This week sees the release of Mario Tennis: Ultra Smash on the Wii U, a game that marks the first playable appearance of Rosalina in a Mario Tennis game. And that’s good. She’s a popular character and I’m surprised that she hasn’t turned up in one before. But it does leave me wondering about a certain other character also appearing in the game and where this leaves her.
Daisy. One has to ask, in this age of Rosalina, is Daisy still relevant? At all? So that I don’t seem like I’m needlessly hating on her, I suppose a little history lesson might be in order here.
Princess Daisy originally debuted in Super Mario Land for the Game Boy in 1989, where, for whatever reason, they decided to give Princess Peach some time off and had Mario rescue a new royal abductee. But that’s hardly relevant to Daisy’s current character, because (other than a cameo appearance as Luigi’s caddy in NES Open Tournament Golf in 1991) she wouldn’t reappear until Mario Tennis on the Nintendo 64 in the year 2000, over 11 years later – which is where her story really starts. She then gone on to appear in nearly every Mario spin-off game since (Kart, Party, sports, etc.), usually as one of the playable characters.
Rosalina, meanwhile, is a relative newcomer, Making her debut as recently as 2007 (in Super Mario Galaxy for the Wii, where she helped Mario out on his adventure). She didn’t go on a humungous hiatus of appearances, however, and went straight into her first playable role the following year, as an unlockable driver in Mario Kart Wii. Ever since, she has been growing ever more popular and relevant to the wider series, being involved and made playable in more and more games. This year, she finally cracked the Mario Party and sports games scenes with debut playable appearances in Mario Party 10 and Mario Tennis: Ultra Smash (she was playable in Mario Golf: World Tour for the 3DS previously, but as bonus DLC). Combine this with her upcoming bow in the new Mario & Sonic games and it’s clear that Rosalina has been cemented as a Mario series staple.
So Daisy came first and now there’s a new girl on the scene. It doesn’t automatically make Daisy redundant, does it? Maybe not, but the problems facing the yellow one become clear when you probe a little deeper into her behind-the-scenes history. Daisy was reintroduced Mario Tennis solely because for the purpose of the game’s doubles mode, where in a tournament, the same two computer-controlled characters would always be paired up. But there was no natural partner for Princess Peach (Mario having already been partnered with Luigi). To remedy this, Nintendo trawled the archives and discovered another, far more obscure girl that had been long-since forgotten along the way, one whom they could reimagine however they wanted because hardly anyone would remember her anyway, and decided to pair princess to princess.
So they resurrected her by tweaking Peach’s already existing character model and, hey presto! Princess tennis buddies! Presumably, they kept her around after that because they wanted more than one female character and give any little girls playing more of a choice, but the point remains that Daisy exists only to be Peach’s friend/partner in these spin-offs (it’s interesting to note that she made her Mario Kart debut in Double Dash, a game that paired two drivers to one kart).
Rosalina, meanwhile, earned a spot in these games through her own merit. Super Mario Galaxy was a hugely popular game and Rosalina, as a central character, became very along popular with it (helped a lot by her storybook side-story). Nintendo must have noticed and granted her a spot as on the roster of the next Mario Kart. Whilst they have seemed reluctant at times to fully integrate her into some of the other Mario spin-offs, such as the party series (she first appeared as an NPC in Island Tour on the 3DS) and the sports games (she didn’t feature in Mario Tennis Open where they bizarrely chose her starry buddy, Luma instead), she got there in the end, all while doing something Daisy never could. Remaining relevant in the mainline Super Mario series.
She’s currently appeared in three of those games and will probably turn up in more later, whilst Daisy only ever appeared in one back in the 80’s and seems incredibly unlikely to reappear in any others. She just doesn’t seem to have a place. In fact, she’s never been so much as been mentioned in a main Super Mario game beyond her debut and her backstory as the princess of Sarasaland has been reduced to the kind of thing reserved for the brief character bios in instruction manuals. All while Rosalina continues to have an active role as the mysterious, magical “princess” of the cosmos.
Rosalina was even playable in Super Mario 3D World and ultimately made the jump to Nintendo superstardom by being picked in the roster of the latest Super Smash Bros. games. Roles Daisy could never begin to dream of. Rosalina has become a favourite, whilst Daisy continues an awkward existence in the background of video gaming. A relic of a time when there wasn’t an established character in the Super Mario series who fit in as a tennis partner for Princess Peach.
You could point out that Waluigi is in the same boat, of course. Created out of thin air for the very same N64 Mario Tennis game because Wario needed a partner, as well. Why, you might ask, am I picking on Princess Daisy when Waluigi is surely just as irrelevant? It’s because he’s not. There has been to date, no other character that can quite fill Waluigi’s place in the series, as Rosalina can Daisy’s. Daisy is the “other princess”, the one that’s not Peach, and that’s a role that can be (and kind of is already) satisfactorily taken by Rosalina.
If Super Mario Galaxy and Rosalina had already existed by the time Mario Tennis entered development, they might still have felt the need to cook up a Waluigi to pair with Wario, but (and this is the crucial point), would they still have blown the cobwebs off Daisy? No. Why would they have done if have already had a second princess ready and waiting, who was actually still relevant to the wider series? They would have paired Peach up with Rosalina and Princess Daisy would have been left to wallow in Game Boy curio obscurity.
Now, don’t get me wrong, I’m fond enough of Princess Daisy. I play as her sometimes, I certainly don’t dislike her and I’m perfectly happy to see her continue turning up in Mario Tennis, et al. The more the merrier, as I see it. But she definitely feels a bit of an outdated relic these days. Someone who’s only there still because she always has been. With her Princess-not-Peach role entirely usurped and arguably bettered by another, more popular, more unique character, you have to wonder whether Nintendo might start to think of putting the girl in the yellow dress on a bus for good.