Enter New Super Mario Bros. Wii, which Ryan and I just got back from playing several new levels of. Nintendo's Bill Trinen gave us an in-depth look at the main story mode--I use "story" loosely here, since the story is "Hey, rescue the princess!"--to give us a better sense of how the game will work in between the up-to-four-player shenanigans that will occur in each action stage. I think it's fair to say that both of us started getting a distinct Super Mario Bros. 3 sort of vibe from the game after just a few minutes.
What would make me namedrop that most revered of all games? There are a lot of little elements in NSMB Wii that make it seem like a more robust Mario adventure than its DS predecessor. Like NSMB DS, this one operates with a simple world map that you navigate to get from stage to stage, but this time there seems to be a lot more side activities going on in between the actual stages. Remember in Mario 3, how you could go into mushroom houses to get new items? Or you'd run into enemies on the world map from time to time and had to fight them? All that stuff is in here, and it works with all four players. For example, we tried a four-player tile-matching game that let us reap all the items we were able to match before we matched the wrong cards and got booted out.
Then there's the suits and power-ups. There's more of 'em! Nintendo showed off the propeller and penguin suits at E3; the former lets you get lift with your helicopter head, and the latter gets you more traction on icy surfaces and gives you a belly slide maneuver. Then there's this other new one that we got to see today. (At least, it was new to us.)
Allow me now to turn your world upside down, as mine was.
Ice flower. Ice flower.
I know, right? How did it take so long for them to come up with that? It does pretty much what you'd expect: you throw ice balls with the same bounce as a fireball, and those encase any enemies they touch in a big block of ice. Then you can pick that ice block up and throw it, or use it as a stepping stone. They'll even float to the surface of water, so you could ice some cheep-cheeps and then use them as stepping stones to reach a higher platform.
Also like Mario 3: this game is tough. There's a certain amount of controlled chaos that goes in on multiplayer games, mainly because the player characters have collision detection with each other. So you might jump on somebody's head at the wrong moment and send them straight down a pit, or fling a careless koopa shell right into your friend and kill them. Even in single-player, though, the game is pretty tough--I encountered some really tricky jumps involving big, rotating gears and a bunch of lava just in the castle at the end of world one.
Still another throwback: Koopa kids! Those eight troublemakers introduced in SMB3 are back to cause trouble with their pops again, and I fought one of them at the end of that first castle. I think it was Lemmy. Or maybe Iggy. He had crazy hair and a magic wand, and man, it was a nostalgic trip to be fighting a Koopa kid at the end of a castle again. I jumped on him three times and he died. Some things never change.
Perhaps you've noticed, but I'm pretty excited there's more to New SMB Wii than it seemed back at E3. I had a sense there that the game was, well, the DS game with four-player action crammed in, but it's clear there's plenty of new mechanics and a wonderfully nostalgic vibe about this game. It looks great, too, with lots of little touches in the animation and special effects that give the game character. They're the sort of things that are hard to describe but instantly make sense when you see them. And you'll get your chance to do that when New Super Mario Bros. Wii ships on November 15.
Nintendo says a new video of all this business is on the way next week, so stay tuned for that. Meanwhile, here's an old one!