Mario & Luigi: Superstar Saga (GBA) – Part 16 – Gwarhar Lagoon

-Gwarhar Lagoon-

The Yellow Warp pipe ends up dropping us off on the sandy beaches of Gwarhar Lagoon. One quick look at the map tells me that we’re going to be spending quite a bit of time here. It seems to be a rather large area with several branching paths to explore. On a side note, I’d like to point out that this is now the third area we’ve had to explore in search of our first piece of the Beanstar.

Our Heroes begin their search of the area, and quickly come across a pair of gossiping women (Species yet to be determined. Possibly squids?). Anyway, news has apparently already spread this far that Prince Peasley is in search of something, though the identity of that something is apparently being kept a secret. At least the Prince did something right by not telling everyone about the Beanstar.

However, very little information of value can be gathered from these two women, so our heroes attempt to leave. Unfortunately, a third woman comes rushing out of nowhere and barrels straight though the pair. Clearly she has the juiciest of gossip to share with her girls and nothing is getting in her way. Not even the mighty heroes of the Mushroom Kingdom.

She excitedly tells the other girls that she has “humonstrous news”, which it seems is actually old news. The other women instantly know she must be talking about the “Strange looking shining bean-thing that fell from the sky.” To which I must point out that NONE of the pieces of the Beanstar actually fell from the sky anywhere near Gwarhar Lagoon. The Lagoon is situated to the very far South East corner of the kingdom, directly east of Woohoo Hooniversity. Two of the Beanstar pieces landed to the far North, one to the far west possibly in the Chucklehuck Woods, and the last piece, which is also the closest, landed to the west between the airport and the Hooniversity. They may have seen the Beanstar fly out of the Hooniversity, but there is no way they would have seen the pieces fall from the sky, least of which the piece we’ve been following from the SS Chuckola.

Anyway, she goes on to explain that that someone named Hermie found it and used it to decorate his shell. Apparently now he looks like a festive holiday tree. Naturally, this is the juicy gossip these women were looking for, and they are now very excited about it.

Of course, talking about an awesome thing isn’t nearly as much fun as witnessing it yourself, so the three quickly rush off to see Hermie’s new shell decorations for themselves. They remain completely oblivious to the fact that this whole time they have been in the presence of the International Super Stars the Mario Brothers. How sad.

Following such brutal treatment just now, our heroes are lucky to discover there is a massage parlor just around the corner. Gigi and Merri, the Jellyfish Sisters, will use their Miracle Hands to ease our heroes’ weary bodies and spirits.

For a mere 200 coins, our heroes can get a well-deserved massage to keep them going the rest of their long journey. They pay it of course, and are seated in the next room to await the Jellyfish Sisters. It isn’t long before the two make a show of an entrance by gracefully gliding down from somewhere above.

The two are eager to get to work relieving any soreness our heroes may have. Soreness is their sworn enemy after all. While that sounds all well and good, I can’t help but feel a bit uneasy about the way the two act when they talk. Maybe it’s something to do with being a jellyfish out of water, but the two seem to stretch their faces out whenever they talk. It’s just weird.

Mario and Luigi don’t seemed bothered by it however, so I’ll try to ignore it as well. In any case, the two sisters look over our heroes and both come to the conclusion that the most stressed areas are their hands. That makes sense. If they’re not swinging hammers or throwing fireballs, they’re literally punching bricks with their bare hands. That has to take its toll after a while.

Not to worry, with their miracle hands, they can cure any problems our heroes might have. And so they both get to work as our heroes sit back and relax.

Unfortunately, Mario seems to have relaxed a little too much and accidentally activated his Firebrand technique. Amazingly, Gigi seems to recognize it right away and appears to be quite impressed.

Shortly after, Luigi also seems to have relaxed too much and accidentally gives Merri a rather bad shock with his own Thunderhand technique. Like her sister, Merri also seems to recognize this technique and is equally impressed with Luigi.

After witnessing the Firebrand and Thunderhand techniques, it is clear that Mario and Luigi aren’t their typical customers. Quickly, the conversation gets cryptic as the sisters mention our heroes might be able to get “those…” whatever that means.

Regardless, the massage is now officially over. Instead, they are offering to teach us two new hand techniques that will aid us on our journey. From the sounds of it, they’re looking to profit off this exchange more than we are, but a new technique is a new technique.

With that said, our heroes accept the offer, and the training will soon begin. Before another word can be said, the floor below the massage chairs opens up and our heroes fall down through the floor to the basement area below.

