Loosely based on this level ending and aftermath
as well as some regular hacks I started that I didn't feel motivated enough to finish but still wanted to tell their story anyway, with quite a few things embellished and that (AFAIK) wouldn't be able to accurately translate into a ROM hack. Here we go!
“Dammit, I lost again for the quadrillionth time!” Mario said as he lay on the ground, blood oozing from his eyes and his mouth open in pain. In 16-bit, it actually looked kinda cute, but in the same amount of pixel resolution as real life, not so much. Fortunately he had a trump card up his sleeve. It was actually the same trump card he used for pretty much every time he lost while some Higher Power made him run through one of those sadistic death campaigns that ROM hacking communities would call “Kaizo hacks”, TvTropes would call them “platform hell” and Panga would call them “something he can do in his sleep.” He rewound time, back to before he failed against this final boss, in the ultimate hell-hole that he ended up in, far removed from anything that could be perceived as the slightest bit fun for him. The music, which didn't seem to be coming from anywhere in particular, was loud and full of epic guitar riffs to set the mood, and he could hear it. One hit away, let's a go, Mario thought.
For anyone who's ever played video game ROM's on an emulator (IDK anyone on SMWC who has), that phenomenon of rewinding time is known as savestate/loadstate/rewind. He could also slow down time to allow more time to think and navigate deathtraps and do parkour with higher precision, or “using slow-down or frame advance.” Each time he reloaded his life from a certain point, he retained the memories of everything that happened prior but from everyone else's point of view, everything that happened in between saving his life and then reloading his life never happened. So that meant he remembered all his quadrillions of deaths vividly, but to everyone else, he's never actually died. Mario successfully and precisely delivered the final blow to the final boss, which disappeared in a puff of smoke. He had now beaten the level.
“WOO!” Mario performed a celebratory spinjump. “I gotta tell Luigi all about this! That was one of my most difficult campaigns ever!” Right as he was exiting the campaign via pipe, Luigi was standing right outside, staring at Mario with the most angry, yellow eyes he'd ever seen. Yellow eyes! So help him God, yellow eyes! He knocked Mario off his feet with a hard shove, taking him by surprise.
“MARIO! I've gone through hell and back, saved the princess, and I've exorcised demons, but do I get any recognition or make-out sessions from the princess for it, EVER? NO! And here you are, using your time-bending powers to do all these impossible looking parkour stunts and garnering more views on one video than I ever have in my whole life. Let me be brutally honest here. Anyone can do what you do regardless of skill as long as they're patient enough. Even a senile old man who lost both his shins serving in a war could do it. When you rescue the princess you all ride off in the sunset and have a dinner date at Olive Garden. Even throw a parade or two. But when I do it, she just says 'yea, whatever' not even so much as a 'nice job.'”
“Nuh uh,” Mario responded like a little kid.
“Yuh huh. Loading until you get it right is basically a luck game.” Mario could not think of a suitable counterargument, so he settled for an elementary comeback.
“You're ugly!” Luigi ignored him.
“Your death campaigns are one of those things that isn't hard but just takes a while while my campaigns actually take skill and feel tense. Seriously dude, do you think duels in Yu-Gi-Oh would have had the same impact if at any time Yami could just loadstate back to before his opponent activated whatever trap card? No different from taking a multiple choice test and reloading until you get a perfect score, negating the need to study.”
“You're just jelly cuz I have more recognition than you.” Mario pulled out his cellphone and pretended to dial a number. “Hello, is this the jelly school? I got someone here who is extremely jelly.” Luigi was looking increasingly freaked out.
“Uh, what's up with that giant crack in the sky that's expanding by the second?” Luigis eyes popped out. Tons of debris was getting sucked up into the giant crack in space, atom by atom in a spaghetti-like fashion.
“Uh, what?” Mario's eyes also followed suit. Peach pelted out of her castle and looked up, her countenance displaying the same kind of bewilderment as Luigi and Mario.
