Is This Italian Plumber's Wii Adventure Really New?
Here we go! I'm-a-number one! I'm-a-Nintendo and I think I-a-can always win. I don't think I'm speaking for Mario here, but when it comes to Nintendo and the Mario franchise, I think this stance is fairly accurate. Nintendo would like to think that any adventure with Mario is a must-buy, and often times, it's true. But is this the case with New Super Mario Bros. Wii?
Fans of 2D platformers are an increasingly fickle bunch, even though we endure bouts of starvation, so it's important to know if the latest Mario is truly an all-star or a married man that hits on women at the bar. Don't worry my conclusion won't take as long to reach as it takes to bake ravioli, but you'll soon realize that New Super Mario Wii is similar to a calzone.
On the outside, New Super Mario Bros. Wii appears to be the exact same game you played as a kid (or on your DS), just with arguably nicer 3D visuals. This alone might not be enough to entice fans, just like those unfamiliar with calzones might not expect a tasty inside.
In New Super Mario Bros. Wii you'll do plenty of running and jumping just as you did in the Mario games of days past. You know, standard 2D platforming stuff. You'll guide your portly plumber and his lanky and miniature sidekicks through brilliant levels that are chalk full of secrets. In your spare time, you'll also wander world maps, delve into some amusing mini-games, ride airships, and battle koopalings you probably haven't seen since Super Mario Bros. 3 or Super Mario World. Oh yeah, but you're probably wondering about that sidekick part.
Unlike previous Mario games, you won't be passing the controller to your sibling (or roommate) to play as Luigi when you lose a life. Instead, you have the option of playing with three friends, provided that you have enough Wiimotes to accommodate such a large army. That's right, you can actually play a Mario game simultaneously, just as you can with the Playstation 3's Little Big Planet.
Before I played New Super Mario Bros. Wii I thought this would be the game's most compelling feature. But I was wrong. Don't get me wrong -- it's exciting duking it out for coins and jumping on your roommate's head (not literally of course, unless you're like me), but the other players will be more of an obstacle than the courses themselves, unless they're highly skilled players.
For some reason, Nintendo foolishly decided to allow players to bump into other people instead of being able to walk through them, which makes navigating treacherous courses incredibly difficult. There are ways to get through narrow passages with blocks that will quickly crush you, but you have to plan ahead and force other players to grab onto you, and I can't see many casual or non-gamers doing that, as I experienced. This design decision was just plain silly, and Nintendo should have at least enabled players to walk through each other. It wouldn't have hurt to make the fourth player something other than a Toad either, since he looks nearly identical to the Toad the third player controls.
If you're playing with individuals that are patient, or are just playing with your significant other, you still might have a good time, but for most players, I recommend going it solo. Sure, people might call you anti-social, but at least you'll experience a Mario title the way it was meant to be played instead of a mode that feels like an afterthought.
I know, it sounds like I'm ripping on Mario here, but it's really not all that bad. In fact, I wouldn't call NSMB Wii bad at all. If you had a great time with New Super Mario Bros. for DS and still wanted more from Ron Jeremy's not-so-dirty twin, you'll probably really enjoy NSMB Wii (as long as you play it by yourself).
Once you begin your platforming romp (solo or with friends), you're treated to a brief introductory sequence that is fairly predictable, yet humorous. I won't spoil it for you, but soon you'll be chasing a small (and probably smelly) evil dude through grassy fields in search of some tail that Mario has always wanted.
You'll begin the adventure by moving around on a world map that is similar to that found in Super Mario Bros. 3. Once you move down and right, you'll enter your first level.
As with many Mario games, you begin by running and jumping through a grassy field. This side-scrolling environment is fairly basic, but you'll still find a few secrets including hollow walls that conceal hidden passages, green pipes attached to rotating platforms, and you'll also find the first of the game's new power-ups: the propeller cap.
Unlike the throwaway power-ups of NSMB DS, the Wii power-ups are actually useful and fun to use. You'll find one returning item (the mini-mushroom), but the majority of the items are brand new (with the exception of Mario staples like the fire flower of course).
The mini-mushroom functions the same -- it allows you to jump higher, enter small pipes, and run on water, but it's the new items that change things up. Items like the ice flower, propeller cap, and, penguin suit are all quite handy, and really enhance the Mario experience.
The ice flower should be self-explanatory (especially for those who've played Super Mario Galaxy) -- its main purpose is to shoot balls of ice. What's special about these ice balls is that they freeze enemies, so you can use them as stepping stones to reach seemingly inaccessible areas.
The penguin suit also grants you the ability to toss balls of ice, but it has some advantages to the ice flower. It not only makes you look cute (not in a ridiculous bumble bee Mario sort of way) -- it also allows you to walk on ice as if you were on normal terrain, and it gives you the ability to slide across small pits.
