Almost there… Almost there…
Up to this point, you’ve seen me complain about fetch quests, backtracking, padding, and rushed (or otherwise unexplained) character motivations throughout the chapters. Chapter 7 is no different. However, Chapter 7 is split up into two completely different sections that offer different varieties of gameplay. Kind of like… most other chapters. This game isn’t very original at its core.
Mario and co. have just retrieved the sixth Crystal Star from the Poshley Sanctum. After arriving back at Rogueport, Mario receives a message from Princess Peach detailing her present location, which she had discovered through help of her computer companion, TEC. She, along with the X-Naut base, is on the moon! Knowing this, Mario returns to the Thousand-Year Door and reveals the location of the last Crystal Star; lo and behold, it’s on the moon. With little idea as to how one could even reach the moon, Professor Frankly suggests a trip to Fahr Outpost, a small, wintry military base home to many retired general bob-ombs. There’s just one issue: the path to the warp pipe leading to Fahr Outpost is blocked off by a gray block, a block one can’t break with the Super Hammer.
In order to acquire the Ultra Hammer, one must take advantage of the Ultra Boots in a somewhat unorthodox way. The location of the Ultra Hammer is actually in plain sight, within the center room of Rogueport, on top of a wooden tower next to the inn. Walking underneath the tower and using the Ultra Boots to launch Mario into the chest’s underside will bounce it off of the tower and onto the ground, where Mario can open it. Congratulations! You now have the Ultra Hammer. Proceed with your quest, oh, adventurous player. No garbage excuse like a name on your pants will stop you from proceeding with the second-to-last chapter.
It’s a short detour from the main storyline, but acquiring the Ultra Hammer is hardly a pace-breaker, especially if you know where it is. I usually have it before getting the location of the seventh Crystal Star. It doesn’t have the same appeal as jumping through social hoops to gain a ticket for a ride or anything, but it goes along with the isolation feel of the chapter, which I’ll get into in following paragraphs.
The region prior to Fahr Outpost is a desolate, chilling environment covered in snow and the occasional broken-down building structures and trees. Structure-wise, it’s similar to Chapter 1 and the area prior to Petalburg, only this area is shorter (two rooms instead of three). Also similar to Chapter 1 is the level of importance to these rooms, which offer very little in terms of storyline importance, and without many secrets, either. It’s another straightforward, left to right path filled with environmentally-altered enemies you’ve already faced before that serves as an irritating trial ground before arriving at the target area. It’s annoying, and the fact that you have to go back and forth through this area multiple times throughout the chapter only makes it worse, but I’m getting ahead of myself.
Reaching Fahr Outpost, Mario will be greeted with a large bunker and a suspiciously large, empty plot of space in the middle of the room. Trying to access the bunker is unavailable, so unless one fancies themselves a social butterfly, there is little point to the room. Going into the next room will offer a little more to the eye, with a shop, inn, various other homes, and a statue of a cannon near the right of the room. It’s almost like foreshadowing. A green bob-omb with a sick mustache is the person Mario wants to talk to, but there’s a catch: this bob-omb, as is tradition, apparently, will not speak of anything related to the secrets of the outpost unless he’s speaking to another bob-omb. If only you had a partner that was a bob-omb with an even sicker mustache. Hrmm.
Going back to the point I made about isolationism, this sense of tradition among the bob-omb residents is another strong indicator of such. The snowy atmosphere and the lack of any strong population of people is one thing, but the fear of outside information being used for perceived evil deeds is the kind of thing to drive that sense of “us against everyone” mentality of the outpost. Also, icing on the cake, “Fahr Outpost.” Fahr. Far. Outpost. Out. Far out. Get it? The area is far and away, and out of reach of most of the civilization? The bob-ombs present also speak with a slight Russian accent, so one could also think the area indicative of Siberia and other portions of northern Russia, which is, obviously, cold, snowy, and away from most of the civilization. The music is a nice reflection of this, too. An atmospheric track full of wind-like whispers and a formulaic coating of beeps and boops, perfectly designed to instill a feeling of an empty wonderland of nothing. Oh, how majestic.
