November couldn’t come soon enough for me. It’s been 23 years since the first Super Mario Bros. game showed up, and we’re still all excited when a new Super Mario game comes out. This is not just any Mario title, though; we’re talking about a Super Mario Bros. with capital letters – a reinvention of the classic, pure platforming excellence, and ultimately an experience worth playing.
The game’s story won’t tell you much, and it certainly doesn’t set itself apart from previous installments: the princess has been kidnapped by Bowser, and she’s not in the first castle you stop by; you’ll have to keep on going, and that’s all you need to know. However, the lack of storyline never bothered us; it’s the masterfully crafted level design that sets this game apart. The way the coin blocks are laid out, the way the enemies move and attack, and all the new platforming elements manage to take this game to the next level.
As you’d imagine, the main mission in the game is to clear level after level until you find the princess and are able to rescue her. That’ll put our dear Italian plumber through the most unimaginable dangers ever found in the Mushroom Kingdom, including brand new enemies, tricky level design, and difficult challenges that will make you sweat. New Super Mario Bros. Wii contains eight worlds with multiple stages and varied themes such as the tropical jungle, the depths of the ocean, caverns, the dry dessert, and the hearts of scary castles. As you advance through the worlds, you’ll encounter unique enemies you’ll learn to take down and avoid. Even hardcore Mario fans will have to rethink their typical strategy to get through the dangers that await.
The most similar Super Mario Bros. game you might have seen is New Super Mario Bros. for Nintendo DS. That portable game hit already included some of the platforming elements and new items found in this one, such as the mini-mushroom, which makes you tiny and lets you sneak into narrow places, also giving you special jumping skills and a comical helium-infused voice. There’s also the ability to wall jump and kick off a wall, or duck and slide down a slope while killing foes who get in the way.
You can do all that and more in this Wii game, as it puts even more abilities and power-ups in play. For example, you may pick up the Penguin Suit, which not only lets you belly-slide your way to the bottom of a ramp, but also gives you the ability to throw ice balls and freeze up your enemies in a flash. You can then ground-pound them to get rid of them or just move on. The only catch is they’ll thaw after a while, so one can never be too safe! The Ice Flower also lets you shoot ice and lock your foes into an ice block, and the Propeller Mushroom Suit lets you fly and hover around with a shake of the Wii Remote. This one comes in handy to pick up items and coins placed in hard-to-reach areas, or when there’s massive danger on the ground. You have to land once in a while, though; you can’t just keep on flying!
Other abilities include the ground-pound, which is great to take on shelled enemies, as it won’t leave dangerous shells zooming back and forth. You can also ground-pound to release coins and other items from blocks, or even activate POWs to turn enemies upside down or kill them. While dashing, you can also perform double and even triple jumps if you time your landing just right, or you can shake the Wii Remote for a quick spin jump. When stomping on an enemy, you can also do a quick jump to be catapulted higher than normal, which also works great when playing with someone else in co-op (we’ll get to that later). Another thing you can do is lift up barrels, POWs, shells, or even a friend by holding the dash button and shaking the controller; you can then use the item as a projectile.
The game also includes seesaws that you control by tilting the Wii Remote, fences you can grab onto and climb, and a lot more. It really is a very innovative Super Mario experience full of everything fans were looking for and many other fun surprises. Perhaps the most surprising things for me were to be able to kick off the walls for an extra jump (which has saved me from many deaths), to walk and run on water when turned into Mini Mario (after eating a Mini Mushroom), to turn a CheepCheep into an ice cube in underwater levels and see it float to the surface so I can stand on it and reach coin blocks, or to hit a [?] block and see an egg come out that transforms into Yoshi, letting you ride him around, gobble up enemies, spit them out, and hover up after a jump; this is another common power-up you’ll find in the game, and it proved to be a good one! There are so many hidden items, secrets, and special levels in the game that you probably won’t even scratch the surface by playing through it once.
Another fun way to play New Super Mario Bros. Wii is to hand out a few controllers to your friends and advance together. They can be Luigi or one of two Toad characters (yellow or blue Toad). You can play the same main mode and all of its levels with up to four people. Players can also drop in and out at their convenience by simply entering the pause menu, which is very practical. In multiplayer, abilities like bouncing off of your buddies and being able to pick them up and help them or throw them also come into play. Using some strategy will help you obtain hard-to-get items and 1-Ups, so try to give it some thought!
