Soapbox features enable our individual writers and contributors to voice their opinions on hot topics and random stuff they’ve been chewing over. Today, Jim’s got some not-so-wonderful thoughts about the residents of Mario’s latest 2D adventure…
You don’t need me to tell you just how charming Super Mario Bros. Wonder is. You only need to briefly glance at Twitter to see the same comments crop up repeatedly: the visuals are brilliant, the level design is great, the Badge system keeps things interesting, etc. And I agree with everyone online wholeheartedly — it is rather wonderful. But let’s not be blinded by the shiny facade of the Flower Kingdom to the point where we can’t see the bad seed growing inside — those flippin’ Poplins.
A little harsh? Maybe, but the sentiment is there all the same. Wonder’s new not-Toads might just be Nintendo’s most annoying characters of 2023. Tears of the Kingdom at least allowed us to launch, explode, cook or otherwise remove any Koroks whose cries got too loud for our adventuring ears; with the Poplins, I am left with no choice but to sit and spam ‘A’ until they finally, finally leave me alone.
So, what is it about these dome-headed devils that have so clearly rubbed me up the wrong way? Aren’t they just cute little guys who want nothing more than to help you and Prince Florian navigate the perils of the Flower Kingdom? That’s what they want you to think. No, they are energy vampires, bent on drawing out your eager anticipation for as long as possible until your desire to finish each level is met by the bitter realisation that with each completion comes the freedom of another Poplin — ugh.
It seems you can’t walk so much as five paces through the Flower Kingdom’s eclectic mix of ecosystems without the grating squeak of a Poplin tapping you on the shoulder and complaining that they can’t break a rock (without payment, conveniently), build a bridge or find their way out a location. What do you mean ‘I don’t have the strength to do this task until you have paid me a decent amount of money’? I see right through your cons, Poplins… Initially, I wasn’t all that bothered. These are simply replacements for Toads and I would be foolish not to expect some annoyance from them. But then I entered World 3 – Shining Falls, and oh boy, did things take a turn for the worst.
You see, this is where you meet Master Poplin, the guardian of the area who is so keen on putting you through his series of mettle-testing challenges, and he can’t help but pop up at the end of every single level to drop another pearl of piercing wisdom. Now, if this were to happen once or twice, I could be a grown-up and get over it. But after six patronising pats on the back, I was well and truly done — after all, what is more, grown-up than holding a completely reasonable and not-at-all-excessive grudge with a fictional flower man?
And so I ventured through the remaining three worlds, my mind set on disliking Poplins forever. And I noticed that, suddenly, the Poplins were not offering playful little interjections but they were instead intentionally getting in my way, slowing me down. Mario is a man of few words, I thought to myself, don’t make him waste them in these needless conversations.
But what other option did I have? Those sneaky developers at Nintendo have made a game that is so fun to play, that I wasn’t about to go passing up optional levels just because I knew I would have to interact with a Poplin upon completion *shakes fist at the sky*. I am British, and if there’s one thing we know, it’s how to remain passive-aggressive in the face of adversity.
In the interest of balance, I will note that the Poplins have been invaluable in their help throughout my journey around the Flower Kingdom, providing Wonder Seeds and Badges along the way. But let’s not pretend that this act is more than an inanimate item chest with the unfortunate disposition of a high-pitched voice and some strong opinions about moving castles.
Has anyone ever played a 2D Mario game and thought, three worlds in, “You know, I’d really like to hear more from the Toads”? No, of course they haven’t. These chatty Poplins are precisely why and only an elaborate cameo by a beloved American comedian in The Super Mario Bros. Movie 2 or a series of puzzle platforming ‘Captain Poplin‘ games will ever change that.
So, Nintendo, please do continue to show us even more vibrant, colourful kingdoms from Mario’s world in the future, even treat us to an introduction with the locals. But while we’re adding options to say “shhh” to the Talking Flowers, how about sticking a couple more flowery targets in there, eh?
This story originally appeared on Nintendo Life