle is never over, for you strive for a higher purpose.  The existentialist asks, if one lived one’s life over for eternity, would it be a blessing or a curse?  You may contemplate the answer as you ever endeavor to improve your time and yourself, and rejoice that in the world of Super Mario, you have the opportunity to live the same life through and yet retain your free will.  Here, surely, is Heaven on Earth– the opportunity to make your mistakes right, to correct the wrongs which you have committed.  To live this war is to choose yourself through it and to choose it through choice of yourself.  Revel in it, young champion, for such opportunities are rare.

            And so we come to the end of this document.  But have faith that the book remains unclosed.  For just as I and others have begun this battle, you and others after you will continue it.  And perhaps someday there will come one who will finish it forever; but until that One comes, you and I know our duty.


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