With the launch of a new console– Wii U in this case– industry staple Nintendo always turns to a premier intellectual property to act as a catalyst for initial sales to hopefully make a dent in the marketplace. With Wii U’s predecessor “Wii”, Nintendo forwent tradition and went with a (highly anticipated) Zelda game, in addition to a new family-friendly motion-gaming-based aesthetic, and the rest is history—Twilight Princess became one of the most critically acclaimed games of the seventh generation, and the Wii went on to outsell its Sony and Microsoft contemporaries by 29%.
This time around, Nintendo is going back to its roots and kicking things off with a Mario game, oddly enough only three months after releasing the third New Super Mario Bros. iteration on 3DS. The fourth in line for the series, will New Super Mario Bros. U break the mold of the increasingly cookie-cutter series and offer a fresh experience akin to Super Mario Galaxy, or will it continue down its road of slight obsolescence? Upon (near) completion, the latter is definitely a better descriptor, but New Super Mario Bros. U still manages to be well worthy of your time and money.
Just as with all of the other titles in the series, NSMBU kicks things off with a goofy cutscene of Bowser kidnapping Peach, with Mario and crew being cast away to begin their long trek towards saving her; I shed a tear inside. A preceding brief overview of the seemingly vast and colorful overworld with which to traverse begets the notion that this will be a passionate work however, and we’re off to level one. The levels have names, again! We’re introduced to the Raccoon Tail derivative almost immediately, the Squirrel Suit; I like it a bit more than NSMBWii‘s Propeller hat thing, as it has more overall quirks and isn’t as good of an item, therefore requiring more precision from the player to master.
The overall gameplay is pretty much exactly the same as the previous entries in the NSMB series: a continuous stream of Super Mario Bros. 1 and 3, and Super Mario World level references, meretricious sensory-pleasing environments, and tying it all together, major-league, Nintendo-patented solid core platforming. Whereas the first home console’s iteration of the series on Wii’s level design felt a bit geared towards multiplayer play– which was the game’s major selling point– NSMBU‘s level design feels a bit more like it was designed from a single-player perspective.
The platforming hit its stride at around the world five juncture. While I would say the back end of the game, ending with a slightly abridged last world, made for a good solid run (aside from castles five and six, which were both pretty bad), it wasn’t really anything to write home to Mom about, especially with the Mario franchise’s illustrious and iconic past in consideration; it’s hard to remember a lot of specific moments or levels, in all honesty.
Nintendo did make an effort to separate NSMBU from the pack aesthetically, however. As previously mentioned, the levels have names, as do the food-themed worlds. Harkening back to Super Mario World‘s “Donut Plains” and “Butter Bridge”, “Acorn Plains” and “Layer-Cake Desert” certainly bring back a teensy bit of charm to the series; the same cannot be said for the background music or sounds of the game. The area where Nintendo showed easily the biggest improvement in those regards are the backdrops, which are all absolutely stunning. From the forward-pointing rock formation in world one, to the aurora-tinged starry night skies in world four, to the Van Gogh-themed level in world five, NSMBU really showcases the new console’s graphical capabilities well.
Aside from the single-player game, four-person on-screen multiplayer is back, and is pretty much exactly as you remembered it from NSMBWii; hectic, depthless, but fun. A fifth player can now jump in via the Wii U gamepad and create blocks on-screen to aid or hinder progress for everyone else. Make sure the evil one in your group of friends isn’t in control on the Gamepad, as that particular person will pretty much have complete control over the outcome of the game. There are some neat side modes, such as the various challenge scenarios and speed-run time trial mode, that, in addition to collecting every Star Coin to fully unlock Superstar Road, should eat up some time after you’ve completed the game. The slightly publicized Boost Rush mode wasn’t really all that great, and with the time trial mode also there, felt a bit redundant.
There have now been as many titles in the NSMB franchise as there are traditional Mario platformers to base themselves off of; I doubt fifteen years down the road seeing Nintendo releasing nostalgic amalgamations of the NSMB series. While NSMBU might disappoint some in that it’s both more of the same and isn’t comprised of the same iconic magic the initial Mario platformers had, when it comes down to it, it’s still a pretty solid platformer.
I liken the bulk of New Super Mario Bros. U to a night out in the dancing club— a hazy, slightly enjoyable experience overall, though tough to pick out individual songs (levels) you’ve heard over the course of the night, as they all, in large, are hard to discern from one another. Like the producers of the Carl Ray Gypsum dance songs that get blasted ad nauseam into said dancing clubs, Nintendo has more than enough ability and capital to create mind-blowing, esoteric, arty, precise platformers (songs), but those games (albums) won’t draw the crowds, so we get these, and they ain’t all that bad, kids. Due to the gorgeous backdrops and furthering refinement of the NSMB algorithm, this one’s the best of the bunch so far.
Buy this game if…
If your appetite for a solid platformer needs whetting.
Don’t but this game if…
You’re a jaded cynic that doesn’t appreciate a lack of innovation from Nintendo franchises.
This game is better than…
New Super Mario Bros. 2
New Super Mario Bros. Wii
This game is worse than…
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