|Why didn't they just make Wario and Waluigi player 3 and 4? You are now going to wish that were true, for the rest of your LIFE.|
So a lot of people have been moaning and groaning about the New Super Mario Bros. franchise being one of the launch titles for the Wii U. As always, I have something to say about that.
Now, I'm not really much of a fan of the linearity of recent 3D Mario games, but when it comes to 2D platforming, Mario has me tightly wrapped around his finger. I was a huge fan of the original, including hard mode and the Boo Race that made its appearance in Mario Bros. Deluxe for the Game Boy color. I also really enjoyed the Super Mario Land series for Game Boy, and I've played the majority of 2D Mario games in some form or other. When I saw that Mario would be returning to 2D on the DS with New Super Mario Bros., I snatched up the title and I played the crap out of it.
You know, despite being the first attempt, New Super Mario Bros. does the job pretty damn well. Branching paths, hidden routes and levels (and worlds- if you're not clever enough to realize two are missing if you play it safe), and a ton of interesting new mechanics are introduced and exploited to their fullest extent. The art style is simplistic, sure, but the raw gameplay is there- precision platforming is in full-force. Wall-jumping is a welcome addition to Mario's moveset even in the 2D realm, and a slew of interesting powerups that help open paths and secrets, and have very well-established properties. And really, it had a certain amount of difficulty that was enjoyable and made me want to continue playing, personally. That's what I like to see from a video game. And I enjoyed it. I played the shit out of that game.
So when New Super Mario Bros. Wii was announced, I was pretty excited. The first title had played things a little close to the chest, but the level design was still good and again, the mechanics were solid. When I also heard there would be local co-op, I was ecstatic. The ability to play with one of my friends would be a welcome addition to the formula. I awaited the release date with a lot of hopes for the game, and in certainly did deliver. But what New Super Mario Bros. Wii did was a little bit different than its first iteration. Whereas the original focused on tighter platforming, NSMBWii was about introducing new concepts and returning to old ones. The Magikoopa-strengthened boss battles, Koopalings, flying fortresses, and more are homages, but plenty of new elements show up. Powerups are new and the level design incorporates them often. The co-operative play is extremely strong and helps against some of the more difficult areas in the game. At its core, the co-op is really what pushes the game beyond platforming and into pure fun. You can troll like it's nobody's business, but the ability to pick up and throw characters is very welcome, allowing new and interesting methods for overcoming obstacles. The hunt for Star Coins becomes far more manageable with a friend, as well as tackling some of the more difficult bosses. It's just fun trekking through the worlds with a partner at your side, and it's awesome to experience the insane World 9 challenges, as well. At times, NSMBWii seems to borrow from the old more than other games, but it still has charm and great form.
It's not without its problems, of course. The propeller suit negates a lot of the challenge of the precision areas, though it's used very well in levels that center around it. The ability to save powerups comes as both a blessing and a curse, as you can always whip out that certain ability to overcome something in your way. The Starman is not a frequent powerup, though, and saving it is even more difficult to do. Also, the penguin suit is very underutilized, but its controls are also very wonky, especially when you're used to swimming a certain way in Mario games. But it's nothing game breaking, and overall, it's still an awesome game.
Despite its flaws, NSMBWii was a game that was just fun to play. When a friend and I picked up our Wii remotes to play, we gritted our teeth and prepared for the worst- and through teamwork (and sometimes, lack of teamwork- we killed each other a lot), we succeeded. It was an intense experience that took us probably three days of play to complete- and I loved every minute of it. Every challenge was one that we faced together. Truthfully, I probably would have had a much harder time trying to complete it on my own- which is something I still need to do.
Now, with New Super Mario Bros. U on the horizon, we can already see a lot of the complaints with the first two titles are being addressed. There's no seemingly platforming-breaking powerup like the propeller suit- the nearest thing to it is the Yoshi Baby, and its abilities have been toned down severely. The graphical style, while still the same in the foreground, has been improved highly in the backgrounds, with motifs and worlds we've never seen in a Mario game before. Cool new ideas and more tightly designed, expanse levels have been discussed in feedback from E3. It sounds like this game could be the ultimate version of the platformer I remember playing back on my DS not so long ago. The addition of co-op is always welcome, of course, and that's half the fun. I will be picking up a copy of this game, so that my friends and I can enjoy.