Pro tip: Tetris is (usually) balanced

It's really easy in competitive Tetris, especially if you're matched up against someone who's at about the same skill level that you are, to feel like the game comes down to the selection of pieces you get. But, in most games of Tetris, both players get the same pieces. It really comes down to who can put them in place the fastest.

Which is kind of hard to wrap your head around, I know, so I prepared the video below where I use the same controller input for both controllers and play a short round of competitive Tetris.

It's actually pretty illuminating. Everything's the same: pieces dropped, garbage sent, all of it.

Of course there are probably variants of Tetris that don't make everything equal like this, but you probably don't want to play those.

Pro tip: card layouts in Super Mario Bros. 3

In Super Mario Bros. 3, every time you score 80,000 points, you get to play the card matching game

Ignoring the grammar error, you are presented with a grid of 18 cards and have to try to match pairs of cards to get the powerups they contain.

If you fail twice, you have to stop and try again when you get another 80,000 points. But! The layouts aren't random. There are eight possible ways that they could be laid out.

And maybe you have a better memory than I do, but I can't remember eight layouts of 18 cards each. Sure, you could write them down, but then you'd have to make sure that you had your notes handy every time you played, which might be OK.

But, take a closer look at the second picture. Notice how the last 3 cards in the bottom row are Mushroom, Fire Flower, Starman? It turns out that those three cards are the same cards in the same order on all eight of the variations! Making it really easy to remember at least the three of them.

Pro tip: Using abilities you don't actually have in Castlevania: Circle of the Moon

In Castlevania: Circle of the Moon, you pick up these cards that are used in something called the "DSS System" do give you special abilities, you have to pick one from the top row and one from the bottom. And then you press the L button to activate the combo.

For example: choose the Mars and Manticore cards and your whip will be replaced with "Poison Claws"

Then you press L again to deactivate it.

What's interesting is if you press L to activate a combo

And while your character is going through the animation of activating the skill, you go to the status screen

And pick a combination of cards that you don't actually have, you get its effect anyway! Like here, this combo activates a familiar that follows me around

The only drawback is that some of the effects are kind of hard to figure out what they do, and if you do manage to figure them out, the game won't actually record the description for you (unless you eventually collect the cards, of course).

One of my favorites is this combination

Which gives you the Item Crush ability. It costs 20 hearts, but you unleash a super attack with whatever sub-weapon you have equipped, if you put in the correct button combo

It's quite useful, especially on bosses and powerful normal enemies.

Pro tip: An alternate path through the 'grassy' stages in Super Mario Bros. 3

In the 'grassy' stages of Super Mario Bros. 3 (like stage 1-2, for example) you might notice that there's a dark green patch at the bottom of the screen.

You may be thinking that was an artistic choice, but if you're properly prepared, you'll find that it's more than that.

Enter one of those stages with a P-Wing equipped and fly down the closest pit (being careful to not actually fall in, of course) and you'll find that the dark green stuff is actually a tunnel that runs most of the length of the stage!

Of course, stuff like enemy fireballs that go through the ground can still hit you if you're not careful, if you stop mashing the A button you'll fall off the bottom of the screen and lose a life, and you can't actually finish the stage from down there, you have to be above ground to hit the Card at the end.

But it's a fun novelty to do once or twice.

Pro tip: skipping close to the end of Super Mario Bros. 3.

The Warp Zone in Super Mario Bros. 3 is a little different from the one in the first game, it's its own separate World, World 9.

What determines which row of pipes you have access to is what World you were in when you used your Whistle. Anything that's 7 or higher will take you to the bottom row, which leads to World 8. And since we're in World 9, we can use the whistle while in the Warp Zone to...

Go straight to the shortcut to World 8!

Which means that you can do this from pretty much anywhere you want, so long as you've collected at least two of the three Warp Whistles.

Just be aware that World 8 is pretty tough, and if you haven't spent time in the earlier Worlds preparing (i.e. gathering supplies) you're going to have a pretty hard time of it.

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