I finally just saw Wreck-It Ralph not but two weeks ago. The entire time I was reeling on a super-high of childhood nostalgia that I've not come down from since. Last Thursday, I had that buzz extended by Guild Wars 2, of all things. I was brought back to my days spent sitting in front of a CRT television hammering cheat codes into Game Genie and toiling away at Final Fantasy III (or VI for you purists). For its first annual April Fools' content, the time of year when MMORPGs really let their hair down and stop taking themselves so seriously, ArenaNet has crafted the Super Adventure Box: an invention by an Asura named Moto (as in Miyamoto) which transports players into an 8-bit fantasy world filled with every Zelda/Mario/Metroid-ism you can imagine. It is, quite simply, the best April Fool's event any company has ever attempted, and it's mostly very successful.
Watch the video below if you want to enjoy a full hour-plus walkthrough of the content, as led by ArenaNet's own Josh Foreman. Josh is the principal designer of the Super Adventure Box, and was made famous (or infamous as some might say) but the maddeningly addictive and frustrating Mad King's Clock Tower jumping puzzle from October, 2012. But beware! There be spoilers aplenty in the video, including locations of hidden chests, shops, and treasures. It also was recorded locally using xSplit and ergo isn't the best quality in terms of definition. You can always watch Rob's quick 3-minute run-through further down the line if you'd prefer not to spoil your own first run-through.
The Super Adventure Box is scheduled to go live tomorrow, April 1st, and stay up and running throughout the entire month of April. If the idea is a success, Josh and his team will get to add more puzzles and levels to the Super Adventure Box' future upgrades. I asked Josh if the SAB would only come around once a year, and he said that it really depends on the player's reaction. The entire thing, toying with this fourth-wall breaking 8-bit jumping puzzle is a bit of an experiment for Guild Wars 2. But really, in my eyes, if any one MMO race can get away with inventing a giant virtual reality device that plays like a 3D but archaic NES game... it's the Asura.
You'll find Moto, the crafty Asuran in question, standing near the northern most waypoint in Rata Sum. There he waits to give you passage into the Super Adventure Box, a living and breathing arcade that houses three massive jumping puzzle levels which you must pony up a "coin" in order to play. Once inside, you and your party (the SAB can be done solo or with up to a full group of five) can choose whether to go in on normal mode, or "casual" mode. The former has greater rewards, but is definitely a learning process for first-timers. The latter? Well, let's just say you'll get a host of snide achievements like "Baby's First Jump" and other sorts of jokes for taking the easy way out. Buf if you're in a hurry and just want to earn a few Bauble Bubbles, it might be the best choice as it certainly is easier.
What's a Bauble Bubble? It's 250 baubles of course. Like any good retro game, every enemy you kill or item you break drops different colored spheres to pick up and collect. As you can see in the screens and video, while in the Adventure Box, your entire UI is changed to be more "8-Bit". On each of the three levels, you can hold up to 250 baubles, which make for one Bauble Bubble. You'll also be awarded extra Bauble Bubbles for each first completion of a level in the Box daily. These Bubbles can be spent by talking to Moto in Rata Sum, on some really wicked-looking 8-bit styled weapon skins, or even stuff to help you with crafting your Legendaries. Personally? I'd go for the skins: who doesn't want to wield the GW2 version of the Master Sword or Link's Shield? Yes, I'm serious.
Moto greets you at the end of the adventure.
The levels themselves are just about as close as you can get to a cross between Zelda and Mario without being sued (mostly Zelda, though). There are turtles to jump on, snakes and spitting plants to avoid, monkeys who fling... stuff at you. Plus there are hidden shops littered throughout each level, just like in good ol' Zelda. You can even wreck his shop and smash his pots for more baubles. But he also has things you'll want to help you on your adventure: whips to hit gators from afar and make them close their mouths (so you can jump on them of course), candles to burn poisonous vines that drain your health and stop you from moving, and even a larger Bauble Bag that will let you hold up to 500 Baubles per level (effectively letting you buy that snazzy weapon skin faster).
The entire Super Adventure Box is the stuff of childhood memories and laughter... I kept giggling during my entire playthrough, because like Wreck-It Ralph, the thing made me feel like a kid again. Jumping and hitting your target is just as frustrating in the SAB as it was in those classic games, but it never feels cheap. Each time I was shaking my head and saying, "My fault... jump later, Bill." That sort of feeling of challenge without the cheapness is what's made the Mad King's Clock Tower and the Winter Wonderland so enticing for players. Throw into that all the many nods to games of our past (the Metroid music of level three is a must-have if they allow us to download it later)... and well, you're all in for a treat.
You'll be spending a lot of time in the trees...
Each level has at least one mini-boss in it, Queen Bee Dog being one. If you destroy all of the bunnies on one level, they'll spawn a massive whirling Bunnado (tornado + bunnies = I cannot make this stuff up). The final boss, a giant king toad, has the sort of "patterned" attacks you'll remember from games of yesteryear, and once you figure out how to beat him the fight becomes an act of timing and learning when to dodge his attacks. Heck folks, there's even an additional "Heart Container" to be claimed when you beat the boss, just like Link would always get. At the very end of the SAB, once you've defeated the toad, you'll be given a "preview" of what Level 2 would be like: a vast mountainous region, with a lot less hand-holding when it comes to the jumping puzzles. Oh, and there are ninjas. Lots of them. And falling bridges. And more ninjas.
Sure, I suppose you could say that something like the Super Adventure Box doesn't belong in the game because it's "against the lore". But if you say that, I'd like to slap you. You're talking about a game that has giant frogs, bear-men, and robotic golems, all wrapped around a story about giant world-demolishing dragons. The Super Adventure Box makes plenty of sense if you can remember that games are supposed to be fun. And in making that goal a reality, the Super Adventure Box is right on the money. I'm only slightly kidding when I say that ArenaNet could have probably charged me a box-price to play a whole game filled with Super Adventure Box goodness. I'll gladly take it for free.
Look for the fun to begin tomorrow, April Fools' Day, and good luck getting your Master Sword.
EDITOR'S NOTE: As of this writing, the SAB wasn't open yet. But it is now! As of 7pm ET on March 31st! Go have fun!