Nintendo tricks us again calling this "New".
Originally written 10-1-13
Bowser aka King Koopa is at it again. He invades Princess Peach's castle and knocks Mario, Luigi, and two Toad servants out of the castle across the land, thus holding Peach prisoner in her own home. Mario and co. must make their way across the Mushroom Kingdom to once again save Peach. -summary
It has been a very long time since Nintendo launched a Super Mario game together with their newest system. So of course this roped in plenty of people in 2012 when a Super Mario game was mentioned as a launch title for the Wii U. Sad to say I wasn't one of them though. I did not get the system for this game, because the New Super Mario Bros. series has been less than stellar for me, especially the DS and 3DS versions. When Mario first stepped into 3D territory every game after that offered something new, and the games really were fun to play. People found themselves longing for the days of good old fashioned 2D action though, and I was one of them; but now I find myself missing those days of 3D.
The Super Mario Bros. franchise biggest problem is definitely not the same old tired Princess Peach abduction storyline, at least that is not the case with the New Super Mario Bros. series. In fact, the same problem is with this now being the 4th game in the "New" series, there just really isn't anything new here. As far as I'm concerned it feels as if Nintendo thinks they no longer have to really work to give us a fresh Mario game anymore. Despite this game being on their newest system it feels way too familiar as Nintendo takes several shortcuts. There is very little, I almost want to say nothing positive in the game play that firmly sets this apart from the previous games across the DS, Wii, and 3DS.
New Super Mario Bros Wii U (NSMBWU) sticks to the usual formula as you guide Mario across 8 worlds to battle against Bowser in a duel to the finish. Mario will traverse through ice covered terrain, fiery pits, and the depths of the ocean in order to reach the goal line. The worlds can be made up from anywhere between 6 - 10 stages, so you're going to be doing this a lot. Fortunately, repetition is not an issue in Mario games as long as the stages are fun, and there are some fun moments here. At times the level design can be quite good with moving platforms, elevators, invisible pathways, etc.
Although this newest sequel works well with the Super Mario formula, I just couldn't help notice how much easier this game is when compared to the sinister platforming of the Wii version. I breezed through this game and I can maybe count 4 stages that actually gave me some sort of challenge. I found the game to be almost insultingly easy. One of the things about the Wii version is that the game was easy to pick up and play but very difficult to master. I found myself not really having to master anything here.
The usual suspects in regards to power ups make their appearance; the fire plant, ice plant, mushroom, star man, etc. There's only one new power up being the Super Acorn. This turns Mario into Squirrel Mario, and this enables him to glide and even get a jump boost in mid flight. If this sounds even remotely similar to the Propeller Suit in the Wii version then that's because it is. They could have left the Propeller Suit and probably got the exact same results. Mario being able to stick to walls like a squirrel is an ability that Nintendo tries to force in regards to grabbing the Star coins, but it feels so tacked on and I can't see this getting over to the point where this ability will make another return to the series. It's definitely among the least of the flying powers across the Super Mario franchise.
If you still haven't play this game yet, but you did play the Wii version. Please do not let anyone swindle you into believing this game is that far above everything else in the "New" series. I would gladly replay the Wii version again over this. The level design feels very watered down, the 8th world is a perfect example. Once again we get the rising lava and volcano erupting stages but they feel so familiar and toned down. We did all of this before and it was more challenging too. The hazards and enemy placement is far more forgiving. In fact, everything feels lowered in difficulty and the hardest part of the game play is trying to grab the three Star Coins per stage. While some are hidden in good places, I never found myself actually having to think to grab them. Many occasions I was able to collect them on a single try, and I do not own a strategy guide for this game. I found collecting the coins to be that easy. The game lacks that sense of investigation found in the Wii version and this flaw makes its way to the Ghost House stages, where I had very little trouble finding my way through them. Extra lives are once again easy to come by. I found myself stuck on 99 lives for a very long time, and I had 96 when I finished the game.
The game's rogue's gallery as usual stretches across the Mario spectrum, there are many familiar and classic enemies from Goomba's to Lakitu. For some strange reason though, the cloud riding Lakitu, whom is classic for hurling objects down on Mario is far less annoying here. I remember so many stages in the earlier games where this guy was just a nightmare to deal with; now he's just so... ordinary. I'm also pretty mad at Nintendo for the lack of focus on the boss fights. For one thing, they brought back that punching Koopa from Super Mario Bros. 3 as a sub boss again, with the same skill set and surprise abilities such as sprouting wings. Die hard Mario fans look at this as "paying homage". But seriously, when looking at how Nintendo has been winging it with this series, especially in regards to New Super Mario Bros. 2 being forced to fall back on massive coin collecting as its major selling point. How can anyone look at the addition of this lame boss as anything other than laziness?
The battles with the Koopa kids and Bowser Jr. can be fun, however these battles are so easy it's crazy, I didn't die during any of them. Even the Koopa Wizard is 1-2-3 simple, which is a huge disappointment since he gave a fight to remember in the Wii game. I heard some people found the final fight with Bowser for the Wii disappointing. I thought that battle was great; he chased you relentlessly destroying everything in his path, while you used yourself as bait tricking him to create new paths for you, plus you had to maneuver across moving plat forms along with him sending lava flows at you. He really wanted to kill Mario that time. If for some weird reason people thought that fight sucked, then I really want to know their thoughts here. This fight straight blows, I didn't die once, and I think it's the worst in the "New" series.
