Tecmo Super Bowl! It is one of the greatest video games of all time, if not the greatest.  Be excited and/or warned that I am going to be talking some Tecmo Super Bowl this month.

Here is a screenshot I earned just this weekend for the first time ever:



It was an early goal to win the Super Bowl with every team in the game.  I figured this goal to be fantastic, and never something I could or would do, considering how putrid some of the teams are.  Teams like: the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. I have won the Super Bowl many times.  Never with a team this bad.  I now have hope I can accomplish my goal.  New England Patriots!  Indianapolis Colts!  Phoenix Cardinals!  Your time is nigh.  (For the record, I still also need to win the Super Bowl with eight other teams, but I think those are just a matter of time and effort.)

One of my favorite things about TSB is that it has forever preserved the 1991 NFL.  The good teams will always be good.  The bad teams will always be bad.  Today, the Patriots and Colts are perpetual powerhouses, top teams year after year.  But TSB has preserved them as punchless, rainbow-pass-throwing, fast-defender-lacking cupcakes.  FOREVER. There’s just enough variation to keep it interesting: sure, the Patriots are bad, but from year to year they might win 8 games or just 1.  But you can always count on a victory when facing them, or a struggle if playing with them.

The downside of this dependability is that it will ALWAYS be hard to win with bad teams.  I can’t build up the Bucs through savvy personnel decisions in the draft and free agency.  No: Vinny Testaverde will always be the quarterback and he will always throw rainbow passes to eager defenders.  The ONLY alternative is backup Jeff Carlson. Jeff Carlson!  I have never heard of Jeff Carlson!  So anyway, I tried a number of times to win a Super Bowl with the wretched Buccaneers, and finally broke through.

Then I went on the internet (motto: We Ruin Your Video Gaming).  Poking around a few retro gaming sites I found all sorts of narratives about people who had undefeated seasons with the Bucs playing only with the backups and without ever calling a running play.  This is how The Internet Ruins Your Video Gaming.  For every game you’ve played and enjoyed, there is someone on the internet that played it to the nubs and wants to ruin it for you.  You beat the game?  Well, I beat the game blindfolded in one-third the time.  You think you’re good at the Ghost House 2 track?  I’ve beaten your time by 148 seconds. As with any other game, everything that can be done in TSB has been done a thousand times much better than you.  I thought I had a good passing season when I threw 51 TDs with Joe Montana.  Then there are dudes out there who threw nothing but bombs with Warren Moon for a whole season and threw 200.

The moral is: never look at the internet.

A philosophical look at Super Mario Brothers, part I: Who has the power?

One cannot doubt Mario’s innate abilities.  For a short stocky man with only a modest blue collar plumbing background, he harbors truly astounding athletic talents.  First, he has the remarkable ability to jump several times his own height:  from a flat standing position, he can jump about three times his height; with just a bit of a running start he can leap much higher and farther; and from a crouch can reach heights still more impressive.  Further, he can easily maneuver himself in mid-air to alter his flight path.  He can endure numerous physical injuries, including (but not limited to) numerous blows to the head, electrocution, falling onto spikes, animal bites, giant hammer blows, and squashings.  He can hold his breath underwater for a few minutes, even while enjoying a vigorous swim (and can harvest meager air bubbles or even metabolize undersea coins to obtain more oxygen).  He can carry thousands of star bits or coins the size of his head without any affect on his physical performance (one wonders, in fact, just where he keeps all of them, even with all the pockets a denim jumper affords; but this is another discussion).  And most impressive, he can even reincarnate his physical being, instantaneously, upon actual physical death, provided only that he has an extra small green mushroom on hand (and even if he doesn’t, he can still be reincarnated, it just takes a bit longer and he might re-appear at another location).  He can do all this while wearing a binding animal suit. He can do all of this without losing his hat.

All that said, and with all due reverence to this tiny, god-like man, the fact of the matter is that a large portion of his success must be due to the laughable incompetence of his principal adversary.  Perhaps one of Mario’s greatest assets is the ability to pick his enemies, yes? For every one of Mario’s fantastic talents there is an equally terrible strategic decision made by Bowser.

Bowser boasts an intimidating physical presence and apparent vast wealth.  He has castles upon castles, unchallenged leadership over a realm of minions, some terrific architects and engineers on staff, a large happy family, and an obvious flair for design.  But rather than enjoy his privileged status, he is instead consumed by an irrational desire to control something he cannot have: the life of Princess Toadstool.  Why this obsession burns within him is never clear.  It cannot be for money.  One could argue that he seeks only more power: the Mushroom Kingdom would be an impressive holding; however, Bowser seems to make few plays for it other than kidnapping its monarch and gloating over the accomplishment, rather than using the opportunity to institute any policy changes.  No–I believe his motivation must be purely personal.  His only goal seems to be symbolic.  The Princess is always treated well.  He makes no demands on the denizens of the Mushroom Kingdom.  He simply laughs at being able to kidnap her over and over again–it smacks of being a simple diversion for someone endlessly rich and bored.

Here we arrive at the first lamentable strategic decision made by Bowser.  Rather than stash the Princess away and consider the feat a job well done, he cannot help but boast of his work.  Even the act of kidnapping the Princess shows Bowser’s interest in being noticed.  The most recent kidnappings have been earth-quaking demonstrations of largess calling grand attentions on his misdeeds.  No quiet smuggling her away in the night with a threatening ransom note for Bowser.  He wants everyone in the Mushroom Kingdom to know what he’s done and much evidence suggests that Bowser even encourages Mario to attempt a rescue.

