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November 15, 2009



- 2D platforming at its best

- Wii controls adds to experience, not detracts

- 4-players equal chaotic fun



- Lack of online co-op crushes hopes, dreams

- Overly plentiful 1-ups

- Bosses provide little challenge



Review: Super Mario Galaxy (Wii)

Review: Super Smash Bros. Brawl (Wii)

Review: Mario Strikers Charged (Wii)

Review: New Super Mario Bros. (DS)



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New Super Mario Bros. Wii

Score: 9.5 / 10


Nintendo has become a very different company than they were in the early days. Once devoted to delivering instant classics (and their timely sequels) to cater to its growing number of fans, the breakout success of the Wii has shifted the company’s focus toward their newest audience…the casuals; whereas the newest Zelda or Metroid were given full advertising attention, these days the biggest advertised titles are Wii Music, Wii Resort, and whatever casual brand is appealing enough for Mom, Dad, or Grandma, but not so much for older gamers who remember “the good old days”.


new super mario bros wii          new super mario bros wii


But despite the greater emphasis on attracting non-gamers, once in a while Nintendo throws its hardcore audience a bone. Despite appearing in several “family-friendly” sports and party games, Mario still remains a beloved icon for gamers of all shapes and sizes, and while many Wii owners will happily glaze over the star plumber’s newest game, only the oldest fans will realize that this newest platforming epic was a gift made just for them.


Essentially a console spinoff of the superb DS title, New Super Mario Bros Wii returns the famed plumber back to his 2D roots, where players must guide Mario from the start of each level and make their way to the stage goal (a flagpole, naturally) while avoiding all assortments of enemies, traps, and pitfalls. It’s a basic




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but always entertaining gameplay system that anyone who’s ever held a controller in their lives should be familiar with, and longtime fans of the series should be able to spot more than a few references from past adventures; visually speaking, the game is closer to Super Mario Bros 3 to the point that it almost feels like a spiritual sequel, including the return of the long-gone but never forgotten Koopalings,


who each take residence in one of the 8 worlds that Mario must traverse. Don’t let the familiarity fool you into thinking that this game is just Mario’s greatest hits cobbled together for a quick buck….there’s plenty of new moments to be found in New Super Mario Bros Wii, and all of it is quite super.


NSMBW opens up with Princess Peach’s birthday being celebrated inside her royal castle. Ever showing how incredibly easy it is to snatch a princess surrounded by hundreds of loyal retainers and the two most powerful plumbers who ever lived, Bowser Jr and his Koopa siblings pop out of the birthday cake and make off with Peach. You should be familiar with what happens next, with Mario and his brother Luigi running off after Peach, but this time around the daring duo are followed by a pair of Toads (as in toadstools, not frogs) to assist them in their latest royal rescue, and to help tout the game’s newest and most heavily advertised feature: 4 player co-op.


In a first for the series, New Super Mario features the option to play each level with up to four players at once. Taking control of the famous Mario Bros or one of the multicolored Toads, players can use their jumping and stomping skills to help one another reach the goal….or completely impede one another’s progress. Whether intentionally or not, four spastic players can and most likely will result in accidental deaths or hogging of power-up items, but the unrelenting chaos makes for great fun. On the reverse side, four players in perfect sync with one another, jumping off one another’s head to reach a far-off Star Coin, or tossing each other across large gaps can lead to scenes of symmetrical beauty. It is truly unfortunate, then, that the multiplayer has been restricted to local play, as Nintendo claims that an online functionality would be too difficult to get working properly. Considering how the lag in Super Smash Bros Brawl became so bad that they ultimately had to shut down the online server altogether, they might not be far off in their claims.


But for those gamers lacking a sufficient number of players to assist them, fret not; despite the insistent advertising, NSMBW is, at its core, a single-player affair. Longtime players should feel right at home with the controls, which features the series’ standard two-button setup, one for running and one for jumping, but also throws in some of Mario’s abilities from his 3D excursions, including the triple jump and wall jump. Most notable, however, is the return of Mario’s spin jump from Super Mario World, although its functionality has changed somewhat; no longer used to burrow through blocks underneath, the spin jump can be used to get a half-second of extra air time, which is useful for those ill-planned jumps, or to shake off some of the more clingy enemies that pester players in certain levels. The real change toward the spin jump, though, is that the move is activated by a shake of the Wiimote instead of a button press. But the motion controls don’t stop there, as there are several environment-based objects that are directly manipulated by Wiimote waggling, such as bridges that teeter sideways from tilting the Wiimote, or a headlight mount in a makeshift raft for illuminating dark caverns. For those worried that the Wii-cific (has it caught on yet?) additions might impede with the precision-based platforming, rest assured that they not only feel natural, but also enhance Mario’s solid repertoire of moves.


