Sunday, November 22, 2009

What is Old is still New again... The New Super Mario Bros. Wii Review

When New Super Mario Bros. Wii was announced back at E3 earlier this year, I was stoked for another new 2D Mario game, but it seemed I'm back again for the ride like it was the good old Nintendo days. Even though New Super Mario Bros. on the DS was an amazing success, it wasn't really the definitive 2D Mario game people have hoped to be as good as Super Mario Bros. 3 or even Super Mario World. This Wii iteration though is filled with nostalgia from yesteryear throwing nearly everything the 2D Mario games have thrown before while offering some new things that felt like how come they didn't think of this till now? With its dedication of fan service to Mario fans, the casual approach, and the inclusion of full cooperative multiplayer, New Super Mario Bros. Wii is a superb package and one of my favorite games of the year.

If you played a Mario game before, you pretty much know what happens in terms of a story as if I don't need to explain it, but I will anyway. Once again, Princess Peach is kidnapped by Bowser and his goons as it is up to Mario, Luigi, and two Toads to save her. There are eight worlds of varied themes to transverse that you expect out of a Mario game from the desert, the snow, and more. It is the formula that still works for more than twenty years already and it is still as fun as it was back in 1985 taking risky jumps and going through these levels with no fear. In terms of elements from previous games, it is like Super Mario Bros. 3 and Super Mario World had a baby and that baby is this game in a nutshell. From the return of the Koopa Kids at the end of worlds, secret exits, warp cannons, random enemy encounters, and even airships, New Super Mario Bros. Wii basically has it all to be one of the better games in the franchise.

This Wii iteration does introduce new elements and power-ups since it is on the Wii after all. The new power-ups and suits range from a Ice Flower, which was previously seen in Super Mario Galaxy, but its finally in a 2D Mario game in which Mario can fire ice balls to freeze enemies and even use them as ice block platforms in certain situations, which is neat stuff especially in water levels. The Propeller Suit is pretty much this game's version of flying in some way as you shake the controller to give Mario temporary flight to reach high platforms. This suit can be used to get through some of the tougher levels a little easier since you can just propel away from platform to platform. The Penguin Suit allows Mario to be a penguin as he can maneuver better on ice and water sliding as well as firing ice balls like the Ice Flower. These new abilities do indeed help Mario out at the right levels as they can feel useless in the wrong ones as you have to rely on your skills. Other than these new abilities, the Fire Flower is still in as a franchise staple as well as Mini Mario from the DS game, which is rarely used in this one at all. Also rare in this game is the ability to ride Yoshi Super Mario World style as he only appears in a handful of levels, so in some way it feels like a missed opportunity, but that is a minor gripe. Of course, you still become invincible by attaining a Starman for a limited time. Lastly, there is option for the Super Guide, which is a green box that will appear after dying eight times in a row in a level as Luigi will come and beat the level for you if you're having problems. This is clearly designed for casual players that don't have as much experience playing Mario games over the years. It is a nice feature to have for those that need help, but you feel like your pride is on the line if you are a hardcore gamer that should not let someone beat it for you.

All of these power-ups combined with superb level design makes for another fun time as you can beat this game in a handful of hours if your Mario skills are decent enough. There have been claims in previews and such that this is one of the harder Mario games to come out and it can be for casual players that rarely play these games, but for those who are veterans of the franchise that can speed run it at will, they can burn through this game with no problem. Of course, if you want to 100% the game, it will take longer especially getting some of the tough star coins in these levels and finding secret exits, but luckily there are hint videos to purchase by spending star coins that will help you find them as well as getting infinite 1-ups. Speaking of 1ups, this game offers more lives like candy much like Galaxy and NSMB DS as if you never see a game over screen unless you totally suck at the game. The classic formula remains true for the boss battles as three jumps on them are still what it takes to defeat them, but twists will be thrown to spice things a bit when facing the Koopa kids a second time and Bowser Jr. Even though NSMB Wii is not as challenging as some hoped, there is enough challenge to not be a walk in the park for others.

Other than the main game, New Super Mario Bros. Wii offers for the first time in franchise history full cooperative multiplayer. You can play the main game with up to four players as you can transverse through the levels together or just play them casually in free-for-all where the lives don't matter playing through any level you want as long they're beaten in the main game. A multiplayer variant of free-for-all is coin battle, which you play the levels, but there is a competitive aspect in which whoever has the most coins wins the game. With two players, multiplayer is not that bad as you can still play the game normally, but with three or four players, it can turn to complete chaos with lots of things going on and you're likely to die for no reason. Luckily you can respawn in a bubble to be rescued after you die as long you still have lives. The chaotic part about co-op is that you can still team up and go to hard to reach platforms or take out enemies, but it still feels competitive as you can kill your teammates in numerous ways. You may feel dirty for getting rid of the competition, but the competitiveness still makes it fun even though you can be a jerk to win.

Graphically, New Super Mario Bros. Wii is based off the engine that provided the DS game, but with more hardware at their disposal, they can pull off some things that can't be done on the DS such as more enemies, more obstacles, and other things. It looks fine for what it is and simple enough. The game will briefly freeze when someone dies or gets a power-up for both single-player and multiplayer, which is still a Mario staple, but it can be a distraction and mess things up a bit when playing with multiple people, but that is also a minor flaw. As for the sound, NSMB Wii is filled with charm and nostalgia when little voice-overs by Mario and the gang as well as remixed tunes from previous games. The retro remixes themselves sound great, but the tunes that are slightly remixed from the DS game can be argued for not being as good in comparison. I still enjoyed the soundtrack though as a whole however.

New Super Mario Bros. Wii feels like a love letter from Nintendo for the hardcore fans that stuck with them from this generation with the Wii to back to the NES days with the original Super Mario Bros. It truly feels like a 2D Mario game that is an improvement from its peak which is SMB3 or even World. It still makes you smile every time having fun attempting to save the princess again as well as having that frustration of dying multiple times in a level. Aside from the main game, multiplayer is a blast with up to four players as you are bound to have good times throughout teaming up or being complete jerks trying to take each other out. With the main Mario franchise, Nintendo still figures out ways to keep the formula fresh and fun, and they delivered with this new iteration. This is surely a must have for anyone that has a Wii as well for hardcore Nintendo fans to remind them what made them start gaming in the first place if Super Mario Bros. was their first game. What is considered old school can still be "new" in this generation of gaming as Mario is still top at his game.

Score = 9.5/10

  • The classic Mario formula is still as fun today as it was in the 80s and 90s
  • Filled with nostalgia as nearly everything from past games are in some capacity
  • Multiplayer is a blast with up to four players with lots of possibilities
  • Even though veterans will breeze through this game, there is enough challenge for everyone especially completionists trying to get everything.
  • Minor gripes prevent it from perfection such as some elements not as used (Mini Mario and Yoshi as examples)
  • Not mentioned in the text, I don't mind the lack of online co-op as multiplayer is meant to be local for this game, but of course it would be nice to have it as an option.

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