New Super Mario Bros. WiiESRB:
Platform: Nintendo Wii
In many ways 2D platformers owe their existence to Nintendo and the plumber with the red hat. From the days of 8-bit Mario has set the standard for what makes a great platform game. 2D platforming has fallen by the wayside over the last 10 years or so as more powerful consoles have been introduced and a focus to 3D environments has been made the norm. In 2006 Nintendo released a new Super Mario Bros. game on the DS that brought back the old 2D platformer to its glory but in portable form. It not only rewarded fans of the genre with great gameplay and a flashback to old times, but it also introduced a whole new group of gamers who had not played the original Mario games to what all the hype was about. Well the big ‘N’ has done it again as they have recently released New Super Mario Bros. Wii for the Wii in an effort to reach out to even more people. So does this newest 2D platformer starring Mario make for a good game? You will have to read on to find out.
Visually this is definitely a 2D Mario game. In a day and age when 3D is all the rage, this game really does remind us of what started it all. As with the majority of Nintendo developed games, the colours are vibrant and bright and they manage to pop of the screen like so many other games that Nintendo has developed and published in the past. There is the typical Mario-like look too which allows for it to remain cartoony and very stylized. All the creatures, obstacles, and levels manage to have a somewhat updated look but manage to keep the feeling of familiarity given that it remains true to the original source material. For those looking for a true bump up in the visuals, ala Super Mario Galaxy, you may be a bit disappointed given that the game does remain true to its roots and does not try to wow you with an overload of special effects or eye candy that takes you way from the what the game is about, playability. There is a good balance between looks and what the game offers for you to do. All in all the New Super Mario Bros. Wii is nice on the eyes and it really does hit home what a 2D Mario platform game can look like on the Wii.
As for the sound, New Super Mario Bros. Wii once again seems to maintain the path of keeping it familiar. For those that have played any Mario games in the past, particularly any 2D ones, many of the sound effects and music will bring back memories of former adventures. Nintendo seems to have taken many of the past sounds from other 2D adventures and brought them to the world of the Wii. As for those new to the franchise, which I am sure there has to be a few, all the sounds will let you know what so many people before you have had the chance to experience already. As with the visuals, there are no ground breaking advancements here but they do manage to make the game what it is.
When discussing the story of any Mario game, I feel a sense of déjà vu. It seems that all the games in the franchise forever focus on the same things, which in the end is not a particularly a bad thing given that the story is what helps make a Mario game just that, a Mario game. Once again you are tasked to save the helpless Princess Peach, and once again you will be fighting Bowser and his minions. Some people may dislike the fact that this storyline once again makes its presence felt, but in the end it helps bring back the charm that is Mario.
From the moment you fire up New Super Mario Bros. Wii the sense of how much this feels like the past is very evident. It is clear with Mario’s latest 2D adventure that they have stuck to the original formula that has worked before. From the story to the gameplay, many will know that this is a true Mario game through and through. The core gameplay remains the same as you make your way from point A to point B. As venture forth through the various environments you must avoid the pitfalls, obstacles, and enemies you face. Of course to do this you need to hone your typical platform skills, such as well timed jumps and quick reflexes to react to surprises that are regularly thrown at you. For most veterans of the series this sounds old hat, and it is.
Although much of what is offered is familiar, there are a few new additions, particularly in the power-ups that are provided in this modern Super Mario Bros. game. Along with the familiar (e.g. fire flowers or invincibility) there are two new power-ups that add to the game’s experience. The first one is that Mario can now don a helicopter suit. This suit has a little propeller on the top of it and once you wear it you can shoot yourself into the air and hover for a short time period. The other power-up is a penguin suit. Here, once you put this suit on, you can throw snowballs at the various enemies and freeze them. You also get better traction on ice and can swim in water much better then without the suit. These two new power-ups are just plain fun and in some way add a bit of new life to the Mario formula. It was nice to see Nintendo add these two elements to the game, and even though they are new, they fit in perfectly with everything else found here.
