When people play Super Smash Brothers, the characters are definitely the top priority. Everyone has their favorite characters that they want to see make it into the game and if said-character never makes it in then they can throw a massive fit. However, just as important as the characters are to Smash, the arenas that these characters fight in are equally worthy of discussion. The arenas you pick can completely define how you play within the game. The flat, Omega stages allow for nothing but fighting skill to be shown while the Stadium-type stages (e.g. Pokemon Stadium, Arena Ferox) have changing environments that fighters must adapt to in order to win. Then there are levels that move like Mushroomy Kingdom and Pac-Land, where the goal is more about surviving and platforming than fighting as standard fighting may lead to an early death here. All of this means that the arenas we fight in are just as important as the characters we fight with.
We here at Source Gaming believe that Sakurai follows very similar guidelines when it comes to creating a stage as he does when creating a newcomer. They must be fun to fight on, fill a certain niche/gimmick and represent their series and game well. They do not have to be a perfect match-up to the source material. Sakurai is allowed to mess with the layout of the area in order to create a useable level for the gameplay of Smash.. One example is Great Bay in Super Smash Bros. Melee where the lower platform has been moved to the side, due to the change in gameplay style, and the turtle has been moved from his location at the back of Zora’s domain to here. It takes elements from nearly all of the Great Bay and molds them to match the style of Super Smash Bros. Melee.
The main difference with the stages and characters in each iteration of Super Smash Bros is that the stage roster is always changing. Sure, there are some stages that return, like Corneria from Melee to Brawl to Super Smash Bros. for 3DS, but for the most part they get swapped out for other arenas that represent possibly entirely different games and series but still keep the same concept that the original stage created. An example of this is the Ice Climber arena: Icicle Mountain from Super Smash Bros. Melee and its vertical scrolling gimmick. In Super Smash Bros. Brawl, this arena was replaced with Rumble falls from the Donkey Kong series, which used the exact same gimmick but represented a different series and had a different stage layout and hazards. Small changes can be made but the initial concept stays the same. I have taken this into account when making some stages. The stage that I will be discussing today shows this. I hope to not just make stages that I would like to see in a future title, but to come up with stage designs that could fit within a Super Smash Bros. title. So without further ado, it is finally time to give that big, bad, yet loveable, Nintendo villain a stage of his own: World Bowser.
World Bowser: The History and Importance
Before I get into my piece, please, feel free to listen to some of the tracks that I believe would be used for this level. These music tracks are all here to represent the big bad himself but also match the city aesthetic that the stage is going for.
–World Bowser (remix)
–The Great Tower of Bowser Land (remix)
First, we will look at the inspiration for this arena. The stage takes inspiration from the final level of Super Mario 3D Worlds main story: The Great Tower of Bowser Land. World Bowser in general, is very different from the usual Bowser themed level. In nearly all games before this, Bowser’s final domain has been either lava-based, a castle or some dark and scary void. World Bowser is a bright city-scape and carnival with up-beat, yet intimidating, music that surprises most players at first. Bowser’s massive tower is the centerpiece and looks intimidating as it looms over the world, yet is surrounded by bright neon lights and fun attractions. There is lava present in World Bowser however, so it also gets a place in this stage as well.
This level is based entirely on ‘The Great Tower of Bowser Land’ level however i decided to call it ‘World Bowser’ instead for two reasons. First, is that the former title is a bit of a mouth full, and second, everything that makes World Bowser is here in this stage. It fully represents the big king’s neon domain from the volcano in the background to the ferris wheel on the left side of the stage.
Now onto how important World Bowser is to the Super Mario Series, Super Mario 3D World and Bowser in general. I think the first thing that should be covered is how Bowser, as far as stage representation, has been criminally under represented. The only reference Bowser has gotten in a Mario stage is in the 3DS’ Paper Mario stage and the Wii U’s Mushroom Kingdom U. For Nintendo’s main villain this is rather surprising so i really feel a Bowser themed level is due. The reason why we have not got one yet may come from my next point. Bowser’s theme is fire and lava. As previously mentioned, Bowser has only had three themes overall in the past with the stand-out exception being the airships of Super Mario Bros. 3. His most prominent past worlds have been lava-based so if he received a level prior to now, it would NEED to have a focus on lava in either its theme or gimmick. However, lava based levels have already appeared in the Super Smash Brothers series with the Metroid franchise. Norfair and Pyrosphere are two lava levels, especially the former where lava acts as a hazard. Sakurai tries his best not to let stages clash (this is not always the case with returning levels i.e. Smashville). Bowser’s castle has appeared in both versions of Smash as a part of a level but never as the focus. World Bowser from Super Mario 3D World is unique in its city-carnival theme but also has a lot of elements that scream: Bowser! Finally, this arena needs to be looked at for how important it is to its home game, Super Mario 3D World. World Bowser is the 8th world of the game and is by far its most unique. Every other world is very stereotypical of the Super Mario franchise (plains, desert, ice, mountain, beach, sky, fire and space) so World Bowser is easily the most recognizable world in that game. Its atmosphere really represents Super Mario 3D World and its jazz score while also representing Bowser’s more goofy style in this game as he drives around in his purple muscle car and later on turns into a giant cat. All of these elements show that World Bowser would fit in smash as it represents Bowser successfully and is not just a random location from the game.
