#3. Super Mario Bros. 2 Wasn't a Mario Game
The Game We Know:
Remember when we said that Mario should stick to stomping on things? Well, Super Mario Bros. 2 is the best evidence of that. Much like Zelda II, Highlander 2 or Daniel Baldwin, Super Mario Bros. 2 was the baffling embarrassment of its series. It featured some pretty weird changes for a game that was already weird to begin with: Instead of stomping on Goombas, Mario was going around throwing vegetables at masked midgets. Instead of rescuing the princess, she was a playable character and could inexplicably float. They even skipped the iconic question blocks and replaced Bowser himself with a forgettable final boss that was never seen again.
We meet again, green ... frog ... thing!
Nintendo went back to the original formula in Super Mario Bros. 3, but the question is, why would they even change it in the first place?
But It Was Almost:
There's a reason for all the incongruities in Mario 2 -- it wasn't a Mario game at all.
Ha! Luigi's a woman!
The original Super Mario Bros. 2 released in Japan was essentially the same as the first game, only with much harder levels. When Nintendo of America realized that the game was way too difficult for Western audiences, they decided to do their own thing instead. And by "their own thing" we mean "rip off another Japanese game."
"America's feeble brains are not ready for a game of this mind-bending sophistication."
Doki Doki Panic was actually a promotional game starring some of Fuji TV's mascots helping two kids who get trapped in an old Arabic book. Nintendo simply swapped out those characters with characters from the Mario franchise and sold it as a Mario game. Invincibility stars, POW blocks and gold coins were already present in the game because Nintendo had just recycled those things in Doki Doki Panic in the first place. Other than the music, some changed icons and minor improvements in animation, the games were largely the same.
For example, the classic Mario turtle shell that you could dig out of the ground and throw at enemies was actually a replacement for the decapitated head of a, um ...
Japan, we need to talk.
That's also why the characters had special abilities they never had before. The princess could suddenly float because the character she was based on could float. The same goes for Luigi's tallness and Toad's speed -- those abilities are now part of the Mario canon, and they were all originally taken from a completely unrelated game. Also, several enemies from Doki Doki Panic stuck around in Mario games and continue showing up to this day, like the Shy Guys, Birdo and the Bob-Ombs.
The Japanese hate silent Bs.
While Doki Doki Panic had sold modestly in Japan, Super Mario Bros. 2 became a hit in the U.S. It was presumably at this point that Nintendo realized they could sell literally anything as long as the word "Mario" appeared on the cover. Oddly enough, the game was eventually translated back to Japanese and released as Super Mario USA.
This led to a lot of misconceptions about what America looks like to Japanese children.
#2. Halo Was Almost a Real-Time Strategy Game
The Game We Know:
Statistically speaking, Halo is the reason you owned an Xbox. With over 40 million copies sold worldwide, the Halo series is largely responsible for the huge rise in popularity of the shooter genre and competitive multiplayers in general, as well as launching Microsoft's Xbox as a serious contender in the console market. Whether you enjoy watching space marines shooting things or not, you have to admit that the gaming world would be completely different today if it weren't for that first Halo game.
It wouldn't look all the same, for one.
But It Was Almost:
Halo is synonymous with the shoot-'em-up genre, but the original game, Halo: Combat Evolved, was intended to be a real-time strategy game, like StarCraft or Age of Empires. Also, it was being developed for Apple, not Microsoft -- as presented by Steve Jobs himself back in 1999:
Apple, the company that has only very recently introduced old school Grand Theft Auto games from the early 2000s into its gaming library, held the rights to one of the most profitable and well-known franchises ever known. Well, sort of. At that point, Halo was described as "a third-person action game," and before that, it was set in a "real time tactical 3D environment." For those unfamiliar with RTS games, they usually involve looking at the action from the perspective of some kind of God-like figure, controlling masses of your troops from above. So, the exact opposite of a shooting game.
Playing a sociopathic god general really appealed to those of us without the reflexes for Halo or dodge ball.
As the game evolved, they decided to include some of the elements that are associated with the series today ... and some that aren't, like the ability to ride dinosaurs. Seriously, Halo was going to have roaming dinosaurs that you could tame and mount. We're guessing they ditched this part when someone in the development team finally got around to playing Super Mario World.
"I'm serious, it's even called Yoshi, just like ours! It's fucked, it's all fucked!"
The iconic look of the Halo games was still there -- just in its very early stages. It wasn't until Microsoft bought the developer Bungie (which understandably made Steve Jobs lose his shit) and gained Halo as their flagship Xbox title that the game finally became a first-person shooter. The widespread popularity of FPS games soon followed.
Then in 2009 Halo Wars came along: an actual Halo RTS game. A new revolution had hit town, and once again the face of gaming was changed.
Just kidding, we barely remember it.
#1. Batman: Arkham Asylum Was Almost a Rhythm Game
The Game We Know:
Watching Batman movies and reading Batman comics is great and all, but if you really want to feel like you are the Dark Knight, playing Arkham Asylum is probably as close as you can get without becoming a billionaire and having your parents murdered. What makes the game so great is that it features all the elements of being Batman: detective work, awesome gadgets, martial artistry, chasing crazy people, wearing your underpants on the outside, and so on.
Don't pretend you don't do "the voice" while you're playing it.
But It Was Almost:
On the other hand, here are some things that are not very Batman-like at all: Dance Dance Revolution, Guitar Hero, Rock Band, getting jiggy with it. That's why it's so baffling to think that Arkham Asylum started off as a "rhythm action game."
"I'm going to express my sadness and anger at your deeds in a medium fit for all ages."
Early versions of the game were apparently a lot more colorful and upbeat from what we know. According to the developers, whenever you got into a fight the screen would switch to 2D, and from there the rhythm game would take over, involving "colored circles bashing into each other," like the notes in Rock Band or something. The idea was that the fight would unfold depending on how well you hit those notes.
"Is that 'Nevermind' again? Seriously, asshole, learn another song."
This wasn't a crazy idea that they joked about and tossed right away -- at a different stage in development, they even considered making Arkham Asylum a "full on rhythm action game." The game's director Sefton Hill puts it like this: "We went off in some slightly crazy directions to begin with. In fact, one of the earliest versions was like a rhythm action game and saw you judging when to hit the 'notes' (i.e. punches), which was an interesting idea but never really worked."
Maybe because you'd be dressed as the goddamn Batman, which is way too restrictive in the groin area.
As bizarre as that seems, he also points out that the final game isn't that different from this version: "When you're fighting enemies there's a kind of rhythm to it. I'm a big kung-fu fan and when you watch the fights in those films there's a lovely natural rhythm to it. That's something we wanted you to feel when you were playing Batman; that you're in control at all times. We wanted it to look choreographed, but with you being directly responsible for every move and attack."
Pirouette, punch, angst, neck break, press X to pretend you're a seed.
If you've played Arkham Asylum, you know this is true. It's all about timing your movements correctly -- pressing the punch button at precisely the end of the previous hit on an enemy, or the counter button whenever an enemy shoots electrical wires out of his head. The special combos in Arkham Asylum are basically like note combinations in Guitar Hero; the main difference is that you don't look like that much of a dork while playing it.
We do wonder what the soundtrack would have been like in this version. Here's a strong possibility:
For more drastic changes in direction, check out 6 Global Corporations Started by Their Founder's Shitty Luck and 7 Bizarre Early Versions of Famous Cartoon Characters.
And stop by LinkSTORM to see how Jack O'Brien was almost the CrackedTV host-droid.
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