Control of your character(s) is done in one of two ways, through the use of the Wii Remote by itself, or with the Wii Remote and Nunchuk combined. In many ways the Wii Remote alone is a tribute to the original Mario Bros. as it emulates the NES controller to a tee as you use the d-pad and two buttons only. That being said, you will find yourself wiggling or waggling the Wii Remote during a few times (e.g. shake to spin attack). Some people may prefer to use the Wii Remote and Nunchuk combo given that the feel of an analog controller has become second nature for some gamers. Interestingly enough, I found it strange that there was no support for the Classic Controller, which provides the best of both worlds, either digital or analog speaking. Regardless, the two available control schemes are suitable and you will find you prefer one over the other. For those wondering, I leaned towards the Wii Remote by itself as I really did see it as a ‘tip of the hat’ to the days of old school gaming.
If there is one thing that is very noticeable in this latest reincarnation of the game, it is that it is no cakewalk. I put in a lot of hours on the Nintendo DS version of Super Mario Bros. when it was released, and I didn’t find that I struggled too much, if any; however, New Super Mario Bros. Wii can be quite a challenge, and not too long after you get into the game. Even when compared to Super Mario Galaxy, this latest version of Mario can challenge those gaming skills you may, or may not, have. There are eight worlds for you to explore in the game and the majority of them will have you testing your abilities right from the get-go. From dodging the various obstacles thrown at you, to fighting some really big boss battles, don’t expect to this game to be a child's play.
Should you find your self dying more often then not in one particular level, a Super Guide is activated where the game takes control of Luigi in place of Mario and shows you how to get through the entire level. After watching this you should be more versed in how to get through the area(s) where you are struggling, or if all is lost you can just skip it. In many ways this feels like it is a way of helping the casual gamer, the group that Nintendo has so strongly marketed the Wii towards, with the challenge that this game may present. Is it a bad thing? Not particularly as it helps those that need help. Besides, if you have not found a way to navigate the troubled area(s) by the time the Super Guide is available, then it may indeed be time for such guidance.
In terms of playability, separate of the difficulty, this game has a lot of replay value. As is common with any Mario adventure game, New Super Mario Bros. Wii has lots of secrets to be discovered. Of course each level includes the now expected star coins and red coins that can be collected. Collect enough star coins and you can use them to open up movies for such things as speed runs and hidden areas to name a few. And there is even more incentive to play through and explore each level again. Not to be outdone by the coins, such things as the traditional warp pipes, hidden blocks, and secret lives are included for your discovery. You will find that you can come back more then a few times in order to wrap everything up 100%, and there is no doubt that anyone who loves to finish a game in its entirety will have to spend lots of time with Mario again.
The newest feature, and yet another reason to own this game, is the inclusion of a four player multiplayer mode which allows more then one person to play the game’s story at the same time. I first got to try this at E3 in June of this year, then again a few weeks later at Nintendo Canada’s HQ in Vancouver, and now of course I have had the chance to play the final retail version, and I have to say that I am hooked on this mode’s fun factor. Along with playing the game’s story mode, there are two stand alone multiplayer modes. In free mode you can play any level that you have opened on its own. In coin battle you battle up to three other friends to see who makes it to the end of the level with the most coins. Should you play the multiplayer cooperatively, story or free mode, you can all try to kill your foes, find the secret areas, and help one another make it to the end. Should you play competitively you will find that you will try to impede one another as you knock each other off of ledges, crevices, or into enemies. I found that the cooperative side was where I leaned towards. Sure, there are times when pushing a friend off a ledge to his death was comical, but in the end it got old for me. On a side note, when playing any multiplayer mode the screen can get pretty busy now and then, and you have to be aware of your fellow gamers (e.g. make sure they keep up, so make sure you are attentive when you play.
My biggest complaint with the multiplayer modes in New Super Mario Bros. Wii is the lack any online support for such. I just can’t understand why Nintendo decided not to include the ability to take the game online when playing with more then one player. It is not like they don’t know how to do online, as is evident from Mario Kart, Super Smash Bros., and Animal Crossing. These three Nintendo made titles are clear evidence that they can take their games online quite easily. New Super Mario Bros. Wii’s multiplayer screams for online support, but alas there is none. I honestly don’t know if there was no time to implement an online mode, or if they just didn’t see a need to. It is very disappointing given the era we gamers are living in now. Online gaming is such a great way to play with others especially if you cannot all get together in one room. That being said, some may see the local multiplayer only as once again a ‘tip of the hat’ to the days of old when we had to play together in one room as online play was not an option. Anyhow, regardless of why there is no online I do think that Nintendo really missed an opportunity here.
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