Riding the Backlog - Super Mario RPG (Part 10)

By Chris Pranger

Session 10: Monstro Town to Nimbus Land

Exercise is hard! However, I hit a pretty important milestone, or at least one that felt monumentous for me. When jogging, I’ll select an arbitrary direction and start running, assuming I’ll make some sort of loop that connects back home. My neighborhood has a lot of snaking side streets, so I have a lot of options for any direction I ultimately choose, but for one night I thought, “Hey, I’m going to run to church and back, why not.” The church we go to meets at a school about five minutes away, so in my head I thought it wouldn’t be anything too severe. I set off jogging, managed to get to the school, touched the front door, turned around, and jogged home. All of this without stopping. I put my route into Google Maps to see just how far I’d actually run, assuming it wouldn’t even hit a mile. Turns out I’d run 2.6 miles. The ability to run that far and that long without stopping is something I never dreamed I could do, but it has reminded me that despite my feelings about my body, I’m not too far gone. I’m still capable of running further and longer than I reasonably should, all without harming myself in any way. No shin splints, no chest pains or ragged breathing, just the knowledge that I can do it.

But screw jogging, I’m going back to the exercise bike for a while.

When we left Mario’s crew, we were in Monstro Town, a town that looks like it’s set along a cliffside just south of Land’s End. I love the aesthetic of the town, and the fact that all the residents are enemies that we’ve already encountered is great. What’s better is that there are a few that we haven’t yet encountered, which builds a little suspense. Not too much, but just enough.

The first stop I decide to make is the shop since I want to get the new gear for this area. Walking in we find a Goomba with three Mini Goombas on the counter, prompting a cutscene where Bowser pops out, startling the shopkeeper. It’s revealed that the Goomba running the shop is a deserter from Bowser’s forces, and once more we see Bowser quickly brush off his own needs in favor of wishing this Goomba and his family well. Yet again, Bowser is more fleshed out than he’s ever been in the Mario universe.

A few doors down is a Chow and a Thwomp. The Thwomp is basically just used for a simple puzzle as every time you talk to him he thwomps, making a key outside move closer and closer to falling from the ledge above and landing on the ground where you can pick it up and return to Belome’s Temple for a few goodies. The Chow though is a bit more interesting. He’s the one that’ll keep track of your Super Jumps, and for 30 and 100 consecutive jumps in battles, you get a super powerful item. I don’t think I’ve ever managed to get a single item from him, so learning that I’d pulled off a 35-jump combo at some point while playing was awesome. For that feat I got the Attack Scarf, an item that jacks all of Mario’s stats way the heck up. I doubt I’ll ever get 100 consecutive jumps for a vest that makes the wearer pretty much indestructible, but the Attack Scarf is a nice consolation prize. Since Mario has the Attack Scarf and doesn’t need the Amulet, I pass it off to Toadstool to crank up her attack power, something I’ve never really tried doing in a playthrough.

Next is a stop at the inn, which is just a room with a bed and a little shroom cap enemy as a lamp. There’s a note that says you can stay for free, making it thus far the third free inn I’ve encountered (the first being Mario’s Pad and the second being the one in Rose Town). Really, inns are somewhat inconsequential since characters get a full heal during a level up, after a boss fight, and periodically as they hit chests throughout the areas.

This inn stay triggers a cutscene where the 3 Musty Fears appear and whisper to Mario while he’s sleeping. I kind of like that they point out the sleep bubble coming from Mario’s nose, a trope common in cartoons and stuff but in real life, not as much. I have, however, seen my 4-year-old blow snot bubbles while sleeping, so there’s some validity there. Also of note, I’d never noticed that Toadstool does not blow snot bubbles while sleeping but rather just gets a string of ZZZZs. Another side effect of her wearing the Amulet instead of the usual safeguarding accessory that prevents sleep.

The 3 Musty Fears decide to play a game with Mario, each saying they’ll hide an invisible flag somewhere in the world. They give some pretty simple clues (“behind a wooden flower,” “between an O and an A,” “under a green bed”), then Mario wakes up and I can go hunting. I already know exactly where each of these flags is located just from playing this game multiple times, so I decide to take the detour to play the scavenger hunt.

