sunnuntai 6. helmikuuta 2011

REVIEW - Mario Paint (1992)

Genre(s): Tools
Released: 1992
Available on: SNES
Developer(s): Intelligent Systems, Nintendo
Publisher(s): Nintendo
Players: 1

When I was a kid, there was some sort of war going on between any home computer owners and those who exclusively had a Nintendo or Sega system. Sure, there are still those people, even among my friends, who would never trade their PC's for a PS3 or Xbox when it comes to gaming. Back then, though, it wasn't all about the gaming - consoles were exclusively for playing games. Computers were also for playing games, but they were good for lots of other things, too, like working in general, or using fancy paint tools to create digital images. The Deluxe Paint series for the Amiga systems was very popular at that time, and no matter how you looked down at Commodore Amiga or look down on it now, Deluxe Paint was one of the most advanced paint tools of its time. In the summer of 1992, Nintendo decided to test what it would be like to use a similar tool on the Super Nintendo Entertainment System and published a combo of a mouse exclusively designed for the system, several paint and animation tools, as well as a music sequencer. A weird idea like this needed a mascot to get kids interested - in '92, who was THE pawn to use when you wanted to sell a Nintendo game?

It's a-me, Picasso!

I'm pretty sure a guy who is nowadays my best friend had this "game" when we were kids, he was always such a Mario fan - he still is. Also, I vaguely remember him talking about Mario Paint, but he never really liked its content, just the fact that it had Mario in it. Well, I looked upon Mario Paint the exact same way. The SNES was for playing games, not painting crappy pictures or making some dumb jingles with the music sequencer. A game was something that had a beginning and an end. Even Tetris had a beginning and an end... sort of. Still, I had some sort of secret infatuation with Mario Paint - it had Mario in it, so it must've been worth something. Years later, here I am - giggling. Like a little girl. Embarrassing, I know. Some people would say that so is even bothering with Mario Paint at the age of 26, 19 years after the combo's release. Oh, piss off - Mario Paint is completely harmless fun, and in the right hands, it can be used to do things that make you almost forget that it's so old.

I was originally planning to paint the evil cock
monster from Uranus, but I wanted to keep
this blog online, so I quickly whipped up this...
this... I don't know what this is supposed to be.
Mario Paint was a very advanced game at the time of its release. It was the first, and one of the only games that you absolutely needed the SNES Mouse for. It was such a quality peripheral that it was supported by many games that followed, though - different games, such as rail shooters, the few FPS games that were released on the SNES, and of course, strategy games. Mario Paint required the mouse to function, but it came bundled and to my knowledge, the combo was never more expensive than any other new SNES retail. From the very start, the mouse's importance and fun factor is brought to the player's attention. You can manipulate everything that happens on the title screen by clicking the ten letters of "MARIOPAINT". There's a different screen or sound effect assigned to each letter, including the legendary "Totaka's Song", which made its international debut in this game. Call me twisted, but I spent nearly 15 minutes on the title screen alone. It's one of the neatest things I've ever seen in a 16-bit game.

The general graphics are of course a bit dated and whatever you can come up with using the freehand tools lacks definition, but the sprites are carried straight over from Super Mario World, and they look excellent as always. Also, just the simple inclusion of complete freehand tools in an experimental game, the only one of its kind at the time, is worth applause in itself. Kazumi Totaka's soundtrack is good, but in this kind of game, you don't need more than two minutes to realize you're better off without background music. Luckily it can be turned off.

Fucked this one up, but you probably get what
I was going for.
The main mode of Mario Paint allows you to paint anything you want, using pre-existing stamps or just go at it freehanded. You can also create short animations, or switch to the colouring book to flood fill some drawings, if you want some light entertainment for your little hangover session. In my personal experience, it rocks; great therapy! You can also create a limited amount of your own stamps on a stamp grid, pixel by pixel. The first thing that came to my mind was recreating some 8-bit sprites when I first got familiar with the stamp grid; it just so happens that Nintendo Power used to have instructions to create all sorts of sprites on the Mario Paint stamp grid! Yes, you can make even 16-bit sprites, if you're patient enough. The stamp grid's cool. It's just too bad the SNES never had its own printer, or any other method to export anything made in Mario Paint - which is a problem at its worst with arguably the best feature of the whole combo: the music sequencer.

From what I've gathered, people love the music sequencer in Mario Paint, and I can perfectly understand why; it is still a very advanced polyphonic sequencer, way ahead of its time. I have watched tens of YouTube videos in awe as I've realized what some really talented people can create by using this basically very simple, not to mention cute, musical tool. Just for a very predictable example, you can whip up an excellent version of "Bloody Tears" from Castlevania, with comfortably minimal effort. What happens in Mario Paint, stays in Mario Paint, though. There's just no way to export any of your work, anywhere, which makes the whole combo feel useless. It might be just that, but there's no denying that it's fun.

You know "Paranoid"?
Speaking of useless but fun, there is one more main feature in Mario Paint, which is a minigame without a name. It's known by many, such as Coffee Break - after the icon used to trigger it - or Gnat Attack, or simply Bug Game. It's a silly, but insanely addictive game (once again, in a hangover), in which you use the mouse to control a flyswatter and literally swat flies that are swarming all over the screen. There are even boss fights. Coffee Break is the final proof we need: Mario Paint was never meant to be taken seriously. It might be pointless and a whole host of other less flattering things, but it's also harmless, and the genuine article when it comes to all candid creative tools.

Because of its confusing array of options, Mario Paint is hard to master when it comes to any "serious" use, but then again, who takes it seriously except nostalgics that are simply rocking the music sequencer even today, and creating some wicked animations with the very little ground they're given? Mario Paint was an earthshaker in 16-bit technology. It might have annoying limits, which have grown by heaps since its release, and it never really had a real target group, but it is one legendary package.

Graphics : 8.0
Sound : 7.0
Playability : 7.8
Challenge : -
Overall : 7.8


GameRankings: 77.00%

Nintendo Power ranks Mario Paint #162 on their list of the Top 200 Nintendo Games of All Time.

Kazumi Totaka's signature, known in the video game community as "Totaka's Song" made its debut in a Japanese Game Boy game named X, which was released about two months prior to Mario Paint. Mario Paint was the first internationally released game to feature the song; this has prompted some people to refer to it as the "Mario Paint Song". To date, the signature has been found in at least 15 games that Totaka has worked on as a composer.

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