“Oh no no NO, it actually happened!” Peach she pointed a finger at Mario. “What have you done, Mario? I was beginning to have a feeling that entrusting you to be responsible with your savescumming powers would be like letting an LSD addict pilot a military helicopter. The fabric of space time could not keep up with your incessant time bending abuse, and boy did it come back to bite you in the ass.” Peach restrained Mario like a parent might do to a small child throwing a tantrum, and gave him a spanking. “Excess of anything is sinful. You of all people should know that, given how huge your potbelly is. You really need to lay off the Olive Garden menu.”
“Why are you pinning this all on me? That's like blaming the subpar quality of your favorite band's recent album on the president.”
“You must take one final trip back in time to the first landscape of your first ever death campaign and complete all your death campaigns (not just the ones where the title declared that you must die) over again without using any of your time bending powers at all. Basically like how Luigi goes through his own campaigns. It is the only way to close the hole. All your incessant abuse of saving and reloading your life every time you fail to complete a part of whatever landscape you're on and then doing that until you beat the landscape you were on is taking its toll on the fabric of time and space. I made a huge mistake when I enchanted you with that power. Your time manipulation abuse is causing reality as we know it to break down, and you've reached critical mass. And for what? More internet views? They're just a number, you know. Personally I don't think any amount of internet video views are worth destroying the universe over.” Right after her speech Luigi and Peach had gotten spaghettified, being sucked into the rift atom by atom. Everything else around Mario got sucked in atom by atom until it was only him left in a literally colorless void (colorless as in 'if you were looking right at it there would be no sense of color. Even neutral colors count as colors in this case).
Several years ago
A letter arrived in Mario's mailbox. It was from Peach. He'd expected as much. “This 'save the princess' business is getting old. Why not save yourself for once, or ask Luigi to do it?” Mario opened up the envelope and read it out loud. “I have been kidnapped by Bowser for the umpteenth time and I am tired of you taking so long to rescue me, and I am tired of being kidnapped. Fortunately Bowser is predictable enough for me to have anticipated this, so I enchanted you with a special power while you were asleep. This superpower allows you to reload your life from a certain point whenever you make a mistake as well as slow down time down to the frame. Use it wisely, because it's a prototype. I am afraid of what might happen if you abuse such a magical device.” Mario remembered a little tidbit he learned from high school physics class.
“The smallest unit of time is the Planck second, also known as a frame. It is equal to one sixtieth of a second,” Mario recited to himself.
After Bowser's minions were finished terraforming, Mario began the first landscape of his latest campaign, which was grassland, of course. It felt like deja vu. No, actually, more like Groundhog Day. Every campaign beginning he'd ever experienced was an upbeat, hilly grassland. So cliché. After a brain fart, Mario accidentally ran into a Goomba. Oops! Mario was now dead. Oh no you don't!
Mario loadstated back to before he hit the Goomba. He would be rescuing the princess in no time.
He cleared the rest of the missions much quicker than normal because he never felt the need to be careful. Every time he either got burned to a crisp, fell down a bottomless pit, or fell in death water, he erased his death by loadstating and carried on like normal. Before he knew it, he was at Bowser's castle. Mario wondered how much Bowser's re-modelers and terraformers were getting paid. It sounded like a fun job.
“According to my calculations, this is the 7th time I've gotten kidnapped. I don't know why I didn't think of it the very first time I got kidnapped, or especially during your SMB2J campaign, but your savescumming powers really came in handy.” Peach kissed Mario on the lips. They rode off into the sunset to Olive Garden on a Yoshi.
After Peach was escorted from the castle by the pudgy plumber, Mario hatched an idea. He went back home, got on his computer, and ordered a digital camera and tripod off Amazon. He then called Bowser, Baby Bowser, Wart, and other villains throughout the Mario franchise. This is what he said to each of them:
“Hey dude, remember me? Well, I'd like you to send your remodelers and terraformers back out to make the most extremely difficult campaigns you possibly can. Require physics abuse, forced injuries, keeping my power-up, and jumping off Yoshi in order to complete a jump. Make convoluted puzzles that only give me one shot. Pull out all the stops. K'?” Mario hung up his phone.
