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Video Game / Super Mario Bros.: The Lost Levels

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You may be looking for Super Mario Bros. 2, the Western sequel to Super Mario Bros. which was released later in Japan as Super Mario USA.
"It's like Super Mario Bros. 1, except you die."

Released exclusively in Japan on June 3, 1986 for the Family Computer Disk System, Super Mario Bros. 2, also known worldwide as Super Mario Bros.: The Lost Levels, is the second game in the Super Mario Bros. series. Following the success of Super Mario Bros., Nintendo decided to follow it up with a Mission-Pack Sequel. There were four main differences between the original and the sequel: the two-player mode was replaced by the option to play the game as either Mario or Luigi, Luigi was given higher jumps but inferior traction, some of the graphics were updated, and the game was about as close to Platform Hell as one gets short of a ROM hack or the most hardcore Super Mario Maker levels.

The game came into existence when Shigeru Miyamoto and his crew were working on VS. Super Mario Bros. (an arcade version of the first Super Mario Bros.) and were adjusting the game's difficulty to make it suitable for the arcade's pay-per-play model (e.g. the number of Warp Zones were reduced and infinitive lives exploits were removed). Among the changes made to VS. Super Mario Bros. was replacing some of the Hard Mode Filler stages from the latter half of the game by making the earlier versions of these stages hard from the get-go and replacing the later versions with new stages (that would later be integrated into The Lost Levels itself). Miyamoto decided to create an alternate home version of Super Mario Bros composed entirely of new stages aimed specifically at hardcore fans of the original, resulting in the production of Super Mario Bros. 2 for the Family Computer Disk System.

Even though this was back when many games - including the first installment - were Nintendo Hard, the difficulty spike between this game and its predecessor was insane. In Japan, this had the effect of giving jaded Mario fans a new challenge to overcome (in fact, the game sold well in Japan, it sold 2.5 million units, and was the all-time best-selling on the Family Computer Disk System). However, when Howard Phillips, Nintendo of America's chief play-tester, and favorite of NoA president Minoru Arakawa, got his hands on the game, he found the experience of playing it to be absolutely punishing, and not at all fun. Based on Phillips' input, Arakawa made the decision not to release it in the United States and Europe. However, Nintendo of America absolutely needed a western Mario sequel in record time, so Nintendo Dolled-Up another Nintendo game, Yume Kōjō: Doki Doki Panic, and called it Super Mario Bros. 2. (Eventually, in Japan, the re-dressed game would get released under the title Super Mario USA.)

When the original Super Mario Bros. 2 was finally released in North America and Europe as part of the Super Mario All-Stars Compilation Rerelease, it was instead titled Super Mario Bros.: The Lost Levels. Worlds 1-8 were also included as the Unlockable "Super Mario Bros.: For Super Players" in Super Mario Bros. Deluxe for Game Boy Color. Keep in mind that these versions, as hard as they are, ease up the difficulty greatly from the original version; the game can be saved after every level rather than every world, and invisible power-up blocks were added to every dungeon level. Also, in both versions, it shares the same graphics as its predecessor, losing some of its uniqueness.

The original version of The Lost Levels has since been released in future platforms, including a port for the Game Boy Advance in 2004 which once again remained exclusive to Japan. In fact, it wasn't until 2007, twenty-one years after the game was released, that the original version was made available to Western gamers via the Wii's Virtual Console; and from that point the game hasn't missed the international market ever again, being available there on the Virtual Consoles of the Nintendo 3DS and Wii U, the NES catalogue of the Nintendo Switch Online service, and as part of the rerelease of the first Super Mario Bros. for the Game & Watch for the franchise's 35th anniversary in 2020. For all of these re-releases, the game adopted the name of the All-Stars version in the West, to distinguish it from the international Super Mario Bros. 2 (though the game's title screen still shows the Japanese name).

The Lost Levels could be considered a very early example of Downloadable Content; in addition to being sold on its own, it could be written to the blank side of the Disk System version of its predecessor, or any other Disk System release with a blank side, for the low price of 500 yen using Nintendo's Disk Writer kiosk (itself an early example of Digital Distribution). It is far from uncommon to find secondhand copies of the Disk System version of Super Mario Bros. with The Lost Levels on the other side. Nintendo would revisit this idea years later, by offering New Super Luigi U as a more difficult downloadable expansion of New Super Mario Bros. U.

