Six years in, can NSMB still be new?
A lot of you guys know that I’m a big fan of New Super Mario Bros. Wii, despite popular opinion. I felt that it was a natural evolution for the Mario franchise, bringing the series to new heights with creative level design, 4-player simultaneous action (another thing I loved, again despite popular opinion), and some great bosses. It also had – gasp – no recycled music.
New Super Mario Bros. U follows the heels of the (slightly) disappointing release of New Super Mario Bros. 2 for 3DS, and from what I’ve played, I can tell you this: NSMBU is the best New Super Mario Bros. game to date. But is “better” enough to warrant the purchase of yet another Mario title?
For the most part, NSMBU is quite similar to NSMB Wii. Much of the game’s levels seem to be inspired by the Wii game, whereas NSMB2 felt more akin to its DS predecessor. It’s nice to see Mario in HD this time around though, and the amount of polish is as high as any other Mario title. Your basic level elements like flying blocks and rotating platforms make a return, as well as many of your favorite enemies from past games. A few new elements like baby Yoshis and the Super Acorn add some variety to the mix, but overall its your usual Mario fare.
NSMBU expands on the design of NSMB Wii, though, with dozens of secret exits, something very lacking in this “new” line of Mario games until this year’s NSMB2. Nintendo took this idea a step further in U by adding the option of multiple paths, giving players a choice as to what they want to play next. So if you’re stuck on one level in particular and have no will to try again, you now have the option to take another, less challenging route. It’s a great concept that I’m surprised took this long to get implemented, and it’s something that I hope to see from future Mario titles. Unfortunately, the number of secrets is still shy of what Super Mario World had, but that would be comparing NSMBU to arguably one of the greatest games of all time.
But enough of the old. Just what’s new about New Super Mario Bros. U? The answer: a couple of things.
First off is the addition of “Challenge Mode,” which puts players into a variety custom levels and gives them set goal to complete. For example, you may be challenged to collect as many coins as you can before time runs out. Another challenge may tell you to finish a level without touching the ground. Many of these challenges are surprisingly hard, and it makes for great ways to brag on Miiverse.
Speaking of Miiverse, the second addition to NSMBU is the in-game hint functionality. Dying at a specific location will allow you to write a comment about your death. Additionally, you will see what other players have posted about the area as well. Your friends can also post hints on the world map, giving you hints about star coin locations and secret exits. Unfortunately, I found these Miiverse features to be a bit annoying, and I turned them on only when I needed help finding a secret exit.
A third difference is the addition of a connected world map, something we haven’t seen since Super Mario World. It’s a small thing that’s been on the top list of complaints for the franchise, and players will be glad that it’s back.
But perhaps the main difference is the inclusion of Boost Mode, which allows the player on the GamePad to tap on and create objects on-screen. This seems to have been designed to give aid to those who perhaps aren’t as good as Mario as the rest of us. It’s a neat future, but it’s also one that doesn’t have much substance; playing on the GamePad is not fun, and it makes me wish that Nintendo did more to take advantage of the Wii U’s unique features.
In fact, that’s what I’d say about the entirety of NSMBU as a game. Sure, it’s the best NSMB game to date; you’ll still have massive amounts of fun, and there’s no doubt that this game will be a blast to play even years down the road. But I feel like it could have also been so much more. It’s a great game and a must-have for every Wii U owner, but at the end of the day I can’t help but feel just a tiny bit disappointed.
But hey, it’s more Mario!