Inspired by the Japanese version of Carnival, Yume Kojo '87.
Ever play Super Mario Bros 2 and realize how trippy that game is? Ever wonder why? In this video by Youtube channel Polygon, which focuses on video games, hosts Russ Frushtick and Justin McElroy lay out the long, strange history of Super Mario Bros 2.
The game, which initially came out in Japan in 1986, was a lot harder to play than the original Super Mario Bros, which discouraged the American market. In short, as the saga goes, Super Mario Bros 2 was revamped as a totally different festival-themed game, then marketed to Americans, and after all that, brought back to the Japanese market.
Here's how it all played out:
The original Super Mario Bros 2 couldn't be released to Americans because it was too hard, so the gamemakers had to go back to the drawing board to craft something more accessible. Meanwhile, even when it was released in Japan, it didn't do as well as the original Super Mario Bros.
The game went through a few different prototypes, like a vertically scrolling game, which ultimately didn't go anywhere. In the process, the makers also added some key stylistic elements to give the game a more whimsical flair—such as with the mushroom motif and the vegetables that we all know and love. Still at this point, nothing happened with the new Super Mario Bros 2 prototype.
Around the same time, Fuji TV executives went to Carnival in Brazil, and brought the idea back to Japan. Fuji TV sponsored its own version of Carnival, which they called Yume Kojo '87. To promote the event, they created four mascots: Imajin, Lina, Mama, and Papa. The mascots were eventually integrated into a videogame called Yume Kojo Doki Doki Panic.
It turns out that Doki Doki Panic was easier than the original Super Mario Bros 2, and basically fit the requirements for marketing to America. It was also horizontally based, unlike the failed prototypes of Super Mario Bros 2. So in essence, the Super Mario Bros 2 that eventually reached American gamers was a reiteration of Doki Doki Panic, only the four mascots were replaced with characters that were already familiar to Americans. Imajin became Mario, Mama became Luigi, Lina became Princess Peach, and Papa became Toad. The Doki Doki Panic-turned-Super Mario Bros 2 also introduced some new elements to the game, such as the ability to pick up your enemies and throw them, or the shells on the ground, that originally were meant to represent masks from the Yume Kojo carnival.
And because the version of Super Mario Bros 2 that reached America was so different than the initial Super Mario Bros, the game is meant to all take place in a dream, as somewhat of an explanation for the shift. Meanwhile, the American version of Super Mario Bros 2 was then remarketed back to Japan, under the name Super Mario Bros USA.
And so goes the saga of Super Mario Bros 2. It's still not clear, however, why Mario's pictured with a carrot on the cover of the game's box.
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