Nintendo Character Guide Revealed
January 4, 2015 2:54 PM   Subscribe

The Nintendo Character Guide from 1993 is a sort of "bible" for for Nintendo Partners to use as a guide for creating media involving Nintendo's characters, and has been revealed by Blake J. Harris. This affords us a behind-the-scenes look at the official backstory as it was in 1993.
posted by dtungsten (42 comments total) 27 users marked this as a favorite
 
"Born in Brooklyn, Mario grew up with a love of fixing things."

"Mario is Brave"

"Mario is Tolerant"

okay after a while it starts to sound a little chant-like like the basis for a Mario Cult.
posted by The Whelk at 3:07 PM on January 4, 2015 [17 favorites]


What ever happened to the Mushroom King? Was it a plot of The Fungus Federation? A palace coup?
posted by The Whelk at 3:12 PM on January 4, 2015 [2 favorites]


Blake J Harris
hmmmmmm
posted by DoctorFedora at 3:30 PM on January 4, 2015 [5 favorites]


WHAT THE FUCK WHERE IS BOO? I have already written to Nintendo customer service complaining that Boo is not to be included in the upcoming Mario Party game, do I have to go BACK IN TIME to complain that Boo was not included in the 1993 character guide? Do these people not realize that Boo is the best? He is shy and charming and playful and hides his dear little face behind his wings when people look at him! Boo is a representation of everyone I hold dear!
posted by Mrs. Pterodactyl at 3:30 PM on January 4, 2015 [22 favorites]


you know, everyone always says Mario is a plumber, but the only blue-collar work he's ever done canonically in-game is building demolition
posted by DoctorFedora at 3:30 PM on January 4, 2015 [8 favorites]


He did technically do some sewer extermination work in the original Mario Bros.
posted by Elementary Penguin at 3:34 PM on January 4, 2015 [8 favorites]


He cleans out Bowser's bowels in one of the RPG games. That's a type of plumbing.
posted by dng at 3:35 PM on January 4, 2015 [6 favorites]


The plumbing business is clearly a front. A man who gathers hundreds of gold coins per hour on a typical day does not need to do manual labor.
posted by justsomebodythatyouusedtoknow at 3:36 PM on January 4, 2015 [9 favorites]


Also, poor Princess Toadstool; she lived in her kingdom until someone carried her off and there was an epic quest to rescue her and bring her back without anyone consulting her on her actual desires. She's basically just a MacGuffin, the face that launched a thousand koopas.
posted by Mrs. Pterodactyl at 3:38 PM on January 4, 2015 [2 favorites]


Well I think Super Smash Brothers had established that Peach's real passion is no-holds-barred fighting tournaments.
posted by Elementary Penguin at 3:49 PM on January 4, 2015 [4 favorites]


yeah but I'm pretty sure that was at least implied from the start
posted by DoctorFedora at 4:06 PM on January 4, 2015 [3 favorites]


we learned such fascinating facts about classic Nintendo heroes and villains such as Yoshi's real name (T. Yoshisaur Munchakoopas)

so he IS greek
posted by Greg Nog at 4:09 PM on January 4, 2015 [20 favorites]


Damn, even back in the day, Luigi got robbed.
posted by kafziel at 4:22 PM on January 4, 2015


okay after a while it starts to sound a little chant-like like the basis for a Mario Cult.

Mario! Mario! Mario! Mario!
posted by Spatch at 4:54 PM on January 4, 2015 [5 favorites]




Mario creator Shigeru Miyamoto grew up in Sonobe, a rural part of Kyoto Prefecture about an hour by car north of Kyoto City itself.

Sonobe is pretty close to Tsuruga where I have spent a lot of time over the past twenty years, and it's pretty interesting to consider that the streams and satoyama woodlands common to the region must have influenced Miyamoto when he set out to design the original Super Mario Bros for Famicom/NES.

The most striking similarity with the region can be found I think in Super Mario World for SNES, especially the autumn scenes with the seas of brilliant orange foliage. It's just like that in the fall in northern Kyoto Prefecture. Such a lovely world.
posted by Nevin at 5:26 PM on January 4, 2015 [12 favorites]


I was also going to say that "Wario" and "Waruigi" are a great play on the Japanese word for "bad" or "evil" which is "warui."
posted by Nevin at 5:30 PM on January 4, 2015 [3 favorites]


I always thought it was weird how Mario went from being a Brooklynite Italian American (as portrayed mostly in American media) to a sort of stereotypical actual-Italian when the (Japanese) games added voice acting. I like the idea of a working class American Mario better, somehow, even though it's never affected the games in any way (aside from the whole Lewis Carrollism of a plumber crawling into a pipe and ending up...Elsewhere).

Anyway, this is a fascinating historical document and I love stuff like this! Thank you!
posted by byanyothername at 5:54 PM on January 4, 2015 [2 favorites]


Blake J Harris

It isn't me. I'm John William Harris, and I'm stupid enough to use my real name on the internet!

