Giant Bomb Review

75 Comments

New Super Mario Bros. U Review

3

This is both a perfectly fine Wii U launch game, and a little too much "new" Super Mario a little too soon.

The flying squirrel suit is the first new thing you'll notice.

New Super Mario Bros. U is the fourth platformer to come along since Nintendo brought back the original 2D style of Mario action a few years ago on the DS, and as such, it isn't all that "new" anymore. But it fits nicely in the role of a sturdy, well-made Mario nostalgia piece to go along with your freshly purchased launch Wii U. There are some inventive new touches scattered here and there in some of the game's individual levels, and the whole package serves as a wonderfully promising early example of what Nintendo's artists will be able to do with high-definition graphics at their disposal. At the same time, the game sticks a little too closely to the precise formula employed by its three predecessors, which makes it a shame Nintendo didn't see fit to get a little more creative here.

To put it bluntly, your interest in NSMBU will hinge on how much of the previous three games you played, and how recently you played them. There are eight worlds here, among them a green world, an ocean world, an ice world, and a desert world (and yes, the desert world is the second one). Every level has three star coins to find if you want more to do than simply run to the right till you jump onto the flag pole. There are koopa kids zooming around in airships, but I'll leave it to you to guess how many times you have to jump on their heads to beat them. The same weird save-game quirks are still in here that keep you from making a hard save until you beat a boss. If you've played any of the other New Super Mario games (or heck, any 2D Mario ever, really), you'll be intimately familiar with the basics of this game before you even dig into it.

That's not to say there's nothing new about NSMBU. The most immediate addition is the flying squirrel suit that you encounter in the very first level, which lets you glide slowly after a jump, get a single altitude boost while in midair by doing your spin move, and cling to walls for a few seconds (though I found myself inadvertently sticking to walls at times I didn't want to as often as times I did). There's been an obvious effort to spruce up the overworld map, which now contains a bunch of timing-based elements like miniature enemies that cross your path and, if you run into them, spawn short little action levels in between the preset stages. That kind of stuff does change up the flow a bit, as do a handful of new enemy types. And it's awfully nice to ride around on Yoshi again, even if he only pops up in a surprisingly small handful of places. But the ins and outs of the individual levels don't play around with the conventions of 2D Mario action nearly as much as I would have liked, and while a few levels do get a little creative with elements like light and darkness, you won't find anywhere near the level of invention that you saw in the best recent Mario games, like Galaxy and 3D Land.

MIIS DO NOT BELONG IN MARIO GAMES.

Aside from playing it too safe, Nintendo's gravest miscalculation with this game is releasing it a mere three months after New Super Mario Bros. 2 on the 3DS. That will only matter if you're the sort of person who keeps up with all of Nintendo's first-party games when they're new, but if you are that sort of person (as I am), NSMBU is just going to feel like too much, too soon. Of course, if it's been years since you played one of these games, this one will feel a lot more invigorating, and hell, if you've never played a New Super Mario game before, U is practically a must-have. But coming almost directly off of the 3DS game, you can't help feeling like Nintendo is pouring the dancing turtles and wah-wahs on a little thick right now. It doesn't help that specific musical cues and voice samples like "It's Mario time!" are lifted straight out of that last portable game.

Like the Wii game, NSMBU turns into a very different experience when you add more players into the mix. But that experience is exactly the same sort of barely-controlled four-player chaos as you saw in the Wii game: fun in short bursts if you have company over, but don't expect to make any serious progress or grab every single item. The addition of an assistive fifth player on the gamepad who can draw in makeshift platforms for the four characters onscreen is a nice twist. But it's absolutely ludicrous that you can't use the gamepad to control Mario in a multiplayer game, where only players with Wii remotes can play as actual characters. That, and the fact you can't play the game at all with the new Nintendo-made Pro controller, are just inexcusable. Overall, the multiplayer mode can get a little too manic for my tastes, so luckily the handful of peripheral modes in here will do a better job of testing your Mario mettle without some jerk jumping on your head every five seconds. There's a neat, diverse set of challenges that want you to do specific things like dodge fireballs for as long as you can, or glide with the flying squirrel suit across an entire level without touching the ground. And the boost rush mode gets pretty silly, since it scrolls the level faster the more coins you pick up. But since you'll notice levels from the main game popping up in here pretty quickly, the side challenges feel more like a novelty than something to spend serious time on.

How come more of the game can't look like this?

