Monday, December 12, 2011

25 Days of Villains - #14: Bowser

For this Koopa King, I'm thinking first and foremost of his appearance in Super Mario 64. I don't mean to discredit all of his attempts to capture Princess Peach beforehand, but this was easily his most menacing appearance in all the Mario games. I am however, ruling out Super Mario Sunshine because Bowser Jr. did most of the work there.

Super Mario 64 begins with Princess Peach sending Mario an invitation to the castle. When Mario arrives, he notices almost immediately that something is amiss. A trek through Bob-omb Battlefield and a few other early stages lead to the first confrontation with Bowser, who reveals that he is holding Peach as his prisoner.

Each of Bowser's boss battles presented a different approach. The first was rather straightforward, with the arena being relatively small, the explosive spike balls sizeable, and King Bowser giving Mario plenty of openings to grab his tail. The second battle threw a tilting platform into the mix, with lava waiting below. The third required Mario to throw Bowser at the spike balls three times, with the stage shrinking halfway through the fight. Through this progression of boss fights cam the requirement to better gauge the speed, distance, and direction Bowser's body would fly off at once Mario released him, adding another layer of complexity to the fight.

But what was perhaps the most exciting element of each Bowser boss fight were the mini-stages that preceded each. The first focused on moving platforms and electric enemies - nothing too terribly difficult, but a nice combination of platforming and sneaking. The fire world stage required careful timing, lest Mario fall into the lava below as platforms would rise and sink. And the final stage was brutal and unforgiving, with gusts that could send the hero plumber flying to his doom. Oh yeah, and before Mario can even access the third boss fight, Bowser makes it so that he has to have seventy stars, otherwise he can run forever without making any headway.

In recent games like Super Paper Mario, Bowser has taken on the role of a hero and ally to Mario. I am by no means labeling these newer releases as 'poor' or 'bad' - Mario is still an excellent series. But it doesn't do well for the series' main baddie to be turning over a new leaf, which is why Bowser lands himself at spot number fourteen.

Boss theme:

This one is a classic. I've loved the rock style to this boss theme ever since I was a little kid.

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