So, a couple of weeks back a few of you might remember our own Rob Zak’s article on the great Mario vs Sonic debate.
Well, the decades-long feud got me to thinking: what really stands a hero above all others is his ability to combat and overcome near-impossible enemies. And that, readers, means he needs one damn good arch-nemesis. Without the Joker, Batman would be just some lunatic in a cape. Without Voldemort, Harry Potter would be little more than a pre-pubescent stage magician. Without Hitler, Churchill would have been nothing more than a nodding dog (Oh Yes… sorry). All it takes is one pyschotic mastermind to turn an Italian plumber or a blue hedgehog in sneakers into superhero material.
Enter one fire-breathing dino-turtle and one rotund Theodore Roosevelt lookalike.
This, my friends, is where the real battle of the Titans lies. The badder the supervillain, the greater the hero who trounces him.
It’s Bowser (that’s King Koopa to you who haven’t played since the Nineties) and Dr Eggman (that’s Dr Robotnik to you same people) going head-to-head. Who’s got what it takes to kidnap the crown (and laugh maniacally doing so)?
ROUND ONE: THE WARDROBE
What’s that? You think a good villain isn’t defined by what he or she wears? Well, imagine for a moment, if you will, Darth Vader dressed in slacks and a flat cap. Still intimidated by our wheezy Sith Lord? I think not. No, a good villain dresses the part, lest he be ridiculed by his do-gooding nemesis.
So, let’s start with Bowser. Point one: he has horns, that’s always good. Point two: he has a whole shell covered in spikes and, contrary to what people say, more is always better with sharp, pointy things. Point three, he’s kitted out with a few studded bands and a collar for good measure. Yes, the choice to wear leather straps with spikes may seem a bit, well, ‘fetish’ to most of us, but the King of the Koopas pulls it off (not the bands, I doubt they’re even capable of being removed).
Truth is, Bowser’s already at an advantage since he doesn’t need much in the wardrobe department. In a race of goofy looking turtles he was just born to look a bad-ass.
Well, my earlier jibe wasn’t unfounded: the design was, in fact, based on an evil version of Theodore Roosevelt. Quite frankly, that’s probably more terrifying than it sounds.
Okay, item A: look at that moustache. I mean, wow. There’s a hell of a lot of whisker-twiddling to be had there, especially where scheming is involved. Item B: shades AND goggles. This dude never wants us to see his eyes. Pretty shady, if you ask me. Item C: look how far those leggings are pulled up. He must be one hell of a nerd. I mean, yes, Bowser’s got the spikes, but that’s nothing compared to a psychotic mastermind.
Touche, Eggman. You’ve removed a white glove and given Bowser a jolly good wake-up slap. Now the real fun can begin…
NOTE: Am I the only one who has noticed that both of these baddies, along with Link-smashing Ganondorf, are consistently ginger? Hmmm… methinks the Japanese game developers trust not the man with red hair…
ROUND TWO: THE SCHEME
Okay, so you’re dressed the part. Now what? Without a heinous plan you’ll be nothing but a henchman or a back-seat politician (please insert satire).
So, lets start with the basics: Bowser and Dr Eggman both essentially want the same thing. DOMINATION–complete and uncontested. Good for them, that’s as excellent a motive as any. But how, pray tell, have they gone about executing said dreams of conquest?
First, Bowser; already self-confessed King of the Koopas, owner of his own castle (complete with lava, Thwomps, Bob-ombs and, yes, lots more spikes) and proud father to eight demonic offspring. To the casual observer, Bowser’s persistent attempts at taking over the Mushroom Kingdom seem to revolve solely around repeatedly kidnapping Princess Peach (note: he’s never thought to, for example, eat her… this may indicate a soft spot in his otherwise solid exterior, points may need to be deducted). However, credit given where it’s due, the Koopa King is never short of originality when it comes to executing aforementioned kidnapping.
In his first encounter with Mario, Bowser used magical powers to turn the defenders of the Mushroom Kingdom into inanimate objects. In Super Mario 64 he was able to entrap the natives inside paintings scattered about Peach’s castle. In Super Mario 3 and Super Mario World, he used his own children as guardians of each of the castles he’d captured. Which leads into our next point: Bowser doesnt think small. Initially it was just the Mushroom Kingdom in his sights, yes, but how did he react to his first defeat by Mario? He thought BIGGER. All of a sudden, in Super Mario 3, the disgruntled reptile sought dominion over the entire Mushroom World and each of its Kingdoms. Heck, by the time Mario made it to the Nintendo Wii, he’d set his sights on the whole UNIVERSE in Super Mario Galaxy. You’ve got to admire that sort of evil vision; even if the princess-catching game is still pulled off with more aplomb, in my opinion, by Ganondorf…
Quite well, as it turns out.
