New Super Mario Bros. Wii Review
Nintendo show us how to relive a classic
By Ben Salter
New Super Mario Bros. is one of my favourite games on the Nintendo DS. It brought back my childhood of spending countless hours in front of the NES playing the original Super Mario Bros. This was during the mid-nineties, and while everyone else was flaunting their SNES, I was content with a then 10-year-old game, a game that has gone down in the history books as one of the greatest ever made. I was over the moon when New Super Mario Bros. Wii was announced at E3 this year, and even more excited when a November release was confirmed. I had a few concerns with the direction of co-op and super guide, but I can safely say that New Super Mario Bros. Wii is the perfect way to relive a classic series.
The best thing about New Super Mario Bros. Wii is that it takes the best aspects of past games in the series, and using a 25-year-old formula it feels fresh. It feels like the original Super Mario Bros, combined with SMB3 and Super Mario World. The best aspects of the DS version have also been retained, and the game’s big hook, 4-player co-op, is the new kid on the block. In a way it almost feels like it has been 25 years in the making. With every new Mario platform game Nintendo tweaked something different, and made slight adjustments. It's hard to believe Nintendo developed the last side-scrolling Mario 15 years ago (well two if you count the DS version of the same game, but we're talking consoles here for effect). If we didn't know that we'd say they made them every day. But it's been well over a decade since Super Mario World 2: Yoshi's Island and here, in 2009, with a wealth of experience Nintendo has crafted a masterpiece.
Super Mario is the reason platform gaming exists today, and why it was so popular last decade. Your aim to get from point A to point B within a time limit in a side-scrolling 2D world. Along the way you’ll encounter a range of different enemies and acquire interesting power-ups to use against them. The world itself is one big puzzle with traps, warp pipes, bottomless pits and giant metal spikes just a few of the environmental issues you’ll have to find a way around.
New Super Mario Bros. is played with the Wii remote on its side to replicate a NES controller. Most of the game is controlled using the D-pad and the 1 & 2 buttons. A small amount of motion control is used in conjunction with one of the two face buttons; pulling the Wii Remote up with certain power-ups will trigger a spin attack, while the same motion while holding down the 1 button will pick up a nearby item. The motion controls are simple, and exactly how they should be. They don’t over complicate the otherwise basic control scheme, which is perfect for a game that requires you to make split second decisions. If you’re dashing through a stage at full speed the last thing you need to worry about is which button(s) to push, when you have less than a second to judge if Mario can make the jump. Due to the NES-like style of the Wii Remote and the basic motion controls New Super Mario Bros. Wii feels a lot like the original NES/SNES games, and that’s exactly how it should be.
The level design is a great example of Nintendo at their finest. The first few worlds seem easy enough for veteran players, but towards the end of the game even the most experienced Super Mario players will be pulling their hair out while playing solo. The jumps start to become just that bit longer and require you to really think about how to tackle them, while moving platforms and giant metal spikes smashing into each other call for perfect timing. That’s the beauty of the varying levels. Some are best played at full speed, while others will involve studying the environment briefly to pick the perfect time to make your move.
Super Smash Bros. Brawl has been the flagship multiplayer title on Wii ever since it was released. Actually it’s probably held the title ever since it was announced. While other multiplayer gems have come and gone New Super Mario Bros. Wii is here to stay. It’s by far one of the greatest multiplayer games on the system, and arguably the best 4-player co-op splitscreen game this generation. Multiplayer changes the gameplay drastically but in a good way, it makes it a lot more accessible to “casual” gamers. Unlike Brawl, however, it’s still a fantastic game in single player, and one that you’ll keep coming back to when alone. As a more serious Super Mario gamer it’s a lot more challenging when you go it solo and certainly more rewarding, but that isn’t to say you won’t have fun with 3 mates.
To be fair, Super Mario has always had multiplayer. Back in 1985 player 1 and player 2 had to take turns. Now players 3 and 4 have been introduced, and everyone plays along side each other. At first we were a little disappointed to see two toads as the characters along side Mario and Luigi, but when you quickly discover that each character has exactly the same abilities it really doesn’t matter. The big difference in multiplayer is how death becomes almost meaningless. In single player you’ll have to start the level from the beginning or the checkpoint, but with 4-players only one has to remain alive for the level to continue. If Luigi meets an untimely demise by running directly into a pit of lava he’ll respawn in a bubble amidst the action. One of the remaining characters does have to break that bubble for him to resume playing, so if you’re getting a little bored of the lack of death you could turn against your mates and choose not to revive them.