For no particular reason, Luigi gets to learn his hand technique first. Following Merri’s instructions, all Luigi has to do is stand behind Mario and give him a good shock with this Thunderhand technique. Doing this will apparently cause the two to become stuck together for a short time, allowing them to strafe walk instead of turning like normal. I’m not sure how useful this will be, but there you have it.

Next up is Mario’s new technique. Like with Luigi, this requires Mario to be in back and apparently burn Luigi’s ass off with his Firebrand. Doing this will cause the two of them to go running off in the direction they’re facing. On top of moving faster, this will apparently also allow then to knock certain things over.

While our heroes practice this new technique by knocking around a large round rock, I want to take a moment to point out something that has been bothering me. How old are the Jellyfish Sisters? If I remember correctly, one of the spirits at the temple where we learned these hand techniques said it had been over 3000 years since anyone else had come. Yet here they are, these two Jellyfish Sisters that also seem to be masters of both the Firebrand and Thunderhand. I mean, I guess Jellyfish are one of the only known animals that can potentially live forever, so maybe they really are over 3000 years old. In that case, these two are looking pretty good for their age. You know, by pixel art humanoid jellyfish standards anyway.

Back on topic, with that exercise over we have learned everything the Jellyfish Sisters can teach us about the hand techniques. Now comes the deception, but really, who didn’t see it coming. They may have originally just wanted to pass on their knowledge to a fellow Hand Technician, but now that they have, they have a job for us.

Apparently there are two Pearl Beans deep in the cave that they would like us to get for them. Obviously we need to use the new techniques they taught us in order to get them. Naturally, the question arises of “why couldn’t they just get it themselves?” Well, as Merri puts it, the Mario Brothers are simply much more powerful than they are. So while they may know the techniques, they simply don’t have the skills to get the Pearl Beans themselves.

Not that we really had much say in the matter, they did kind of kidnap us when they dropped the floor out from under our chairs. But they are now threatening that if we don’t help them, we’ll have to pay the full price for their services. In this case, our total bill will turn out to be a whopping 100,000 Coins! There’s no way we could possibly pay that price. So it looks like we’re just going to have to get these Pearl Beans for them.

And with that we head deeper into the cave in search of these Pearl Beans, whatever those are. The path forks pretty early, and for no particular reason we head down the right path first. As it turns out, this path is blocked by several of those Giant Koopa Troopas we’ve seen before. I guess that means we have finally figured out how to get past them.

Putting this theory to the test we back up a bit, and light a fire under Luigi’s butt. With a nice running start, the pair slam into the massive Koopa with enough force to send him flying… Well, maybe not flying… but they did knock it on its back. Ultimately, It seems unharmed by the attack, but at least it knows to get out of our way now. It also means we’re going to have to revisit any of the Giant Koopas we’ve seen along the way.

First thing first, we need to get the Pearl Beans and get out of this cave. As we quickly find out, the Giant Koopas aren’t the only thing guarding the cave. There are also massive rolling spike pillars that make the path impossible to cross, or so it seems. Thankfully, the nearby bulletin board informs us that we might be able to make it if we run fast enough between them. So once again it’s time to light a fire under Luigi’s back side and off we go past another obstacle.

Just beyond those spike pillars is the first of our goals, the Red Pearl Bean. Once retrieved we are thankfully warped back to the Jellyfish Sisters where Gigi is overjoyed to see it.

So overjoyed in fact that red smoke starts spraying out the sides of her head. This only makes Merri even more impatient to get her Green Pearl Bean as well. So there is no point waiting around, we head back into the cave and this time take the left path.

It’s down this path that we find the answer to another mystery, the Boo statues. When we encountered these before, they would disappear whenever we got close to them. Just like a real Boo, they are shy and hide when anyone looks at them. However, with Luigi’s new ability, he can shock Mario hard enough that the two get stuck together and can now sidestep. This lets them push the statues with their back or sides without the need to look at it.

Just like with the right path, the left path is also blocked by massive rolling spiked pillars. Unlike the other path though, this one requires Luigi’s ability to keep the two brothers in line to slip between the gaps. This also needs very good timing because the effect doesn’t last for long, and once it wears off we’ll end up sending Mario walking straight into the spikes to his death.

Thankfully, this is the last obstacle before the Green Pearl Bean is ours to claim. Once again, we are teleported back to the Jellyfish Sisters, skipping the need to backtrack. And once again, the sisters seem overjoyed by our efforts.

As steam starts shooting out of Merri’s head as well now, our heroes get sent back upstairs without another word from the either of them. We learn later from the receptionist that the two have worked themselves into such an excitement that they’ve actually had to go rest for a bit. As a result, the Relaxation Room is going to be closed until they recover. So with that training out of the way, let’s head back out to the world and see what new trouble we can get ourselves into.