Tropes differing from the first game:

  • Adaptation Explanation Extrication: Due to World 9 being intentionally designed to be glitch-like, the original version of the game describes it as "Fantasy World". The All-Stars version removes this and presents World 9 the same as all the other worlds in the game, thus removing the context for why the levels in World 9 have a stranger and more surreal design.
  • Air-Aided Acrobatics: Some levels have gusts of forward-moving wind that need to be used to trampoline over huge gaps.
  • All There in the Manual: The original manual is basically an update of the predecessor, with one noticeable addition: an entire message from "Mario's Staff" directed to Super Players, in which it is explained that setting is a "Parallel World" to the original game.
  • Anti-Frustration Features:
    • The original Super Mario Bros. requires a hidden code to start a new game at the beginning of the World you last got a Game Over on. This game, on the other hand, allows you to do so via a menu at the game over screen rather than having to look up a guide.
    • Both All-Stars and Deluxe allow you to save the game per level, and you get infinite continues, which makes a grueling game much more tolerable.
    • All-Stars also allows you to play through the bonus Worlds A through D immediately after completing World 8 (or World 9 if you unlocked it), unlike the original game which required you to complete the entire adventure eight times.
    • In 7-2, one of the trickiest levels in the game, each time you loop around the first part, a new mushroom block will always pop in, in case you lost a hit trying to get up to the level's Warp Pipe.
    • Some of the backwards Warp Zones have bottomless pits allowing you to kill yourself instead of just letting the timer count down to 0 (on the other hand, warping backwards and completing any missed worlds would mean World 9 isn't lost, if you're playing the original FDS version).
  • Aquatic Mook: The Blooper and Cheep Cheep inhabit underwater levels, like in the first game. However, in this game, Bloopers can also be found hovering airborne in ground levels; as a result, you can now Goomba Stomp them.
  • Art Evolution:
    • While the Mario Bros. and enemy designs remain unchanged, the backgrounds look different: the ground is now made from rock instead of brick, the clouds and bushes now have faces, mountains look more jagged in appearance, trees are drawn more realistically, the fence posts are replaced with mushrooms, lifts are made of mushrooms instead of metal, bricks have shading, the giant mushroom platforms are replaced with cloud platforms, mushroom powerups have eyes for the first time, and Princess Peach has a redesigned sprite. Drop shadows were also added to the text so they are easier to read against the bright blue backgrounds.
    • This also applies to the promotional art, which depicted the characters (particularly Bowser and Princess Peach) much closer to their now standard designs (here's a comparison between the manuals for this game and the original) than they did in the first game. However, Mario is still drawn with red overalls and blue shirt, instead of the blue overalls and red shirt ensemble he has from Super Mario Bros. 3 and onward.
  • The Artifact: In VS. Super Mario Bros., the player is given 100,000 points for any life remaining after saving Peach. This is carried over to The Lost Levels but without the benefit of a high-score table. This feature is removed in the All-Stars remake.
  • Artifact Mook: Played straight with the Bloopers above water and earth mooks in underwater stages.
  • Artwork and Game Graphics Segregation:
    • Luigi is depicted in official artwork with a green cap & overalls and a blue shirt. In-game, however, he retains his white and green palette from Super Mario Bros..
    • The official artwork for the Poison Mushroom depicts it with a Slasher Smile; its in-game sprite, meanwhile, depicts it as a simple Palette Swap of a Super Mushroom.
  • Ascended Glitch:
    • World 9 was inspired by a glitch in the Disk System version of the first game. The glitch involved removing the cartridge during the middle of gameplay, replacing it with a copy of Tennis and then resetting the console. After playing a few rounds of Tennis, the player must switch cartridges once again during gameplay, switching back to Super Mario Bros., and then reset the game once again. After doing all of this without turning off the console, the player must start the game by pressing A+Start (the continue code) in order to start in World 9, which is an underwater version of World 6-2 and World 1-4 with random enemies and crashes. This glitch is impossible to reproduce on the NES, since the console automatically resets when a cartridge is forcefully removed.note 
    • Some Warp Zones (including one of the infamous backwards ones) require the player to jump over the flagpole, which was an unintentional action in the original that simply trapped the player in an infinitely scrolling flat plane until time ran out.
