Cackletta

        Looking back at the many Mario games that have been made, there is one character in particular that I have been meaning to discuss for quite a long time. Though this villain may have only appeared in one game, she certainly stole the show- and for that matter, Peach’s voice and Bowser’s dignity. I am speaking, of course, of Cackletta.
        Cackletta was the villain of Mario and Luigi: Superstar Saga. It is a rather interesting JRPG in that you almost always have two characters to work with, the Mario brothers, and for the fact that you can dodge or even counter attacks throughout the game, an interesting change to the formula. Both your attacks and your reactions are carried out with a particular button- A for Mario and B for Luigi.
        The game is given even greater duality with the later addition of the Firehand(for Mario) and Thunderhand,(for Luigi) two elemental moves that enemies will react to in various ways, such as taking extra damage, being healed, special effects like lighting them on fire, and so on, giving the brothers their own unique trait to bring into battle. There are also the super powerful Bros. Attacks where they combine forces to land an especially damaging blow.
        Gameplay aside, let’s get back to the star of today’s article. Cackletta shows up in the game’s intro movie, disguised as an ambassador for the neighboring Beanbean Kingdom. She uses this transformation to get close to Princess Peach, then reveals herself and throws the throne room into chaos with her magic, stealing Peach’s voice and fleeing. As you actually start the game, Mario runs off to the castle when he hears something has happened, but Cackletta herself is long gone.
        In her place is Bowser, who has of course come to kidnap the princess, leading Mario to assume he’s to blame for all the trouble, so they fight. This serves to introduce the player to the game’s mechanics, and after the short bout they find that Peach has had her voice stolen, and replaced by an ‘explosive vocabulary’, causing expletives to appear when she speaks… and promptly fall to the ground and explode. Bowser decides his castle would be wreaked if he kidnaps her like this, giving him reason to get her voice back as well.
        So through this one act, Cackletta has forced Mario and Bowser to put aside their perpetual rivalry, and cemented herself as a bigger threat. Bowser even lets the Mario Bros. come with him on his Koopa Cruiser, so they can fly through the border between kingdoms and track the witch down. This also serves as an extended tutorial to get the player used to playing as both brothers at once.
        However, as they fly, they’re actually intercepted by Cackletta herself, who seems to have been expecting them. She actually only sticks around to mock them, then leaves her minion, Fawful, to deal with Bowser and the bros. I assumed my first time playing that this would be easy, that he wouldn’t stand a chance… which made me very surprised when he simply blasted Bowser into a wall with no effort.
Fawful, however, still serves as something of a tutorial, to help you figure out how to dodge attacks, and he isn’t very difficult. The fight doesn’t seem to do him any real harm, and he flies off, but not before blasting so many holes in the Koopa Cruser that it crashes- right in front of the border to the Beanbean Kingdom.
        After that you do not see any sign of Cackletta or Fawful for quite a while, but you eventually reach Hoohoo village, a small village on the outskirts of the kingdom. When you try to move on, you will run into Fawful, who informs you that Cackletta’s moving a plan into motion, and while you are likely already too late, Fawful makes sure you won’t bother them at all by dropping a boulder down on the only path out of the village. To break that, you need a Hammer, and the only people who can get you one would have to forge it for you from Hoohoo Blocks, which can only be obtained from the mountain by the village, so up you go.
        When you reach the top, you find a giant egg, which quickly hatches into a dragon monster and attacks you. Defeating it gets you the blocks you need, but also reverts the dragon back into the man it used to be- Prince Peasley. The Prince thanks you and flies off to stop Cackletta, who turned him into that beast in the first place.
        Of course, you’re going to do the same, and your new hammers let you finally reach Beanbean Castle. The castle town has been pretty much decimated, yet Lady Lima won’t let you see the queen and warn her of Cackletta’s plots, seemingly more concerned that you aren’t who you say you are. She drops you into the castle sewers, and demands that if you are the legendary Mario Bros, you will fix the plumbing.
        You do so, however, it seems this has a secondary effect- instead of fixing the castle’s plumbing, fixing those leaks actually disengaged a security system protecting the mystical Beanstar, a magical force that can grant wishes. To stop it from being abused by evil forces, the Beanstar was forced into a deep sleep that can only be broken by a pure voice. Cackletta has stolen just such a voice, and thanks to you the last protection on the Beanstar is gone. By the time you reach its location, she has already taken it and flees, leaving you to battle with the transformed Queen Bean.
