For the first time in a long time, a Nintendo system has launched with a Mario game available on the first day. After generations of waiting months or years for the latest Mario game on a system (New Super Mario Bros. on the DS, Super Mario 3D Land on the 3DS, Super Mario Galaxy on the Wii, even Super Mario Sunshine on the Gamecube), New Super Mario Bros. U is a Nintendo Wii U launch title, and it carries the tradition of the New Super Mario Bros. sub-series as a meticulously crafted, colorful side-scrolling platform game. A handful of improvements have been made over previous versions, including Mario’s first high definition graphical appearance and some helpful uses of the Wii U Gamepad, but at heart this is the same solid Mario game we’ve seen for the past half decade.
Same Old Mario
The idea is standard Mario fare. The heroes have to rescue Princess Peach after Bowser and his kids abduct her. It’s a concept that’s endured for generations at this point, and it’s the thinnest of premises to drive Mario’s quest around the world.
New Super Mario Bros. U takes place on a large overworld consisting of different areas like in Super Mario World as opposed to the individual worlds like in previous New Super Mario Bros. games and Super Mario Bros. 3. You start in Acorn Plains but eventually unlock routes through deserts, jungles, and frozen tundras before reaching Bowser. Themed levels in each area alternate with ghost houses, fortresses protected by Boom Boom the koopa-like miniboss, and castles guarded by the Koopalings, Bowser’s kids. Several levels have multiple exits, and the route you take depends on how much you explore.
The action is standard Mario gameplay, with 2D platforming that focuses on jumping to get past both enemies and obstacles. Not much has changed from other Mario games, but the addition of Baby Yoshis and acorn mushrooms offer a twist to the standard Yoshi-riding, which is still in the game, and tanuki tail-flying, which is not. Baby Yoshis can be carried around to eat enemies, and they have special powers like blowing bubbles that turn enemies into coins, or inflating like balloons to reach higher platforms. Acorn mushrooms give Mario flying squirrel abilities, letting him smoothly glide, flap his arms to get a small boost, and stick to walls. They don’t significantly alter the gameplay, but they’re nice, if small, change-ups to the action.
Nintendo in HD
This is Mario’s first high-definition appearance, and he looks better than ever. The higher resolution of the Wii U makes the game stand out with crisp designs and fluid animation. The standard will undoubtedly be surpassed when Nintendo gives Mario a 3D Super Mario Galaxy-like game on the Wii U, but until then this is his best appearance. Everything looks like a crisper version of previous New Super Mario Bros. games, with a few outstanding exceptions like the Starry Night levels, which replace the rounded and colorful designs of the world with an impressionistic paint scheme that looks like Mario playing in a painting by Vincent Van Gogh.
The Wii U Gamepad lets you play New Super Mario Bros. U with the TV turned off. The game is mirrored to the gamepad’s screen, so you can play it like it’s a 3DS game and put something else on your TV. It’s a small feature, but surprisingly freeing when you find yourself playing the game while still being able to watch Fringe.
The GamePad also plays a role in multiplayer mode, which expands on the four-player Mario chaos seen in New Super Mario Bros. Wii by adding a fifth player. Four players can play as Mario, Luigi, or two Toad characters with Wiimotes, while the fifth player can use the Wii U Gamepad to create platforms and affect the environment. This should be a great co-op mode in theory, but it can quickly devolve into a hilarious competitive mode where the GamePad holder is constantly spawning blocks to throw players into pits. It’s still a fun mode, but there’s a good chance someone will end up getting choked.
All multiplayer is local; you can’t play online with friends in New Super Mario Bros. U. Instead, the game uses the Miiverse to let players put up notes and tips when they get through levels without getting hurt or have difficult times with levels. By zooming out in the overworld, random text bubbles and sketches appear from other players. It’s a completely useless feature that gives the smallest idea of connectivity while not letting players communicate with each other in any meaningful way.
New Super Mario Bros. U is a solid Mario game and one of the best titles for the Wii U now. It’s an obvious Wii U Editors’ Choice. However, it doesn’t make any big changes to the formula besides a welcome overworld, and while it’s visually stunning it feels like a retread of surroundings we’ve played through four times now. Still, it’s a new Mario game, and it’s available for the Wii U at launch, which is nice for early adopters.
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|Platform||Nintendo Wii U|
|ESRB Rating||E for Everybody|
Copyright © 2012 Ziff Davis, Inc