  • Battle Theme Music: As in the previous game, no boss music plays when you meet Bowser in any of the castle levels. This is rectified in the All-Stars remake, which gives him a dedicated boss track in the first seven standard worlds, as well as the first three special worlds, and another for the eighth and thirteenth (fifth special) worlds. Interestingly, in both instances of the latter case, Bowser's Final Boss music starts playing from the moment you meet his brother.
  • Bilingual Bonus: The message spelt out in blocks in World 9-4 reads "Thank You!" in Japanese.
  • Blessed with Suck: Did you get the Star Man in World 8-3? Congratulations, you're now going to plow straight through those Koopas you need to bounce off of to escape the Bottomless Pit.
  • Bonus Dungeon: Worlds A through D are treated as a separate adventure in the FDS version. In All-Stars, the bonus worlds continue from World 8-4 or 9-4 with the player's lives carried over.
  • Boss Corridor: The last stretch prior to Bowser in World 8-4 is a long corridor.
  • Boss in Mook Clothing: In Worlds 8-4, 9-3, and D-4, there is a blue Bowser that appears prior to where the real Bowser would be (except for 9-3, where only the flagpole is behind him), who appears to be distinct from the fake Bowsers (even himself having a decoy in D-4). In a strange twist, this Bowser is referred to as "Bowser's brother" in materials mostly released between The Lost Levels and All-Stars (which changed his color from blue to green), but later references toned it down and currently state that his relationship with the real Bowser is unknown.
  • Brutal Bonus Level: The game itself is hard enough but Worlds A to D take it to a whole other level. World 9 as well, especially in the original Disk System version where you're only given one life and no continues to get through it.
  • Checkpoint Starvation: Like the original, castles and World 8 have no checkpoints, and this time neither do the extra worlds after 8 (9 and A-D).
  • Color-Coded for Your Convenience:
    • In addition to red and green Koopa Troopas, this game also introduced red Piranha Plants, which pop in and out of pipes faster than the original green ones and emerge even if you're standing next to their pipe.
    • Also applies to the Poison Mushroom. Its color palette matches the background in the 8-bit versions (brown in overworld levels, blue underground, gray in castles). It also has black spots on it, in contrast to the red spots of Super Mushrooms and the green spots of 1-Up Mushrooms. The All-Stars version went even further to distinguish the Poison Mushroom, making it purple with a large skull on it.
    • Also done with the green springs. Whereas the red ones simply let you jump higher than normal, the green ones will launch you straight off the screen, high enough that it'll take a good few seconds for you to come back down. Required to complete certain levels.
  • Cosmetic Award: In the FDS version, every time the game is cleared, a star appears on the title screen. While eight stars is needed to access Worlds A through D, anything over that (the maximum being twenty-four) is nothing but bragging rights.
  • Difficult, but Awesome: Luigi's bad traction presents some control issues, but overcoming such leaves his superior jumping ability, giving him quite an edge over Mario in most situations.
  • Divergent Character Evolution: Luigi gets his distinctive abilities here (higher jumps, doesn't stop on a dime), predating the US/EU sequel.
  • Double Unlock: In the Disk System version of the game, to get access to Worlds A to D, you had to beat the game eight times. This was changed in the All-Stars port where you just have to beat the game once to play the rest of the worlds.
  • Easter Egg: Like the first game, if you wait long enough on the title screen, then a brief demo will start to play. It also explains why you shouldn't touch Poison Mushrooms in the first place.
  • Endless Corridor: In addition to having endless corridors in some castles, the game also does this with some of its overworld levels, e.g. 7-2 and 8-2. In the former, you take a pipe to get out, in the latter, you have to climb a hard-to-reach beanstalk.
  • Endless Game: In the original, if you beat the game without skipping any castles, you can play World 9. But when you play through World 9 it just continues to loop, until you die or give up. However, in All-Stars, beating world 9-4 leads to world A-1 instead of looping.
  • Fake Longevity: Want to access Worlds A through D in the original version? Beat the game eight times! This is alleviated lots in All-Stars, which only requires completing World 8-4 once, or 9-4 if you unlocked World 9.
  • Game-Breaking Bug:
    • An important springboard in World D-2 can sometimes fail to spawn, making it impossible to jump across the wide gap to the flagpole.