I know it sounds as if I truly can't stand this game, and that would be the case but there are some things that make up for it. One thing is for sure the stages aren't unplayable, they're just decent if you played the whole series up until now. The addition of the Yoshi's is a good thing; you get to play the original Yoshi as he gobbles up enemies and now has a floaty jump, plus he can breath fire when eating certain piranha plants. The other color oriented baby Yoshi's have some nice abilities such as lighting up dark caverns, trapping enemies in bubbles, and other things that works well into the game play. So one thing is for sure, although pretty unchallenging and short around 6 hours, I can't imagine people being totally bored.
Once again Nintendo squeezes local multiplayer in, and again it still feels out of place. Up to four people can play, and just like before everyone will be getting in the way. Average to bad players are going to hold back better players, and better players are probably going to be out for themselves. The Boost mode brings in a 5th player who uses the Wii U Gamepad to create blocks that will either help or hinder your progress. Other people really don't care for the multi-player, but I kind of found it to be a breath of fresh air since solo play was so simple, I welcomed the near mindless chaos for awhile. I also noticed that the kids love this chaotic multi-player experience. It's actually more fun watching them play the hell out of it attempting some type of teamwork. There are also additional stages that can be unlocked and played on the Star Road once you find all of the Star Coins through out the main game. This area is challenging, and I enjoyed it more than the main game.
There are other unlockables such as Time Trial and Coin Battle. The latter is multi-player and although it can be fun, I'm tired of the coin collecting. Time Trial will find you being forced to complete a stage in about 35 seconds or even faster. It's very easy to die here, but it's a nice change of pace from the main game.
The game play formula this time around is slowed down. Despite my issues here though, I find this game to be the second best in the "New" series. Too bad when looking at the DS and 3DS versions that really isn't saying anything.
I would have preferred being able to use the Pro-pad for this game originally. I think it can be used now, but I'm not sure. Anyway, the Game Pad isn't bad despite being so bulky. Mario responds very well and you can make the tightest jumps. The control also feels far less sensitive than the Wii remote did for the Wii version in regards to motion controls. I never died an unnecessary death because I wiggled the controller too much. The wall jump and making precision jumps are definitely on point, this also goes for using the Squirrel suit which responds very well. The Game Pad also allows you to easily access the menu screens for items or a quick save, either by pressing one of the corresponding buttons or using the touch screen. In any case, if you find yourself dying a lot then it's patience and practice you need and not tighter controls. Also, you can swap out and use the Wii remote for this game.
This is another area that really isn't too "New" either as Nintendo reuses sprites. Again, I find it to be quite lazy rehashing the same visual style. However, I just can't hate it. Even though visually this game does not completely show off what the Wii U is capable of; you will still witness some of the cleanest visuals for a game though. There is no slow down, choppy animation, or glitches. This game is clean with some very nice animations as well. Some of the Koopa kids that were previously based on the same designs have some type of movement that sets them apart. I mainly noticed this with Roy, Morton, and Ludwig. They have movements that are strictly their own, from Ludwig battling with the magic wand, to Roy letting off with a rocket launcher.
The backgrounds stood out to me again here; the under water stages are so nicely detailed with the bubbles sticking out well in the foreground, and I believe that I saw little star fish in the background. The icy stages were among my favorite with some beautiful northern lights and night time skies. Soda Pop Jungle is another impressive looking area with those huge trees, and the ghost houses are spooky as ever. The world's have a different feel to them. I think the greatest improvement is the world map. It compliments the unique feel of the various worlds. For example, the ghost world sees Mario traversing through a dark, creepy, swamp like area with dead trees and a slow ominous wind. The abandoned pirate ship fits the personality of the ghost mansions just by looking at it. I also like how interactive the world map is, because you can hit blocks that form bridges fluidly, plus you can also get an idea where the alternate paths are.
Music and sound are quite disappointing since it's completely the same old thing. This game reuses music almost all around, I think only the final battle was different. Nintendo made no effort to improve here so if you enjoyed or hated the music before, well hey then that's just what it is. Same goes for the sound effects with Mario's annoying voice over and Peach shouting for him. It's the same old thing peeps.
I wonder just how long people are going to continue letting Nintendo get away with releasing the same game over and over to include watering it down with each addition. There's definitely cause for concern because this is starting to look like what Capcom was doing in the 90's with Street Fighter II. Some may find this comparison out of line, but really there isn't too much of a difference. Now I'm not saying this is a bad game, it's far from that but it's too much of the exact same thing. If you haven't played any of the "New" series then this would be a great place to start. If you played the other games and began to notice a very disturbing pattern, then you better give this some thought. If you played those games and still do not own a Wii U, do not let this game sway you into picking up the system, I don't think it's worth it. I highly advise to hold that cash and see if Nintendo is going to live up to their promise with wowing us by the end of the year, or see if Sony and Microsoft are going to come out swinging with their launch titles. The Wii U exclusives I played so far haven't been worth me picking this up. For Nintendo to salvage this thing, they need to be more innovative plus work on fine tuning multi-player that will satisfy very good to expert players.
Pros: Game Play is still playable, visually nice, multi-player can be fun
Cons: Way too easy, more of the same thing, lazy in places