One thing New Super Mario Bros. U does so very right is its graphics, at least from the standpoint of technical execution. The game's visual presentation is a master class of polished, shiny perfection, looking about as good in high definition as you would expect a Nintendo game to look. Though, aside from a dramatically increased pixel count, the aesthetics of this 2D Mario game are barely distinguishable from those of the other 2D Mario games of the last few years, and while I can appreciate a simple increase in fidelity applied to the sort of work that's already been established, I really wish the Wii U's hardware had been harnessed to send Mario through some worlds we really haven't seen before. Why does every game need a desert world and an ice world? There's a single standout instance in this game that basically amounts to Van Gogh's Starry Night rendered in the form of a Mario level, but beyond that, it's all too familiar. Why?

It's worth noting that buying NSMBU will currently also net you a pretty darn good handheld game, since you get the exact same thing on the gamepad's controller screen that you see on your TV (aside from a slight but noticeable decrease in resolution). I suspect that novelty will wear off as the Wii U becomes commonplace and more games offer the ability to simply turn off your TV and go lie in your bed while continuing your game. But for now, the seamlessness with which you can transition between big and small screens, without fiddling with syncing another device or downloading some companion app or whatever--just hit pause and go in the other room and you're done--is still mighty impressive.

Everything about New Super Mario Bros. U is pretty exciting, except the game itself. Is it possible that this is the best game in the "New" series to date--not to mention one of the best exclusive Wii U games on the market, by default--and at the same time kind of flatly uninteresting? Apparently so. The game is perfectly well made for what it is, and I had plenty of fun playing it in short bursts here and there, but at this point the series' by-the-numbers design philosophy is starting to lend the name "New Super Mario Bros." a degree of unintentional irony.

75 Comments
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Posted by raptorsrevenge

I played it for about 3 hours yesterday. I think it's a great launch title. (Comparatively more difficult than the recent 2D Marios.) Miiverse wasn't working in-game for me, but if you launch it from the dashboard its pretty cool. I think Miiverse is the big secret with Wii U; I can draw a bunch of dumb images to send to my friends and post them in any gaming community. I'll admit that it's a lot of 2D Mario, too soon. But I think it really showcases the Wii U controller and the TV stuff pretty well.

Edited by Frootsnax

Hey Duder, are the Wii U games supposed to be tagged as Wii games? Thanks for the review, I liked the read!

Posted by Gordo789

@ITSSEXYTIME said:

I think an important question is this: If in 5 years someone sat down to play this game, would they care that it's similar to NSMB? I'm torn whether the game should be reviewed on its own merits or if it's okay to take in other factors. (market saturation, very similar to recent games)

That said, it's not that review score matters all that much. It's just one of those things to think about I guess.

Yeah that's a really good question. Imagine if they never released another NSMB, and in 10 years there was a re-release of the original Wii game but in HD obviously and on a new console, would that game get scored down because it added 0 new features? Wouldn't it get scored on its own merits then? It totally would, that shit happens all the time these days.

What I don't understand is that sports games and CoD get released on an annual basis with very incremental changes, and review scores for those don't seem to suffer too much from oversaturation. There's an assumption being made that everyone who is going into this game is going to be doing so from the perspective of just having bought or played NSMB2 on the 3ds 3 months ago, but for many that won't be the case.

Personally, I think it's a little unfair to fault a game for being too similar to a very recent game released on a completely different platform (i.e. the 3ds), but whatever, reviews scores don't mean shit. Game sounds good, if uninspired, which to me sums up basically 95% of all decent games released each year. Good, but uninspired.

Posted by Tiago

No one cares if you played the 3DS game, just review this game in it's own right. Hate when reviews do this shit, other than that a good review, I definitely would get this if I was getting a Wii U.

Posted by Marokai

A score that basically matches the rhetoric. Good.

Posted by StriderNo9

Great review, I haven't played it myself yet but I've been tempering my excitement.

Posted by OldThrashbarg

So basically, this is as good as Medal of Honor: Warfighter?

Posted by Blimble

Fair comparisons shouldn't be made about the game cause I want it to have a higher score

Also sarcasm and on the games own merits it still seams pretty mediocre at best. Though for a launch game that is pretty good going.

Posted by august

It's times like this I perversely wish the Nintendo Defense Force was here losing their shit.

Posted by Marz

I actually might get the game, haven't played a 2d mario since super mario world... so i don't have the 2D mario fatigue.

Posted by Amafi

Never played any of the new super mario brothers games and I'm pumped for this, looks pretty awesome.

Posted by WickedCobra03

I can totally agree with Jeff on his Wah-hate. Its not terrible if they did it for one game or something, but it seems to be where the franchise is going which is scary. I don't have a 3DS yet, so I have not played New Super Mario Bros 2 on that, but I really loved the Wii one and wouldn't mind playing this eventually...and since I bought a Wii on launch but not a WiiU, this is definitely not a system seller... which is sad.