    • World C-3, where the fifth green spring (after the first three Piranha Plants) won't appear at times, and you need it to cross a very long gap.
  • Game Mod: An official one, All Night Nippon Super Mario Bros.. Here, levels are recycled from the first game (but with modifications) and some of the enemy characters and all of the Toads were changed into Japanese celebrities. It was given out as a raffle prize on the Japanese radio show "All Night Nippon".
  • Goomba Springboard: This play mechanic makes its debut in the Mario series here. Also the Trope Namer. For some reason, this mechanic is removed in Deluxe, playing more like its predecessor, although levels were edited to compensate the removal.
  • Guide Dang It!:
    • World 2-2. Because of the large gap that Mario cannot jump across by himself, it's the first level that requires hitting an invisible block to win.
    • World 8-2 will repeat itself if a player tries to beat it like they would any other level. The only way to beat this level is to hit a block which spawns a vine to climb up to the flagpole in the sky.
    • To access worlds A through D, you have to beat the game eight times, and then hold A and press Start on the title screen.
  • Gusty Glade: The game does this in some overworld levels, often as a means of making the jump timings more difficult. The good news is that the wind always blows east, so it never dampens the jump's height or the run's speed as long as Mario or Luigi is moving to the right.
  • Hailfire Peaks: World 9, which mixes up the underwater, castle and overworld settings in a Debug Room style.
  • Hard Mode Filler: 7-3 is a level where you have to use several springboards to get across large gaps. C-3 has the same layout, except for a lone Lakitu added, but just that single addition makes the level much, much more frustrating. C-3 also has no checkpoint, unlike 7-3. Die at any point, especially during the wind section near the end which requires very precise timed jumps, and you're doing the whole stage over again. C-4 is likewise a much tougher version of 7-4.
  • Hard Levels, Easy Bosses: The Bowser fights have mostly been unchanged from the first game, which makes them even more of a stark contrast in difficulty. In the original FDS version, they don't even throw hammers in Worlds A-D.
  • If It Swims, It Flies: The Blooper now appears in land levels, hovering around the exact same way it swims underwater, and stompable for 1,000 points. This behavior was already fully defined in the previous game, just never actually used.
  • Invincible Minor Minion: Buzzy Beetles become these in World 9-1. They can't be stomped on underwater, and can't be killed with fireballs, so they are effectively invincible.
  • Invisible Block: Sure, the first game has them, but The Lost Levels places them with the express intention to kill you. Good luck trying to jump past the Hammer Brothers in world 8-3 without hitting invisible blocks and dying on your first few attempts. And many of them contain a Poison Mushroom.
  • Jack of All Stats: This game begins the long tradition of Mario having average stats — with lower jumps but better traction, he manages the incredible feat of being the most average of two available characters.
  • Kaizo Trap: It's no Kaizo Mario, but the game derives much of its cruelty from sudden (and inventive) subversions of the original; things that simply donít work as expected, that is, "Warp Zones" which offer to send you three or four levels backward — though Nintendo kindly left an open suicide pit — inviting players to shout, "You can't do that! Can they do that??"
  • Level in the Clouds: In addition to the "Coin Heaven" bonus areas from the first game, a few levels (namely the end of 8-2 and the entireties of 8-3 and A-3) take place in the clouds. The former one can only be found by climbing a secret beanstalk (as the rest of the level eventually loops). The latter two are more traditional sky levels, and the placement of the cloud platforms as well as that of most enemies make the levels among the most challenging (especially if played with Mario, who doesn't jump as highly as Luigi).
  • Luck-Based Mission: There are a few points in the castles where you must make a long jump and just hope that Bowser's flames don't appear in the wrong location. If they do, sucks to be you.
  • Meaningless Lives: The All-Stars edition, because it allows you to save after clearing a level rather than a world. The only punishment for getting a game over in this edition is that you have to restart the stage from the beginning (which is only even a problem if you've passed the Checkpoint, which many levels lack anyway). Plus, your score resets to zero.
  • Minus World: World 9 uses mismatched tile sets similar to "World -1" in the FCD Updated Re-release of the first game, and infinitely loops like the FC/NES "World -1" (except in the All-Stars version).
