Wednesday, January 20, 2010

New Super Mario Bros. Wii Review

My first game system was a Gameboy, and the first game I played on it was the widely popular Super Mario Land. Since then I’ve had a great history with the plumber but I’ll admit I’ve sort of lost interest in his more recent games.

Nintendo set out to reclaim the lost nostalgia that fans had for the classic series with New Super Mario Bros. on the DS and now they are trying to work that magic again for Mario’s first 2D platforming game on a console since Super Mario World. With that in mind it’s hard not to have some high expectations for Nintendo’s latest Mario hit.

So will this game be an instant classic or get lost in the nostalgia? Let’s find out!

All right lets start with my first nitpick of the game. The title. “New Super Mario Bros. Wii” just sounds like a mouthful. Why not Super Mario Bros. 4? It is the spiritual successor to the old 2D games so I can’t see why they wouldn’t just go with the obvious title. Unless Nintendo is planning on making more games like this, I can’t see why they went with such weird title.

Now that I have that little complaint out of the way, let’s talk about the story. Or uh…I guess what I can consider a story. So big shocker, Peach gets kidnapped (I know, I didn’t see it coming either!) and you’ve got to rescue her. Now while the story is nearly non-existent I would like to comment on the ending.

The ending is surprisingly nice and well done. Sure it’s simple but it carries all the charm the Mario franchise has had all these years. It’s sweet, fun and hilarious all at once making for a great way to end the game. So good work on one end there Nintendo.

Now when I mention the story I should also mention the characters. It was great seeing the Koopalings after all these years. I honestly thought they where lone gone to never show up again but seeing them here was great and I loved seeing them all again. I have a long history with these troublesome kids so seeing them again just was a real treat and I hope they show up again. Also seeing them alongside their little brother Bowser Jr. was also great.

I did appreciate how Nintendo gave the Koopalings and Bowser Jr. new battle designs rather then just going with the same designs they’ve had in prior games. Each Koopaling battle feels different from the last (well, most of them at least, not all I admit) and is a fun, even though easy, fight.

Now about the 2 forgettable 2 Toads that accompany the Mario Bros. if you’re playing with all 4 players, I’ll admit I wish Nintendo hadn’t been so generic with this. While I know there weren’t many other characters that would work as well, it just seems so lazy to go with 2 random Toads.

Now for the look of this game, Nintendo did a great job. While most of the time it’s hard to notice the detail since Mario is so small compared to other games but when you get a real good look at the design, the style and the graphics it really is great stuff and the colorfulness that’s so popular with the franchise shines beautifully here making for a great looking experience.

Now the music is another solid part of Mario Bros. Wii. While the music itself never gets amazing, some fun remixes of classic tunes and one hell of an epic final boss fight song all make for a great listening experience as well.

Now I wanted to get all of that out of the way first since I don’t have too much to say on those parts of the game. Their all solid and do a good job of doing what they should. Now we can get to the meat of the game, the gameplay.

Now getting the basics of gameplay out of the way I of course have to mention the set up. It’s classic Mario, you run right and jump. Not too much to really say on this, it’s solid Mario platforming and Nintendo gets it right. Especially with the holding the Wii-mote sideways use which feels as classic as ever.

Nintendo does a solid job of implementing the motion control into the game. It’s only for specific parts of a level, like controlling a search light as you travel on a floating boat, or leaning a platform left or right. Also it comes into play but giving Marvel and extra spin move in the air, also activating the Copter Mario. So overall Nintendo did a great job making this a game that implements the Wii controls nicely.

Supposedly Nintendo was going for Contra hard difficulty with this game. A funny goal but not one they came close to achieving. This game is indeed a solid challenge but as far as difficulty it’s anything but unbeatable. But I’ll admit compared to the usual breeze easy games we’ve gotten from Nintendo in the past the harder difficulty was very welcome as I love a good challenge.

Now as for the difficulty for other players, I’ll admit right now if you’ve never played Super Mario Bros. 3 or Super Mario World you’re going to get your ass kicked in some places. Nintendo definitely made a game for the hardcore fans that can handle this kind of difficulty. Even I died a lot and found myself repeating levels again and again.

For those unlike me and my friends who can’t jump 3 turtle shells and then use a fire flower to precisely hit a piranha plant before I land on the pipe they gave the Newbies a Super Guide. Now I didn’t even get the Super Guide available until the final level so I can’t speak for all levels but from what I’ve seen after trying it out, it’s a great idea.

