New Super Mario Bros U Review
How old is Mario anyway? I mean, I met him for the first time when I was eight years old and he already had a union job and mustache so he has to be getting up there, right? However long it’s been, this guy and his crew are still kicking shell and they’re here to ring in the release of a new Nintendo Console. Much like their last outing on the Wii, the latest in the series is called New Super Mario Bros U and it will mark Mario’s first time on your TV in high definition. These old plumbers may have a new look but do they still have legs?
I have to admit, the Wii U is the first Nintendo console that has been in my living room in quite some time. Though I’ve owned all of their consoles at one point or another, it’s been quite a while since I gave up my Wii and I really didn’t play many of the Mario games in between the N64 and now. Because of this, I was intrigued by the sight of Mario and friends back in the 2D world and was eager to check this one out.
New Super Mario Bros U can be played with the Wii U Gamepad or the Wii Remote, and can be played on the TV or on the Gamepad alone, taking advantage of one of my favorite features of the Wii U. There is no elaborate story, or very many characters who say anything at all, but the opening cut scene gets the point across neatly; Bowser is back, he’s smashed your tea party, he’s taken the Princess, and he’s thrown the Mario Bros many miles from the palace. They, of course, have to jump, stomp, fireball, and smash their way back to the palace to save the princess.
The Super Mario Bros series has always represented platforming at its best, and New Super Mario Bros U is no exception. Even the tamest looking levels, ones simply filled with Goombas and Koopas wandering around in a forest, can be hiding incredibly difficult sequences. Nintendo has a knack for making the newer Mario games seem simple, with only a few different power-ups and a limited move set, with the end result being incredibly complex at times. One of the problems that arises from this new complexity comes from the fact that Mario can now stick to, and slide down, walls. Often you’ll stick to a wall, without noticing and instead of jumping straight up you’ll be propelled away from the wall by Mario’s version of a wall jump. This really messed me up on a few occasions, sending me into a pit or other hazard.
What started in the 80’s as a simple matter of timing your jumps and avoiding enemies, now can involve the use of a new move, a new set piece, and a new power-up, all with the goal of dodging a new enemy. I kept expecting the game to start feeling stale, but it never came close. The tight formula that Nintendo are working with here only needs minor tweaks to make big differences, and that’s what they’ve done with New Super Mario Bros U.
The world map is laid out along a number of different paths, much like some of the older games, allowing you to move from stage to stage as you complete them. Often you’ll be presented with branching paths or side levels that you can tackle now, or come back to later. Each stage is hiding a few large Star Coins, and hunting them all down will keep you busy for quite a while.
Once you’re finished the main story, or really at any time, you can jump into Boost Rush mode. This mode has you play through levels from the story, but makes things more challenging by constantly scrolling the level ahead. The pace becomes faster as you collect coins and this mode will be a lot of fun for people who like to attempt speed runs. You’ll also be able to play through a number of challenges that throw new levels at you, along with levels from the story that will have specific objectives. There is no shortage of things to do in New Super Mario Bros U.
If you want to play with friends there are a number of different options, but all involve playing locally. I know Nintendo aren’t known for making online multiplayer games, but I would love to see them start. The first way you can play with friends is the simplest and it’s called Boost Mode. At any time, as long as the other players are using Wii Remotes, another player can pick up the Gamepad and tap the screen to place blocks into the game to help out the other 1-4 players. This can be done in the story, challenges or new Boost Rush mode. During the main story mode, or Boost Rush mode, up to three other players can jump in with you at any time but the challenges will only allow one player at a time.
Coin Battle is a competitive multiplayer mode that has up to four players competing to see who can collect the most coins in each level. This mode can get pretty competitive, pretty quick and therefore doesn’t allow for another player to use Boost Mode to help anyone out. Aside from the lack of online multiplayer, the real problem is that if you want to play multiplayer you must have multiple Wii Remotes. You cannot play with, say, two people on Remotes and one on the Gamepad (not counting Boost Mode). I know they want the Gamepad open for Boost Mode, but let me use it as a controller if I have a friend over instead of making me drop $100 on Remotes.
New Super Mario Bros U is a great way to kick off your Wii U experience. You’ll get to see just what the Gamepad can do, and you’ll have a ton of fun even if it’s the twentieth time you’ve bested Bowser and his minions. The multiplayer modes go beyond simple co-op and, despite a couple of design quirks, are a great time. It’s been a while since Mario and I have hung out, but it seems like he’s been doing just fine.
Available On: Wii U