Co-op is the idea in the main game, but that doesn’t stop counter-operative play becoming an interesting factor. Halfway through a level you can turn on your mates by attacking them, and even picking up and throwing them to their death. Maybe that says something about the group I was testing out co-op with, but once we figured this out co-operation went out the window until the levels started to become really challenging. Fortunately Nintendo thought of this, and included a 4-player race across the level mode. It gives you permission to work against each other, and with no time limit it can almost turn into a mini-brawl. Coin Battle pits players against each other and other enemies on a single screen stage; the player with the most coins at the end of the affair is crowned the winner.
Super Guide was the one thing that didn't sit right after first hearing about the game. The Super Mario Bros games are meant to be challenging, especially during the last few worlds, but then again this is no Super Mario Bros. 3. It’s the first game, I can think of, that actually plays itself. If you die 8 times in a level a green exclamation mark will appear when Mario respawns, along with a rather annoying alarm tone. If you choose to activate it Luigi will take over and show you how Nintendo intended the stage to be played. At any point you can choose to resume playing, although, the words “super guide” will remain on screen. At the end of the level the game will ask if you want to try it again, doing it all yourself, or if you want to move on. The good news is it’s actually a decent system and makes the game a lot more accessible to less-skilled players. I mentioned that veteran players will face a much greater challenge when playing solo, but so will newbies. Super guide helps them pass difficult areas so that they don’t get stuck in one place, in the hope that they can move forward and improve their skills. It works a lot better than I thought it would, and can simply be ignored if you want to do everything yourself. On a side note: strangely enough there are heaps of bundles that sell the game with a strategy guide. These have been made almost completely redundant, and are clearly aimed at easily influenced consumers who knew little about the game before purchasing it.
New Super Mario Bros. Wii continues the graphical style from the DS game, by placing 3D characters on primarily 2D backgrounds. There’s the occasional 3D set of spikes, but most of the environment looks very similar to Super Mario World. The simplistic graphical style is almost a tribute to the early games, and is as bright and vibrant as ever. The 3D character models are kept fairly simple, but they do come across a lit rough around the edges in some areas. Maybe it’s just in contrast to the nice crisp backgrounds, but they could have been a little better.
Super Mario sounds as good as it ever has, the composers certainly earned their money. Many of the tracks will not only have you bopping along, but if you watch carefully the koopas can’t help but bust a move when they really dig the tunes. The sound effects, and some of the sound track, have been restored from the original NES and SNES Super Mario titles. These tracks have been reused in other games (like SSBB) but they really feel at home here, and are as good as they were back in 80s/90s. Powering-up sound effects also come through the Wii Remote’s speaker, which is a nice touch.
The game can be finished within 8 hours or so, which is by no means long, but it’s the type of game you’ll keep playing until you’ve clocked over 100 hours and it still won’t feel old. Fans of Super Mario Bros 3 will know what I’m talking about. After you’ve finished it once you’ll want to do it again, and again. The ability to save at any point subtracts from this a little, but the multiplayer more than makes up for that. The only gripe we really had is the lack of online. We know Nintendo are miles behind Sony and Microsoft when it comes to playing online, but there’s no support for it at all here. Even if they didn’t want to lessen the social experience of co-op, by making it online, a leader board would have been nice. Considering you earn points for everything you do in each level it would have been great to see our results compared to the rest of the world.
The Final Verdict
New Super Mario Bros. Wii is the perfect example of taking a classic game series, finding the best from each instalment and putting it all together to make something special. The single player is exactly what veteran Super Mario fans have been waiting for, while the multiplayer is great with a couple of mates, and even better for gamers new to the series. New Super Mario Bros. Wii is a must have for any platformer fan, and the must have Wii game this year.
This is how to make a platform game. Who said the genre was dead?
The simplistic style is great and perfect considering the game’s roots. But, the rough edges around some of the 3D character models let’s it down at times.
Mario has one of the greatest videogame sound tracks of all time, and it’s back as good as ever.
It won’t take that long to finish the game, but you’ll want to do it in single and multiplayer, then there’s the fact that this style of game is perfect to play over and over again.
New Super Mario Bros. Wii is a must have for any platformer fan, and the must have Wii game this year.