Well I think Super Smash Brothers had established that Peach's real passion is no-holds-barred fighting tournaments.

"Oh, did I win?" STOP BEING SO DAMN SMUG PEACH.

It's important to take all this with a grain of salt. Back then Nintendo cared much less about keeping character backstories consistent between territories. I'm reasonably certain that no one working for Nintendo Company Ltd., the parent company in Japan, has ever read the words T. Yoshisaur Munchakoopas. Remember, for a while it was "canon" that Mario's name was "Mario Mario," the same word for first and last name. That unfortunate factoid seem to have been forgotten now, and for good reason.

Do these people not realize that Boo is the best? He is shy and charming and playful and hides his dear little face behind his wings when people look at him! Boo is a representation of everyone I hold dear!

Boo(s) is (are) great, yes.
posted by JHarris at 7:03 PM on January 4, 2015 [3 favorites]


I distinctly recall the "horsehair plants" from Toad's blurb mentioned in the original SMB instruction manual: Bowser had turned the citizens of the Mushroom Kingdom into bricks and horsehair plants. That detail always seemed a little odd to me, even when I was a first grader. Interesting that Nintendo of America hung on to it for that long.

(The SMB manual is also how I remember the difference between "faze" and "phase." The Buzzy Beetle is so tough, fireballs don't even faze him!)
posted by Metroid Baby at 7:22 PM on January 4, 2015 [4 favorites]


It's interesting that Samus Aran's bio makes zero mention of her gender, which makes me wonder if:

1) Nintendo was still treating that fact as a potential spoiler, seven years after the release of Metroid for NES.
2) Their marketing department was unsure of how to promote an action heroine to American gamers.
3) Nintendo simply didn't think it was worth mentioning, for whatever reason.

It's also interesting to note how Samus's Varia armor design is more or less unchanged 22 years later. It's shown up in at least eight more Metroid series games, plus Smash Bros., but still has the same basic color scheme, proportions (big shoulder pads, tiny waist), and detailing (scalloped ridges on ribs, birdlike features on shins).
posted by Strange Interlude at 8:23 PM on January 4, 2015 [3 favorites]


Fun fact: it's likely that Varia is a mis-localization of Barrier that ascended into canon.
posted by JHarris at 9:31 PM on January 4, 2015 [5 favorites]


The SMB manual is where I learned that Goombas are mushrooms that betrayed the mushroom kingdom!
posted by pipian at 9:31 PM on January 4, 2015 [1 favorite]


WHAT THE FUCK WHERE IS BOO? I have already written to Nintendo customer service complaining that Boo is not to be included in the upcoming Mario Party game, do I have to go BACK IN TIME to complain that Boo was not included in the 1993 character guide?

Because of the car King Boo usually drives by default in MarioKart Wii, and the spiky yellow crown and stupid expression on his face, we've decided that he's the ghost of Guy Fieri, which I suppose makes running him off the road a greater pleasure.

Since he has no official character guide, I guess that can make our backstory potential canon?

I'm sorry if that ruins him for anyone.
posted by ilana at 12:29 AM on January 5, 2015 [2 favorites]


Jharris: Wow! Varia : Barrier!

Never heard that, and it makes perfect sense!

I've got an old sticker from the nintendo fun club (pre nintendo power), its labeled "super mario bros.", and its mario, but the colors are all wrong, his overalls and cap are blue, and his shirt is red. This from well before this style-guide.
posted by lkc at 2:02 AM on January 5, 2015 [1 favorite]


I forget where I got the Varia factoid from, but it's likely from Tomato's excellent Legends of Localization page.
posted by JHarris at 4:56 AM on January 5, 2015 [2 favorites]


Hey, this is my website!

I love world-building material like this. As has been said already, a lot of these backstories were the creation of Nintendo of America and don't represent the original intentions of the Japanese developers, so much of these story bits were tossed aside as the years went by. Blake J. Harris, author of the fantastic Console Wars book detailing the Nintendo versus Sega fight of the 1990s, posted a few pages from this marketing manual last summer on Twitter and left everyone wanting more, so when I asked him last week if he could post a few more pages, he sent over what you see linked above. I can't thank him enough for sharing. We don't get looks behind the curtain like this often enough.
posted by Servo5678 at 5:36 AM on January 5, 2015 [4 favorites]


its mario, but the colors are all wrong, his overalls and cap are blue, and his shirt is red.

Mario's shirt is red and overalls are blue in the style guide. His cap is red, that's the only place your description doesn't conform.

Note: in arcade Donkey Kong, the colors of Mario's clothes are reversed from later. His overalls are red and his shirt is blue. His cap's red though, that touch managed to persist.
posted by JHarris at 5:37 AM on January 5, 2015


mario, but the colors are all wrong, his overalls and cap are blue, and his shirt is red
I believe that's the original coloration from the arcade Mario Bros. game. Someone's made a chart here.

