Plumbers in Flight


Yes, apparently Super Mario 3D Land will include the Tanooki Suit, but you won’t be able to fly with it. There’s a bit about it here. I remember when I first read about Super Mario Bros. 3 (this was before I actually had a Nintendo), and wondered why turning into a raccoon would enable you to fly. Apparently the idea developed over time, with the tail being what started it all, and the designers eventually deciding that it could work to make Mario and Luigi airborne. The Tanooki Suit is basically the same, except that it also grants its wearer the ability to turn into a statue for a brief period of time.

The tanuki is a real animal, a Japanese dog that looks kind of like a raccoon, but I’m sure it was the legends about tanuki that were more influential in creating the suit for Mario.

They’re sometimes regarded as shape-shifters, which presumably explains the statue form. Wikipedia mentions a tanuki turning into a teakettle, which is a form I’d like to see Mario take. Tanuki are also often depicted with huge testicles, an element that obviously didn’t make it into the game.

Nintendo Comics System had a story called “Tanooki Suits Me” that explained that the suit was made by a tailor named Tanooki (not sure if this means the writer wasn’t familiar with the tanuki myths, but it might), but I’ve never read it. The site that had scans of the comics appears to no longer exist, and even when it was up it didn’t include that one. Apparently it was only printed in a trade paperback that mostly just contained stories that had already been published. If you have scans of this comic, or any of them for that matter, feel free to send them to me. For research purposes, of course. [1]

After the raccoon power in SMB3, a few other flight-granting objects were featured in other games. Super Mario World brought us the cape, which functioned kind of like the raccoon tail, but was more versatile. Not as stylish, perhaps, but more versatile.

Of course, the connection between capes and flight is an old one, but I must admit I can’t think of any other instances offhand where a cape actually allowed someone to fly. Usually superheroes can fly on their own, and the capes are just to look cooler while doing it. I’m sure you’ve heard about the Batman cape with a warning label indicating that it wouldn’t allow its wearer to fly, which is even dumber when you consider that Batman can’t fly. Not as far as I know, anyway. Yeah, he has that hang glider, but that’s not quite the same. Super Mario Land 2 had rabbit ears that let Mario flutter but not actually fly, leading a commenter on the article I linked to earlier in the post to ask why they don’t just use those in the 3DS game. Good question. Super Mario 64 has a Wing Cap that gives Mario wings, although it only works in certain stages. For some reason, Super Mario 64 DS used a feather instead of a cap, although it still gave Mario wings instead of a cape. What’s up with that? Flight is granted in New Super Mario Bros. Wii with a propeller hat, and in Super Mario Galaxy 2 with the Bee Suit. What’s next, a mosquito suit? Hermes-style shoes?

So why bring back the Tanooki Suit but not the flight ability? No idea. It’s not like they couldn’t just create a new item if they want Mario to be able to slow his fall but not fly, or reuse the bunny ears like the one commenter suggested. Oh, well. What does look kind of cool is that the Tanoomba from Superstar Saga makes a return appearance, and a screen shot also depicts Bowser using the tail.

Those of us who remember the SMB3 cartoon know that he actually did this once before.

I’d also like to take this opportunity to plug two of my own posts from a while back, one giving rather fanciful explanations for the various power-ups and another focusing on the animal suits. By the way, two of the ideas I mentioned in the latter post show up in actual games, the Ice Flower (okay, my idea was an icicle, but it’s basically the same) and the Boo Suit. I think the Boo Suit already existed when I suggested it; I just wasn’t aware of it because I hadn’t played the Super Mario Galaxy games. I thought of the icicle a long time ago, but it’s really not too much different from the Freeze Beam in Metroid, is it?

[1] I’m only half kidding here. No, I’m not doing serious research for work or school, but I do like to be as thorough as possible when exploring an imaginary universe. I think that’s one reason I’m interested in the cartoons and comics; they’re not especially funny and not at all well-plotted, but there are some bits of character detail and world-expanding mythology in between the corny jokes. I draw the line at the movie, though.

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3 Responses to Plumbers in Flight

  1. Pingback: More Mysterious Magic of the Mushroom World | VoVatia

  2. Pingback: Something Old, Something Nue | VoVatia

  3. Pingback: Douse the Bowser | VoVatia

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