Author Topic: Mario Drive-in  (Read 1642 times)

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on: 06:34 PM, 02/19/18
Modding is a major part of the internet. Most people who spend little more than a few hours on the internet per day have probably modded a game at one point in their lives. Whether it was to adjust some poor textures or make their wildest fantasies about a female character's rack come true, it is impossible to deny that modding has a place in the hearts of money. However, it is always puzzling to me why people mod some games (despite my obvious nature of searching out these strange mods). People have even tried to mod Bioshock before and sadly, were unable to finish the mod because everything in Bioshock is hidden behind layers of security and hard-coding. If Bioshock isn't safe, then one of video games culture icons isn't either; Mario. Everything from Rube Goldberg machines to dialogue-less rendition of Mrs Dalloway.

Luckily, all my prattle isn't for nothing as I am talking about a mod myself, it was called the Drive-In mod and it was for Super Mario 64. Just a word of warning, hacking/modding Super Mario is shockingly easy. You simply get a program called "n64split", open the SM64 ROM with the program, and just like that it splits it into little editable chunks of textures, code, data, geometry, music, and models. With this folders, you can turn Mario into Sonic, Luigi, or make him look like he did in Super KKK Bros.

So getting away from the details, I was looking around for one of these out-of-the-way mods. I don't know why I liked them because most of them ended up to be rather bad, it was like that coin-flip date game. You are meant to flip a coin at every junction and go right if it is heads, left if it is tails. Only in someone's wildest dreams would this end up anywhere good as more often than not, you are probably going to wind up having a date in a seedy diner that still serves wonder bread. So, out-of-the-way mods was like that as only once in a Christmas blue moon did I ever find a good one. As I was getting slightly tired of my short trip to some forum, I found it; "SM64 Drive-In" the poster said proudly. All the forum post had was a title, a download link, and a short sentence about hoping people enjoyed it. It was the kind of mod I liked. Looking up at the post date, I realized that it was only posted the day prior and thought that I could be getting something really special. Unsurprisingly, SM64 mods had come along way from 1996 to July 2017.

After scanning it for viruses, I let the little file into my computer before realizing how large it actually was. It was going to take a while to download this and the little green bar barely filled after a few seconds of me staring intently at it. I hit the more details button and quickly saw the massive amount of textures pouring into my computer. Although I couldn't see the little nicks and crannies of the textures yet, the time the little names spent on top of the download meter told me all I needed to know. I hoped to God that this was something like Norman Rockwell or something fantastic but I gritted my teeth slightly, reminding myself of the Skyrim mod.

A mod that took a whole night to download and all it really did was change the sun/moon to a scarily high-definition of the Goatse image and made every chicken into a garble of textures, making my frame rates dip from two-hundred to ten at simply seeing one chicken. So, I kept my expectations in the dirt and made sure that I wouldn't be disappointed when I felt the pang of regret at allowing the thing into my computer.

While I was waiting, I went back to the forum post and clicked on the guy’s name. Despite calling himself “InBloom94”, he wasn’t exactly in bloom himself. He commented so sporadically and posted only one. All of his comments had little negative numbers next to them, despite some of them being compliments and most being really meaningless replies or just “looks good!” comments. He just seemed to be the most bog-standard lurker of all time. He only posted occasionally, never anything too noteworthy or intelligent. I wondered what the negative numbers really meant, they were deep into the hundreds and only a few really stayed below ninety. As I was about to scroll over them and hope for an explanatory pop-up, the download popped up, saying that it was completed. My mind completely shifted towards that and I was about to start my little ritual of moving models and MP3s around but then I clicked on the folder and saw a little read me file. Simply read to activate the program and it would do it all for me, leaving the original game intact. To be honest, that kind of kindness in a modding community was almost unheard of and I appreciated the simple click-and-done approach. Tapping the program, a black window popped up.

"Let's All Go to the Lobby!" was written out in that classic SM64 font, if not slightly compressed into the small window. I hit enter and the text disappeared, unveiling our castle for the game. It was just a small drive-in theater with blocky cars, a blocky little projector room, and a big white screen across two large posts. Hitting enter again zoomed the camera into the car park and Mario appeared from one of the cars, popping out of the window like he would a pipe. A little wooden sign was directly in front of him and it read; "to change the movie, go to the projector".

I had to explore first. Every car was blocky with black windows except for Mario’s, which had the open window for jumping in and out of. There was a small food stand but it had its shutter closed and you couldn’t do much apart from jump at the metal shutter and hear the metal shudder as Mario leaped off of it. In the projector room, there was a large 1930s projector and a selection of reels. There was only three but they were; King Kong, Superman, and Godzilla. I had imagined something a little more substantial, to be honest. Imagine We Need to Talk About Kevin but Mario is Kevin, how fun yet morbid would that be to play? I just imagined that the guy would be trying to push the envelope a bit, something that was a little more gritty and a little more eye-catching. I could see why this didn’t have a lot of attention because, from the looks of things, it was family friendly. Grezzo 2 got a Kotaku article because it was gory, offensive, and held nothing to be sacred. Family-friendly mods don’t really go very far and don’t get that much attention as it is the way with most things. People are going to remember a poorly-made blood-soaked funhouse of violence over a beautiful-crafted masterpiece about Barney the purple dinosaur.

Selecting King Kong, the octagon reel floated through the air and attached itself to the massive camera. The projector flickered to life and the classic "KING KONG" title flashed over and over on the screen, overly-done film grain and scratches played over the text. I went back to the car and Mario hopped through the window, sliding into the dark abyss of the interior. The screen faded to black and the text “King Kong” faded into view.

