a rickety bridge of impossible crossing

critique corner

Here are a few ways they could've made things better, in my opinion

Love Me or Hate Me

If you love me then—thank you,
If you hate me then—fuck you!

I think the song would've been much better if Lady Sovereign had said "If you hate me then fuck you, if you love me then fuck you!" The way it is in the song just comes across as milquetoast and pandering. "Love me or hate me, it's still an obsession" is a strong sentiment. It shows that for a listener to either believe that they love or hate a celebrity they've never met is essentially the same kind of unhealthy parasocial obsession, and to Lady Sovereign, both sentiments are unwelcome. But "if you love me then thank you" undermines that point. It would've been a lot stronger if she went all-in on disavowing parasocial fandom of any sort. It's possible that the song originally had something along these lines, but her manager or label pressured her to change it lest she alienate her fans. The way she says "thank you" comes across as a little sarcastic and cloying, as if she's saying it under duress. I think the only fans she would've alienated are the unhealthily obsessed ones, and you don't want those kind of fans anyway. And what's more punk than telling your fans to fuck off?

Castlevania II

When I was a kid, one of the hotly debated topics among my Nintendo-playing friends was whether "Dracula's nail" refers to a fingernail or a carpenter's nail. I assumed it meant a fingernail, because all the other things you collect are body parts (until the end when you find Dracula's ring, but no one made it that far anyway.) It seems obvious that it wouldn't be referring to a piece of hardware, but

  1. The game was made for 8-year-olds;
  2. Nothing else in the game makes sense thanks to the poor translation and/or deliberately misleading dialogue;
  3. When you finally find it, it doesn't really look much like a fingernail:


My solution? Just change it to "claw". The picture looks more like a claw. "Claw" is unambiguous, the word can be used figuratively for a fingernail or it can refer to a literal animal claw, and of course, Dracula can change forms! It's a good reminder of Dracula's supernatural essence. Finally, it's the same number of letters as "nail", so you wouldn't need to worry about text overflow bugs.

Appointment reminder text

Dr. ██████ looks forward to seeing you at your appointment at ████████. Please call to reschedule.

Why are they telling me to reschedule? I realized what they meant, but it was still a moment of cognitive dissonance. Just change it to "Please call if you need to reschedule."

Super Mario World

When you first enter the underworld and see the mysterious object flying around Bowser's Castle:


There should've been a cutscene where Mario says "Mamma mia! Is that a clown copter?!"

This seemingly nonsense exclamation would've piqued the player's interest. Besides the obvious foreshadowing benefit, it also helps make the world bigger than what the player sees. You remember that statement when you get to the Bowser fight and discover that it is, in fact, a clown copter. This isn't just a unique vehicle piloted by Bowser in this one fight, but it implies that clown copters are an impressive but known form of conveyance in the Mushroom Kingdom (and in later Mario games, this would turn out to be the case.)

It'd be like the part at the beginning of Yellow Submarine when the head meanie rattles off the list of weapons and troops at their disposal: "Are the troops in readiness? The Bonkers? Clowns? Snapping Turks? Anti-music missiles? The Dreadful Flying glove?" It briefly cuts to show each one as it's named, and when the viewer sees them later, they have the impression that these things aren't just random nonsense; at least in the universe of Yellow Submarine, they're a known quantity. It leads to a greater sense of immersion and investment. For as unique and inexplicable as the worlds in the Mario Universe were, you rarely got a sense of what cards the writers weren't revealing.

Maybe this was one of the reasons Mario World felt like a disappointment to me after Super Mario Bros. 3. Despite having "World" in the title, it felt less like a world than the previous game. In Mario 3, the Princess isn't just an abstraction. She's more than a McGuffin waiting for you at the end of the game, she's sending you letters, giving you hints but also hinting at a more interesting world. You imagine the princess is off having adventures of her own, and saving her doesn't come up until the very end of the game. Going from kingdom to kingdom and saving the transformed monarchs is a story with much bigger stakes, and feels like a tantalizing taste of things to come.

Super Mario World felt like a step backwards in so many ways. Gone are the different kingdoms, and you're back to a bog-standard "save the princess" quest. The rad steampunk airships are gone, and you're back to fighting the Koopa Kids in boring ol' castles. (the sunken ghost airship is a cool touch, but it speaks to how less invested I was that I didn't even realize it was a Mario 3 callback until someone pointed it out to me.)

You don't get Toad popping up to give you items or let you play minigames. There are no items like the hammer that let you explore more of the map. There are no rare power-ups like the tanuki suit and hammer bros. suit. None of the parts of the world feel particularly unique. The ghost houses feel like a gimmick, they don't gel with anything else in the world.

The only new worldbuilding you really get is Dinosaur Land and the introduction of the Yoshis, which is cool, but it's not enough. Yoshis are your only friends in the game, but other than the message that pops up when you first encounter one, they're devoid of personality. They're disposable and interchangeable. You can't even bring them into the castles with you. No one's there to witness you triumphing over the Koopa kids and ridding the land of their evil, all you get is a bunch of Yoshi eggs and a sentence or two from an unseen narrator. No one's there to thank you or cheer you on. It's just a lonely experience. It's mechanically a better game, and it's cool to find all the secrets, but Mario 3 will always be the better game in my heart