In multiplayer, you can all be friends and play cooperatively to reach the goal and get the coins and items you need, or you can be mean and handicap each other while heading towards the goal. Either way, playing with other people can be mayhem, but it’s also a hoot, and it has its own advantages. For example, when someone dies, they lose a life, but they come right back into the stage, floating inside a bubble until they touch another player. On the other hand, if you’re playing alone, you’ll be kicked out of the level and into the world map, having to restart the level from the beginning or from the midway point, if you managed to reach it before dying. Needless to say, playing cooperatively makes the game easier to handle, because you get to stay in the game as long as you still have lives left and there’s someone else still active in the level.
If you play alone and aren’t very skilled at old-school-inspired platformers, you may suffer. The game is very challenging and not forgiving at all. You’re allowed to quick save and start once from where you left off, but otherwise, you can only save when you reach the middle and the end of each world. If you lose all your lives, you’ll be able to continue, but just from the last save point. This is true until you beat the game; then it’s just about fun and replayability, so they let you save at any time.
I thought this Mario game would be ideal for families, since they can all play together. However, one has to keep in mind the level of challenge involved. Gamer parents and their tween/teen kids will be able to get through it, but it’s possible other people will find the game to be a source of anger and frustration. It gives you reasons to fight for the fire flower that just popped out of the coin block, or to yell at each other because they were in the way and you bounced off of them and into a pit. That’s not to say the game isn’t extremely family-friendly, but it’s just a heads-up so you know what you’ll find in this otherwise unbelievably fun game.
New Super Mario Bros. also includes two other multiplayer modes: Free-for-All and Coin Battle. In the first one, you’ll play with other players through existing levels you’ve cleared in the main mode, but it gives you a score and a rank at the end, depending on the number of coins and special items each player picked up. In Coin Battle players are thrown into special coin-filled stages and will fight to collect as many as they can before the end of the level or until they die. This competitive mode is extremely fun and will have players fighting and begging for a rematch.
Overall, though the game is not easy, it’s very intuitive and straightforward to understand. It’s also simple to control, holding the Wii Remote sideways like you would the original NES controller. You can also play Nunchuk-style, controlling Mario with the analog stick and using A to jump and B or Z to dash. For someone with small hands like me, this configuration seems to work better, but it’s all just a matter of taste. Even though there’s no Classic Controller support, we didn’t find it to be necessary once we played the game.
Only three things I’m missing from this title: online ranks and leaderboards, more playable characters, and online play. The first two, we can live without, but online multiplayer has become so essential this generation that I can’t quite understand why Nintendo chose not to include it. It exists in Mario Kart and Super Smash Bros. Brawl, so why not an online co-op mode so we can enjoy the game with those friends who live far from us? Oh well, it seems like this is always Nintendo’s weakness. Hopefully they’ll change their gears some day.
On the whole, New Super Mario Bros. Wii hits the spot. The short wait since we found out about the game was definitely worth it. One just knows we can’t be disappointed when Miyamoto is involved, so hooray for that! It’s another Nintendo masterpiece with gorgeous and vibrant graphics, loads of original characters and enemies (both classic and new), beautiful and unique environments, classic Mario tunes, superb voice acting, amusing but challenging gameplay, engaging multiplayer action, and more. If your interest has been piqued, be sure to get your hands on this special red-boxed Wii game this holiday season!
RATING OUT OF 5 RATING DESCRIPTION 4.8 Graphics
Awesome 3D characters and environments in beautiful and varied 2D worlds with the best level and character design ever seen in a Super Mario Bros. game. 4.0 Control
Easy to pick-up-and-play Wii Remote action, mimicking the classic NES controls everybody knows. Nunchuk-style controls are just as solid. There are few button combinations to learn in this game. 4.5 Music / Sound FX / Voice Acting
Classic Mario tunes of all kinds give life to the vivid levels spread throughout the eight different worlds. Character voices are a delight to hear. 4.8
Super Mario Bros. enthusiasts have no time to lose! The game contains about 50 levels playable in both single-player and multiplayer fashion, as well as Coin Battle stages and Free-for-All gameplay. The game is packed with hidden items and loads of secrets to look for.
4.7 Overall Rating – Must Buy
Not an average. See Rating legend above for a final score breakdown.