With all of this done and out of the way, let us talk about the actual features of my World Bowser level.
World Bowser: Statistics and Hazards
Game: Super Mario 3D World
Series: Super Mario
Home to: Bowser
Stage size: Medium (e.g. Windy Hill Zone, Termina, Peach’s Castle)
Niche: Bowser-themed level
Blast Zones: Close
Gimmick: Ferris wheel, intractable platforms, fire hazards.
Let us start with the layout of this stage. The stage is asymmetrical with a large platform taking up the lower part of the level. Most of the fighting will take place here. The platform is mostly flat with a little slope going up to a smaller section on the right. Above that small section is another small platform which you can jump up to. The upper platform is not very big and its main attraction is the lift. On the opposite side of the stage is a Ferris wheel with four large platforms in contrast to the wheel from Windy Hill Zone which has more, smaller, platforms. Lastly, in the middle of the arena is three floating platforms made of clouds. The three are separate but when together they make one big platform. The centrepiece of the background is The Great Tower of Bowser where the final boss fight from Super Mario 3D World takes place. There will be occasional lightning strikes around it and strobe lights from the carnival below blasting through the fog at the bottom. There could even be rain like the original level but it may be too distracting for the players. To the right of this is a volcano which I will talk about a bit later. Lastly, the Omega version of this stage will be a non-floating variant of Final Destination, similar to Onett and the Wrecking Crew’s Omega versions. Aesthetically it will be based on the blue & green roofed building that makes up the center of the stage..
Now let us go through each Hazard bit by bit and explain them in more detail, going from left to right. First is the Koopa-Clown Ferris wheel which acts very similar to the windmill from Windy Hill Zone. It will move clockwise like in its origin game and at most there will be two platforms on screen. The platforms cannot be jumped through, they are solid, and so if you get caught below you will have to jump around them. Staying on the Ferris wheel too long will take you past the blast zones to the left or below. The platforms on the wheel are big enough for 1-on-1 fights and are about the size of the moving platform in Smashville.
Next is the three cloud platforms that are floating in the middle of the stage. These platforms can be jumped through and you can fight on them. They float above a solid platform which is good for survival as these platforms can break apart. Much like in Super Mario 3D World, the platforms will break when attacked. The best example I could find was during the final Bowser battle where King Koopa destroys them as he climbs up the wall in cat form. When players attack these platforms they will split apart for a few seconds before reassembling again. One tactic that can use these clouds is for a character with projectiles. Having Fox stand on the higher platform to the right and using his blaster to shoot the clouds will cause them to disappear and anyone fighting on them will fall down below.
Also in the middle of this stage is another hazard: great balls of fire. Lava and fire are big themes with Bowser as established earlier so it had to be included somewhere in this level, even if it is not the main focus for the aesthetic. In the background is a volcano and this is where the lava comes from. If you pay attention you will be able to tell when to expect the fireballs as you will see the volcano erupt. The fireballs fall down from the sky in the center of the stage and will also destroy the cloud platforms as it rains down. Players will get damaged when they hit the fireballs in the air, but they will get more damaged if they hit it on the ground as it melts into a puddle and can cause consistent fire damage. The fireballs will motivate players to fight on either the left or right side of the stage to avoid damage but it is not impossible to still fight in the middle. The fireballs will be slow enough and not obnoxious enough that skilled players can fight around them, dodging out of the way and throwing opponents into them for extra damage. The fireballs will not disappear when hit so it is not even worth trying. The fireballs are not a constant throughout the battle. They will happen at random intervals so do not worry if you feel they are going to be annoying and ruin the stage.
Finally we have the lifts that appear in all of the carnival stages of Super Mario 3D World. Jumping in this will cause it to move along the effect marker to the lower level. It is great for quick escapes from opponents as it moves really fast but it has the side effect of throwing its rider into the middle of the stage before moving back to its starting position. This could be potentially dangerous as fireballs may be falling in the middle of the stage. If the fighters chose to move to the right to avoid the fireballs then they need to carefully consider whether riding the lift is really the safest option at all.
With that, my walkthrough of King Bowser Koopa’s domain is complete. This would be the first time Nintendo’s main villain gets a stage dedicated entirely to him, which is something I believe he really deserves. Each of the Hazards in this stage accurately reflects the original source game and the character of Bowser himself. It has been adapted to fit the gameplay style of Super Smash Bros. So, let me know what you think in the comments below. Do you like the idea of this stage or do you feel it would not match with the stages already found in the Super Smash Bros. series? Is this stage fun to you, or just annoying? I look forward to hearing your thoughts and let us hope that Sakurai and his time will make more stage DLC for the future of Super Smash Bros for Wii U and 3DS.