A Sunken pirate ship. Check. Rhythmically-closing clams. Check. A disgusting-looking eel swimming around aimlessly. Of course. Welcome to Jolly Roger Bay in Super Mario 64, where electrified underwater chests didn’t kill you. The science was truly marvellous.
JRB was the third course in the SM64 and introduced us to swimming mechanics. Water levels usually have a stigma attached for being disliked.
Think the Ocarina of Time Water Temple or the Sonic the Hedgehog series of water levels. They slow things down, they make everything darker and they are usually just plain annoying.
The water-filled Jolly Roger Bay wasn’t quite as much trouble. Water was actually a life-saver in SM64. They became some sort of health rejuvenating euphoria when swimming above the water, regardless of the situation.
Great if you’re slowly drowning to death or have a power gauge flickering in red. Not so great if you’re trying to make the game a challenge.
Despite this, Jolly Roger’s Bay contained some of the most iconic features of SM64.
Introduce the peculiarly named Unagi the Eel. Whether guarding a ship or sheltering in a cave, it became a frightening ordeal for parts of the younger generation.
It took me an age to figure out how to actually move him on the first star. Little did I know you only had to resurface and look back. That’s what you get for being stupid…
Countless times I stared into its evil eyes, teeth barring when I was younger, wondering what the hell I should be doing He was an evil bloody thing.
The pirate’s grotto always seemed somewhat detached from the rest of the level. Only once did you need to venture there, for the third star.
What waited were those weird falling pillars and a couple of chests. Which electrocuted you if hit in the wrong order. Again. Similar to the first star, just you weren’t getting electrocuted underwater there.
The fifth ‘Blast to the Stone Pillar’ star, thankfully, was the one star where you could avoid the water. SM64’s camera angles usually played havoc with this star and a wrong jump meant the laborious task of getting back to the cannon for a retake.
And if cannon hopping was never your strong point, either blasting over or face-planting the pillar was quite infuriating. Another long swim back the cannon. Damn you water levels!
A final word should be said for the music however. If there was one reason to play JRB then this was it. An atmospheric piece that ebbs and flows like a water level should, there aren’t many compositions that are as recognisable as this one.[youtube http://youtu.be/Bx6nOkdeNKs]
Bitmap sums up the nostalgia beautifully. It automatically brings back fond memories of eels, ships and red-coin containing clams.
So Jolly Roger’s Bay did have some flaws. It was quite small, had those tedious chests which required guessing the order and too much swimming for my liking.
Despite its imperfections, for pure nostalgic value, there really aren’t many better; it’s easy to overlook its faults when something brings back such fond memories.
I will always dislike that ugly eel however!