plasticpals's New Super Mario Bros. (Nintendo DS) review

Modern conveniences rob the player of a true oldschool Mario game

In what could be described as a re-imagining of the original 8-bit sensation, Nintendo returns to its roots with a traditional 2D side-scrolling Mario game.  It has all the hallmarks of Mario’s first adventure in the Mushroom Kingdom, but ditches the frustrations with a more modern approach.  It’s an ode to the oldschool game play that made the Italian plumber famous, but a game that can be beaten in a single sitting will leave many fans feeling a little short-changed.

Presentation

Although it is heavily based on the original 8-bit Super Mario Bros., the graphics and music are the game’s best assets.  While the game is played from a traditional 2D side-scrolling perspective, all of the characters are smoothly animated and modeled in polygons.  Some background elements playfully take advantage of their new flexibility; mushroom platforms spontaneously grow fat or thin, sway left and right, and wobble around to knock you off balance.  Each world has its own theme which helps to keep things fresh, even if they fall into somewhat tired gaming tropes.  The music is typically cheerful Mario stuff, with the right amount of tension in the ghost houses and enemy strongholds.

New Power-Ups

Sadly there are only three new power-ups introduced in this game.  The best one is the Mini-Mushroom, which shrinks Mario down to the size of a few pixels.  He becomes really floaty, allowing him to jump higher, and because he’s so small he can access tight spots.  It also makes him extremely vulnerable to getting squished, so it makes the game a bit harder.

The Mega-Mushroom has the opposite effect; for a limited time Mario grows as tall as the screen, and he can bash his way through just about anything.  It’s fun the first time, but it isn’t very useful in most stages.  Finally, there’s the Blue Turtle Shell, which lets Mario ricochet through a stage like a regular shell.  It’s useful in a few very specific areas, but due to its sloppy controls it could also end up killing him.

Challenge & Length

In the current market, it would be considered draconian to exclude the save utility, but that is exactly the kind of bold decision this game needed.  It’s evident that Nintendo wanted to create a game that was highly replayable and that could be beaten in a single sitting, much like the original Super Mario Bros..  The inclusion of several warp points (allowing you to skip entire worlds) suggests they wanted you to finish it multiple times in one go, trying out different routes and finding secret paths.  After all, the early Mario titles didn’t have passwords or save functions, and as a result players were glued to their sets for weeks or months trying to solve them.

With the ability to save, most gamers won’t attempt to beat it the old-fashioned way.  You’ll find lots to enjoy if you work your way through each level at your own pace, but when it’s over you’ll feel robbed.  And there are some drawbacks to some of its traditional design choices.  For example, Bowser Jr. serves as a repetitive and boring mini-boss in every world, and the bosses themselves are much too easy and not very imaginative compared to previous titles.  In fact, you’ll find more difficult bosses in Super Princess Peach
 
With some investigation you can find a small handful of secret exits in certain stages, which will ferret out new levels or lead to warp points.  By far the most difficult challenge will be to collect all three Star Coins from every level, but this is completely optional, and the coins are only used to open bonus items on the map.  To add some much needed incentive, they could have been used to unlock the included mini-games or other, more rewarding content.

Conclusion

NEW Super Mario Bros. is a fun and sometimes truly inspired game.  However, in attempting to appeal to a broader, more casual audience most will find the game can be beaten in less than a week, making it one of the shortest titles in the Mario line up.  The limited set of power-ups don’t do the game any favors, and the new ones are only useful in very specific circumstances.  On the plus side, there’s a great variety to the level designs, and the graphics and music are top-notch.  It was smart to return to a 2D side-scrolling perspective on the Nintendo DS, but the experience ends far too quickly, and there isn’t much incentive to return to it when it’s over.
 
Read this review with images on my website: www.plasticpals.com

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Other reviews for New Super Mario Bros. (Nintendo DS)

    A great game which brings Mario back to his side-scrolling roots. 0

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