Right away, our path is blocked by a Giant Koopa. Before our training, this would have been as much of the lagoon as we could have explored. Now we know we just need to knock him over and we can be on our way.

After that we start encountering the new enemies to be found here in Gwarhar Lagoon. First up, we have the Elite Troopea. These guys look like Red Shell Koopas, but they have a little sprout growing out of their head. These Koopas are special because they have the ability to heal each other with globs of water they shoot up into the air. So we’ll have to work quickly to get rid of them before they have time to heal.

Soon, we find ourselves sliding down another Yellow Pipe and landing once again at the bottom of the Lagoon surrounded by Cheep Cheeps and Starkiss. If we’re unlucky enough, we may even encounter a Mecha-Blooper. These terrors of the deep resemble the common blooper, superficially anyway, but their tentacles have been replaced with dreaded Bullet Bills which they will send flying our way at the slightest provocation.

While we’re no strangers to the bottom of the ocean at this point, there is one new feature in this area that quickly catches our attention. In the upper corner is a Waterspout caused by seafloor volcanic activity. The water gets heated and erupts to the surface causing what looks like a small tornado of bubbles. What makes these useful is that performing a Spin Jump inside these waterspouts causes our heroes to be lifted up with the bubbles and reach platforms that were previously out of reach (despite the obvious solution of swimming up higher to them).

As it turns out, however, we won’t be getting much use out of this new environmental feature, seeing as we are returned to the surface almost immediately. Instead, we will continue to put our new hand skills to the test. Apparently paths blocked by rolling spike pillars and the occasional disappearing Boo statue are going to be regular annoyances going forward.

To make matters worse, it would seem shark attacks are going to be an ever present concern as well, even while on dry land. The sands of Gwarhar Lagoon appear to be home to some kind of bone shark which is capable of swimming through the sand and biting our heroes, causing damage and inflicting a poison status. Curiously, there also seem to be some Cheep Cheeps that have learned to swim through the sand as well which have strapped fake fins to their back in an attempt to resemble their more vicious brethren.

Our progress through Gwarhar Lagoon in further slowed by the occasional time trial events which become more complicated than necessary. While the objectives themselves are relatively easy to accomplish, the somewhat clunky mechanic of switching field moves often ends up costing more time than we have available. In the end, it’s not a huge problem, but it does drag down these sections a small bit.

Death Count: Mario – 5, Luigi – 4, Game Over – 2

Eventually we find our way back to the bottom of the Lagoon, and it is here that poor Luigi ends up sleeping with the fishes. After neglecting to pay attention to their health levels, one well-placed Bullet Bill to the gut was all it took to bring our hero down. We were doing so good keeping them both alive too…

After a quick 1-up mushroom and an undeventful small handful more screens underwater, we find ourselves next to the third Boo Statue scattered around Gwarhar Lagoon. While I didn’t mention it earlier, each of the Boo Statues we’ve found have been raising sections of a stone bridge to the center of the Lagoon. With this latest section, I do believe the bridge is finally complete and we can do… something… it’s been so long since we first arrived here in the Lagoon, what were we after again?

That’s right, we were chasing after a broken piece of the Beanstar, and some gossipy Jellyfish Women mentioned Hermie had found it. Turns out Hermie is a rather massive hermit crab, which I guess should have been expected from his name. He also seems to have decorated his shell with so many various found objects that he now resembles a Christmas tree.

If the resemblance to a Christmas tree wasn’t already complete, Hermie even comes right out and mistakes Mario for Santa. At least I’m guessing he meant Santa when he said “Thanta Clauth!?!”. Maybe in the Beanbean Kingdom a short hairy Italian dressed in red named Thanta Clauth goes around to good hermit crabs and helps them decorate their shells. Who are we to judge a different culture’s traditions?

The gossipy Jellyfish women however recognize Mario for who he really is, which is actually surprising since they literally ran him over when they met him earlier. But now that they know who he is, they can’t help but crowd around him and attempt to tear him limb from limb. You know, like all groups of fangirls do when they meet their idols.

Luckily, Luigi doesn’t seem to have the same star power Mario does, so they leave him alone. Surely he will help his older brother get out of this mess… Or not. Instead Luigi seems to join in and help the Jellyfish Women grab at Mario. I can’t say I really blame him. If only he had a camera it would be perfect blackmail material. “Hey Princess Peach! Look at how Mario was partying with some Jellyfish Women when he was supposed to be saving the world.” Pretty standard little brother behavior if you ask me.

Fun as it is to watch Luigi “Help” his older brother, it would seem Hermie is starting to feel left out. I’d imagine he’s very used to being the center of attention for these Jellyfish Women. Sadly, they are just now starting to notice Luigi is there as well. Though they mistake him to be The President of the Mario Fan Club.

