I find the word “New” in the New Super Mario Bros. games on Nintendo DS and Wii to be incontestably ironic. This is partly because they won’t be “New” forever, and partly because these “New” games are deliberately made in the style of some of the oldest Mario games. There’s something peculiar about calling something that feels old “New”.
The New Super Mario Bros. games have really done a great job in taking the old-school style and making it feel new and fresh. I’m happy to say (for once about a retro game) that
For those of you who are perhaps too young to remember the old Super Mario games, or just missed out on them in your youth, the Super Mario Bros. series consists of 2D platformers in which you control the iconic Mario as he runs and jumps through levels to make it to the evil Bowser’s Castle, and rescue Princess Peach of the Mushroom Kingdom. You defeat the majority of enemies by jumping on them, and you can find power-ups that make you larger, give you the ability to throw fireballs, have brief periods of invulnerability and a variety of other things. The core gameplay is incredibly simple, but well-refined.
New Super Mario Bros. Wii doesn’t deviate from the old formula; in fact, it combines several ideas from all three original games and blends them in with some neat new features. It takes cues from the later Mario platformers by giving players the option to wall-jump, as well as slide down walls, the ability to perform the ground pound (a special jumping attack that sends Mario toward the ground with alarming speed), and the ability to spin-jump, which essentially performs a special function depending on your power-up.
Speaking of which, the old power-ups from the early Mario games make their return, along with new ones. The Ice Flower, which allows you to throw Ice Fireballs, the Propeller Suit, which gives the gift of flight, and the Penguin Suit, which allows easier swimming and maneuvering on ice.
The Super Mario Bros. series may be built around keeping things simple, but it always manages to find room for innovation. While all of the previously mentioned features are cool, they aren’t anything new to the Mario platformers. The real innovation of New Super Mario Bros. Wii is the multiplayer mode. While almost all Mario games supported two players, NSMB Wii boasts four-player co-op.
Playing NSMB Wii Single Player is tons of fun, but if you want to see something new, you’ll have to play it with friends. You can, at any point in the game, have up to three extra players jump into the fray and help you complete levels, although you’ll be lucky if you ever spend your time helping each other. Power-up blocks will now give out an equal number of their delectable goodies to players, and most ways of obtaining extra lives are done in a way that gives one to all players.
With your pals, you can do a variety of cool new moves. Your friends can be used as springboards to leap frog to new heights. You can pick them up and help them get through obstacles; for example, if you have the Propeller Suit, you can pick up your friend and fly them to an otherwise out-of-reach platform. If you and your friends execute the Ground Pound attack simultaneously, it will create an earthquake that kills all enemies on the screen. There is a huge emphasis on teamwork.
It’s also really easy to get your friends to play, whether they are grizzled vets or newcomers. Beyond being exceedingly simple to play, when somebody loses a life in co-op, they come back after a few seconds in a super-safe bubble. Tagging the bubble releases them, and they are able to play again. Thankfully, there’s even a button that allows a player to place themselves into a bubble manually. So, if there’s an obstacle too difficult for a player to overcome, they can use that button to fly across to someone who has already gotten past it – remember that someone else needs to release them from the bubble, so somebody has to cross the obstacle first.
I’ve enjoyed playing this game with a ton of people since I bought it, from big-time gamers, to people who stopped playing games after the NES, and even people who don’t play games at all, such as my girlfriend. The general simplicity of the controls and the inclusion of co-op make this game fun and accessible to people of all skill levels.
It’s worth mentioning that, as cool as a new Mario game is, the games aren’t infallible – there’s still room for improvement. The most obvious fix would be to allow online co-op play.
The controls, while mostly perfect, have one problem: the Spin Jump move, which is executed by shaking the Wii Remote. I understand the desire to add in motion controls to a Wii game, but this is a ridiculous implementation. Most people I’ve played with have complained that it happens when they didn’t mean to do it, and I’ve had problems with it not working in clutch situations when I’ve needed it. This could have been easily solved if the game supported the Classic Controller, but it doesn’t.
NSMB Wii has a saving system which only allows the player to save after beating “fortress” or “castle” levels. If you need to save without beating such a level, you can make a Quick Save, which deletes itself upon reloading. This is inherently flawed, because you can redo a fortress/castle level you’ve already completed to make a hard save. Furthermore, you’re given the option to make a hard save at any time upon completing the game, which raises the question of whether or not the Quick Save is really necessary.
The last problem, ironically, is related to co-op. Don’t get me wrong: I said it was fun, and I meant it. But there are definitely things that can be reworked. Two players cannot overlap and occupy the same space. So, on levels where the platforms are small and space is cramped, it can be almost impossible to pass certain obstacles with all four players unscathed. It’s commonplace to bounce off of players accidentally, sending players into obstacles or pitfalls they would have otherwise avoided. It would be nice if there was a way in which a player could deliberately choose to leap frog off of a friend or not.
Keep in mind, though, that these flaws don’t ruin the experience by any stretch. I mean, hell, I beat NSMB Wii in about four days, replayed the early levels with my friends more times than I can count, and the game hasn’t even been out for seven days. If you enjoyed the Mario games as a kid, or if you just enjoy platformers in general, you’re likely to enjoy this game. Your friends will probably love it too; just remember to be very patient if you play the game with people worse than you.
It looks and feels like an old Mario platformer, except that it's "New". Other than the lack of online play, this was done to perfection.
|How does our scoring system work?|
Given how much the multiplayer component was advertised, the game was surprisingly fun to play alone. Multiplayer is a blast too, but it should be viewed more as a vehicle for hilarity if you're playing with beginners.
Keeping the sound effects similar to the old games was nice, but I was disappointed that most of the music was taken straight from previous Mario games.
For a platformer, NSMB Wii is a pretty decent length. If you have buddies, this will last you for quite some time.
In an era where retro games are almost sickeningly trendy to make, New Super Mario Bros. Wii turns back the clock and does it right. Other developers doing retro games ought to take notes.