On the way I pop over to Tadpole Pond to help Toadofski compose the last section of his song, rewarding me with the highest membership card for a shop in the pond that sells items that provide healing to the whole team at once, items that I’ve honestly never once used while playing. I have a bad habit of hoarding a bunch of Kerokero Cola and Red Essence but never using them, a classic trope in RPGs.

Returning to Monstro Town and staying in the inn rewards me with the Ghost Medal, an item that I’m not entirely sure what it does. In fact, that’s a running trend with a ton of the items in the game. At least half of the accessories have descriptions that don’t really tell me what they do, but have some special effect that isn’t explained, like halving damage from elemental attacks or raising physical attack power by 50%. Problem is, some of the accessories give you that boost to your stats immediately, showing them go up or down when equipping. The Ghost Medal says it “raises defense while attacking,” which makes no sense. Turns out it actually increases your defense by 50% during battles, which should have been written as “boost defense by 50% in battles.” Nice try, Woolsey! You’ve been Millennialocalized!

Feeling refreshed, I take a trip to the dojo, triggering yet another cutscene where Bowser encounters a former member of his army, this time a Koopa named Jagger. Bowser acts like the chill turtle he is and tells Jagger to do his thing, which in this case is train under the dojo’s master, who’s conveniently stepped out. This gives me the opportunity to school this rookie, which happens very quickly.

Being at level 18, I’m sort of in a weird spot where most enemies are pushovers, but some can still steamroll and womp my dudes if I’m not careful. I don’t at all remember the recommended levels for fighting certain bosses, so this fight with Jagger is a good measure of my strength, confirming that it is indeed quite strong.

Jagger admits defeat, getting congratulations from his master for the good performance. Out steps Jinx, a truly awesome character. Jinx is a little ant-sized enemy with a gnarly green hair quaff and the ability to kick your teeth in if you’re either underleveled or haven’t learned how to defend against physical attacks. Fighting Jinx is actually three battles with the first being Jinx feeling you out, the second being Jinx getting serious, and the last being Jinx going all out. Each time Jinx’s HP goes up, as does his defense, his attacks, and the variety of his attacks. By the third fight he’s pulling one-hit KO attacks if you can’t block them, as well as awesome special kicks, punches, and general beatdowns. Once totally defeated, Jinx changes the emblem on the dojo to an M and begins practicing Mario’s jumping fighting style. I also get the Jinx Belt, an item that prevents instant-death attacks (gee, would have been useful here) and boosts some stats. It just doesn’t boost the stats as high as my other gear, so it’s just sort it’ll stay in my pockets forever unused.

The last thing I can do here in Monstro Town before progressing the story is to use my Shiny Stone to unlock a sealed door and fight Culex, the secret and most powerful boss of the game. I debate a ton whether I can handle this fight here and now, especially with Toadstool so poorly optimized with her equipment, but I figure, “What the heck, let’s do it!”

Culex is a masterpiece in every way. He appears first as a 2D sprite that wiggles just like a Final Fantasy overworld sprite, and mentions that he’s a dark knight from another dimension that cannot survive in this one. If you accept his challenge, you start a fight against him where his battle sprite is super detailed yet still in 2D. He’s joined by the four elemental crystals made famous in Final Fantasy games, and then proceeds to spank my team in the most shameful way possible since his group can basically hit my whole party with every single powerful Special Attack in the game without me getting a break to heal in between. This is technically my first team wipe and game over, but I’m not really going to count it since it was just a test and the test has concluded that I need some more levels and more items before I return.

I take a quick stop to meet Monster Mama, a Toad woman who basically runs Monstro Town and whom calls in the Sky Troopas to help me continue on my quest. This means a little backtracking to Land’s End to finally climb that wall that was tempting me last time, and on the way all of my party members hit level 18, making it the first time that all five of them are at the same level. Level 18 is also where Bowser, Toadstool, and Mallow all learn their final Special Attacks with Toadstool FINALLY getting a physical Special Move in Psych Bomb. I’ve been leaning heavily on just standard beefy attacks this playthrough, so there’s not much fanfare, even with Mallow learning Star Rain and Bowser learning Bowser Crush.