You can take over at any time during the level to finish it as Luigi which is really cool. Only real downside to it is that Luigi moves at a snails pace so if you, like me, love to blaze through these levels then you’re going to end up sitting around for an annoying amount of time.

Now I should mention the 4 player co-op since it’s something the game is heralded for. I’ve played it with a few friends and while it is fun to get to play Mario with all my friends at once, at the same time it adds an extra layer of difficulty. This can either be from your friends being jerks or accidentally jumping around on each other.

Still the co-op is a lot of fun and of course my biggest complaint there is that Nintendo isn’t making this game online. That is total bullshit and I find that unacceptable. This game would be so much more fun if I could get online and play with my friends in an all out 4 player match. Nintendo really missed the ball on that one.

Though now we get into some of the flaws of this game. Its biggest flaw is also a part of its strength and that’s it simple Mario fun. While as a Mario game, this is one of the best out there now. Even going so far as to surpass the original game I think. Though as a game in general they could have done so much more with it. It stops at good when it could have easily hit greatness.

My first point is how they go with the generic 8 worlds, Mushroom Kingdom, Desert, Ice World, etc. It’s the same damn thing we got from prior games and it’s annoying to see Nintendo so blatantly copying past worlds. Nintendo can do better then this and there’s no excuse for such boring and stupid recycling.

My biggest complaint is how this game really does try at times. There are some levels that feel incredibly inspired, unique and interesting and I loved them. Levels where you jump from floating globes of water and jump along the backs of flying manta rays. These levels are exciting and incredibly fun, but sadly they are too far and few throughout the game.

It almost feels like this game had 2 developers. One was a young excited new developer who wanted to really give the Mario franchise some exciting twists, the other was a bored old guy who’s been there for 20 years and knows how to program a simple Mario game with his hands tied behind his back and he developed 80% of the levels.

In all honesty there’s nothing wrong with the levels, their all decent to fun but they feel too familiar. I’ve played these levels before and I know this terrain all too well. It honestly feels like half the time they weren’t trying to do anything new they where just eager to pump out more levels.

To be fair you can skip a few of the levels on your adventure through the map which is nice if you, like me, are in a hurry to get to the last castle. I beat the game at first without beating all the levels, then went back and beat the ones I skipped and it’s really cool that I can do that since it rings true to another beloved Mario Game, SMB3.

But again most of the levels are just so average and decent when they could have been exciting and new and much more fun where I feel like Nintendo just didn’t want to give us a fully new experience which is sad seeing what they could have done with the more exciting levels if they’d tried harder on the average levels.

Another thing about the difficulty is it’s all over the place. A good example of that is world 8.  The first level is pretty intense and you’ve got to be moving constantly but then the second level is really easy so it’s jarring for the player to have one level so hard then one level so easy.

A big gripe I have with this game is Yoshi. Now I was really excited that this game had it where you could ride Yoshi. That was my favorite part of Super Mario World, saving him and taking him with me through all the fun levels was excellent and I loved every minute of it.

So imagine my excitement when I see Yoshi on the cover, very prominent, hinted at being a key part of the game…then he’s in like 10 or so levels of an 80 level game. I see Yoshi on the cover, I want my goddamn Yoshi! Even worse, he can’t come with you after you beat the stage. That I don’t get at all, what the hell? Was Nintendo afraid he’d break the game by making it easier? Newsflash, the Copter Shroom already does that.

No it was total bullshit that Yoshi got the shaft like this. My favorite Mario character and he barely gets a cameo in this game. No excuses, Nintendo. Don’t put a character on the cover and make him look like a big deal when he’s hardly there.

Now for the bosses. All the bosses are the Koopalings, along with Bowser Jr., Kamik and Bowser himself at the end. Each Koopaling fights you twice per world and I enjoyed simply seeing them, though the fights on the other hand weren’t so great. Most of them where pathetically easy, by World 6 I expected a real challenge but he was the easiest of them all!

Only 2 of the Koopalings are ever a challenge, Iggy and Ludwig Von Koopa. Iggy is a challenge because of his pet Chain Chomp chasing you everywhere as you desperately try to jump on Iggy without getting eaten, and Ludwig Von Koopa is simply hard because you have to time when you hit him. Other then that the bosses are all cakewalks.