After the text disappeared, Mario stood in front of an apartment building but as I rotated the camera, there was the massive model of the empire state building. Slowly, I panned the camera up to take in the full view of the magnificent monument. It was huge, depicting it in an incredibly beautiful way for the graphical limitations. I didn't move for a few seconds as I saw the office lights inside flicker on and off as if people were moving through them, a red beacon on top of the tower flickered on and off, and the building was rendered in such a way that it seemed too beautiful for the Nintendo 64 to handle. As I moved Mario forward, a massive claw wrapped itself around the building and Bowser's looming head appeared around it, casting a shadow over Mario. Bowser started to climb to the top of the building, one of his hands clasped around his chest as if he was protecting something. As I was focused on Bowser, the game had spawned in platforms leading up to the top of the tower and I quickly understood what was going on.

It was just a big game of third-person Donkey Kong but now there was Bowser instead of the gorilla in a tie and it was a lot harder to anticipate the obstacles. Instead of barrels, this time it was the little planes from the King Kong movie that were trying to shoot down the beast. Crop Duster planes with their wings broken off rolled suspiciously down the metal ramps as if they were wooden barrels but I managed to hop and jump over every one of them and eventually reach the top. I wouldn’t say it was a difficult game, the only real hardship was trying to climb over a ledge and getting smacked with a plane that you didn’t expect to be there. It took around ten minutes at the max.

Reaching the top, I realized how large Bowser was. He dominated the top of the Empire state building, holding the only-slightly-taller beacon for support. Despite Mario being the short guy he was, I never remembered having to pan the camera upwards to see Bowser in any other Mario game. Bowser simply stomped around the tower, stamping his feet and holding his claw close to his chest. I was crushed under his feet many times before I realized I had to climb up the beacon like a flagpole and stomp on his head a few times. Three or five good hits later and Bowser was about to tumble down but he pulled himself back up with the beacon and, peeling his head away from his chest, held up Princess Peach up to Mario. I tried to move towards Princess Peach but Bowser fell from the building, his lifeless claws grasping around Princess peach as they both plummeted from the roof. Jumping from the beacon, I landed near the edge and looked down the building, Bowser tumbled down to the roadside and slammed facedown. His claw was underneath his chest, Princess Peach would have been about as thick as a slice of Salami. A few Toads gathered around the corpse of Bowser and one of them garbled "It was beauty killed the beast"! The audio was ripped from the movie but it was destroyed by whatever editing software the guy had used, the highs and lows of the voice seemed to waver and crackle like a bad cassette tape. The stage faded to black and Mario squeaked a ya-hoo behind the black screen.

Mario popped out of the car and I went up to the projector booth again, sliding in the Superman reel this time. The food stand was still closed but I noticed a door by the side of it this time, a little door that said: "employee's only". If the food stand was closed, I doubt the door would open so I went back to Mario's car to watch the Superman movie. 

The screen faded to black and "Superman" wandered onto the screen, fading out as quickly as it came. Mario appeared on top of a rooftop, newspapers circling in the wind of the big city. It felt like the guy had simply reused the New York map again. Looking down at Mario, I noticed a cape that he was wearing. The guy must have stolen the flag model from Bob-omb Battlefield and painted it red, it fluttered so strangely on his back. I hit the jump button and Mario rocketed into the air, I almost thought it was a glitch but he soon came back down, landing in the same spot. Timing my jumps, I managed to launch myself from roof to roof, jumping around like I was a superhero. I stopped for a moment and looked around, seeing nothing, in particular, to go to. I jumped around until I got bored enough to jump from the rooftops to the roads. As soon as I hit the pavement, there was the classic Preach scream of "Mario!". Quickly, I snapped around but couldn't find anything. The shouts kept going on and on, coming from all different directions but I couldn't see anyone. All it was were empty buildings and a completely abandoned city but all I could hear was her shouting Mario's name. I was allowed to jump around for about a minute until the stage just abruptly ended, leaving me without finding Peach. It simply faded to black and Mario got plopped out of the car again.

Wandering over to the projector booth, I noticed that the door was open to the food stand. The shutters were still closed but the door was open, wide open into the darkness. I wondered if he implanted something more gruesome in the food stand, something that would give this mod a bit more teeth. Even if it was Psycho or some basic horror movie, I would be happy that the mod went all out. Walking over to it, I was disappointed when all that was there was a single hovering piece of paper. It was just a simple piece of notepad paper, hovering above the floor like it was an invisibility star. I ran to it and the text popped up, a little note left behind by the mod author.

“So, how do you start one of these things? Are you meant to start it with reasons or just by saying that you are going to do it? As you can tell, I imagine it is obvious that I have been ignored and I feel like the universe is giving me the middle finger as I am just trying to do all the things that I am meant to do. I am meant to get through school, meant to start a family, meant to even just have a girlfriend; I have done none of these things and that is worst of it really. Not living up to society's expectations and haven't for my entire life. I have never had a friend, never gained good grades, and what am I meant to do? Flip burgers until I die as I try to simply live, skating around the brink? I don't believe that what is life about. So, we shall see how it goes. If the universe isn't trying to shit on me, then I offer this. If I haven't gotten any friend, good grade, or even message by the end of January, then I am going to end it all."

I alt-tabbed. The mod had been posted last year in November and the author hadn't been active since the January 31st. I quickly wrote him a message about how I loved his work but never got a message back. I didn't want to find out what Godzilla was about.