Posted by sear

So why don't you guys give Call of Duty 3/5 every year?

Posted by Even

Making analogies/comparing review scores to games in other genres is stupid.

Posted by leejunfan83

@Tiago said:

No one cares if you played the 3DS game, just review this game in it's own right. Hate when reviews do this shit, other than that a good review, I definitely would get this if I was getting a Wii U.

So fucking true another reason I could care less for Giantbomb's serious gaming coverage

Edited by Even

@leejunfan83 said:

@Tiago said:

No one cares if you played the 3DS game, just review this game in it's own right. Hate when reviews do this shit, other than that a good review, I definitely would get this if I was getting a Wii U.

So fucking true another reason I could care less for Giantbomb's serious gaming coverage

Wrong and wrong. As said, reviews are opinions based on personal experience, and Brad plainly states up front that he has played the DS and Wii games. If another reviewer had never played those games, it's easy to see where that review would be much more positive and probably given the game 4 or 5 stars. But this is Brad's review, and he did play those games, and this is his opinion.

This isn't "Giant Bomb Defense Force," this is "Ignorant Comment Education Force." People seem to think that a game's score is a measure of *exactly* how good the game is without taking into account that a game's score is just a measure of what someone else thinks about a game. It's a terrible measure at that, but that's another conversation.

Posted by liako21

still seems like a pretty damn good launch game.

Posted by Darth Paul

Well, I've played all the games in this series. Didn't like the Wii one, but did enjoy the DS & 3DS ones. Played the Wii game some time ago, but played both DS games, and 3D Land quite recently, so I agree w/ the statement that it's a bit too much Mario too soon. Thankfully, I won't be getting a Wii U anytime soon and it will probably over a year or more until I actually get to play this one, so it will be a good long break between these for me!

Posted by Marokai
@leejunfan83 said:

@Tiago said:

No one cares if you played the 3DS game, just review this game in it's own right. Hate when reviews do this shit, other than that a good review, I definitely would get this if I was getting a Wii U.

So fucking true another reason I could care less for Giantbomb's serious gaming coverage

Reviewing games as if they exist in a vacuum is stupid.
Posted by Bourbon_Warrior

@sear said:

So why don't you guys give Call of Duty 3/5 every year?

Because they are great games that have different mechanics in multiplayer and an actual Narrative in the story that differs each year.

Posted by DharmaBum

Stick with Rayman: Origins for your cutesy platformer fix.

Posted by BaconGames

I've never played any of the games in the NSMB line (I did see a playthrough of all of the Wii one though) and in a vacuum I bet this game is probably the one New Super Mario Bros. you want but when you point out the context of where it sits alongside the others, then you can't help but feel a little disappointed.

Almost every other major outlet rated it higher than GB, from Destructoid, Polygon, IGN, GameSpot, Game Informer, Joystiq, EGM, Eurogamer, Game Trailers, GamesRadar and Edge. There are plenty of different perspectives that all conclude this game is pretty good to great but I think why I still sit with GB review is that it emphasizes precisely that context that does factor into how I've viewed the franchise until now. As far as the score is concerned, I think that reflects the combination of how Brad feels about what the game is in general and the context of feeling fatigued about it. If the fatigue was there I don't think Brad would have given it more than 4 stars anyway.

Posted by Brendan

@Marokai said:

@leejunfan83 said:

@Tiago said:

No one cares if you played the 3DS game, just review this game in it's own right. Hate when reviews do this shit, other than that a good review, I definitely would get this if I was getting a Wii U.

So fucking true another reason I could care less for Giantbomb's serious gaming coverage

Reviewing games as if they exist in a vacuum is stupid.

Exactly. Should the Amazing Spiderman movie have been reviewed as if it didn't reboot a series finished a mere few years ago? No, because those circumstances had an impact on those who watched the movie (including me).

Quality does not exist in a vacuum. Like anything else in existence, quality is measured relative to other things. Therefore the value derived from NSMBU will be affected by how similar it is to other NSMB games that were released recently.

Posted by Brendan

@Gordo789: Jeff has said himself that reviews are purchasing advice for those reading the review, with the reviewers personal experiences taken into context. Therefore, the climate the game is released under is important, such as the proximity of release dates for similar games. This is taken into account in both GB's reviews of CoD style games and Mario games.

Not only that, but personal experiences such as Brad's experience playing recent NSMB games are specifically mentioned in his review, just as Jeff's CoD experience in those particular reviews are stated as well.

Edited by johnwoods

New Super Mario Bros U reminds me of that old Mario game that we played when we were small and now when i look at this game it is so advanced with new features and amazing graphics. It looks so colorful and clear to watch. I am sure i will enjoy playing this game. :)

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