This falls into line with the “for entertainment” theory.  Should Mario shrug and say, “I’ve warned her repeatedly to beef up her personal security. I’ve lost too many lives pursuing her for reward no better than a slice of cake and a kiss on the cheek.  This is someone else’s problem”, Bowser would undoubtedly find this infuriatingly out-of-bounds.  Given that Bowser has it entirely within his power to assassinate the Princess or leverage her kidnapping to get something else, we must assume that he does all of this only to spur Mario into action, so the game can once again commence.  For his part, Mario must take on this task yet again or risk real retribution from Bowser.  He can’t simply leave her be, he must rescue her.  Even though with his powers and Bowser’s strategic failings, he knows for certain he will succeed, yet he is still forced to go through with the task, like just another of life’s endless rote errands.  But the point, from Bowser’s perspective, is that Mario has to do this.  In this way, Bowser does indeed wield true power over a god.


*A detailed account of Bowser’s strategic failings

*Theories on Mario’s abilities

Two notable nerdstuffs happening lately:

*Just got a supporting membership to AussieCon4, i.e., this year’s WorldCon, i.e., a big nerdy sci-fi convention.  Among other things, the reason I got in on it was for a Hugo vote.  I’ll have some reading to do before the vote is due July 31, but that’s three months to read six novels and assorted novellae and novelettes.

*I’ve always loved insanely long, overly precise video game walkthroughs, especially when they’re just plain text files.  So I’m writing one for The Adventures of Lolo as well as Lolo 2, which I’ve been playing on virtual console.  I don’t have a particular reason for doing this except that these games are fun and very procedure-oriented, so it’s somehow satisfying to document the process of clearing each room. I was wondering if there was a job that paid you to navigate complex interfaces and document them, then I realized I kinda already have it.

End transmission.


*Today is office-cleaning day.  I have re-discovered the color of my desk surface!  It is blue, I guess.  Somewhere between white and blue, anyway.

*We joined a CSA.  Can’t say enough good things about them.  I have been obtaining and eating a lot of lettuce.


*New cat!  K posted some pictures.  Bea is devilishly difficult to photograph because she’s small, fast, shy, and really shiny.  70% of pictures show only an indistinct reflective black mass.  This is the second and final cat, and has already helped keep Artie from driving us bats.  You see, like most cats, Artie feels he is the most important creature on the earth, and we exist merely to fulfill his demands for food, shelter, and entertainment.  Should these demands not be met, he allows a generous four seconds for the situation to be rectified.  Should that time elapse without satisfaction, the yowling begins at immediate maximum volume.  Bea, in addition to the better space the new house provides, has helped alleviate some of this.  She’s game for some tearing around the house just about whenever Artie is, so they’re keeping each other busy.  And like an dangerously escalating chemistry experiment gone bad, a dog will be added to the mix maybe in the fall.

The internet has waited long enough for a review of all Chocobo Theme songs.  Luckily the internet has prepared a video just for this purpose.

Section 1. Comments.

FFII.  Simple and jangly.  The basic awesome melody is there with few extras.  But definitely sowing the seeds of greatness.  This is the work of a budding genius.  I imagine this as the Chocobo Band’s first album, recorded for $700 over a weekend in a garage.

FFIII.  Actually a downgrade from II.  I think maybe they didn’t know what they had on their hands.  Sounds like they tried to go lo-fi and work just on the melody. Perhaps some music intern took over or it was overlooked by an unconscientious producer.

FFIV.  Here’s where things take off.  I’m pretty sure this was my first exposure, in the American “FFII”.  The tune has been filled out and grown into something special.

FFV. Some kind of tropical remix.  It’s a little goofy, but I appreciate where they’re coming from and it keeps its essence.

FFVI.  Brilliant.  The Chocobo Theme at its self-aware peak.  Someone lovingly crafted this who knew their way around a Chocobo Theme.  The sparse melody has been fully realized and built into a colossally layered electronic beast.

FFVII. A kinder, gentler Chocobo Theme.  I’m not sure of the context here–were the Chocobos drugged?  Or were they shooting for a gentle denounement from the glory of FFVI?

FFVIII.  Another where I wonder if I’m missing some context.  If I had to guess, I’d say this is heard when the hero discovers a playable version of FFII in an old barn.

FFIX. Are all the Chocobos old in this one?  You can’t ride a Chocobo to this music.  You put it out to pasture and start explaining to the kids that Old Chocy might not be with us much longer.

FFX. Complete unrecognizable and hideous. Is this a bad Saturday morning cartoon theme?  This is some kind of crime.

FFXI. Something about this one is a little off.  I like the idea but it’s oddly out of tune.  Or they’re meddling with the formula.

FFXII. Pretty great, ambitious orchestral version.  A true revival.  Complex and mature.  Kudos.

Section 2. Rank. Subjective but undoubtedly correct.

  1. FFVI
  2. FFIV
  3. FFII
  4. FFXII
  5. FFVII
  6. FFV
  7. FFIX
  8. FFIII
  10. FFXI
  11. FFX

Section 3. Actual research*.

Composers: Nobuo Uematsu has sole credit for the score in games II-IX. FFX and FFXI have two other co-composers and FFXII is entirely some others. I also found out that there is a whole Chocobo video game series in which the music is composed by one of the FFX composers.  Considering FFX has the worst Chocobo theme, I’m not as excited about this as I should be.

*I’m going to go ahead and assume that wikipedia is crushingly accurate when it comes to video game information and not check any other sources.  Wikipedia also makes it clear that I have a lot to learn about the Chocobo Theme