In the first Sonic the Hedgehog, Dr Eggman/Robotnik’s plan involved the kidnap not of one damsel, but of an entire island of adorable critters… which he then systematically encased in robotic exoskeletons. Not granted the privilege of being royalty, old Egghead had to build his army from the ground up which, it must be said, is an incredible feat in its self. But using innocent woodland critters to power them? Masterful. Truly twisted. Bravo Eggman, evil indeed.
Furthermore, much like Bowser, Eggman’s never shy to expand his scope with every agonising defeat. In Sonic the Hedgehog 2, he sought to create a planet-destroying space station, humbly dubbed the ‘Death Egg’. In Sonic the Hedgehog 3 and Sonic & Knuckles, he attempted to recreate the super-weapon by powering it with Angel Island’s Master Emerald and even went as far as tricking Knuckles into believing Sonic was the bad guy. Very shrewd indeed.
However, it’s from that point that Dr Eggman starts to, I’m afraid, lose a few points. With the exception of controlling the beast ‘Chaos’ in Sonic Adventure, Eggman’s creativity, for the most part, seems to have suffered somewhat. Nowadays, he seems hell-bent on creating more space-stations and more robot armies than ever. It seems even the mastermind suffers off-days like Bowser.
ROUND THREE: THE RESOURCES
Well, being a king and all, Bowser has himself access to nothing less than a ready-to-march battalion of Goombas, Koopa Troopas, Shy Guys, Piranha Plants and Cheep-Cheeps. He’s also the proud ruler of his own castle (as well as the range of keeps and bastions he’s captured in his long reign) and even a totally awesome flying battleship–armed to the teeth with cannons full o’ Bullet and Banzai Bills.
But that’s not all: given that, inevitably, Bowser’s going to have to come face-to-face with Mario at some point, the brute is also equipped with a range of natural and magical Ace cards. He breathes fire, has been known to make himself several times bigger and can retreat into his spiky shell and turn himself into a whirling demolition ball. Nice.
The weakness? Well, the minions, really. I mean, what good is a hundred goombas when all their primary tactic seems to be ‘keep walking that-a-way really, really slowly’. And as for the troopas… come on Bowser, at least arm them with something every once in a while (except wings that, when hit, come straight off).
Dr Eggman, unlike our reptilian tyrant, didn’t have any undying followers at his expense when he first started out. Instead, he had to create everything from scratch. A few innocent animals and some nifty mechanics later, voila! Robot army ready to go. Armed with all kinds of savagery, from guns to drills to throwing blades, the ‘badniks’ possess a mean streak that’d put any goomba to shame. Better still, Eggman is able to adapt with each failed plan, throwing out new robots every time to better counter the meddling blue hedgehog: think the menacing Metal Sonic in Sonic CD or the E-100 series of robots from the Sonic Adventure titles.
Dr Eggman may not have a castle, but he does have (on more than one occasion) a space station with planet-frying capability and has manufactured his own flying fortresses (such as the Flying Battery and the Egg Carrier). It’s a wonder the avid inventor has any time left to actually face Sonic. But, alas, he does. And don’t be fooled by the portly doctors comical appearance: he knows how to take care of himself… usually within the safety of a colossal armoured mech of some kind.
The main failing with Dr Eggman’s incredible traps, however, is that he always seems to make that, for some innane reason, they are still traversible by certain spiny intruders. I mean, why dot your super station with starposts, loop-de-loops and energy rings? Perhaps he’d be wise to take a bit of Bowser’s advice and use more spikes. Lots more spikes.
If only there were a villain with the genius cunning of Dr Eggman and the magical aptitude of Bowser… it’d be a villain of unparalleled might. Unfortunately…
Wait… hold that thought…
So, with the three primary areas of super-villain priority covered, the battle was a close one. Two titans of gaming eeevil, matched with their equal share of pros and cons… however, in the end, only one villain stood out. A true master of darkness, worthy of a top spot as gaming’s ultimate bad guy…
Ladies and gentlemen, it gives me great pleasure to announce the winner as…
Okay, okay, that wasn’t exactly the result you were looking for. But, I mean, look at this guy! He’s so plain nasty that no amount of fire-breathing or robot-engineering could dent his vile ego.
Perhaps I’m merely too stumped on the whole Bowser and Dr Eggman debate to declare a definite winner. They’re both so brilliant and yet so utterly useless (they haven’t exactly learned many lessons over the years), it’s like deciding who’d win a fight between Godzilla and Iron Man (hmm… an article we can only hope for).
I think the final decision should be made by you guys. Considering the facts I’ve put out there, who do you think is gaming’s top baddie? Bowser? Dr Eggman? Heck, maybe you think it’s Ganondorf too. Thoughts please.