Nearly 13 years ago, God Hand and Sonic the Hedgehog fanfic enthusiast Eric Wolpaw devised the world's first completely objective review system for video games on Old Man Murray. Dubbed the "Crate Review System," this review methodology hinged upon the idea that a game's quality can be scientifically inferred based on how much time it takes a player to encounter a crate or an otherwise similarly ubiquitous container, officially recorded under the variable of StC, or "Start to Crate." The basic logic behind the idea is that since crates tend to be the one thing that most video games depict at some point during gameplay regardless of genre, it is possible to then empirically judge the merits of any game based on that universal constant. Therefore, the shorter a game's StC time, the worse it is in purely objective terms.
Knowing that, then, I feel that the basic principles of the Crate Review System can be implied on a more granular level to individual series, as they often have defining tropes that prove to be highly recurring throughout their various installments. In the case of New Super Mario Bros. games, this constant comes in the form of the series' music designs, which has songs that repeatedly rely on vocals that simply go "wah-wah." So pervasive is the wah-wah in the New Super Mario Bros. line that its existence almost inevitably dominates any legitimate attempt at discussing the games, making it a most suitable candidate for judging the quality of those games specifically without any other external biases. Although many other aspects of the series, most notably its artistic direction, tend to change very little between installments, wah-wahs win simply by being as pervasive in New Super Mario Bros. games as crates are within the video game medium in general. This isn't to say that that New Super Mario Bros. games lack crates, quite the opposite, in fact, but that wah-wahs verifiably appear more often than crates and as such better serve to be used as a measurement.
The basic principle of reviewing New Super Mario Bros. based on Start to Wah-Wah (StWW) time is mostly the same as the StC system. Using various walkthrough videos posted on YouTube as my sources, StWW will be determined by how long it takes for the first wah-wah to be uttered in World 1-1 of each game, with the time starting as soon as the level has loaded (ie: as soon as the Mario silhouette or another type of wipe begins to appear on the screen). Although wah-wahs likely appear earlier in each game thanks to menu music, I feel that evaluating StWW time in a gameplay context is the fairest methodology, as this is by far the setting in which any player will receive the most exposure to wah-wah in any New Super Mario Bros. game. As such, like in the original Crate Review System, a higher StWW time indicates an objectively superior game, while a lower one means that the New Super Mario Bros. game in question is demonstrably worse in quality.
Each game will be listed in order of their original release date, starting with the earliest game. At the end of this post, a separate section will be dedicated to ranking the games based on StWW time, which will then be accompanied by concluding remarks. Even if you're personally of the opinion that New Super Mario Bros. games are good and fun in their own right, in the event that you have trouble discerning the innate quality levels of individual installments, hopefully this system will finally provide you a solid basis upon which you can make your verdicts. For everyone else, hopefully this will enable you to have a more thoughtful discussion on the nature and purpose of wah-wahs in New Super Mario Bros. games thanks to the information I have provided here.
New Super Mario Bros.
StWW: 3.510 seconds
Notes: At least there's a slight build up towards the wah-wah before it first makes itself known.
Pepsiman: As the first game in the series, this is what we in the science business would call the "control." Additional measurements with other games will need to be conducted to determine if this time reflects the series' average.
New Super Mario Bros. Wii
StWW: 2.085 seconds (First wah); 6.122 seconds (First full wah-wah)
Notes: Either an approximately 74 percent improvement over the first game or a roughly 59 percent decline in quality.
Pepsiman: The doubled player count over the original New Super Mario Bros. coincides with a doubling of time measurements. Since the system hinges on the Start to Wah-Wah, after all, the latter time is ultimately more important, but the first time is still worth noting since it shows some artistic experimentation on Nintendo's part with how wahs should be incorporated into the series' music.
New Super Mario Bros. 2
StWW: 2.259 seconds (First wah); 6.296 seconds (First full wah-wah)
Notes: A marked improvement on virtually all fronts, be it the first wah or first full wah-wah.
Pepsiman: Nintendo continues to innovate in the use of its wahs. Not only does this game's World 1-1 start with another half wah, but an entire series of them before finally relenting and playing the first real wah-wah.
New Super Mario Bros. U
StWW: 3.687 seconds (First wah); 12.029 seconds (First full wah-wah)
Notes: Once again a marked increase on both measurable fronts.
