Not Just for Girls, Nintendo Brings Classic 2D Platforming to DS
Pink. Lots of pink. The game is obviously targetted toward girl gamers to an extent, and the graphics department is the biggest evidence of this. It's not intolerable by any means, just lots of pastels and bright colors that you would expect. The effects are sharp and seeing some of the classic SMB enemies in a new world is always fun. Overall though, this game could've been done on a GBA. The top screen is your main screen, while the bottom screen houses your touch-activated power-ups.
The gameplay here is what you would expect for the most part. Peach does indeed have her own skills that make her much different from Mario and Luigi, but the game is still about platforming. Among Peach's basic skills are her ability to jump and float (Super Mario Bros 2) and using her umbrella to whack, stab, and yes, even consume her enemies. The game features a small amount of RPG elements that differentiate it from regular Mario platformers. Peach has HP represented by heart containers, and what is essentially MP which is used to display emotions. Each of her four emotions give you certain powers. Happiness allows you to fly or create a tornado of wind; Anger will engulf Peach in flames and allow her to stomp the crap out of anything; Sadness will cause Peach to cry huge fountains of tears which can grow plants or power water wheels; and her last emotion is basically Apathy which acts as a defensive skill and slowly recharges your HP. Using any of these emtions drains your magic power. To recharge your magic you can either collect gems or feed enemies to your umbrella. Peach even has a Mega Man style baseball slide to get under low bridges. Classic Nintendo platforming bliss.
The sound department doesn't bring much of anything new to the table, but it's still pretty good. The game itself is a throwback and the sound effects and music definitely fit the bill. You'll recognize some tunes, even if they are remixed a bit, and the pluck-pluck-pluck sound that you hear when taking out a row of goombas by sliding down a hill will still bring a smile to your face. Peach's voice may be a little annoying, but it's hardly noticable for the majority of the game.
Let it first be said that this game is by no means difficult. Nintendo did a good job balancing the two target demographics though; the two being girls and classic platforming fans. The game progresses in a way that combines Super Mario World and Super Mario Bros. A map of Vibe Island takes you from zone to zone, but within each area there are several levels to complete before you reach a boss. Within each actual level you have many things to search for other than the gate at the end. Three toads are hidden in each level as well as puzzle pieces and music files. None of these are required to finish the level, but once you reach Bowser at the end, you will want to have all the Toads rescued. Coin collecting also has a new purpose. Rather than gathering coins for 1-Up's, coins are used to purchase new items and skills in Toad's store in between levels. So as you can see, the classic formula has been given a sizable revamp. As for lasting appeal, the game will probably only take you about eight hours or so to beat, but once you do, the game opens new levels, tasks, and collectibles to find. So there's definitely more to come back to. There are even a few mini-games you will find scattered throughout the island.
Although the game does have a girly feel, and they don't try to hide it, I believe that any Mario fan will enjoy this title. Classic gameplay with a different point of view can go a long way. If you just can't force yourself to get past the pink box the game comes in, you've got bigger issues. But, luckily, Nintendo will be releasing New Super Mario Bros in the not so distant future.
*** This review was written for Flamevault.com shortly after the game's release. ***