Funny story: when I was younger, I actually had to look up a guide to progress at this point. I wasted so much time going back and forth between areas, trying to wrap my brain around what I was supposed to do (I never used Goombella for hints, either). It’s funny how stupid I can be sometimes. It doesn’t highlight it, but it may as well have highlighted when the bob-omb said only to other bob-ombs. For whatever reason, I completely forgot Bobbery was with me at the time. Guess I don’t really see him as a bob-omb as much as I see him as an explosive old goomba… or something.
With Bobbery at your side, the green bob-omb will let you in on the outpost’s secret: it has a giant cannon within it that can launch people as far as, say, the moon. However, like always, there’s a catch: they do not have permission to use it, nor do they have someone who can operate it. The target then becomes
F E T C H Q U E S T S
Great. So, Mario and co. are tasked in finding two bob-ombs: General White, a white bob-omb the player could find earlier on in Chapter 1, and Goldbob, the rich, gold bob-omb with whom you could interact with in chapters 3 and 6. It’s kind of cool to be able to have recurring characters actually be important to the progression of the game, while also giving more insight to their past lives, but what isn’t cool is getting to them. Goldbob isn’t so much of a hassle. He’s located in Poshley Heights where you last saw him at the end of Chapter 6, though speaking to him, he’ll only give you permission if you can show him how much you’re willing to sacrifice for it (Give him all your coins. He’ll give them right back). It’s General White who’s the problem, and by far the worst part of this chapter. You remember him from Chapter 1, so you go to Petalburg to try and find him, only to find out he’s not there anymore. Talking to the first Koopa you meet in town will tell you he left to some other place. So you go there, only to find he’s not there. Someone else will direct you where to go next. This goes on for what feels like an eternity, until you’re finally given the indication that he went back to Fahr Outpost. All that traveling around just to end up back where you started. Isn’t that fun? Isn’t that just an immersive, all-around good time? Doesn’t that not make you want to commit murder? Don’t you love fetch quests??? Pro tip: there’s an underground path underneath Rogueport leading to these blue warp pipes that automatically take you to central sections of various places, such as Petalburg and The Great Tree. Use them.
Once you’ve traversed the path leading to Fahr Outpost for the third time, General White will be inside one of the buildings near the cannon statue sleeping. You need him awake, so what is the most logical thing to do in this situation?
A) Yell his name.
B) Nudge him awake.
C) Hammer ‘A’ to jump on him like a monkey on the bed.
D) Wait for him to wake up.
If you guessed C), you would be correct. D) also would’ve been an acceptable answer, as you’ll have to wait for him to wake up as you continue to stomp on his face. It’s amazing how normal bob-ombs are taken out in a couple of jumps from Mario in battle, yet White can take as many as ten to fifteen bounces. He must be coated in diamonds. When he finally wakes up, you tell him about the cannon and he jumps at the chance to use it again. So, without a moment’s notice, a looooong cutscene plays that has the bob-ombs of the town setting up for something, positioning Mario in the center of the large plot of empty space in the first room. The ground collapses in, then an enormous cannon comes soaring out of the ground, with White and other bob-ombs going into the previously unavailable bunker and handling the coordination of the cannon. Before rattling on any longer, the cannon is fired and Mario and co. are blasted off, unharmed and without any space gear, onto the moon. That’s convenient.
The moon is an interesting place for the game. Not just in concept, but in its structure. The gravity is lower, so movement is dramatically cut and jumping is dramatically boosted. There are a lot of, get this, environmentally-altered enemies you’ve faced in the past on the moon—most of ’em Clefts, a few of them Yux. The moon consists of four or five rooms, but doesn’t have a dead end. The area simply loops past the last room. Seeing as the moon is small, it would obviously circle around, but four or five rooms? That’s a pretty small moon. Upon the third (I believe) room, Mario can see a fortress in the distance. Destroying a specific rock with Bobbery will reveal a warp pipe that will lead directly to the entrance of the fortress. I would be more inclined to talk about the moon, but the moon is entirely pointless. It is, again, basically a trial area before getting into the real dungeon or target area of the chapter. However, it’s cool to sort of understand how drastically far you are from any collection of population (not counting those inside the fortress). Another point for isolation. The music for the moon is literally almost nothing.
