September 5th, 2009
Initially I disliked the boss battles with Bowser in Super Mario Galaxy. To be honest, I didn’t really understand them, but after completing the game with 121 at the helm – and many a Bowser toppled – I think I finally get it.
Nintendo designs the levels of their primary franchises (Mario, Metroid, Zelda) in the same formulaic fashion. A dungeon, sector or stage is a training ground for a newly acquired ability. In Metroid and Zelda it’s often a little more elaborate with frequent folded game design – but overall the structure is the same amongst all three franchises. The boss battles therefore are the exams. They test all facets of your skills just learnt. For example, a boss battle centered around the hookshot would focus on both the hookshot’s ability to draw items closer as well as its ability to cling Link to certain meshes.
Mario doesn’t gain permanent abilities or devices throughout his adventures hence the battles in the Mario games focus on elements of the central game mechanics, typically jump. In Super Mario Bros. the primary means for defeating King Koopa (as he was known back then) was to jump over him; jump was the game’s most prominent feature, the base of the series, one could say. In Super Mario World Mario had to grab and throw Mecha-Koopas at Bower’s Clown Car; grabbing and throwing was a significant new mechanic to the game. In Super Mario 64 Mario twirled Bowser around by his tail; this accentuated the new analogue stick control.
In Mario Galaxy, Bowser runs about a spherical planet from one side to the other. As with all the other examples listed, this demonstrates the new spherical planet gameplay. The repetition of these boss battles, with the exception of Super Mario World, further emphasizes the core mechanics of the game whilst making minor alterations and additions along the way.
I know it’s common sense, but these kinds of observations live in the subconscious part of my brain, so sometimes it makes me feel smart digging it out from there.