Despite my affinity for penguins, my favorite power-up would have to be the propeller cap. It allows you to rocket into the air any time you waggle the Wiimote. Of course you aren't allowed to do so endlessly (after all, that'd make the game too easy), but you can use it once during each jump.
The new abilities don't end there, however. You can also mount your favorite green dinosaur who loves to swallow enemies and fruit. Different colored Yoshis don't have different abilities as in Super Mario World, but they still get excellent hang time and are useful for launching off of when you're near death (it wasn't my idea, PETA). I wouldn't say that Yoshi fundamentally changes the gameplay, but he's still a nice addition.
Alright, now we're delving into the heart of the calzone, so it's important that I inform you on the level design. The levels begin fairly simple with relatively few obstacles on your path to the flag (as any Mario fan would expect), but the later levels have you performing stunts that only Tony Hawk could pull off. Of course you don't have a skateboard, but you'll need to make great use of your power-ups, wall jumps, butt stomps, and every other ability at your disposal.
Fortunately for those who have trouble, you can use whatever power-up you'd like before entering a level (including an invincibility star). Many players will enjoy this Mario 3 throwback, but I'd say that NSMB Wii actually has more in common with Super Mario World (other than the koopalings and airships of course).
As in Super Mario World, a number of levels have more than one path (hint: ghost houses), but you'll find that the similarities don't end there. After playing for awhile, you'll notice that the castle designs with their rotatable fences and blocks that come out of walls are ripped straight from a certain magical SNES title. Fortunately for players who like a challenge, the castles have far more obstacles and all kinds of new rotating blocks.
Even better are NSMB Wii's plentiful secrets. As in NSMB for DS, you'll find three medals in each world, and collecting them is essential if you want to see every level. Sure, there are a few levels and warps you'll discover if you carefully search levels, but most secrets are unlocked differently than in NSMB DS. The majority of the secret levels are accessed via star coins, and you'll get a hint on how to access some of these if you complete the game.
For a number of gamers, completing NSMB Wii will be challenging, despite the abundance of extra lives and power-up granting mini-games. Part of this has to do with the difficult stunts you'll need to perform, but it is also is due to certain levels being entirely new experiences. Certain levels will feel familiar if you've played any of the previous Mario games, but there are usually significant alterations that will surprise most players.
Some of these alterations come in the form of carefully hidden secret medals, but others are specific gameplay mechanics. During some levels, new experiences will come from clever use of the Wiimote. For example, sometimes you'll have to use the controller's motion capabilities to shift the angle of platforms, or focus a light on the areas you're swimming through. Generally, these segments utilizing motion were welcome additions, but there was one annoying boss fight that I felt was hindered by the controls. Thankfully, it was brief encounter that didn't spoil my experience.
Besides these control additions, you'll find alterations in the form of much more difficult rollercoaster rides that will have you dodging lava and all sorts of other obstacles, you'll have to bounce from one flying creature to the next, and you'll be forced to wall jump up rotating objects. Many of these tasks shouldn't be too difficult for veteran Mario players (especially considering that there's a checkpoint half way through each level), but you'll probably still die a few times.
NSMB Wii's boss fights will also feel familiar to veterans, but the koopalings change up their tactics in clever ways during your second encounter. You'll still defeat them in a similar manner as you did in SMB3, but this time they'll be more challenging encounters. For example, you'll battle a koopa who fires projectiles with his rod while jumping from pillar to pillar over a bottomless pit. The best boss fight though, would have to be the amazing end-of-game sequence (which is easily my favorite of any Mario game), but I won't spoil it.
Finally, it's time to lick my lips after devouring the core of that delicious calzone. New Super Mario Bros. Wii may have looked a bit unappetizing at first (especially with its faulty multiplayer component), but the core gameplay is a quality experience that any fan of Mario who isn't tired of the series will want to experience. Does it feel as fresh as New Super Mario Bros. DS? Not really, but there's enough new content and secrets to make this a worthy purchase for Mario fans. And if you need any more convincing, its soundtrack is an improvement over its predecessor and New Super Mario Bros. Wii has one epic finale. Is its fifty dollar price tag justified? Maybe not, but it's still one fun Mario game that should at least be experienced at a forty dollar price point, if not fifty.
· An excellent single-player experience
· The new power-ups are welcome additions (unlike those of the DS incarnation)
· This truly feels like the culmination of 2D Mario with an epic finale
· Secrets are cleverly hidden
· Amazing level design
· Multiplayer is too hectic and frustrating for those who don't regularly game
· Listening to complaints every time someone is bumped into a pit
· You'll probably never find some secrets on your own
· One boss battle is hampered by poor motion control. The price is a bit high for a relatively short experience