        The brothers win, but unlike before with the Prince, the Queen does not revert back to normal. Cackletta changed her, in this case, by infecting her with a Belly Belch worm, and that can apparently only be removed with a magical elixir of sorts… you see where this is going. Cackletta is clearly a masterful manipulator, capable of cunning disguses, such as pretending to be the Beanbean ambassador and Lady Lima, and always manages to be one step ahead of the heroes by setting up more pressing obstacles than her overall plot, such as curing the Queen, allowing her to continue her plan unopposed.
        Once the Queen is restored, it turns out that Prince Peasley discovered Cackletta’s location: Woo Hooniversity, a university where they study laughter. As you might expect by now, she has ransacked the place for her own purposes, and transformed many of the scientists working there into monsters. It is actually rather sad, and the game drives that point home- the second you arrive, a crowd of scientists flee the building, and you find one who collapses right in front of you. The brothers approach, presumably to help him, but he then gets up, having been turned into a Laser Snifit, a common enemy in this area.
        And unlike the Prince and Queen Bean, the poor scientist doesn’t survive, but instead collapses once more, his body fading like any other beaten monster. And there are plenty of others standing in your way throughout the level. It is yet another thing separating Cackletta from Bowser and other Mario villains- while those villains do evil things, like kidnapping the princess, no one is really hurt, it seems, and aside from the fact that the princess must be rescued, no one really makes a big deal out of it.
        Cackletta, on the other hand, goes out of her way to do worse. She destroyed the castle town, and likely many people, transformed the kingdom’s royalty into mindless monsters, and now cleared out an entire university, killing or transforming many. And she did that last part, apparently, so she just has a place to use Peach’s voice on the Beanstar, even though she could have just as easily used a cave, or anywhere really.
        In any case, the brothers show up just seconds too late to stop her, and she activates some programs with Peach’s voice to wake up the Beanstar. However, instead of her melodious voice, they instead let out a inhuman screech, causing the Beanstar to go berserk and flail about in it’s sleep, creating a giant hole that it and the robots fall into. The villains have no idea how this happened, and Fawful even suggests that they flee. However, the Mario Bros. have no intention of letting them do that, and Luigi quickly incapacitates Fawful.
        With no other choice, Cackletta finally battles the brothers herself. She opens up the battle by unleashing a barrage of strange holes that travel along the ground, while her own body has distorted into a stretched out, even more inhuman appearance. These voids do not move straight, but instead stop and start while lightning falls from the sky. The lightning won’t hurt you, but it may be distracting, especially for first time players. If you fail to jump over the holes, the brother will take damage, more so than Cackletta’s other attacks, and will sometimes suffer the weight status effect, making their jumps shorter and dodging even harder.
        After that first attack, however, she reverts to her normal appearance, before unleashing one of her other two moves- lightning strikes, or copying herself. The former has her raise either her right arm, left arm, or both. If left, a strike will fall on Mario, then Luigi, and reversed for the right. If she raises both arms, then lightning will hit them both at once. As with the holes, you dodge by jumping.
Her other move is to sink into her own shadow, which splits into three copies of herself. If you hit the right one, the other two will vanish. If you hit the wrong one, it will morph into a swarm of bats that attack both brothers. Don’t try to jump on them, just over them. If they touch you at all, you will be hurt and possibly poisoned.
        If the clones survive a turn, all three will unleash one lightning blast each. Allegedly you can tell which is the real one by the size of the void she spawns from, but I cannot confirm this- they appear too quickly for me to tell. However, even if you mess up, they will very likely be gone before a single turn is up, so it isn’t too big of a deal.
        Once she takes enough damage, she will finally speak up, meaning you‘ve got her on the ropes. “Tenacious little boys, aren’t you? I’m too busy for such games! Time for this to end!” At that point, she will transform like she did at the start of the fight and unleash her void move again, and will continue using it for the rest of the battle.
        After you beat her, the game shows her battered and broken, unable to move, lamenting her defeat, wondering how this could have happened. Fawful, however, shows up to spoil the victory by sucking up what is left of Cackletta into his headgear, containing her soul. Cackletta orders him to give the bros. one last attack for her, but he is stopped by Prince Peasley, who jumps in to strike Fawful, sending the villains flying out of the university.
        And that’s surely the last time you’ll have to deal with Cackletta- her plan is thwarted, her body gone. What more harm can she possibly do? Well, she regrettably still has an able minion and a soul container, so she isn’t truly gone just yet. But that is a story for another day. For now, my readers, I hope you enjoy this, and I will see you next time.

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