  • Mission-Pack Sequel: Most of the game is reusing sprites and tilesets from the first game, with just a few extra ones. This and the difficulty were the two biggest factors as to why Nintendo of America chose not to release it overseas until All-Stars.
  • Mood Whiplash:
    • The fortress in D-4. Halfway through, you're outside in grassland again, then down in a coin-filled bonus room before returning to the fortress. Even more so in All Stars, where cheery bonus music is played in bonus rooms.
    • World 9-3. This level uses the castle music. There's a vine that leads to a Coin Heaven where the upbeat Starman music plays (or the previously mentioned cheery bonus music in All-Stars) which then returns to the castle music upon exiting the Coin Heaven.
  • Morton's Fork: There are two warp zones out of nine that actually send you back. If you don't want to go back, the only other way is to jump into the pit. Of course, if you are playing for a high score, this is actually beneficial.
  • New Game Plus: If you play through the main game without skipping any castles, you access the secret World 9, in which you only have one life and no continues to complete. Furthermore, each time you play through the game, you earn a star. Once you get eight stars, you go to Worlds A through D, at the end of which you finally find the Princess. The All-Stars version averts this, as you don't lose all your lives in World 9 and you can continue after a game over, and you go straight to Worlds A-D after the first loop (in fact, to replay the previous worlds, you need to choose them manually before resuming your playthrough).
  • Nintendo Hard: This is definitely THE hardest 2D Mario game to date.
    • Notably, every updated version of the game has done something to make it slightly easier. Even the All-Stars and Deluxe ports save the game on a per level basis, rather than a per world basis as is the case with every other game it includes. It also removed a number of Invisible Blocks specifically designed to cause unintended player deaths (although many were still left in), particularly in later stages, then added invisible blocks containing power-ups elsewhere. It also makes Worlds 9 and A-D much easier to get to.
    • Playing the game in Deluxe makes it even harder via Fake Difficulty; since the Game Boy Color has a smaller screen, you can hardly see what's ahead. Sometimes you can't even tell if there's a pit or solid ground below you. This version also removes the wind and Goomba Springboard mechanics, making some jumps extremely difficult. On the flipside, the wind jumps have their platforms re-arranged to be closer than the original, and since there are several levels where the wind isn't required to make jumps and is just there to mess with you as you attempt to keep your footing on small platforms and avoid hazards, these levels tend to be a lot simpler on Deluxe, somewhat making up for the small screen.
    • In NES Remix 2, most of the challenges either involve the easiest levels in the game, or are very short.
  • Noob Bridge:
    • The very first mushroom in the game is trapped in a box that the player can't reach themselves, and so have to knock it out of the box by punching one of the bricks at the correct time.
    • Ducking is far more important in this game than other installments in the Mario franchise, and the game warns players about this with the narrow passage in 1-2. If they're already Big Mario or Luigi and don't take a hit from the Goombas, then the only way they can progress beyond the passage is by running and sliding underneath.
  • Oddly Named Sequel 2: Electric Boogaloo: The Japanese version of Super Mario All-Stars (Super Mario Collection) calls it Super Mario Bros. 2: For Super Players, whose subtitle was the slogan on the original box art. Super Mario Bros. Deluxe also uses this full title, just without the 2. Eventually, Nintendo used their first localized title for the worldwide Virtual Console release, although the title screen is unchanged.
  • Permanently Missable Content: In All-Stars, your save file is permanently locked out of World 9 if you used a warp zone prior to when you would start World 9, even if you warped backwards. Not only that, but if you ever use a warp zone after getting World 9, you retroactively lose it for that save file. If you're unfortunate enough to save, that is. This was not the case in the original, where you're only required to beat all eight castles (so it's okay to use a forward warp zone as long as you use a later backwards warp zone to go back and do the levels you missed).
  • Plant Mooks: The Piranha Plants, which this time bring a red variant that will come out of the pipes even if you're standing onto them.
  • Platform Hell: One of the few commercial releases. The game was advertised as a more difficult follow-up to the original Super Mario Bros., and incorporates many perks to further raise the challenge.
  • Poison Mushroom:
    • The Trope Namer and its first appearance in the series. As its original incarnation, they are almost indistinguishable from Super Mushrooms. It is very easy to die at the start of 1-1 if you aren't expecting it. Which, considering that Poison Mushrooms hadn't been seen before this game, most players weren't. However, if you stick around to watch the game demo, you can clearly see Mario trying to get the Poison Mushroom and dying, allowing this type of death to be averted by patient players. This says nothing, however, about Poison Mushrooms in Underground and Castle levels, since the mushrooms' colors change and thus may lead player to conclude that it's a different kind of mushroom.
