by Adam Esquenazi Douglas
Nitwit blubber oddment tweak, Unrealtors! Today we’ll be returning to that overseas school of witchcraft and wizardry, Hogwarts, and seeing into which house your favorite pop culture icons would be sorted. This time, though, we’re plopping the sorting hat on a group of exchange students from the fabled far east with the Nintendo edition of Assorted Hats.
The Big N’s Big M. Mario’s done everything from painting to intergalactic travel to go missing. He’s gaming’s number one mascot, and even saved the whole damn industry in the 80s when the Game-which-must-not-be-named nearly decimated it years before. He’s the plumber who lived, and we’re all lucky he found that warp pipe to the Mushroom Kingdom so long ago.
Mario’s gone up against some real uglies. I mean, you name it. Giant evil ghosts, giant evil dinosaurs, giant evil gophers. If it’s giant and evil, odds are this fella’s clobbered it at least twice. And armed with nothing but overalls and fungus.
Such activity takes some super balls, and Mario has never been one to shy away from a fight. You’d think his boldness in battle would make him a shoe-in for Gryffindor, and while he’d certainly do well on the seventh floor, Mario is more than simply strength of spirit.
Like I said, the guy goes into battle barely dressed. There are no guns, no blades, heck, the closest thing he has to under-armor is a red shirt. Yeah, ok, he does have weapons of a sort, but none OP’ed enough to totally get the shine. Mario’s victories always have been, and, arguably, always will come out of his sense of observation and inference. He’s a scientist with a triple jump.
There’s only one house for your main man, your ram-a-dame, your can of spam….
Mario’s been saving the day through quick-thinking long before we nerfed it all through auto-saves and checkpoints. Time and again his intellect saved his mustache faster than you can say Mamma Mia. And while he may put his brains aside when behind the wheel of his favorite kart or when he’s smashing it up with his brothers and sisters, when it’s the Mario show (no, not that one, Lou) it’s a brain’s game, and this plumber may just become the first foreign exchange head boy.
The eternally miscalled Hero of Hyrule (no, grandma, that’s not Zelda), Link (or Links, I guess, nutty timeline((s))) has vanquished evil in a green skirt—er, tunic, tunic over and over. Also noteworthy, the Hylian is an accomplished fisherman, horseback rider, archer, and even amateur music (and train!) conductor. For eternally being cast into a world of looming, conquering evil, the dude manages to spin a lot of plates. Note to Nintendo: include plate-spinning minigame in the next LoZ outing.
Link’s adventures in the Legend of Zelda series have always had a very yin and yang feeling to them. And, no, I’m not just talking about the time where you spent half the game as an adorable wolf dog, or the time when you spent half the game as an adorable young fairy boy, or the time where you spent half the game as a weird pink bunny monster (seriously, what was up with that LTTP?). No, instead I mean that for a game where the hero is typically featured on the cover brandishing a blade of some sort, you spend as fair amount of time scratching your green hat-covered head as you do spin-attacking
The LoZ dungeons are plethoras of puzzles with every element from lava to..shudder…water incorporated. For every boss you beat, there’s a dozen or so deliberations you must make beforehand in order to advance. In life, you can’t just stab everything into a solution, and that’s just as true in Hyrule/Termina/Skyloft/Koholint Island/etc.
But while Link certainly has the brain to match his brawn, his destiny outweighs both. You see, whenever Hyrule’s in trouble, fate brings forth the hero to save the day. And each and every hero has one thing in common: the Triforce of Courage. No matter what iteration, this powerful third follows and guides and Link throughout his adventure. It’s predestined. Much like how Harry was the Chosen One not necessarily through choice but through prophecy, so is Link always to be bravery’s finest warrior.
But don’t think that just because Link is a lion he can’t put on his thinking cap alongside Ezlo. Hermione Granger was, by far, the most clever witch in her year and she was a Gryffindor. Ditto Percy Weasley (only, you know, he was a wizard.) And Bill Weasley. Much like how Hufflepuffs can also be brave, Ravenclaws can also be shrewd, Gryffindors can be bold and bright. And, hey, what’s bolder and brighter than wearing vibrant green and a stocking cap?
Pikmin is a fairly shockingly dark series to come out of Nintendo. At least, if you really think about it. A dying, marooned space captain utilizes essentially slave labor to do battle for him to recover his missing ship parts so that he and he alone can escape this incredibly hostile planet, leaving the poor red, yellow, and blue critters to fend for themselves without his leadership skills to help them survive.
AND YOU SEE THEIR SOULS WHEN THEY DIE.
Okay, maybe it’s all a matter of context, but still. Captain Olimar is different than protagonists like Link and Mario in that his quest is entirely about himself. The name of the his game is survival, and, apparently, he doesn’t care how many little flower aphid creatures have to perish to ensure he gets his continuum transfunctioner. Look, I can’t say I wouldn’t act differently given the circumstances, but still. The death cries of those poor little Pikmin will haunt my dreams for console cycles to come.
Things didn’t get much better, meaning selfless, come Pikmin 2. After returning home from space, Olimar discovers the company he worked for has gone bankrupt. However, apparently a “treasure” from the alien world is worth mucho dinero, so Olimar blasts back off to space to the Pikmin planet, this time solely to exploit the planet’s natural resources and wildlife for profit. Again, another take on a survival quest. Again, moral questions by the pantload.
Despite it all, though, I wouldn’t say Olimar’s a bad guy. If the Pikmin games teach us anything, it’s that maybe Darwin was the original gamer and Pikmin is the electronic entertainment equivalency of only the strong survive. Olimar was placed in critical circumstances and acted accordingly. It wasn’t pretty, certainly wasn’t black-and-white in terms of morality, and though we couldn’t see it, I’m sure the weight of the Pikmin world rested in his shoulders every time he accidently caused a red one to drown.
But that’s life, folks, on this planet or any other. Rarely are our choices plain and simple, and even more rarely are they morally preferable in terms of how to survive. Olimar practiced cool cleverness and dauntless determination. Sure, it was self-serving, but so is survival for all of us. Olimar made no illusions otherwise.
Like I said last time, Slytherins aren’t inherently bad. Actually, they’re pretty honest folk. Unfortunately their honesty is that life is hard and it’s every man (or PikMAN) for himself. And while we’d all love to live in an ideal world where everything is fair and has even resolutions, sometimes you find yourself stranded in deep space on a ferocious planet of man-eating giant ladybugs, and you start to see what really matters. And, usually, what really matters is just smelly ol’ you.
Maybe Olimar wasn’t born a Slytherin, but he definitely became one. And, eat your heart out, Harry Potter, this dude right here is truly the boy(/man/pilot) who lived.
Everyone’s favorite pink puffball, Kirby has shown true valor in the face of WAIT WHAT THEIR COMMON ROOM IS BY THE KITCHEN?!
OM NOM NOM NOM!
And that’s the game, Unrealtors! Agree? Disagree? Grab your controller, slap on your dragon-skin gloves, and let me know! Tuck in!
Adam Esquenazi Douglas is a playwright who was born in Texas, grew up in Arkansas, was raised by a Jewish man and a Cuban woman, and, somehow, he doesn’t have an accent.
He is co-host of two podcasts, The JimmyJew Podcast Extravaganza and Schmame Over, which can be found at http://jimmyjew.libsyn.com/ and http://schmameover.libsyn.com/ respectively, as well as on iTunes. He is a contributing writer to www.GamersSchmamers.com.
He currently lives in Brooklyn where he drinks far too much coffee.