There’s probably a good generation or two of video gamers who grew up with 3D games on Playstation or Xbox but have never attempted the original 2D Mario games on the old NES or SNES. Thats where the “New Super Mario Bros.” line of games fits in as it tries to introduce a new audience to the magic of the 2D Marios. Rather than remake the existing NES and SNES games (which they had already done with Super Mario All Star on the SNES) and the gameboy advance iterations, the “New Super Mario Bros.” games are all new 2D Mario games with fresh levels and new gameplay ideas. The New Super Mario Bros. Wii U is the fourth game in the series (if you count the two handheld ones on the DS and 3DS as well) and while I have to say not setting the house on fire like its predecessor, its a pretty good game all things considered.
The one big feature especially on the Wii U (and Wii) version of the New Super Mario Bros. games is it allows up to 4 players co-operatively on the same TV screen that was never present in the NES and SNES games. Previously gamers had to take turns using Mario and Luigi and wait for the other to ‘die’ before getting a go. Now everybody can run and jump at the same time. Which makes it hectic and crazy for the casual player, and a work of art if you have some skilled buddies you can team with.
Let’s cut to the chase then on whether the game is good or not. IT IS. But its probably a better co-op game than a single player game. For the record, I played NSMB Wii in co-op with two players, and NSMB Wii U in single player. Not a great comparison I know, but it’s good enough for me to make a judgement on the games.
On your own, NSMB Wii U is too easy, at least to complete the 8 worlds. I’m no 2D Mario expert, and I didn’t use a single continue. There are too many coins to pick up ( you get additional lives for every 100 coins picked up), there are lots of opportunities to spam extra lives by picking up a turtle shell and kicking it into a bunch of enemies and in general the platforming is not hard compared to New Super Mario Bros. Wii. Of course if you have four players there’s probably a lot less coins per person. Its probably a trade off the developers were happy with.
In single player, NSMB Wii U is not as difficult as its predecessor and the difficulty curve is a lot more gradual. It’s not till maybe World 4 or 5, where a decent gamer will start getting tested, and really its not till World 7 that one will start losing lives. But even then the game’s platforming is not complicated, there aren’t any hard jumps requiring precise timing or very accurate button presses or positioning. 99% of the jumps one can take their time to prepare themselves. Also there’s a decrease in the number of levels where the screen automatically pushes you forward or upward, I’m assuming because similar levels in the Wii version were a real bitch to finish with 4 players. I believe the game will be harder with co-op but not overly so like NSMB Wii.
One nice thing about NSMB Wii U is that they finally get the variety of power ups just right. The new additions include an Acorn Mushroom that lets you glide slowly and there are some mini yoshis that the player can pick up from the world map that have some special features. For example there’s one that blows itself up like a balloon and you can float for a limited period of time and there’s another that blows bubbles to kill enemies and turn them into coins. NSMB Wii (and the DS version too) on the other hand felt like there weren’t enough power ups. The greatest side kick in video games “Yoshi” returns to accompany Mario though he’s used a lot less than previous games.
The funny thing about Mario games is that they are beautiful games both artistically and in terms of gameplay design, but I never remember clear details about any of the levels. They all get blurred into one memory, I suppose after 70 odd levels, its possible for this to occur. One level that did standout for me with NSMB Wii U was the Van Gogh inspired level in the Soda world which looked like a great homage to the painting Starry Night. Pity it was just the one level.
There’s also a lot said on forums about how the game is similar to Super Mario World. I have to disagree, the closest thing in this game to SMW is the world map and even that has hardly anything to do with the gameplay and the platforming. In terms of gameplay its basically elements introduced in NSMB but more of it (and easier).
I have to say I enjoyed the former game more than the latest incarnation. At least in terms of fresh platforming mechanics, gameplay ideas, general wickedness and a more brutal and unforgiving difficulty. Maybe it was the huge time gap difference between NSMB Wii and Nintendo’s previous 2D console platformer (Yoshi’s Island) that allowed it to build up a wealth of gameplay ideas versus the short turnaround between these last two games. Despite this NSMB Wii U is a fun game, a great game in single player and I assume an even better one in co-op. It is however more of the same ideas already seen in NSMB Wii.
Score: 7 Italian plumbers out of 10