Usually by this point in the game I’ve shuffled party members around a few times and typically have a Mario/Toadstool/Geno team, but for now this has become the Super Mario World Show. No non-Mario characters allowed, apparently. I’ve stacked attack items on all of them, somehow making Toadstool a viable physical fighter even before her ultimate weapon, which is just unheard of. For some reason I’ve gone so far as begin prioritizing her attack stats during her level-ups, which is just another level of absurd.

At the wall that represents the “end of land,” the Sky Troopas arrive to provide a lift upward. There’s a minigame here where by properly timing my jumps from one Troopa to the next, I can climb quickly and reach the top with the fastest time possible. Anything under 12 seconds will get me the Troopa Pin, another poorly-described item (raises attack power during battles by 50%), and while I won’t be using the accessory, I still like the challenge in timing everything perfectly. It’s a lot harder than you’d expect since I’ve got to make those wonky 3D jumps without a ground shadow to show me my placement. It takes me maybe a dozen tries, but I squeak in at under 12 seconds and move on to Bean Valley.

Finally, a new area with new enemies! Kind of! Actually, not really at all. Once more the enemies are all just recycled versions of enemies previously encountered but with new colors. The area starts with a mild pipe maze before coming to an area where a Shy Away flies in and waters some Piranha Plant buds, making them sprout. Defeating them in a battle clears the pipes they’re in, allowing me to get even more goodies before fighting Megasmilex at the end of the valley.

This fight always gave me trouble as a kid even though the fight isn’t overly difficult. It’s a classic hydra battle where defeating the first Smilex head makes two appear, then three after those are defeated, and finally sprouting two more Smilex heads and Megasmilex, which has the most devastating attack in the game to an unprepared team: Petal Blast. The move showers your party with flower petals, hitting for relatively high damage and turning them all into mushrooms, meaning you can’t do anything at all except wait three turns before getting turned back to normal. This battle can drag while you wait for Megasmilex to either wipe your team or for it to miss with some Petal Blasts, giving you the chance to strike.

Once defeated, Mario gets access to a magic beanstalk because of course he does, we’re in Bean Valley. The second half of the area presents itself as bean vines hover in the air above cloud platforms, forcing Mario to make the most difficult jumps in the game in a few spots. Overall this second portion of Bean Valley is a nice departure from the previous very dark reddish tone of the ground with bright blue skies, white clouds, and pastel vines. I wouldn’t be doing my job if I didn’t mention that we get a pair of new enemies here, the first being Birdys, little flying henchmen of sorts, and the second being Heavy Troopas. Some of you may have noticed that a few of the songs I’ve included in previous posts come from a remix album called Heavy Troopa is Ready to Launch! This is a line from the game where Heavy Troopas prepare themselves before slamming you with a monster attack. If you want to download the album though, you can snag it here: http://www.gamemusic4all.com/heavy-troopa-is-ready-to-launch/

Finally, the top of the beanstalk delivers me to Nimbus Land, a town full of citizens that look suspiciously like Mallow. We arrive just in time for a royal decree to come from the castle where a woman named Valentina presents the long-lost Prince Mallow to the people. In this case, the Prince Mallow she presents is a big fat bird, but all the cloud people just hop along, assuming this must be fine. Mallow pops out and exclaims that it’s a weird coincidence that there’s ANOTHER Mallow in this world and he’s a PRINCE. Whoa, weird! I make a quick stop at the shop to gather the new weapons and armor for everyone, then finally save.

At my stopping point Mario has reached level 19 and my party is still Toadstool and Bowser. Will I put Mallow into the party for this next section? Will I roll Mallow and Geno through the Nimbus Land section? Come back next time!

Current Feelings:

Previous Post Next Post