Wednesday, September 25, 2019
The Perils Of Pauline: A 40 Year History
First and foremost Pauline is notable for being the original video game damsel-in-distress. However, that storyline had seen a change with the release of 2017's Super Mario Odyssey. Along with it came a renewed interest in this damsel turned mayor, and after almost 40 years Pauline has finally become a playable character!
"HELP! HELP!" cries the beautiful maiden as she is dragged up a labyrinth of structural beams by the ominous Donkey Kong. "SNORT. SNORT." Foreboding music warns of the eventual doom that awaits the poor girl, lest she somehow be miraculously rescued. "But wait! Fear not, fair maiden. Little Mario, the carpenter, is in hot pursuit of you this very moment."
Shigeru Miyamoto "The story is about Mario's pet, Donkey Kong, kidnapping and escaping with his girlfriend."
Donkey Kong was Nintendo's first big hit (both as an arcade game and when it was released for the NES). This lead to all the trimmings one would expect to see in 80's pop-culture - Donkey Kong cereal, stickers, coloring books, trading cards, figures, board games, and of course a Saturday morning cartoon. The cartoon expanded on Pauline's character and made her seem less like a damsel and more involved in helping Mario capture the giant gorilla. In certain depictions, she was the only one who could actually talk to Donkey Kong.
Donkey Kong was released for the GameBoy in 1994 and this is were she received her make-over. Her 80's version too closely resembled Princess Peach, so she was given dark brown hair, purple eyeshadow, black shoes and big gold earrings. She almost resembled Jessica Rabbit in a way. After that, Pauline disappeared. Mario churned out tons of games over the following years, even Donkey Kong had his own, yet Pauline was nowhere to be found.
A Mario vs Donkey Kong game was made which restarted the rivalry between the two in a more innocent nature, but it did not include Pauline. Then in the 2006 sequel game, Mario vs. Donkey Kong 2: March of the Minis, Pauline's twelve year absence finally came to an end when she was surprisingly reintroduced to audiences. Mario invites Pauline as his VIP guest to the ribbon cutting of Super Mini Mario World, during which a jealous Donkey Kong kidnaps her. Mario tries to grab Pauline but accidentally rips her dress, explaining why she has a damaged garment. At the end of the game Pauline is found unharmed and she has an apologetic Donkey Kong swooning when she accepts a mini toy of himself. A followup game Mario vs. Donkey Kong: Minis March Again! from 2009 sees the same scenario play out, but in the end Pauline is revealed to be holding a clipboard and the whole thing was merely a test run for the new Mini toys.
Mario vs. Donkey Kong: Mini-Land Mayhem! released in 2010 sees the introduction of Mini Pauline. The Mini toys look like little wind-up robot versions of the classic Mario characters, and the players task is to get them all to an exit door while avoiding obstacles. Once the Minis are activated by swiping the stylus on the Nintendo 3DS screen they do not stop, increasing the challenge. This would be the first playable version of Pauline but it's just the Mini toy of her. The crux of the story sees the kidnapping scenario play out again only to have it end in a celebration with no harm done. In 2013's Mario and Donkey Kong: Minis on the Move, Pauline helps Donkey Kong run Mini Land. This game forgoes kidnapping and sees her as more of a host for the player, who once again guides her Mini toy through challenges. 2015's Mario vs. Donkey Kong: Tripping Stars utilizes the kidnapping again only to have it revealed as another prank on Mario to get him to a surprise party.
Mike Mika changed up the game because his daughter wanted to play as Pauline instead of Mario. With some modifications he was able to change the game and add Pauline as the main character and stated that his daughter did seem to enjoy the game more. Most games of today do have characters selections available, though the games of yesterday typically saw the main character as male. Even with new options, gamers both casual and advanced have wanted more playable female characters in Mario's world.
The game was a huge success and with it Pauline was in the spotlight once again as well as gaining a newfound following. Cosplayers began to copy her Mayor Pauline outfit, the song was playing with every commercial, and her image was often seen alongside Mario. This had many people asking - who should Mario prefer, Peach or Pauline? There was an excitement and buzz around the character again, but it now begged the question - would Pauline ever be a playable character?
Mario Tennis Aces was announced for Nintendo Switch and, like most games, utilizes DLC (downloadable content) for a player to keep adding. This could be new levels, accessories or characters. In 2018 Pauline was announced as a playable character, for the first time in her nearly 40 year history. This news was met with great enthusiasm and people speculating that Pauline could reach a new level of popularity similar to Rosalina. In the modern Mario games each character has an icon to represent them, Pauline's is a heart shape with an open smile in the middle. Her outfit is a short red tennis skirt with black trim and red visor hat. Her sneakers, visor and tennis racket bear the heart icon. She stands with her hand on her hip, then runs it through her hair, a possible callback to the Starlets puzzle. She's one of the faster characters and features a special move that calls on all the powers of - New Donk City.
Speaking of New Donk City, Pauline, her band and the city hall became a playable stage in Super Smash Bros' Ultimate. Though she was not a playable character, she also had a special stage to defeat in the World of Light adventure mode. This stage became very well known for its increased difficulty.
It's taken almost 40 years, but Pauline has finally become a playable character. I'm surprised how people have really taken to her all these years later and it's encouraging to see their support for more. From one-time damsel to truehearted mayor, Pauline has undergone quite a transformation. When all seemed lost, and the character nearly forgotten, she is now joining the ranks of the most popular and recognized gaming characters in the World of Mario.