However, upon closer examination they realize who he really is and start attacking him just as enthusiastically as they did Mario. Luigi at least seems to be enjoying the attention much more than Mario did. Surely he’s not used to being surrounded by adoring fans. Most people so far haven’t even been able to remember his name.

Now out of control, the women start throwing questions out left and right. How old are you? What’s your sign? What’s your favorite snack? Things really begin to take a turn when they start asking for measurements. I’m not sure I want to stick around much longer for this.

It looks like Hermie has reached his limit around this time as well. With an angry scream, he scares the women into hiding behind the Mario Brothers. He was happy when they were paying attention to him and helping him decorate his shell. All of that stopped when our heroes showed up, and he’s not going to sit back and watch this any longer.

Once again, our heroes get dragged into what is sure to be a difficult battle. With his large shell, Hermie has very high defensive capabilities. Not only that, but as crab he is also quite dangerous with his two massive claws, which he seems to have quite a long reach with as well. He must be crammed pretty tight into that shell if his claw arms are that long.

First things first, we’re going to want to disable his claws. Without them, he won’t be able to attack as effectively. Or so we thought. Even without his claws he is fully capable of defending himself. Without warning he starts blowing massive pink bubbles our way. While it may look like simple bubble gum, these bubbles are actually filled with some kind of deadly poison which will slowly eat away at our heroes’ health.

As the battle continues, Hermie eventually retreats into his shell. It might seem like we’re winning at this point, but really we’re at a huge disadvantage. His shell is so strong, we can barely do a single point of damage to him while he’s in there. On top of that, he heals himself while in the safety of his shell. If we don’t so something, he’ll recover from all the damage we’ve done so far.

Throwing everything we have at him in vain attempts to coax him out of his shell eventually reveals a solution. All the decorations he has attached to his shell are apparently quite flammable, and Mario’s Firebrand is just what we need to light his show shell ablaze. While this may have succeeded in getting him out of his shell, he is now angrier than ever, his claws are healed, and we still can inflict very little damage to him.

The battle drags on for what felt like forever (It was about 15 minutes, which felt like forever for a single battle). With no way of checking Hermie’s health, it was starting to feel like we were falling into an endless stalemate. Our Heroes unable to inflict any major damage, and him healing what little damage has been done. Eventually, and with a sigh of relief, Hermie falls, leaving our heroes victorious, and hopefully finally able to claim the first piece of the broken Beanstar. That’s right, we’re still trying to get the FIRST piece here.

As the fight comes to an end, the Jellyfish Woman are quick to come to Hermie’s defense. He’s not a bad guy after all, he just gets worked up a bit. Then again, that does sound like every woman’s excuse for staying in an abusive relationship…

Anyway, the women are quick to point out the fact that our heroes must have come here for a reason. It’s not like the heroes of the Mushroom Kingdom would just randomly wander to the center of Gwarhar Lagoon after all. And so, with a dialog finally going, our heroes explain that they came here for the Beanstar Piece the woman have placed on top of Hermie’s shell.

None of them seem to understand the importance of the Beanstar at first, but after a quick explanation, they all seem to agree they need to give it back. Hermie does seem very reluctant to give up one of his precious decorations, but he begrudgingly accepts that he has no choice.

One hard shake, and the Beanstar Piece falls from Hermie’s shell for our heroes to take. FINALLY, after all that work, our heroes have a piece of the Beanstar… a rather…interestingly shaped… piece of the Beanstar… Anyway, our heroes have earned their victory dance. But the game is quick to remind us of the fact we have 3 more of these pieces to collect. I’m not sure we’ll survive if they’re all this hard to recover.

Before we leave, Hermie asks us to keep an eye open for anything that might be a good replacement for the Beanstar Piece. At this point I’m starting to feel bad for him, so hopefully we find a suitable replacement. We do have to get going though, and one of the Jellyfish Women informs us that the path to the left should be a shortcut. Thank you good game design!

Sure enough, the next screen over has a Boo Statue just waiting to be pushed aside. Doing so raises yet another stone bridge. This one just so happens to bring us right back to the beginning of Gwarhar Lagoon where those 3 Jellyfish Women trampled over us in the first place. From there, we can take the Green Warp Pipe and head straight back to the Castle Town to figure out where to go next.

Unfortunately, no one at the castle really provides any useful insight about where we should go next. For the first time, we’re pretty much free to do what we want without any guidance. Thankfully, Lady Lima reminds us that the locations of the remaining pieces of the Beanstar are shown on our map. It’s simply up to us to go get them. But which one should we go after next?