Pepsiman: The fact that it takes over 12 seconds for Nintendo to introduce the first wah-wah in the game's first level indicates a sense of creative restraint. On the one hand, the development team wants to evoke a sense of nostalgia in the player as they recall previous experiences with both the original NES Mario games, as well as the older entries in the New Super Mario Bros. series. On the other hand, using it too quickly in the song would make it look as though Nintendo has run out of ways to freshen up the games. This game clearly takes the middle road.
At the beginning of this objective review of the New Super Mario Bros. series, it was believed that the musical stylings found throughout the games were consistent enough to warrant just one universal time record. However, ever since the Wii version, Nintendo has clearly seen fit to commence every World 1-1 song with just a single wah before eventually proceeding to the true wah-wah that has become so representative of all New Super Mario Bros. games. This makes the process of ranking the games a conundrum, since the single wah appears often enough throughout the series that outright ignoring its times would paint an overly simplistic picture of this review system's findings. As such, two sets rankings will be provided below, one based on times for the single wah and another one for the complete wah-wah that originally inspired the conception of this system. Each of these will be ordered with the best game at the top of the list and the worst game at the bottom. Because the original New Super Mario Bros. for the DS does not have an official single wah time, its time for the full wah will still be used in consideration for its single wah time ranking, as every full wah-wah naturally starts with a half wah. There's simply no avoiding it.
Single Wah Ranking
1. New Super Mario Bros. U: 3.687 seconds
2. New Super Mario Bros.: 3.510 seconds
3. New Super Mario Bros. 2: 2.259 seconds
4. New Super Mario Bros. Wii: 2.085 seconds
Full Wah-Wah Ranking
1. New Super Mario Bros. U: 12.029 seconds
2. New Super Mario Bros. 2: 6.296 seconds
3. New Super Mario Bros. Wii: 6.122 seconds
4. New Super Mario Bros.: 3.510 seconds
The fact that each set of rankings changes dramatically depending on the wah categorization criterion indicate that the New Super Mario Bros. series are games that remain very much so in qualitative flux. As the StWW times indicates, New Super Mario Bros. games have generally become worse games over time in terms of the appearance of single wahs. Save for New Super Mario Bros. U, which has the highest single wah time out of all of them, the series has been visibly regressing since the original edition came out on the DS in 2006. However, the opposite can be said for the games if one looks at them under the original pretense of the review system, that of the full wah-wah rankings. In that regard, Nintendo has clearly churned out increasingly superior games with every new entry without a dip insight. In fact, when doing the math, New Super Mario Bros. U, the latest one as of this writing, in line with it being the fourth game, is nearly four times better as a game than the first one, taking approximately 3.427 times more time to have its first wah-wah take place.
Due to this split, it can be easily predicted that two new schools of thought will emerge with regards to how each game is subjectively evaluated. One school will naturally prefer tradition, seeing the full wah-wah as being intrinsic to the musical integrity of the series and as such only taking its time into consideration when examining future games in the series. These people will scientifically be of the opinion that given the current data trends established, the New Super Mario Bros. games will only continue to get better as time goes on and Nintendo continues to develop more games that feature wah-wahs in their sound fonts. Another school of thought, though, will prefer to judge each game in the series moving forward on the basis of their single wah times. These people will understand that the series' quality is generally unstable on that front, producing occasional brilliance in a sea of rocky ups and downs. They, too, can turn to New Super Mario Bros. U as the game to be topped, but will nevertheless feel that inconsistent quality will continue to plague the series to come. Nevertheless, they might very well appreciate that aspect of the games, as it lends them a pleasant sense of unpredictability that isn't always found in other Nintendo franchises.
As I wrote previously, I hope the Wah-Wah review system brings new insight and new talking points into the ongoing debates about the legacy and overall quality of the New Super Mario Bros. games. Although they are each understandably very contentious games in their own right, hopefully this data will now enable everyone to be more articulate and rational in how they discuss the series. As the system has demonstrated, some games are clear winners while others could have used a lot more polish. Anybody who denies those numbers and claims that objectively inferior games are actually superior on more nebulous merits such as personal opinion and fun are merely denying the reality of things. They serve to distract people from the truth and as such deserve to be completely ignored, as numbers are the only sort of truth that can never betray humanity.