Animal rights group PETA has admitted its campaign condemning Super Mario 3D Land's furry Tanooki suit was not a serious attack on Nintendo's moustachioed mascot.
"Mario fans: Relax!", a statement from PETA passed to Eurogamer reads. "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."
"We wish real-life tanukis could fly or swat enemies away with their tails and escape from those who profit from their skins. You can help them by never buying real fur."
The activist group was apparently left surprised at how seriously people had taken its campaign, which features a 2D Mario-themed flash game Mario Kills Tanooki. In the game players control a bloodied and flayed racoon trying to win back its skin.
"Tanooki may be just a 'suit' in Mario games, but in real life, tanuki are raccoon dogs who are skinned alive for their fur. By wearing Tanooki, Mario is sending the message that it's OK to wear fur," the organisation originally stated.
But PETA has now admitted it was "a little surprised" the campaign "was taken so literally". "We know how beloved Mario is - we are huge Mario fans ourselves!" PETA spokesperson Ashley Palmer told Kotaku. "Our spoof is simply making a serious point: that there is a much darker story behind tanuki skins than Mario lets on.
Nintendo responded to the controversy earlier this week, telling Eurogamer that Mario's "light-hearted and whimsical" transformations "make no statement beyond the games themselves."