The maddening, spiralling descent into the gritty underbelly of the Mario-verse continues, my dear readers, after my last foray revealed that Gadd was once Mario by another name and that the invaders from SMB were, in fact, the Toads of the “Mushroom Kingdom.” With the Koopa lineage now in ruins, Gadd almost had entirely free reign over what was left of their Kingdom to perform whatever experiments he wanted. Almost. In its death throes, the Koopa Kingdom was seized by Kamek and he immediately put it to work with the sole intent of taking Gadd out so that only Kamek would rule supreme. Gadd, naturally, had to do something about this, and that wasn’t going to be good for anyone.
The first Mushroom-Kingdom War was, for all intents and purposes, finished after the events of Super Mario Bros.; it was over the moment that Mario caved in the face of the last aristocratic Koopa, at least as far as conventional warfare was concerned. The toads were pulled back from the front-lines long before Mario even stepped onto the battlefield and, with the Koopa Army being completely devastated from top to bottom, there was no way the war could continue. Until, that is, Kamek cottoned on to the presence of multiple Bowsers when there should really only be one and discovered the time-space anomaly that Bowser created (hereafter referred to as the Time Oops) while trying to kill Mario. What began from there was officially spun as the Second Mushroom Koopa War (MKWII, if you will) by the leadership of both the Mushroom and Koopa Kingdoms.
Because civilian populations love back-to-back full-scale conflicts!
Kamek is a powerful wizard and has tapped into the forces of the universe, not to mention he’s essentially been a parent to Bowser since the poor guy’s birth; some inexplicable, extra monarchs mucking about the place weren’t going to escape his attention. Being somewhat enterprising, however, he’d learned how to predict their appearances and had been co-ordinating his attacks around them for some time. Kamek has no true love for Bowser, using inexplicable, yet expendable, versions of him as bait for Mario isn’t exactly an unconscionable decision for the old wizard bastard. Send a few squadrons of the Koopa Army along under the guise of Bowser’s “leadership,” pull him back quietly while Mario’s busy slaughtering foot soldiers, and then allow the Time Oops Bowser to take the fall.
All those times that Bowser fought Mario and lost, without making some kind of post-game cut-scene appearance (a la Mario Sunshine) to show that he was okay? Those were actually the Time Oops copies that spawned into reality long enough to see the gleeful expression of their executioner before he does terrible things to them. I really hope you didn’t think he just woke up post credits and shamefully slunk his way back to the Koopa Kingdom. You should know better by now. It was the perfect system for Kamek, a way to keep Mario busy while also having the Koopa Kingdom leader appear all powerful to his people! Never mind those vicious rumours that the vile enemy Mario murders our Glorious Leader like it’s his job – look! Here he is, in all of his splendour!
His crazed, creepily obsessive splendour!
The Time Oops Bowser copies aren’t new to Gadd, however, who has known about them a lot longer than Kamek has (though the explanation for that is for another time). He still sends Mario out to “stop Bowser” whenever Kamek initiates one of these ridiculous skirmishes because he needs to maintain appearances. There might not be an actual war, but that doesn’t mean that Gadd and Kamek aren’t saying there isn’t one happening anyway: Wartime is good for technological advancement and, if you’re a corrupt and evil leader, it’s also good for covering up atrocities. Gadd certainly had a lot of technology to refine, Kamek was busy trying to find the most powerful goons in the galaxy, and boy did they both have some covering up to do.
There is loss in war, it’s a sad fact of life, and that loss can be felt pretty deeply by a civilian populace when the numbers begin to rise. Almost an entire royal family being assassinated, as well as whole swathes of the Koopa Army for instance, might leave something of a sting in the collective consciousness of a civilian population The Koopa Kingdom demanded blood for blood and it fell to Kamek to deliver that punishment to the Mushroom Kingdom, since if Bowser tried it would just likely result in more casualties for the Koopas. Kamek, not wanting to expend a lot of energy on provoking someone who would probably just brutally kill him for his efforts, took the less confronting path of terrorism and turned a decent chuck of the Toad population into bricks, trees, bits of landscape: anything that has eyes, which shouldn’t in any sane world, was once a Toad.
The Mushroom Kingdom wanted justice and so Mario is sent out again, Kamek responds in kind and the whole violent cycle begins anew. Speaking meta for a moment (metaly?), given the pretty repetitive nature of the Mario games from the last few years, the constant cat and mouse act performed by Mario and Bowser, it’s clear that keeping this whole thing going is tedious for both sides. Sorry, I meant to say “for the leaders of both sides”; the Toads and the inhabitants of the Koopa Kingdom are still very much suffering and dying in the myriad machinations of their unfeeling masters. The Toads, especially, because eating the flesh of your own species is the kind of soul-sundering act born out of either mental illness or total, absolute desperation.
I’m sure Gadd’s neglect has ensured that the Toads have an abundance of both.
