Super Mario is a video game icon and it’s only fitting that he would return in New Super Mario Bros. U for Nintendo Wii U’s launch.
The “New” in the title refers to a recent trend of returning Mario back to his 2D side-scrolling platforming roots since the first in the series on Nintendo DS, New Super Mario Bros.. This is the fourth in this series line and the second to appear on a home console.
This Wii U entry promises to use the GamePad in new and unique ways, does it deliver? Let’s find out.
The storyline to New Super Mario Bros. U is pretty straight-forward; Bowser has decided to take over Princess Peach’s castle, rather than kidnapping her, and has locked the princess up. To make matters worse, he has tossed Mario and friends to the outskirts of Mushroom Kingdom and they must travel the world once more to get to the castle and rescue Peach.
The first aspect of the game that will take your breath away is the graphics – New Super Mario Bros. U is in high definition and it looks great. Most games that have made the cut to HD seem to suffer from loose controls or a hollow “feel” to the gameplay; this isn’t the case with New Super Mario Bros. U however — controls are tight and you wouldn’t notice the game is running on the latest console in that respect.
Purists will love the fact the game runs so well with the D-Pad, however it also feels remarkably great using the analogue stick on the GamePad. This struck my attention as New Super Mario Bros. 2 on Nintendo 3DS isn’t very suited to the analogue Slide Pad, so it shows a level of foresight and attention to detail from the developers.
It’s important to get the feeling of the controller just right because New Super Mario Bros. U is packed full of challenges that require deadly precision. These include speed run challenges and modes that require you to continuously jump on enemies for a set amount of time without touching the ground.
These are fun objectives that have been grouped together in a very fleshed out additional mode aside from the main story mode. I cannot praise these modes enough — this is what Mario fans have been dreaming of for the last 25 years; official acknowledgement of the skill lots of players adapt while playing the Super Mario series.
Indeed, it’s what Mario players do – first they finish the story mode. Then they carefully go back and collect everything, unlock every hidden level and gain as many lives as possible. Then they do speed runs and show off their skills to whoever will listen.
This is what New Super Mario Bros. U encourages. The Challenge Modes also record your run through each stage, so if you really wanted to go and broadcast how you completed the challenging levels in record time, you can very easily since your best records are always saved to the Hard Drive.
But let’s discuss the main story mode for a while as there’s much to get through!
The familiar 9-world set up is back and players will appreciate the main map which has been developed to stir your nostalgia from Super Mario Bros. 3 and Super Mario World. This time, though, Wii U has made it possible for the map to be continuous so there are no loading screens between each area.
In fact, there are no loading screens period. The longest you’ll have to wait is when you save the game, but the time that takes depends on your connected Hard Drive’s boot-up speed.
The stages themselves are fantastic and full of secrets. There are hidden stages you’ll have to find to unlock everything. A lot of the stages will present a decent challenge, but most novice players should be able to get through the game without too much frustration. If you die in the game multiple times, Luigi can help out with the “Super Guide” function. Luigi will automatically play through the level until you feel you can take over the reigns.
The game is littered with new abilities – Mario now has a Flying Squirrel Form which allows him to do a “bounce jump” mid-air, cling to walls and glide a certain distance. Ice Mario is back as well at the classic Fire Mario and Mini Mario from the original Nintendo DS game. Mini Mario can now walk up walls and is vital to discovering everything the game holds secret.
Yoshi is also back but is sadly underused and only appears in a few levels. Baby Yoshi is a new dyanamic — players find Baby Yoshi on the world map and he will follow Mario until he falls. There are three Baby Yoshi colours with different abilities to help out.
Wii U’s social network “Miiverse” is nicely integrated throughout the game. You will be asked to comment on your progress in a variety of ways, such as in “rhyme” form or by writing a letter to Bowser. This is a great way to stimulate conversation on Miiverse, and selected posts will appear on the world map to give the player tips and hints.
Multiplayer has made it back from the Wii version and on Wii U it’s as frantic and fun as ever. There are a couple of ways to play with another person – one way is for the main player to use the Wii Remote to play the game while a GamePad player places Assist Blocks around the level. This can be both frustrating and advantageous as you will be able to reach secret places a lot easier with a friend.
The other way to play is for four players to wield Wii Remotes and each use their own character; either Mario, Luigi or a Toadstool. A fifth player uses the GamePad to place Assist Blocks. Levels are bigger and better than the Wii game, so multiplayer is enhanced. There’s a lot of fun to be had playing counter-operatively!
New Super Mario Bros. U is the ultimate Super Mario experience every way you look at it. There’s so much on offer out of the box and more on the way via SpotPass. It’s the Super Mario game fans have been craving since the early 1990′s and yet it caters to pretty much everyone’s skill levels.
New Super Mario Bros. U is the must have Wii U game at launch and is so refined and so full of gaming quality I predict it will be talked about for a very, very long time.