...The Last Hurrah/The Land of Evil and Wickedness
Bowser's Keep: Ahh...it's so good to be home again...Bowser is SO in his element here, considering it's his own dang house, so let him be in the party! Sometimes, when traitorous Koopa Troopas spot Bowser during a battle, they'll bolt faster than you can say "Three hundred anchovies but no mushrooms cos they're salty, but I would like it very cheesy and big", just at the sight of their former leader. Even if Bowser's not fighting, sometimes the monsters can sense his presence and get such enormous feelings of guilt and fear that they can't concentrate on battle. Bowser's Keep has GOT to be the grooviest pad anyone's got in the entire Mushroom World. In the room that isn't the entry hall but looks kind of like it, you can go behind the pillars and discover a little treasure room for y'self. Proceed through the large red doors directly in front of you and pay no attention to the man behind the curtain. Anyhoo, the bridge Mario destroyed on his last escapade in Bowser's swingin' house has been repaired by the Smithy Gang--ugh! Not more donut blocks...but anyway...now, through the throne room and mind those odious little goombas...now, into a spotlit room. Avoid lurking enemies when you can, but do go the left at the first branch and get the treasure. Then, when you come to the spot where the Goombas think themselves so clever for finding hiding spots behind the statues, get just close enough for them to blow their cover but not catch you. The second Goomba will actually fling himself over the edge when you get close enough. It's an accident, of course, but one can't help stifling a giggle at the poor fungus's apparant incompetence. Now...there are 6 doors...choose one and you're off. Quiz Games with Dr. Topper are the MOST fun. A word of advice for the coin take thing where you don't want to get the 21st coin: Try to leave Dr. Topper with 6 coins left. Then he can't do anything to win. No matter how many coins he takes, it will be possible for you take the 20th and leave him with unlucky 21. AND when counting barrels--use your math skills and find the area. Don't bother counting the barrels before the countdown begins, as that sly old Dr. T will pull a trick on you if you happen to be dupeworthy. As for the button game, that might take a while but there's no way to actually LOSE. And as for the...oh forget it I'm not going to walk you through every single game Dr. T plays. You can darn well e-mail me or find out on your own. Where the Fighting Courses are concerned: they're pretty much self-explanatory. As for Action: You can figure them out on your own, and if you find yourself in a bit of a jam, I'm always here to bestow information upon you from my home up in the sky. Anyway, once you've collected your goodies for making it through each course, equip them if they're equipment. There are exceptions, though: Don't equip Toadstool with a Super Slap if you already have the Frying Pan. That's the only exception. Sorry I said there were exceptionS, but there's only one. When you go into the next room and meet your old buddy Croco, you don't need to bother with Fire Armour. You should already have it anyway, and if you don't, well--don't buy it anyway, you'll find out soon enough. Buy items from him if you need them. Then go into the room and kick Magikoopa's magic bum. He'll make you a psychedelic treasure box that never runs out of coins, and will also restore your HP and FP if you talk to him. Go into the left door first; you'll meet Croco again, and he's selling better Armour this time. Buy the Royal Dress even if you already have a Lazy Shell, because sometimes you feel like having a tough princess instead of a sedentary little healer with 0 attack power. Buy every piece of Armour he's got to sell and equip it. I recommend Toadstool (in Royal Dress or Lazy Shell, doesn't matter) and Bowser OR Toadstool and Geno for the battle you will be embarking on soon enough. Now go back to Magikoopa's room. If you're bent on riches, you can spend the ten minutes replenishing your coin stock, or you can just go through the right door and try to avoid being smashed by Thwomps or smacked by Bullet Bills. If a Billy does get you, you'll have to do battle with a freaky cannon looking thing or two. Once you get through the far door, it's deja vu in a big way. Boomer is formidable, but nothing to worry too much about if you're confident enough in your party. Soon he'll crumble under the weight of a losing battle and an asthma attack, and then his littly Shyguy friend will let him drop. Whose heartless idea was it to tie up poor little Shyguys and make them suspend chandeliers from themselves?? Anyway, YOUR Shyguy (Chandeli-Ho?) will jet you straight upwards towards Bowser's impossibly high ceiling. When he remembers there are no seatbelts, he'll come to a dead stop, but (since there are no seatbelts) you won't. That's what we call inertia, kids. Anyway, you'll end up on the roof soon enough and in your battle with Exor/Smithy the Sword/Puffy the Deinonychus/whateverhisnameis. When you're done with that, he'll uhhmmm suck you right in. You'll leave Bowser's place behind once and for all. Revisiting the Keep one or two times later in the game if you didn't get all the neato weapons from the six doors area is a good idea. You'll want them before you're done.

Smithy Factory: This is it, my friend. Bowser almost ends the game right here and now by reminding everyone that he was only fighting to get his Keep back, and now he's got it, and ALSO Mario dear, you're part of the Koopa Troop so you have to help with repairs!! But Geno manages to talk Bowser into finishing up the fight so he can claim his keep for good without having to worry about Smithy sending more weapons to invade. (Privacy is the big issue, you know). The decor of the Factory is drab, grey, and sinister. The horrifying bolt lifts all over the place are Square's way of revisiting SMB3 in the worst possible way. If you lose your step on a bolt lift, there'll be a trampoline to keep you from harm, but you'll still have to cross the Denmarked thing whether you like it or not. Whatever team you like is fine for storming enemy territory. Bowser and Geno, Bowser and Mallow, Toadstool and Geno, Mallow and Geno, Mallow and Toadstool...just pick something you like and go with it. Ameboids and Glum Reapers make up a large part of the Factory's population, early in your venture through it. All you need to bother about here is avoiding fights when you can and steadily making your way through. You'll meet Count Down, who is no trouble, and then continue as if nothing had happened. You'll start to meet machine made clones of everyone from Shysters to the Axem Rangers wandering about, and also some ghosties. One day you'll meet up with Cloaker and Domino, and they're a little more trouble than Count Down was but still nothing too difficult. You'll find the Ultra Hammer somewhere--equip if you don't have the Lazy Shell. Ignore if you do. When you get into the REAL factory, you'll have a few minor battles with the Director, Clerk, Manager, etc. I forget all their names. Toad will catch up with you after the first of these skirmishes, pockets bulging with useful items. Unfortunately, you still have to BUY them from him. He'll entrust you with a Rock Candy after you talk to him the first time. You can go back and restock any time you like after this, so don't feel as if this is your last chance to buy. Mallow will discover something interesting about the crane and the green button. Bowser will compose a lovely haiku. Toadstool will give a factory dude a piece of her mind. And Geno...well, Geno will just sit back, waiting for his chance to have a go at Smithy himself. Gunyolk and the Chief are the only baddies of any real account that you'll meet in the Main Factory (aside from Smithy, o'course). Yolkie has the Breaker Beam, an unwelcome attack we thought we'd left behind when we took out the Axem Rangers. Once they're done for, save your game and stock up for all you're worth, then change your party to anyone you dang well like (as long as they're well equipped) and stamp right on that green button. Smithy awaits. And..when he's gone....witness the remarkably lovely ending...a video game ending that actually made me cry the first time I watched it...and I still get all misty...and *sniffle* oh go away, you're upsetting me...*sniffle sniffle* And that is the end of the Area Guide as we know it. See you sometime.