It’s been a very long time since Mario has accompanied a new Nintendo system as a launch title. However, as the next installment in the New Super Mario series comes sprinting out of the gate, the tried-and-true concept of side-scrolling Mario platforming has continued to become even more tired and blue.
And, just like with the last “New” Mario game, the biggest question with this release is whether or not Nintendo can provide enough new elements to create another truly special and unique Mario game. They couldn’t last time, but can they this time?
Once again Bowser and the Koopalings kidnap Princess Peach and Mario, with the possible aid of Luigi and some toads, must go and rescue her. Along the way players collect power-ups and Star Coins while exploring a connected overworld of deserts, mountains, and other environments that we’ve seen before.
There really isn’t much new to this game that players haven’t already experienced whether they’ve ever played the New Mario games or any of his retro titles. But what is new are the little tweaks that keep this game from being the same old, bland formula that is beginning to plague the Mario series.
Seeing as the Wii U is Nintendo’s first high-definition console, New Super Mario Bros. U looks and sounds spectacular. While the foreground looks typical for a Mario adventure, the background and the weather utilize the power of the console and truly shines with rich, detailed vistas providing the setting for each level.
Though the music sounds crisp, most of it was ripped directly from the Wii and DS versions, adding very little to the already shallow soundtrack. Though decent in the beginning, the songs have become tired and, honestly, aren’t as fun as they used to be.
While many of the same power-ups return from previous New Super Mario games, such as the Ice Flower and Mini Mushroom, there is one new one: the Flying Squirrel Suit. While it plays very similarly to the Tanooki Suit or the Cape from previous titles, it shakes things up by giving the player a second jump that allows them to reach high areas or save themselves from death.
Along with the normal-sized lovable dinosaur, baby Yoshis make a return from Super Mario World for this game and each have their own unique abilities. The pink Yoshi is for flight, much like a multiple-use Propeller Suit, gold is for illuminating dark caves in a similar fashion to fireballs from the Fire Flower and the Power Star, and blue is for bubble attacks that turn enemies into either coins or power-ups.
These Yoshis also eat enemies if the player walks into them while holding one, but Nintendo decided to remove the ability for the Yoshis to grow up after eating a certain amount, instead replacing it with a “reward” system that allows the baby to hatch you a power-up after eating five berries. A great concept truly gone to waste.
When it comes to the multiplayer, the addition of the GamePad isn’t exactly all it was marketed and cracked up to be. Up to five players can play at the same time with one player using the GamePad to create platforms and stun enemies by tapping accordingly on the touch screen (known as Boost Mode) while up to four other players may…well, play as Mario, Luigi, a blue toad, and a yellow toad in the same vein as New Super Mario Bros. Wii.
While Boost Mode is a very interesting concept, it can only be used when playing with more than one other person, and if only two people are playing it’s the Booster and Mario. The player on the GamePad can’t fully jump into the action if Wiimotes are being used, which is disappointing.
Also, there is no online multiplayer. Most people find this to be a bad thing, but I think an online platformer is a mess waiting to happen. If there’s one thing that can really mess with a game like this it is lag and desynchronization, and I feel as though Nintendo made a wise decision in that they don’t feel completely confident with online play quite yet, so it’s a passable excuse.
Another nice addition are the challenges, where players can earn medals for completing various tasks such as getting a lot of extra lives, getting through a level without touching the ground, and speed running levels the player has seen in the main campaign. The challenges are a nice break from trudging through the story and are wonderful to just pick up and play in-between a tight schedule.
One thing that I’m really getting sick of that is blatantly obvious in gaming, and especially in the New Super Mario series, is using nostalgia as a crutch to push sales. While the strategy definitely works on those who haven’t played Mario in a long time and who are going to jump all over the opportunity to live through their childhood once more, it shows to those who can see through the wool that it’s a very cheap and practically effortless way of making a soulless copy of a game that was already made.
It’s not like retro gaming is a faraway or even difficult endeavor to undertake, so why make something new? We already had Super Mario World and Super Mario Bros. 3; lets put them to rest once and for all and actually try something new. And, unless Nintendo does just that, the series will deteriorate until people literally begin to groan at the thought of another “new” 2-D Mario game.
While the game has a few new tweaks that cause it from being another stale remake – as well as being a relatively strong launch title – there isn’t much that separates it from prior games in the series.
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