Riding the Backlog - Super Mario RPG (Part 3)

By Chris Pranger

Session 3: Geno and Bowyer

Mario absolutely tries to clobber a child today.

Wow, got your attention, didn't I? Good, since the exercise part is pretty much the same as always (I’m on a bike, it doesn’t go anywhere), let’s cut right to the chase and get to the session of Super Mario RPG where we meet Geno, and Mallow has to stop Mario from knocking a kid in the face for making a simple observation.

Last time we headed out from Tadpole Pond and entered Rose Way, an area without any bells, whistles, or bosses. There are a few of these spots in lead-ups to major encounters, but of all of them Rose Way somehow completely eluded my memory, all because it’s probably one of the most forgettable areas. Hey, one area has to be forgotten, right?

Rose Way does contain a few moments that really accentuate the difficulty of platforming under the weird perspective though. While Mario can jump in any direction, he’s actually really only moving in one of the eight possible directions the D-pad allows, and this makes precision platforming a lot harder than it needs to be. There’s one chest that requires you to hop on a moving yellow platform, then jump to a second moving platform, and finally jump diagonally to dink the chest. This single maneuver is a lot more difficult than it sounds, and with the reward being I believe a Frog Coin, it can get frustrating fast.
Actually, that’s a regular fault I have with Mario RPG. There are a lot of secrets and hidden goodies, but so many of them are either duds or red herrings. Still, when the secrets work, they WORK, such as the Culex fight or the Lazy Shell, but I’m getting ahead of myself.
Entering Rose Town, the music is nice and eerie, complimenting the town’s plight. Arrows are raining down, freezing the townshrooms in place and generally causing trouble every step of the way. You can help a few people, namely one guy in the back corner who’ll tell you a secret (another that’s kind of underwhelming), but the real goal is to head to the inn and see a kid playing with dolls.

This is Gaz, and he was so cool to me as a kid because this was a Toad child that actually played with action figures. He has a Mario, Bowser, and Toadstool doll, so when you come in, he asks you to play with him. Enter Geno, the little blue wonder and Gaz’s favorite toy. Gaz activates his rocket punch attack, which misses the other toys and sucker-punches Mario, knocking him out cold.

While Mario’s sleeping off his concussion, a light shines down from heaven and a little star checks out the four dolls on the floor, ultimately deciding to inhabit Geno before rushing out the door. I loved this scene because I so desperately wanted to catch up to Geno immediately, making the anticipation strong.

In the morning, Mario and Mallow chase after Geno into the Forest Maze, which has some of the game’s most iconic music. The big thing that stands out about this area, besides the titular maze, is the new enemies we encounter. We take on some anthropomorphized mushrooms that try and trick you into thinking they’re normal item pick-ups, bees that will absolutely fire off a poison shot to start every battle, and Donkey Kong, or rather, Guerrillas. The first time I saw these enemies, I was so surprised and a little confused. They’re clearly Donkey Kong with shackles, which gave me so many questions. Is Donkey Kong evil in this game? Has he been kidnapped and brainwashed to fight me? Why does he have shackles on his wrists AND his head? I don’t know, but it’s weird.

Getting through the maze isn’t actually all that difficult since all you have to do is trail Geno. It’s less a forest maze and more a forest follow-the-leader, bringing us to a fantastic encounter with Bowyer, the next of Smithy’s lieutenants.

We cut to Bowyer himself firing arrows toward Rose Town before Geno explodes onto the scene, making it clear to Bowyer and us that he’s one of the good guys. This scene also gives a lot of great characterization to Mario, showing that he’s not just a blank slate but a character with a lot of personality. Silent, yes, but he’s eager to rush to Geno and lend a hand in the fight, rushing down a pathway as arrows rain down all around. Hilariously, he arrives to help Geno, while Mallow huffs and puffs his way up, frustrated that Mario totally ditched him. I just love the thought that Mario is the hero, but he has faults. I don’t think I’ve seen a single other Mario game where he doesn’t fall into the perfect good guy role.

The boss fight itself is actually fairly simple since we’re only on the second major boss. Bowyer’s thing is he can turn off one of the buttons between Attack, Items, and Special, a tactic that isn’t overly difficult to get around. You basically just start the battle spamming Special attacks and then once he disables that button (since he disables whichever button you’re using most), you can switch to regular attacks and really lay down the hurt. I got him to pop before he could disable a second button, so with that the second star is mine.

Getting a third party member brings the battle system to its true form and opens things up to more strategies. The nice part is Geno is fairly strong after only a single level up, letting you tear through enemy parties more effectively. His Specials aren’t too exciting yet, but that’s because he’s got some quirks to figure out. For now, he’s all attacking, all the time.

We also get the full plot explained in clear details. Smithy is from another world and managed to break the Star Road into seven pieces upon entering Mario’s world. With the Star Road broken, no wishes can be granted, leaving the land in a perpetual state of unrealized potential. I’m actually working on a theory that Smithy is the cause of the current reality Millennials like myself live through, but I digress.

Geno explains that he’s a representative from the stars named ♡♪!?, but that we can continue calling him Geno. Weirdly he throws some mean shade at Mario by saying he possessed the doll he thought looked strongest, which is even weirder considering the way Mario will react in a moment coming up. As we exit the Forest Maze, a little Aero minion runs off to inform Smithy the purpose of the stars, adding a nice touch of pathos to the villain in that he didn’t actually know what he was doing until this moment.

Before leaving Rose Town entirely, we have to stop in and check on Gaz. When we’d left, he was trying to convince his mom that Geno came alive and walked out the door, so getting to validate his truth is satisfying. He’s happy to see Geno ready to help and mentions that it’s a good thing because Mario is going to need all the help he can get, to which Mallow has to quickly bolt over and grab Mario’s fist as he winds up to slug this child. It’s one of my favorite moments of the entire game where Mario is in full attack stance, quivering as Mallow holds him back, all over the most minor of slights from a kid. No one draws attention to it or anything, so if you’re not paying attention you’ll miss it. It’s so simple, but it speaks volumes on Mario’s overall character, painting him as a hero, yes, but one who’s not all perfect goody-goody.

With Gaz safe from repercussions and Geno equipped with a new weapon that allows him to FIRE BULLETS FROM HIS FINGERS, we’re off to a little interlude through some pipes.

Current Feelings: 

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