A return to the old that may prove refreshing, albeit repetitive.
I was originally going to begin this review with a witty remark about how New Super Mario Bros. U isn’t very new at all and is actually the fourth “New” game in the Super Mario Bros. franchise. Now that the readers are aware of this fact, I can stop wasting my time thinking of something witty, and can focus on writing a critique instead.
New Super Mario Bros. U is the lone Nintendo franchise that made it to the Wii U launch. Fortunately, although Nintendo didn’t necessarily amaze with the game, it definitely didn’t disappoint. New Super Mario Bros. U does a great job of combining game mechanics from twenty years ago with gameplay mechanics of today. Although there are still some problems present, the game is still a joy to play overall.
The first thing a player will notice after booting up New Super Mario Bros. U is that the world map is back from Super Mario World and it is interactable. This world map is a joy to travel across. There are several branching paths and secret exits to find. Furthermore, various objects on the world map are interactable. For example: When crossing a lake, bumping into a piranha will initiate a piranha mini-level. This makes Mario U a blast to play not only when playing inside levels, but when walking to other levels as well.
A few other features have also been brought back from Super Mario World. First of all, there are a few types of areas, such as the Forest of Illusion, which will receive nods in Mario U. These moments bring back memories of playing Super Mario World. The game also has lots of secret exits, a feature which has only been experimented with since Super Mario World. I’m happy to say that exits are cleverly hidden and don’t feel rushed. Overall, New Super Mario Bros. U is a great return to the old.
Unfortunately, I do have one problem with Mario U’s conservatism, the suits are just more of the same. At this point, it seems like Nintendo is simply running down a checklist. Fire Mushroom? Check! Ice Mushroom? Check! Nintendo did bring back the squirrel suit, which is nice to use, but it reminds me a lot of the tanooki suit from Super Mario 3D Land. I wish Nintendo had created more Mario suits to put into the game, because the suits already created are getting rather stale.
Fortunately, Nintendo did place in a new gameplay mechanic to deal with the lack of new suits; Yoshi. Although Yoshi himself isn’t new in Mario, baby Yoshis are. There are three different colored Yoshis, each of which performs a different task. A pink Yoshi, for example, can be inflated to take the player to higher places. A yellow Yoshi, on the other hand, can light up, illuminating a dark ghost house. These Yoshis are nice, especially in the absence of new suits.
Another thing that Nintendo brings back through New Super Mario Bros. U is a harder difficulty level. Those who disliked the idea of easy Mario games should not dismay any further. Although it starts off easy, Mario U amps up the challenge relatively quickly. Add in three star coins in each level that are pretty hard to get, and by the time you’re on the last world you’ll be wondering which decade this Mario game is from. The game has a very nice challenge, and I’m thankful to Nintendo that it was included.
The challenge doesn’t stop at the main game, though. Nintendo included a whole challenge mode into the game which offers players different challenges to complete. One challenge may require a player to do a speed run of a level, while another challenge may require a player to glide a far distance. Each challenge is different and fun to complete. Each challenge also has a bronze, silver, and gold medal to receive, so players will be replaying each challenge multiple times in order to receive the top honors.
The game also shines in level design. Each level is a blast to play and the game is designed masterfully. Mario games are expected to be made well, and Mario U is no exception.
Unfortunately, where Mario U shines in level design, it lacks in boss encounters. Each boss fight is a fight against a koopa kid. This is incredibly annoying, since the strategy for beating each kid is pretty much the same. This is even more disappointing since Super Mario Galaxy had such great boss fights. After playing through a world filled with wonderful levels, I was not looking forward to a battle with another koopa kid.
If you are tired of playing single player, you can invite up to four others to play through a level with you. This system is the same as in previous Mario games. If someone dies, they turn into a bubble and can float back up to the living players. As always, multiplayer is best played with two players, as more than two players at one time makes Mario U very chaotic and hectic.
The game doesn’t make large strides in the graphics or sound department. Although the graphics are in HD and are nice to look at, they are by no means good or where I hoped they would be. The soundtrack is pretty much what we’ve seen before, with no real new tracks. This is disappointing, as I was hoping that with a new Nintendo system there would be a new soundtrack.
Overall, New Super Mario Bros. U is a good game. Unfortunately, the game isn’t at the level where I hoped it would be; but the game is still a good Nintendo offering and a good launch product. Levels are designed well and there is a lot of content to go around, when star coins and challenges are included. For those who are looking for another Wii U launch game to buy, you cannot go wrong with New Super Mario Bros. U.