I did love the 3 Bowser Jr. Boss battles, even if they where easy like the rest of them. They where the most unique and memorable fights (next to the final boss that is) as they involve you using a Koopa-Copter, hitting Bowser Jr. with his own bombs and it’s just really fun and I wish we’d gotten more of them.

While I’m on Bowser Jr. I should mention the airship stages you fight him in. While this only happens 2 times, they are all incredibly fun and really bring back the nostalgia of Super Mario Bros. 3 with how epic it really is. I loved it.

Now the final boss was just…amazing. I honestly don’t want to spoil it, it was so good. All I can say is it is easily one of the most memorable final boss fights in Mario history and it blew me away at how great it was.

I want to mention the map part of the game. Straight out of Super Mario Bros. 3 the map stage is interactive as well with the game. From you going to houses to get 1-ups or more power ups it’s great. Also though you can run into enemies on the map and you have to fight them which was just great since there is an awesome incentive to do so which makes it even more fun.

The map is more like SMB3 then Super Mari World which I think was a good choice by Nintendo. It’s fun, interactive and does more then just serve as the hub to pick what level to do which is great.

I did love the mini-games for power ups and one-ups. Really fun and creative things that again feel like a call back to SMB3. Nintendo made collecting power ups fun which isn’t as easy as you’d think.

Now for something that’s as popular in Mario as the plumber himself, the power ups. We get 3 new power ups but I’ll be honest, I only like 1.

The Penguin suit is okay for the ice world but everywhere else it feels out of place and stupid. While I get what they where going with, the Raccoon leaf would have been a thousand times better.

The Ice flower was a neat power up but because it can’t kill enemies, you have to throw them; it can get a little hectic trying to throw ice blocks when in a heated situation so it’s just okay.

I love the Copter Shroom, it’s just so awesome. While I’ll admit it makes everything a lot easier I still love it because it’s just so helpful and so much fun to use. If Nintendo keeps anything from this game, I hope it’s the Copter Shroom because it’s easily the best of the bunch.

Really I think Nintendo missed a huge chance with this game though in the power ups department. For one they didn’t bring back the blue shell from New Super Mario Bros. DS which was easily my favorite part of that game. But even more so why not bring in all the power ups? Yeah! Mega Mushroom, Raccoon Ears, Tanooki suit, all of them!

I mean it’s not like there wasn’t space for it. It’s a 2D Wii game for crying out loud. No way couldn’t they have added them. If they had then this game would have been much better.

Now before I wrap this up I need to mention a key part of this game and that’s the nostalgia to it. Lots of games have some nostalgia based to them, Sonic, Resident Evil, Street Fighter are all good examples. But Nostalgia can be a good thing or a bad thing.

When comparing this to another nostalgic game, no better game comes to mind then my favorite game of 2008, Megaman 9. Megaman 9 was both a celebration of the Megaman franchise and all it’s done before but at the same time was still a fun unique game that was distinguishable from prior games.

Whereas New Super Mario Bros. Wii is a celebration of all that once made the classic 2D Mario games great at the same time it is lacking in feeling totally distinguishable from it’s older brothers. In the end it’s trying so hard to remind me of SMB3 that it sort of loses it’s own identity in doing so.

I could play Megaman 2 and 3 and then play 9 and feel like I had 3 separate and enjoyable experiences. But I could play SMB3, Super Mario World and NSMBW and feel like I got a very similar experience with all 3 that weren’t all that easy to tell apart. NSMBW is trying so hard to be like it’s big brothers that it forgets it’s a new game and needs to do more to define itself for me and make it more memorable.

While there are a few levels and moments here and there at the same time I could just as easily put in SMB3 into my NES and have the exact same experience, minus the Yoshi. But he’s hardly there anyway. Nintendo made a great Mario game but in the run of games in general we’ve been here before and it was better back then since it was more interesting and original back then.

So while for a long time fan like myself I did love feeling the nostalgia of fighting Kamik again and stomping on the Koopalings I still think that it’s not trying hard enough to do it’s own thing. Had Nintendo put in that extra layer of more exciting new level design and more interesting new worlds I think this game would have been much better.

So time for my closing comments.

Longtime fans of Mario will find a familiar but fun game here that is up there with some of the best in the franchise. It’s got a fun difficulty, some great levels here and there and is all around a solid fun experience. If the developers had gone that extra mile it could be one of the best games out on the shelves right now, but they settled with just good and the product suffers for it. Definitely a solid fun experience that anyone with a Wii should get.

Score: 7.5 out of 10 

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