new super mario bros wii           new super mario bros wii


Another welcome addition is the introduction of new power suits. The game features the standard fire flower and invincibility star, but also brings back the recently added (but criminally brief) ice flower from Super Mario Galaxy, which can be used to freeze enemies in solid blocks of ice for a few seconds, which can then function as makeshift platforms, or to take out a large group of enemies like an icy missile. Brand new power-ups include the propeller suit, which can expand Mario’s spin jump to reach new heights as well as slow his downward momentum for safe landing, and the penguin suit, which lets Mario easily maneuver through water as well as slide on his belly for quicker treks through solid ground. The mini mushroom from the DS version of New Super Mario Bros also makes a return, although the item is a bit of a rarity and only useful in certain levels. Even rarer is the return of beloved dino sidekick Yoshi, who is unfortunately restricted to just a couple of levels.


Taking yet another cue from Super Mario Bros 3, players have the option of obtaining storable power-ups that can be activated at the beginning of each level, should they so choose. These items are obtained by one of the several friendly Toads scattered in each level (though most of them will only reward you upon successful completion of their mini-games), or by defeating any of the on-screen enemies that wander around the world map. 1-ups can also be acquired through any number of ways, found in hidden blocks, Toad houses, or by chaining enemies through koopa shells, jumps, or the invincibility star. The truth of the matter is that with so many frequent options to score extra lives, it could take but an hour or two to fully max out the number of possible 1-ups, which makes seeing the Game Over screen a true rarity.


But don’t let the game’s generosity fool you into thinking that it lacks in difficulty; even for veteran players, this modern-day platformer is just as challenging as its old-school predecessors. Many long jumps require the aid of flying enemies for that extra bounce, while many traps and obstacles (particularly in dungeons) can quickly and suddenly bring instant death for players not quick enough on their toes. Other old-school hindrances return as well, such as ghost a house that features a hidden exit that must be uncovered, or multi-path dungeons that must be trodden in a certain order to proceed. Deaths become frequent, but never frustrating, as each level offers its own unique challenge that’s as fun to overcome as it is to replay them over and over.


For those gamers unable to reach their inner old-school, however, Nintendo has implemented a casual-friendly alternative in the form of the Super Guide; on any level where frequent retries lead to frequent failures, a help block will appear on the beginning of the stage which, when hit, will bring out an AI-controlled Luigi who will finish the level for you. Players can take over control at any point, which can be helpful for those committed to finishing the level themselves, but needed a guiding hand to move past a particular obstacle, or they can let Luigi finish the stage and skip the challenges entirely. While this feature can be useful for Grandma or little Timmy who aren’t used to such difficulty, it can prove obnoxious to gamers uninterested in the assistance, as the help blocks play an insistent telephone noise that demands they be answered.


Another insistent but far more encouraging addition is the collecting of Star Coins, which can be used at Peach’s castle to unlock hint movies that show visual locations of hidden goals or how to reach certain far-away coins. These movies also feature “super skill” videos, which showcase some mouth-dropping, ninja-style acrobatics that can be performed at certain levels; for fans of YouTube speed-runs, these vids will serve as both educational and entertaining. Collecting all the Star Coins also unlocks additional levels found at a secret post-game world, encouraging many hours of backtracking.


On the visual side, NSMBW is the best looking 2D Mario yet. While many games that are given a 3D upgrade while maintaining a 2D perspective tend to lose a bit of its original charm, Mario and friends (and enemies) all animate wonderfully, offering a level of fluidity that is often impossible to capture in sprites. The Wii may be behind the times in regard to graphical horsepower, but its first-party titles always manage to bring its own level of charm, especially when capturing the cartoonish denizens of the Mushroom Kingdom. The audio portion brings back many familiar tunes as well as a host of new music, which is so catchy that even the enemies will stop and dance to it. Hearing Mario attempt to get “hip” with the modern crowd by exclaiming “Oh yeah, it’s Mario Time!” sounds off-putting, but at the same time you can’t help but smile with every vocal exaggeration performed by the enthusiastic hero. The most impressive (and overlooked) attention to detail is the interaction between enemies and environments, Eagle-eyed players can use these interactions to their advantage, such as jumping from a barrage of Bullet Bills that ricochet off one another to reach previously inaccessible heights, using fireballs to illuminate darker, indoor environments, or spinning with the propeller suit to reveal hidden coins obscured by puffs of clouds.


The Wii may be more focused in hooking in a new generation of easy-going players, but for Nintendo fans from the early days, this game was made for you. Under the slick new coating and Wii-cific mechanics lies the same fantastic platforming fun that has truly earned the earned the title of “classic gameplay”. Technology may evolve, and graphics may reach higher resolutions, but Mario will remain "Super" forever.


- Jorge Fernandez

(December 18, 2009)


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