Gadd really is insane, but he’s not that kind of insane; someone who’s caught amidst the horrors of war, however, isolated from supplies like food or rations, and under the right circumstances, might start looking at their traveling companions like a three-course meal. Sure, the places we see in the games are usually pretty, happy, and full of life, but that’s before Mario comes stomping through them. As the areas that Mario himself lives around? Or visits? Do you really think a dictator is going to frequent slums? Certainly the kind of circumstances left in the wake of war would have to be prevalent somewhere in the Mushroom Kingdom, it’s not exactly like Gadd would have been distributing resources with the interests of his people in mind.
Likewise, the Koopa Kingdom would’ve been struggling under the rule of Kamek, who was pouring every last coin he had into fighting Gadd and sparing none for the kingdom he had squandered; soldiers have to eat, and the Goombas don’t look like particularly fussy eaters. The main thing to remember here is that Toad heads have physically augmenting properties for the consumer, such as causing a person to grow large, that had to have been discovered somehow and in such a way as for it to become common knowledge. A crazed, desperate Toad that’s just eaten his friend, grown three sizes larger, and gone on a berserker rampage would do the trick. Given the living conditions implied by what’s going on as a result of the war, that’s pretty likely how the toad-head-eating fad began.
Mario, of course, was creepily excited about it.
Calling this a war doesn’t seem right though, since war implies that there are two armed forces engaged in combat of some description; what’s happening here, however, is two key figures performing random acts of death and terror among their opponents civilian population, without actually achieving much in the process. At least on the face of things. It’s more like a cold war, with Gadd and Kamek using the atrocities which happen, and the threat of future such things, to keep their people in check and use the cover to hide even shadier schemes and operations. I’ve mentioned before that Mario has an almost pavlovian response to Bowser’s hijinks and that is absolutely by design of Kamek, instilled in Mario with the intent of using Bowser as reliable bait. It’s not like the Smithy Gang appearing when they did during Super Mario RPG was a coincidence.
That’s a pretty great plan to have pulled off, but it isn’t like Gadd isn’t wise to what Kamek is doing; quite the contrary: he’s been taking advantage of Kamek’s displaced focus to try his own hand at espionage. After all, all the ingredients were right there: clones, time copies and the gullibility of others.
“Why does Bowser Jr. exist?” is a question I’ve asked many times since his introduction into the franchise, but only recently was it within the context of Mario lore. The short version is that he’s a cloned version of Bowser, brainwashed and inserted into the Koopa Kingdom by Gadd for the purposes of destroying it when required. Everyone got that? Because I debated about whether or not to include this one, since I actually thought that this was where the games were actually going after playing Sunshine and Luigi’s Mansion when I was a teenager (albeit, not as embellished). He has to be a clone, how could he possibly exist naturally? Bowser, as far as we’ve seen from Mario games to date, is the last of his species, which means that the Koopas must have taken a page from the DK family playbook somewhere in the past.
First you get the power. Then you get the cousins.
And before anyone even tries to suggest that there’s something more to the constant kidnapping attempts on Peach, then no, NO.. I mean come on… I really don’t want to discuss this in detail because even I have my limits, but Wendy Koopa would be torn in half, which is to say nothing of what would happen to Peachine. No, the explanation is much simpler and far less disgusting. Knowing that Kamek was using the Time Oops Bowsers as opportunities to launch attacks, Gadd had Luigi (who was far from being on Kamek’s radar) “remove” the Bowser that was spawned by the Time Oops for Sunshine and replace him with Bowser Jr… Okaaay, so maybe it’s not so simple. It still makes far, far more sense than the… “Alternative”. Seriously. This isn’t Deviant Art.
It’s not like it would have been hard for Gadd to get hold of Bowsers DNA, he’d just have to scrape some off of Mario’s shoe from any number of their encounters or find any number of Time Oops Bowsers that could have shown up around the place. Gadd even sends Bowser Jr. in equipped specifically with gear purposed for screwing with Mario while in Del Fino, allowing him to appear as though he’s pro-Koopa Kingdom. Assuming Bowser Jr. wasn’t a clone and was, in fact, the offspring of Bowser, do you really think Gadd would allow him to steal the brush and mask? At best he’s the son of Bowser but still a child and at worst he’s a genetic copy of Bowser himself; there’s little to no chance he’d survive an attempt to steal from Gadd.
I mean come on: No child, not even one as well equipped as Bowser Jr. was in Sunshine, could kidnap a fully grown adult like Peachine without some kind of training and inside assistance.
Bowser Jr.’s been among the Koopa Kingdom ranks, with access to the most secretive of places and restricted of zones, so why aren’t they dead yet? Well, that’s the point of a “sleeper” agent: they could be embedded in their target populace for decades before being activated for a specific purpose. Bowser Jr.’s purpose is to completely destroy the Koopa Kingdom from within once they’ve outlasted their usefulness. Gadd is benefiting from the war, far more than Kamek and the Koopa Kingdom are, with the assistance of Luigi and the thousands and wailing souls of the dead generated by this war. Get ready, TDSO fans, because the submerged pearl of truth is going to be pulled from the ectoplasm for all to see in…