Some theories on Super Mario Odyssey design influences

The Electronic Entertainment Expo – E3 –  united millions of video game developers and fans this week. Nintendo’s efforts stood-out from the crowd. Their new game, titled Mario Odyssey, received some attention. We finally had a chance to see the game play.

I want to dig a bit deeper into some of the ideas and inspirations behind Nintendo’s new Sand Kingdom in Super Mario Odyssey. The Kingdom introduces a rusty red, cold and dry desert level.

Eagle-eyed gaming and theory enthusiasts might notice several cultural facts and references from myths influencing the design when Mario arrives in Tostarena Town.

In this post, I wanted to touch on what some of these influences are.

Samantha Robertson, Assistant Manager of Product marketing at Nintendo Treehouse, interviewed Nintendo’s developers. Robertson’s interviews reveal some of the main design influences:

  • The game play foundations stem from the dense but fascinating spaces Nintendo created in Super Mario 64, and Super Mario Sunshine.
  • The concept “Hakoniwa”, which translates into “Miniature Garden”, inspired the overall game design.

Nintendo have created a set of miniature gardens to play in.

They want to invite their fans to explore a miniature version of the real world, and it is likely their aim is to invite their fans to see the familiar world in a new, playful way.

Some Super Mario Odyssey character designs callback to past Nintendo titles. Specifically, the “Moe-aye”, inspired by Easter Island Moai statues.

“Moe-aye” are the basic sounds of the word Moai, which makes pronouncing the word easy. Super Mario Land for the Gameboy featured these statues. It is likely that “Moe-aye”
connect back to Nintendo’s early handheld Mario games.

The addition of the sunglasses is also a fun way to re-imagine the Moai statues.

Moeaye

Nintendo connects events of the past with its stylish new game in a playful way. Mario encounters a stone creature called a “Jaxi”, which resembles an ancient Mayan mask.

There is a reason for this resemblance:

It’s likely “Jaxi” combines the words jaguar and taxi.

Mario can call a ride from these stone Jaguars to get a lift across the vast red sands at breakneck speeds. This explains the taxi part of the name. But why a jaguar?

Mayan mythology regards the Jaguar as a symbol representing the energy of the sun. Similar to the sun god Apollo from the Greek pantheon, the Jaguar sun deity, called Ahau-Kin, travelled across the sky during the day.

My theory: this myth inspires the “Jaxi”

Like if Apollo became a ride share driver with his sun chariot.

Another playful idea from Nintendo that reaches back into past traditions.

Jaxi

Samantha Robertson says that Super Mario Odyssey embodies all the great experiences that the development team had while travelling overseas from Japan:

“[Mario Odyssey is] a love letter to our experiences travelling”

Kenta Motokura – Super Mario Odyssey Director, and Developer at Nintendo.

Nintendo’s Youtube channel contains all the E3 announcements from this week. Including the footage of the Sand Kingdom, and New Donk City, which I’ve added at the end of this post.

For more gaming content on the Wallflyer and you can follow me, Joe, on twitter @thewallflyer.

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5 arguments against overt, negative criticism of super heroes and comics

How respectable are comics, really? Comic book movies attract millions of people to cinemas. But what level of respect do these characters in costume receive?
Some might answer:
Yes, they are a respectable character archetype.
It’s not about the money the films garner.
The characters have meaning for the audience. We can look up to their example, if we want.
But others might argue that a man or woman lifting a car overhead, wearing bright colours, is disrespectful. Childish, and meaningless: a shallow stories punctuated with special-effects.
For situations where the criticism is negative in the extreme, there are several valid replies.
Here are five arguments against overtly negative criticism of super heroes and comics

1. Comics cross generations. Comics are stories that have the Same impact to an 80 year old as an 8 year old.

You might here someone say, or imply, that comics are for children. Comics connect with people of any age, or at least have the potential to reach people of any age. And media that unites generations is valuable.

2. Comics show ideas Of justice. Abstract concepts like justice become concrete and meaningful in comics.

Justice can be abstract. Abstract concepts are difficult to understand. A well researched and pitched comic story can act out and demonstrate abstract justice. They make justice concrete. And concrete concepts are easier to grasp.

3. Comics speak out against oppression.

Many different productions – novels, TV, and theatre- speak out against oppression. But comic books have gained a large platform. With that platform, they can speak out against oppression. Comics have supported the disenfranchised for decades, going back to the stories of Marvel’s X-men in the 1980’s.
Of course, no media is free of problematic issues. Some comics arguably maintain oppression. This point falls beyond this article’s scope, but is a fair point worth discussion.

4. They show us that caring about values and communities is fun.

Comics such as Ms.Marvel tell stories about thriving communities. Super Heroes in comics can care about their community. Comics tell stories that represent core values (humility, compassion, empathy) in a fun and engaging, playful way.

5. Superheroes in comics embody Communities. We follow their journeys, and gain a modicum of empathy.

By representing diverse communities more and more, audiences gain an insights. They get to know other people, and other communities we are not familiar with. Like argument number 3 above, other media can achieve this. Comics combine words and pictures, however. They can give insight in a unique and engaging way not found in other media.
These arguments were gathered from a talk held at the Gallery of Modern Art (GOMA) on super heroes and the real world, which I wrote about in a previous post.
For more comics content on the Wallflyer and you can follow me, Joe, on twitter @thewallflyer.

The best Marvel comics to read if you’re enjoying Marvel’s movies.

It’s becoming harder to find a place to jump in and start reading the comics that inspire Marvel’s Cinematic Universe. A new movie arrives almost every three months.

However, there is one solution:

Listen to comic book experts for their advice on what’s worth reading.

The Gallery of Modern Art (GOMA) in Brisbane hosted a panel discussion on comics in the real world last Sunday, May 28. The panel is part of the Marvel exhibition in Brisbane. The guests shared their expertise on comics  and the Marvel Universe – in print, and on screen.

The GOMA website summarised the career of each guest:

  • Professor Jason Bainbridge, Head of the School of Communication, University of South Australia
  • Ryan Griffen, Creator of sci-fi television series Cleverman
  • Dr Naja Later, Sessional Lecturer in Culture and Communication, University of Melbourne. And Sessional Academic, Swinburne University of Technology, Melbourne
  • Dr Paul Mason, Lecturer in Art Direction, Griffith Film School, and comic book illustrator on Kid Phantom (Frew Publications)

I was excited to see Ryan Griffen, the creator behind the new Cleverman series, share his thoughts and expertise. The season one story arc and plot were excellent.

Dr. Paul Mason is the skilled artist behind the new Kid Phantom comic from Frew Publications based in Sydney, Australia. It is always worth listening to Paul’s insights.

And for the first time, I thought it was exciting and interesting to listen to Dr. Naja Later, Prof. Jason Bainbridge, and the panel MC Scott Stephens.

Goma Panel Guests shared which comics are excellent “jumping in” points for new readers. Here’s their recommendations:

Ryan Griffen – Black Panther And The Crew (2017)

Paul Mason – Fantastic Four 1960’s collected editions or omnibuses

Naja Later – Bucky Barnes as Captain America (2004 – 2010)

Jason Bainbridge – The original Secret Wars (1984)

Four excellent recommendations for any Marvel fans who are enjoying the Marvel Cinematic Universe.

You can find more comics content on the Wallflyer and you can follow me, Joe, on twitter @thewallflyer.