The fortress, revealed to Mario and co. (but obvious to the audience) is the X-Naut base, where Peach has been kept captive. The base is already somewhat familiar to the player due to the Peach sidequests after each chapter. However, there are many other rooms and crevices to the facility that are new enough to the player to make it a little more
aggravating interesting. Before stating anything else, the music accompanying the base is great. Very upbeat, fast-paced, and a little hypnotic in its coordination. I never once get tired of this track, and it might be my favorite of the entire game, so it gives me an enlightened boost whenever I step foot into the base. It has a sort of “epic” atmosphere that’s been built up to the point where the player feels as though this is finally the time to strike the X-Naut team at its… base. Only thing is, it’s kind of repetitive, which is also symbolic of the base.
As a dungeon, the X-Naut base is so-so. It has a nice variety of puzzles and even returns the quiz show Thwomp in a robotic form, but there’s a lot of backtracking that irritates me. Lots of conditions set before progressing further, such as collecting key cards or secret codes. It’s also fairly short. About as long as one would take to finish the dungeon in Chapter 5, which I noted was notoriously short. It has a lot more to do than previous dungeons, but it all feels somewhat familiar when all’s said and done. And quick. This is also shown with the boss of the chapter: Lord Crump, in a beefed up version of his Chapter 2 robo-suit, aptly named Magnus Von Grapple 2.0. Thinking about it now, this chapter seems to take inspiration from a lot of previous chapters. The quiz show Thwomp, the boss being the same as Chapter 2’s, the straightforward trial area before Fahr Outpost and the X-Naut base. This chapter seems to take inspiration from previous chapters, almost like the development team was running out of ideas, or wanted to bring things back as a reference. I’m going with the former, but I’m pessimistic by nature.
Magnus Von Grapple 2.0 is much harder than he was in Chapter 2. He’s got more tricks up his sleeve, along with a death move that can damage Mario and co. like the dickens. Healing items and special moves are recommended for this boss, along with some upgraded partners. I didn’t die on this boss, personally, but I can see why people could struggle with this boss (like my younger brother). He’s got quite a bit of health to him, along with special moves that can take down your HP like nothing. It’s a challenging test for a chapter that only tested your persistence, usually. An overall fun fight. With Crump defeated, Mario acquires the last Crystal Star as the “End of Chapter” sequence plays without any funny business afterwards.
I like the sense of loneliness present in the chapter, along with the playfulness of reality in regards to visiting the moon and playing around with General White’s face, but getting to that point is a massive pain. It’s the most blatant use of backtracking and fetch quests for fuck all’s sake the game has incorporated yet, and thankfully its last. It befuddles the beginning sections as something to dread, especially when dealing with the Puffs and Piranha Plants in your way to Fahr Outpost. It breaks the pace and adds more whitened misery to the already depressive scenery. Beyond, though, is an even-keeled adventure of throwbacks to previous chapters and a myriad of puzzles and new scenery. As a whole, the chapter is one of the better ones, but not much for its creativity, rather for its basics. It gives more to do rather than follow a central theme, like most of the other chapters. I appreciate it for not trying to outdo itself, but aside from the dreariness of the outpost and the distant feeling of outer space, it doesn’t have a lot of memorability to it. That sort of pizzazz that makes it stick out from the others. It’s certainly better than other chapters by design, but it doesn’t have that same passion for flair. The only real moment of that was with the cannon cutscene. And what a cutscene it was.
(All gameplay screenshots courtesy of chuggaaconroy.)