“I was beginning to have so much fun with my newly acquired time-bending powers. I am going to navigate the most impossible-looking courses and savescum until I win, and get it all on video. People like going to Cirque du Soleil to watch the crazy stunts, and this time-bending power of mine will allow me to do those same stunts and crazier. I am going to be a YouTube sensation. Eat your heart out, Super Me Maker.” Mario laughed evilly.
Mario was invited back to the newly reformed Mushroom Kingdom/Dinosaur Land/Subcon/Isle Delfino/Peach's Castle/etc. His body was ready. That is, until he got skewered by spikes only 5 seconds in. Reload. Bounce off the Parakoopa, eat the mushroom, lose the mushroom prematurely, find out he needed the mushroom. Reload.
Over an hour had passed according to Mario time but to everyone else, it was only 2 and a half minutes. By now I could have rescued Peach at least twice if this was an ordinary campaign,
Mario thought. He was barely halfway thru the first level. He tried out his time-dilating magic. He felt like a ninja. Everything in the level moved about half the speed as normal, including himself, but his mental processes were still at normal speed. He felt nimble enough to be able to literally dodge every single raindrop if it was raining.
The most difficult campaign ever
After endlessly studying the videos meticulously, examining every single frame of them (until the point of memorization, which took until old age), he reluctantly loadstated way back to the beginning of his first ever platform hell campaign. He felt much younger and more nimble. I have officially passed the point of no return. Here we go!
Using all the knowledge of the videos stored in his head, he ran headfirst into the first landscape and persevered until the final landscape of the last platform hell campaign he did (the one that was described in the first chapter of this mini-story) without reloading or dilating time even once. Even with having the levels memorized that still didn't stop the massive paranoia and anxiety. In fact, try recording a video of it raining and keep watching every frame of the video until you memorize precisely where and when every single raindrop will fall, and then reload time back to when it was raining and see if you can walk outside from point A to point B while dodging every single raindrop, and you only get one shot at doing this. The lack of time travel made this mission feel like an entirely new campaign (the most difficult campaign ever, in fact) even tho there was nothing new in terms of level design. It felt much more difficult than anything he'd ever done before.
“Aw man, I can't believe I actually did all that without saving and loading. Luigi was right. It does take an entirely different skillset to do this. At least it's still easier than Cuphead's tutorial.” The huge gaping hole in space time that threatened to swallow the sky and threatened to eradicate existence via spaghettification was no longer present, and everything was back to normal just as it was before he became hellbent on abusing his time-bending powers. He went to go check his video footage. Except there was none. “Dammit, I forgot to hit record! Now I know why Coyote Peterson always makes darn sure his various stings and bites are actually recorded.” He hurled the camera down the nearest bottomless pit in frustration. Right next to the same bottomless pit was a stray Yoshi.
“Oh!” Mario rubbed his hands together in excitement, reflecting on how much fun he had selfishly dropping the poor creature down bottomless pits. As he ran toward the Yoshi, some steel walls came down on him before he could actually reach the Yoshi like in the Mousetrap board game where the 'board game' part was useless. The walls were iron clad, with bars so closely spaced they would have been adequate for keeping a pet octopus.
“WHAT THE WHAT?!” Mario screamed. Luigi greeted him with an evil smirk on his face and his eyes turning yellow once more. Oh God, those yellow eyes and green teeth!
“Hey, Mario!” Luigi called out. “You ain't going anywhere. I'm going to be the one to rescue the princess this time. I called Bowser and told him to kidnap Peach so I could rescue her. Now that your viewers know precisely the dangerous ramifications of your selfish perfectionism, hopefully they'll start to hate you now!”
Mario attempted to reload. He started feeling a little queasy. “I can't loadstate? Seriously?”
