This page will examine in-depth the meaning of the inscription on the courtyard plaque in Super Mario 64 (SM64), and in so doing, hopefully clear up some confusions and ultimately dispel once and for all the "L is real 2401" myth. To do so, it will start at the beginning (the "L"), and make its way from there.
The notion there is an "L" which stands for Luigi on the courtyard plaque is absurd. Several unfounded assertions are made about this "L," the first of which is that it is an L. The texture image ripped from the SM64 ROM suggests it may be an E.[link] The baseline of the letter (the "_" in the "L") is only approximately 5% brighter than the middle horizontal stroke of the "E."[link] However, the actual stem of the letter (the "|" in the "L") varies approximately 22% in brightness.[link] If as much as a 22% difference is accepted for it to be called an L, then it follows that a more accurate 5% difference should also be accepted, which in turn implies the first letter is not an L. The second assertion, based on the false assertion the E is an L, is that the L stands for something. There is simply no evidence to support this claim. The third assertion, based on this evidence-less claim, is that the L stands for Luigi. Over 3000 words in the English language begin with the letter L,[link] as do over 50 characters and items in the Mario series alone.[link] Must it stand for something, Occam's Razor would suggest it stands for the Lakitu Brothers, who are in the courtyard with Mario at the time. However, all the faulty premises upon which this conclusion is based make it unsound.
Even if we were to assume the false L stands for Luigi, "is real 2401" would remain gibberish. "Luigi is real" makes little semantic and no contextual sense, and "Luigi is real 2401" is syntactically incorrect. To derive even from "Luigi is real 2401" that Luigi is a playable SM64 character is nonsense. The interpretation of the last word as "2401" ignores several features of the letters. If the "4" is in fact a 4, it ascends above the other "numbers," which is incongruous. What is more, examination of the texture reveals there is no "/" line in the "4." Both of these can be explained if the glyph is not a 4 but an ascender or, in particular, a "t." The interpretation of the "2" as a 2 conveniently ignores a line above the shape of the 2 which, if not part of the glyph, would be the only line in the picture inconsistent (in both brightness and angle) with the diagonal pattern of the background. Occam's Razor would thus imply it is part of the glyph, and that the "2" is in fact an S. The "0" texture is much more faded on the upper left pixel, a pattern consistent with an "a." To accept, as the evidence shows, that just one of these are letters implies the rest likely are too, and the last follows the pattern of a cursive "r." Furthermore, the "space" after the "is" has a connective pixel that is completely incongruous with the pattern brightness of the background, which indicates that it is not, in fact, a space. From this evidence there are two capital letters. The pixel evidence from the extracted texture seems to suggest the plaque reads, "Eternal Star."
There is significant evidence to support the "Eternal Star" interpretation. Aside from the pixel data of the ripped texture, the most significant is that the statue on the pedestal on which the message is written, is that of a silver-colored star. The inscription on a statue usually refers to the subject or object portrayed by the statue, such as in the case of Claude Elwood Shannon[link] or Robert Koch.[link] The relative size, position and justification of the text is even common between the Eternal Star and Robert Koch statues. Not only is there a big star above the "Eternal Star" inscription, but a star called the Eternal Star is later revealed, in the first installment of Mario Party, to exist in the Mario universe.[link] While it may be coincidence, the adjective "Eternal," of all possible adjectives, is preserved, and it is not farfetched to believe that it is a statue of the Eternal Star. Unlike with "L is real 2401," the "Eternal Star" interpretation is supported on multiple evidential fronts, and does not require any, much less many, leaps of logic. To come to the right conclusion one must be careful not to alter the source image, as some people have done.[link] Instead of making the message clearer, filters in fact transform and obfuscate the data, changing the relations between pixels. While the text of the message below "Eternal Star" cannot be determined, it is possible it says, "We hope for."
The Eternal Star texture appears again in Dodongo's Cavern,[link] a dungeon in The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time (OoT). There is a reason for this. Both the Zelda and Mario series share a creator, Shigeru Miyamoto. Because of this, Miyamoto was free to base the OoT game engine on that of SM64, a fact to which Miyamoto attests in an interview,[link], and so the SM64 texture was automatically present in the OoT engine. The remainder of this page shall be used to disprove further the "L is real 2401" myth and the sub-myths surrounding it. Such sources as "1337_M4rio" in a GameFAQs topic subtitled, "WHAT IT REALLY MEANS!!!!!",[link], 4chan,[link], and the ramblings of a possible 8 year old[link] with a Geocities page,[link] suggest the "2401" in "L is real 2401" is the release date of Paper Mario (PM) for the Nintendo 64 (N64). The claim is that the "2" represents the month, "4," the day, and "01," the year. Even if we accept the inference the inscription reads "2401," this argument is still untenable for five reasons.
First, nowhere in the world[link] is "2401" a valid calendar date format, and its format is rather that of a year (e.g. 2008). "2/4/01" is not "2401," for "2/4/01" chooses not only to delimit but to delimit in a specific order. Second, even if we accept "2401" = "2/4/01," it still is not a valid calendar date format. The closest seems to be the United States (US) short date format, which uses a leading zero for both month and day.[link] Under this format, the date would read "02/04/01," not "2401." Without the delimiters this would be "020401," and if leading zeroes do not matter then surely the courtyard inscription should read "241" instead of "2401." Third, other countries in which PM was released have different date formatting. For example, the short date format for "February 4, 2001" in English-speaking Canada would be "04/02/01."[link] In French-speaking Canada, the year would come first: "01-02-04."[link]. Fourth, according to multiple sources such as the IMDb,[link] GameSpot[link] and IGN,[link] PM was not released on the fourth but the fifth. The inscription does not read "02/05/01." Fifth, even if PM was released on the fourth, the SM64 staff could not have anticipated this. SM64 was released on September 26, 1996.[link] [link] Before PM was delayed, PM was slated for release on December 26, 2000.[link] This indicates nobody from the SM64 staff knew the final release date for PM, and so the courtyard plaque cannot possibly reflect said date. From the collective evidence, the assertion that "2401" refers to the PM release date is ridiculous and impossible.
Another myth is that 2401 coins unlock Luigi.[link] [link] [link] The game saves coin counts for 15 courses, in which Nintendo believed the coins totalled to only 2068.[link] This number is lower than, and unequal to, 2401. Moreover, 2401 coins can be collected using a GameShark device and the code, "GS Button for 99 coins." [link] This can be done easier by changing the value "0063" (which is 99 in hexadecimal[link]) to "00FF." As it turns out, a total coin count of 2401 does nothing. Lastly, SM64 has been thoroughly examined by hackers, which proves Luigi is not in the game, be it by coin counts or other means. None of the text in the game mentions Luigi.[link] Similarly the texture map extracted from the MIO0-decompressed ROM data contains no "L" or Luigi textures.[link]
In conclusion, "L is real 2401" is nonsense that even popularizers of the concept now renounce.[link] It is an example of groupthink, where an "L is real" echo chamber spurs on a bandwagon effect. Fortunately, popular ideas are not necessarily true ones. This document will hopefully be a useful resource in undoing the nonsense rumors started by a nonsense pareidolic phrase.[link]