Also, as a kid I had these bedsheets complete with the red-overalled Mario, "screenshots" that were annoyingly nonsensical even to my 10-year-old self, and such curiosities as a right-handed Link right next to a left-handed Link.
posted by NMcCoy at 5:40 AM on January 5, 2015 [1 favorite]


it's pretty interesting to consider that the streams and satoyama woodlands common to the region must have influenced Miyamoto when he set out to design the original Super Mario Bros for Famicom/NES.

One of the real delights of Miyamoto's games is how rural they are. Super Mario Bros, Legend of Zelda, Pikmin, all of them evoke the feeling of a beautiful day in the countryside. It's a unique and delightful aspect of his work.

In case any Wii U owners out there haven't discovered this: When you're playing a game, pressing the Home button lets you see the manual for the game that's in drive. And the manual for Captain Toad's Treasure Tracker is absolutely delightful!
posted by ThatFuzzyBastard at 5:45 AM on January 5, 2015 [2 favorites]


This whole thing makes Mario sound pretty brutal. Fighting with bare hands on his harrowing adventures, scavenging lethal weapons and using his wry sense of humor to get through even the darkest days. Truly, he has seen too many things.

One thing though, he doesn't bash those blocks with his head.
posted by lucidium at 6:17 AM on January 5, 2015 [4 favorites]


This is great. I just played through Super Metroid this weekend for the first time in years. That remains one of the most atmospheric and immersive games I've ever played.
posted by Dr-Baa at 6:49 AM on January 5, 2015 [2 favorites]


One thing though, he doesn't bash those blocks with his head.

I thought that was strange, too. Definitely non-canon.
posted by Nevin at 6:52 AM on January 5, 2015


This is great. I just played through Super Metroid this weekend for the first time in years. That remains one of the most atmospheric and immersive games I've ever played.

I just started playing it for the first time the other day, and oh my gosh! I lived in the original Metroid as a kid, and have played a bunch of later titles (I had Metroid II for Gameboy when it was new, played Zero Mission years and years later, have played pieces of several Prime games) but never did Super Metroid because I didn't own an SNES and my friend down the block who did wasn't interested.

And man oh man I would have plotzed if I'd played this in 94. The way it brings the player back around to an altered look at Zebes, injecting you back into the old Mother Brain fight area and escape route, is just amazingly button pushing, making you move through this now-too-quiet area that was, years earlier, just totally charged with danger and urgency, before sending you on to other parts. Really brilliant. A bunch of the design decisions in Zero Mission click a little more now seeing how much they owe specifically to Super.

This whole thing makes Mario sound pretty brutal.

Mario Fratelli has been having some pretty bad dreams.
posted by cortex at 7:54 AM on January 5, 2015 [2 favorites]


so he IS greek

This will be so disappointing to everyone who posted in "Is Yoshi a Macedonian" on GBS back in the day, especially WaluigiSlav86
posted by Rustic Etruscan at 8:39 AM on January 5, 2015 [2 favorites]


cortex, go play Metroid: Fusion. It's more constrained (though you can explore all the different environments later on) in a way that reminds me of Metroid II, but it handles fantastically, the graphics and sound are great and certain design choices are a treat.
posted by ersatz at 9:41 AM on January 5, 2015


lkc: "I've got an old sticker from the nintendo fun club (pre nintendo power), its labeled "super mario bros.", and its mario, but the colors are all wrong, his overalls and cap are blue, and his shirt is red."

They did that on the cover of Nintendo Power, too. And on the box art for Super Mario 2, they reverse it. I guess that's why they need these style guides. Apparently the artists are all just "Yeah, yeah, red and blue, I got this."
posted by team lowkey at 12:53 PM on January 5, 2015 [1 favorite]


I am here to qualify ersatz recommendation for Metroid Fusion. It may be better than Other M, but it was the first sign that not everyone at Nintendo had the same idea of what makes Metroid games in general, and Samus Aran in particular, interesting.

Metroid Prime, however, is nearly perfect.
posted by JHarris at 1:09 PM on January 5, 2015


I enjoyed Metroid Prime a great deal right up until that final boss fight which I tried like ten times and managed to get close-ish on the final leg of the three-leg fight before just saying fuck this whole thing.

I should go back and play the first 99% of it again some time.
posted by cortex at 1:53 PM on January 5, 2015 [1 favorite]


The Metroid Prime games are just amazing, great fun. They (two different studios? I think?) managed to hit some brilliant combination of gaming--difficult but not impossible, explorey but not completely aimless, etc.

Except the goddamn morph ball explosions to bounce yourself up things. Those always got evil later and I'd just pass the controller to my roommate who could do it in his sleep.
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 1:59 PM on January 5, 2015


I loved metroid prime pinball
posted by aubilenon at 2:42 PM on January 5, 2015


cortex, you pointed to the exact reason I said nearly perfect, heh.
posted by JHarris at 3:11 PM on January 5, 2015


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