Hooked on the brothers
by Chris Fox
©2013 Chris Fox
It’s been a while since we’ve had another console side scrolling Mario title, but Mario has finally burst onto our screens in [near] full HD in the Wii U launch title New Super Mario Bros. U.
While the formula on display here is anything but new, this side scrolling platformer maintains the high standard set by its predecessors all those years ago and is a must buy for all Wii U owners.
‘s at it again
With this, sadly, has come an attitude that Mario games aren’t to be bothered with anymore and are dismissed outright by some. While titles like the New Super Mario Bros. series could certainly do with a dash of innovation, the quality that these games display is as high as it’s always been.
Ah yes, innovation. While New Super Mario Bros. U has the new power ups and the new enemies, it really is Mario by numbers in terms of setting and story.
Mario, once again, must journey to the Mushroom Kingdom and save Princess Peach from the clutches of Bowser.
Change Bowser’s motivation for kidnapping Peach for instance; in Paper Mario it was revealed that Bowser had kidnapped Peach because he had a bit of a thing for her.
Little changes like this would go a long way.
What would be even better, though, would be a complete overhaul to the nemesis and location. Super Mario Bros. 2 (or USA to our Japanese friends) has Mario fighting Wart the Frog King in the land of Subcon.
Even if they’re not, it would then make the return to the old format a cause for celebration. And it’d shift a fair few units.
As with New Super Mario Bros. Wii, NSMBU can be played simultaneously with up to four extra people, with the fifth player using the GamePad. Two players is usually the best option, as anymore than two lets gameplay become quite chaotic.
It’s still always fun, but your companions will definitely be more of a hindrance than a help.
Either they’ll get in the way of the apex of a perfectly timed jump, or they’ll simply “hilariously” pick you up and throw you off of an edge. It would’ve been nice to be able to choose from either “Co-op mode” where players can’t attack or block each other and, “battle mode” where it’s a fully competitive race to the end.
The characters on offer here are like that of New Super Mario Bros. Wii with Mario, Luigi, and the two Toad twins. Even Super Mario Bros. 2, which was released in 1988, gave us the choice of four distinctive characters. The fact that Nintendo haven’t remedied this since the reaction to the last game is disappointing.
While playing on the GamePad, everything displayed on the TV is replicated on the Gamepad’s screen.
This brilliantly allows continuation of play while the TV is in use by someone else in your household, or when quickly popping to the toilet, though neither myself nor OXCGN endorse this.
Four player fun will see every user take control of the trusty Wiimote. Since we all own at least a dozen of these by now, there’s no excuse to jump straight into some multiplayer mayhem.
Bizarrely, there is no Pro Controller support to be found. This is a ridiculous omission, as I have no doubt this would be most gamers’ configuration of choice. When a fifth player wants to join in the fray, they have the opportunity to do so through ‘Boost Mode’ on the GamePad.
Here, the player taps on the GamePad screen to add blocks that can assist your friends or impede their progress. This is a great addition and is a preview of how the Gamepad will integrate with games in the future.
A wonderful feeling
New Super Mario Bros. U delivers the most important gaming element and it delivers it in droves: the gameplay is fantastic. If this is your first Mario game, I can’t really calculate as to what extent your mind would be blown.
Level design is fast and exciting, and when you hit that triple jump to reach the top of the flagpole you’ll be 100% satisfied with your purchase. New power ups include the Flying Squirrel suit which works a lot like the cape from Super Mario World, allowing the player to glide.
The coin collecting change-up from New Super Mario Bros. 2 is somewhat present here, and is very welcome. Grabbing coins in NSMBU represents a middle ground between NSMB2’s way and the old school method.
When playing with four players, the ability to, “bubble” is once again available. This allows players to encase themselves in a bubble to avoid danger, as long as one player is left on the screen. This was and is a stroke of genius from Nintendo in terms of easing in new and younger players.
Also back from the Wii incarnation is the ability to make Mario twist in the air to ever slightly elongate jumps. This mechanic is deceptively deep and definitely gives the hardcore the edge in this game that they so desperately crave.
Another thing the pro Mario players will love about this game is how hard it gets.
It. Gets. Hard.
I was playing with a companion throughout so I had the safety net of the bubble and the ability to reach safety by jumping off their head, and it was still an almighty challenge.
Don’t get me wrong: the visuals are incredibly crisp, but some of the environments are just too simple.
Compare them to those found Rayman Legends and the lost potential becomes clear. There are a few levels that dazzle, including one that takes its cues from Van Gough’s Starry Night, but the game rarely pops off the screen and makes the player say, “Wow!”
Every single entry in the New Super Mario Bros. series are so stylistically similar. At first glance, it is remarkably difficult to tell one from the other, aside from the fact they’re on different consoles.
The comparison isn’t really fair, but each original Mario Bros. game had its own distinctive look and could be identified immediately. Just because these new games all belong to the same series doesn’t mean they can’t all vary visually.
Another problem with the NSMB franchise is the soundtrack. Aside from the main theme and reused/retooled old school tracks, most of the music is completely forgettable. In ye olde days, the Mario games boasted some of the greatest soundtracks in gaming.
By no means is it bad, but other Mario iterations such as the Super Mario Galaxy soundtrack blew my socks off. It’s a pity Nintendo won’t put their top maestros on this particular Mario series.
Trust the fungus
Yes, New Super Mario Bros. U is nothing we haven’t seen before.
However, it still offers an addictive, deep, and challenging gameplay experience that is as fun now as it’s always been.
As long as Nintendo continue to try new things with games like Super Mario Galaxy, there is more than enough room for New Super Mario Bros. U.