    • All-Stars makes the Poison Mushrooms a completely and totally unmistakable solid purple with a skull on the cap of the mushroom and gives them angry eyes, making them far easier to distinguish from regular mushrooms (and also Schmuck Bait of the highest order). Deluxe also does something similar to the design.
    • The Lost Levels also has backwards Warp Zones. Even though there are only two in the game (one in 3-1, which takes you back to World 1, and one in 8-1, which takes you back to World 5), they are a major pain for players, since not only do they send you back to an earlier point in the game, they also make access to World 9 impossible (in All-Stars).
  • Point of No Continues: In the original Disk System release, when reaching World 9 and beyond this, if you lose your final life, instead of giving an option to continue, you're instead given a final message saying: "YOU'RE A SUPER PLAYER! WE HOPE WE'LL SEE YOU AGAIN. MARIO AND STAFF." This is averted in the All-Stars version, as you're still given continues when you lose your final life.
  • Pre-Final Boss: In castle 8-4 (and the true final level, D-4), you will encounter "Bowser's Brother" (a blue palette-swap of Bowser) shortly before reaching the real Bowser.
  • Recurring Boss: Bowser retains his role from the previous game as the sole boss character Mario and Luigi face, this time in an increased total of twelve encounters (two real, ten fake).
  • Recycled Soundtrack: Most of Koji Kondo's classic compositions from the last game were recycled here. In addition, a "Burning Rubber" sound (later recycled in Super Mario Bros. 3) was added, as was a "Wind blowing" sound. The ending theme was also given a complete makeover, similar to VS., only with an extended bridge and octave change.
  • Secret Level: Worlds 9, A, B, C, and D. Many of them qualify as Brutal Bonus Level, even in relation to the rest of the game (and, to varying degrees, the rest of the series).
  • Slippy-Slidey Ice World: 7-3 and C-3, which retain the monochrome aesthetic visuals in the previous game's World 6-3. Neither have noticeable ice tropes, since they're merely done with recoloring several things white and gray (the All-Stars versions provide a snowy aesthetic to other levels, but it's purely cosmetic and thus irrelevant to their gameplay).
  • Soundtrack Dissonance: In Super Mario All-Stars. Of course they'd give the hardest Mario game in history a title screen with gentle harp and string music.
  • Spring Jump: The game has two types of springboards: Red ones are identical to the ones in the first game, and green super springboards that propel you into the air for seconds at a time (and often drop you in perilous or otherwise undesirable places, if you aren't paying attention).
  • This Was His True Form: Just like in the first game, all the Bowsers but the last one will reveal themselves to be minor enemies in disguise if defeated with fireballs. The All-Stars version adds new enemies for World A-C and makes the Bowser in World D the real one. (Note that getting to some of these Bowsers with fireballs requires glitching through levels).
  • True Final Boss: The real Bowser of D-4, who can only be reached by unlocking and completing the four bonus worlds.
  • Underground Monkey: The new red Piranha Plants pop out of their pipes even if Mario is standing next to them. (If you're standing directly over them, the ones from ground-based pipes won't emerge, but if you're standing on the edge of the pipe, they will. However, the ones that emerge from upside-down pipes will emerge regardless of where Mario stands).
  • Unintentionally Unwinnable: In 7-4, it is possible to jump up to and run on top of the ceiling, which would be a handy Easy Level Trick if there was an opportunity to get back down. Unfortunately, there isn't, so it just leaves you trapped up in the ceiling and forced to wait for the time limit to run out. This was not fixed for All-Stars.
  • Warp Zone: Just like in the first game, except there's some which send you backwards. Using any of them prevents you from getting to World 9 in the All-Stars version. In many instances of reaching backwards Warp Zones, there's a conveniently-placed pit where you can kill yourself to avoid warping back. If it doesn't, such as the one in 8-1, you can always just wait for the timer to expire.
  • A Winner Is You: Reach World 9-4 and you get a message made of blocks that reads "アリガトウ!" (Arigatou!, or "Thank you!")