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PETA says Mario slam was meant as a joke

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An image from 'Super Tanooki Skin 2D'

Oh PETA, you crazy kids. First, you get the gaming world up in arms by squaring off against one of its most-loved characters. Then, when the backlash hits, you quickly claim the whole thing was "tongue-in-cheek."

After slamming Nintendo icon Mario for wearing a 'Tanooki' suit in his latest game, the animal rights organization says the outcry, which included the creation of a disturbing parody video game called "Super Tanooki Skin 2D," was just a publicity stunt.

Shocking, huh?

"Mario fans: Relax! PETA's game was meant to be tongue-in-cheek, a fun way to call attention to a serious issue, that raccoon dogs are skinned alive for their fur," Shakira Croce, PETA's media coordinator, told Kotaku.

"No one really believes that Mario actually kills and skins a raccoon dog for his fur in Super Mario 3D Land," added a PETA spokesperson. "Our spoof is simply making a serious point: that there is a much darker story behind tanuki skins than Mario lets on. …We know how beloved Mario is -- we are huge Mario fans ourselves. We were a little surprised that the game was taken so literally by some."

It's not hard to understand why the protest was taken literally.

The game features a skinless Tanooki trying to re-capture its skin from a flying Mario. (Warning: It's bloody and not the least bit fun.) And PETA's language sure didn't hint at any sort of levity.

"Tanooki may be just a "suit" in Mario games, but by wearing the skin of an animal, Mario is sending the message that it's OK to wear fur," the group said Monday.

Even as it backs off of the campaign, it's sticking by that message, even taking a swipe at Call of Duty (where the player sometimes shoots attacking dogs) in its statement.

And it's certainly not apologizing. 250,000 people played the parody game in the first 36 hours — making this one of the organization's most successful campaigns since it got celebrities to start posing nude for ads in magazines.

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