The New Super series debuted in 2006 with New Super Mario Bros. on Nintendo DS as the first side-scrolling Mario game in ten years. As a one-off 2D experience designed to complement the fuller 3D Mario games, it worked fine. As the sequels arrived on Wii and Nintendo3DS however, it became apparent that the New Super series lacked the originality and cleverness of design that 2D Mario games of old were famous for. While 3D Mario games continued to push boundaries and blow minds (See Super Mario Galaxy and Super Mario 3D Land) the 2D games were revealed to have been developed by a younger, slightly inexperienced team at Nintendo, rather than by Miyamoto himself.
New Super Mario Bros. U (NSMBU) should have fit into the same category. Everyone expected it to after all, as it received little fanfare at E3 and basically no hype leading up to launch. However, this is not by any stretch of the imagination a mediocre game. Miyamoto and the senior designers at Nintendo built this game from scratch, and after 20 minutes of playtime, gamers will begin to wonder why the game isn’t more appropriately titled “New Super Mario World.”
Filled with throwbacks to the NES and SNES eras of platforming, NSMBU takes platforming back to its roots with extraordinarily clever levels, multiple exits, an interactive over-world, charming graphics, and plenty of things to collect. Make no mistake though – this is not entirely your father’s Mario. Nintendo has thrown in Hi-Def graphics, four-player simultaneous multiplayer support, and online Miiverse integration. This, more than any game before it, is homage to the golden age of gaming with modern improvements made only where necessary to create one of the best Mario games, period. As far as items go, this time around we have the usual fare (Super Mushrooms, Fire Flowers, Starmen, and Ice Flowers) coupled with the Acorn, which accords Mario flight powers, and the P-Acorn, which is similar to the P-Wing in Super Mario Bros. 3, providing endless flight for one level at a time. Baby Yoshis are also back from Mario World, but this time each with their own special powers. By shaking the Wii Remote (Or pressing ZR on the Gamepad) Baby Yoshi can either blow up like a balloon carrying Mario with him, or spit out bubbles which provide an extra jump if stepped on, based on the color of Yoshi.
Now, the biggest addition to the game comes from the Challenge modes. In Challenge modes, Nintendo will pressure you to do speedruns through difficult levels, play through an entire world jumping on the heads of enemies without touching the ground, and etcetera. Considering gamers have been doing this themselves for years, it was a very smart move to provide such a mode.
The game also gives you the ability to post your achievements to Miiverse whenever you do something especially impressive. This Miiverse integration is one of the coolest additions as far as this gamer is concerned. If you opt-in, you can see posts by your friends (or by strangers if you…have no friends….ahem) placed all around the world map next to each of the levels. Additionally, if you die multiple times in the same spot on a particular level, the loading screen will provide you with advice from other gamers who have also perished there. As with any new social network, one might expect to see the screen simply filled with crude drawings of genitalia rather than actual advice, but Nintendo has employed very strict guidelines with Miiverse, and so far I haven’t spotted one single case of profanity.
The mode Nintendo has been boasting about the most is ‘Boost Mode’, which allows a fifth player to interact through the gamepad while four players are platforming the traditional way. The fifth player can place blocks throughout the level by tapping the screen, in order to help or hinder the other players.
This mode isn’t as revolutionary as the Big N made it out to be, but it added a fun dynamic to the game during my play session. Speaking of my play session, it is worth noting that I played with five players, only a couple days after the game’s launch, and completed the game in one night, completely in multiplayer mode. This isn’t a ding against the length of the game, but a testament to the addiction it can provide. I had more fun playing this game than I’ve had with any Mario game in a long time. Yes, Super Mario World is still my favorite Mario game, but I can say with confidence that New Super Mario Bros. U is now in my Top 5. (Oh, and by the way, Shigeru Miyamoto turned 60 this month!)
I give New Super Mario Bros. U 5 “Aging Miyamotos” out of 5.