2 – 4 players Wireless (single card)
2 – 4 players Wireless (multi card)
Thank you Mario! But our princess is in another castle! That’s it, no more, no less. Minus seeing Princess Peach get kidnapped by a Koopa Kid in a small intro cut-scene, we are back to the grand old days of yesteryear when stories were few and far between, but gameplay was king. In what seems like a tribute to the Nintendo platformer that started this all, this game only relies on goomba-stomping, koopa-kicking and flagpole-hopping your way through numerous worlds in order to once again rescue the princess.
Mix one part Super Mario Bros. 3, a pinch of Super Mario World, and stir in some Super Mario 64 for flavoring, and you get a recipe for one of the best looking Mario platformers to date. Most of the game settings and elements are still rendered using 2D sprites, maintaining a crisp, vibrant, colorful world. The characters now, however, are rendered in 3D allowing them to maintain the smooth, fluid movement and animation that is inherent and possible with keyframed models. It also allows for Mario to be scaled larger and smaller on the fly via power-ups without any sprite distortion. Overall I would have to say that this one of the prettiest 2D platformers I have played in sometime.
The music in this game, like other Mario games, maintains an upbeat tempo to keep pace with the action on screen. One of the major reasons for this is that some of the music has been pulled directly from previous versions of the Mario franchise and remixed a bit to update it. Many of the sound effects in the game are also pulled from previous games too. None of this is a bad thing though, as it creates a level of familiarity that makes the game very comfortable on the ears for those of us who have played Mario games for our entire gaming lifetimes. Enemies onscreen even react to certain parts of the background music with certain animations. One of the new additions to the 2D Mario franchise is the addition of Mario voice samples. They are used quite sparingly, placed mainly at the beginning and end of levels and when you pause the game by closing your DS cover.
Even though the DS sports all sorts of fancy new ways to interact with the game, the developers for the New Super Mario Bros. chose to stay with the tried, tested and true, and have kept the controls to a simple scheme of ‘jump and run’. Two buttons is all you need to operate the game. The ‘run’ button does double as the action button allowing you to throw fireballs and pick up shells when available. Nintendo also copied a few moves from Mario’s 3D adventures and made them available to Mario in this adventure. He can now wall jump to reach new heights, and use a ground pound by pressing down and jump while in the air to land on and crush blocks and enemies.
The touch screen although used in the game is only there in a very basic way. While in a level, displayed on the bottom screen is a meter showing your progress through the current level, how many of the 3 large coins you have collected and a circle in the bottom right corner showing you if you have a spare item in your inventory. If you do have a spare item you can access that by touching it and it will move to the top screen where Mario can collect the item the item. If you are in the overworld map the bottom screen will display the zone map allowing you to see what areas you have unlocked and still need to unlock. The touch screen also allows you touch any world and warp over to it from where you currently are. More than anything, the touch screen is just used as a display and I think that the touch screen functionality could have been replaced by other controls very easily.
If you have played any previous version of a Mario platformer, especially the 2D versions, you will have no problems jumping right into this one. The formula has stayed basically the same, but Nintendo has added a few things to make this new version stand out from the rest. One of the new major additions are the new Mega and Mini mushrooms. As titled, when Mario uses one of these power-ups he will either grow to gigantic proportions, or shrink to about one-quarter his regular size. When Mega-sized Mario essentially becomes invincible and is able to crash through the level destroying any enemy or anything in his path, including warp pipes. When Mini-sized however Mario becomes vulnerable to any attack, so you have to be extra careful with him. The trade off is that being so small allows him to access some areas of levels that he cannot reach as his regular size. His diminutive size may lead him simply to one of the 3 large coins in each level, or he may reach an alternate exit allowing him to access a new part of the zone, unreachable by regular means. There is also a new blue-shell suit allowing Mario to sprint and then tuck himself inside and slide along like a koopa shell taking out enemies and blocks in his path.
One of the things I noticed about the game is that it is quite easy. The levels can be completed quite quickly. If you are to play this game solid, you could make it to the ending in a full afternoon of playing. The boss fights also are quite simplistic, mainly requiring you to get 3 hits in to defeat them. The allure of the game though, is to go back and find all the secrets that the game has to offer. Finding some of the hidden large coins can prove to be a challenge, and accessing all of the extra areas in each zone will easily at least double the amount of time spent playing the game. The large coins are also required if you want to access the many bonus huts scattered throughout each zone that will supply you with items and 1-Ups.
The world map is very easy to navigate. If you have seen the map from either Super Mario Bros 3 or Super Mario World you know exactly what to expect. The world is split up into 8 zones, each one containing levels and bonus mushroom huts. There are also cannons added in which will shoot you past some of the zones if you can find the secret to accessing them.
The single player quest will keep you busy for many hours, but Nintendo also added a 1-on-1 versus mode to keep players busy once they have tired of playing the single player campaign. In this mode, one person plays as Mario, and one as Luigi, and you make your way through levels trying to be the first one to collect 5 stars. The fun part is being able to beat and pummel each other into submission to make sure that you are the first one to reach that goal.
Nintendo also added some minigames into the mix that you can play on the side, but the downside is that if you have Mario 64 DS, you already know what the minigames are, as they are just recycled directly Mario 64DS, graphics and all. Many of these games scream for multiplayer support, and I am disappointed to not see them take advantage of development time to add this extra functionality which would make them more worthwhile. These are just extras however, so it is nice that they are at least in there to keep you busy, especially if you are not in the mood for goomba-stomping.
Like its predecessors, New Super Mario Bros features unbridled, uncomplicated, old-school gameplay, but with some modern twists to keep it fresh. I have heard more than one person refer to their addiction to this game since it came out. I think that is because of all the great platforming moments that New Super Mario Bros. offers on it brings back gaming memories from one’s youth (that is if you aren’t currently a youth right now). With all the good comes a sliver of bad. This game does not take advantage of the advanced features of the DS, but the game is not really meant to, and doesn’t need to. So in many ways this point is negated. What the game does right is take advantage of the updated graphical capabilities of the DS in order to help move the 2D Mario franchise further, and it does it well propelling this game to the status of one of the most fun of its types on the system. If you have a DS, and you like Mario or platform games, then do yourself a favor and make sure you pick up this DS gem.