“Remember, this cage is made of iron and iron disables magic. I think it's best to keep you here until Peach can come up with a reverse spell that can permanently erase your savescumming power. Better safe than sorry.”
“Man, I wish I hadn't gotten myself fired from my plumbing job. Apparently my boss thinks it's a bad idea to get myself high on shrooms on the job,” Mario mumbled to himself.
Luigi was off to his own navigating his own difficult landscapes, tho they were nowhere near as hellish as his brother's landscapes that he had to redo. It kinda reminded him of American Ninja Warrior. A camera mounted on a tripod was capturing every moment of all the action. It felt so refreshing to actually be in the spotlight for once. This whole campaign appeared to have been inspired by Super Mario Bros. The Lost Levels.
Once he got to the final landscape, Bowser knew better than to store his axe by the bridge, but Luigi had a plan B. Since Bowser made the mistake of using brown used blocks as a bridge, Luigi stomped on a P-Switch, causing the bridge to turn into coins, and Bowser to fall through and land in the pool of boiling Gatorade. His skin was melting off as he frantically thrashed around. This did not shock Luigi one bit, for if it did, he'd be out of yet another job. “At least I can now abuse mushrooms at my leisure without getting caught.”
“I'm back,” Luigi called to Mario. He was carrying Peach in his strong arms. “So Mario, you're still subbed to me on YouTube, right? Cuz there's a little surprise waiting in your sub feed.”
Mario took a look at the YouTube app on his phone. Looking at the sub feed, he found several new videos from Luigi corresponding to each landscape of his own campaign in what looked like the absolute most difficult levels from Super Mario Maker. The view count made his eyes pop out of his skull like a cartoon character. 20 billion views within the first hour of upload. He pushed the dislike button on all of them.
Mario looked at his notification bell. He had dozens of new comments. Ever since the gaping hole in the universe had opened, his comments sections were flooded with a sharp increase in keyboard diarrhea.
“Go kill yourself, you sellout!”
“This guy's a great big phony! Let's burn him at the stake.” If you looked deep enough (like heading to the bottom of the Mariana trench), you just might find the occasional comment that wasn't completely mean-spirited.
“Who cares if it was staged? It was still entertainment,” one commenter said. Since they stated an opinion that went against the status quo, they were branded as worse than Hitler. Mario's subscribers were leaving in droves. The dislikes on his videos took a drastic increase, making the like/dislike bars look like long grey lines with maybe a couple pixels of blue.
“My own YouTube channel is finished! I can't do hard levels anymore because it's all fake stuff that will contribute to destroying the universe again, and I can't do easy or medium levels either because viewers will find it boring to watch! I HAVE NOTHING LEFT!”
“OBJECTION!” Peach interjected, pointing her index finger right at him. “You're still allowed to have the landscapers make obscenely hard, nigh-impossible landscapes for you. The main thing is, just don't feel like you have to rely on savescumming or slowing time. It is possible to have both. Basically if we were in a video game the player should not have to injure their fingers every level.”
“But I'm too scared.”
“You'll eventually find your footing,” Peach assured him. “If you've ever played Donkey Kong Country Returns, you never ever felt tempted to savescum and reload, even on the hidden temple levels. Remember, the reason we call it savescumming is because you are an awful piece of scum if you use it.” Feeling backed into a corner, Mario let himself in the mindset to take this advice to heart. Try as he might, he was simply unable to explain what was so fun about tediously reloading until he got it right. It might as well have been like explaining why turning in job applications is so fun. Peach held Luigi's hand.
“Well, since you rescued me, wanna go out on a date?” Peach offered. “I've been on several dates with Mario but never with his brother.”
“Sure. Um, where shall we go?”
“Are you up for visiting the Nintendo theme park at Universal Studios?”
“Ooh, heck yeah!” Luigi answered excitedly. Mario felt like he needed to go to jelly school, so he filled out an application.
--------------------Legacy custom music
How am I so creative? I think taking walks might have something to do with it.
Every single level of every single ROM hack I've ever made is easier than Ultra Necrozma.