Is Mario fatigue setting in? AKA How Mario lost his smile
Mario is probably sitting in a bar somewhere in the Mushroom Kingdom right now, asking himself, "Is-a this it? Is-a this all I have-a left?" In his drunken stupor, he comes on to several bar-hopping women, all of which are disgusted by him. Mario's a shell of his former self. He reeks of booze, has greasy Italian food stains all over his clothes, and his stubble makes him look like a freshly hobo-fied denizen of the streets. Of course, come New Super Mario Bros. U, he'll get his act together, shave, shower, and hit the gym ... only to fall back into misery the moment that game ships on the Wii U.
Nintendo has done great things with the Mario franchise, but as of late, it seems to be losing its luster. That magic that first propelled the iconic platforming series is now but a faint light bulb, barely surviving on the success that every cash-in so unremorsefully chugs along by. There's nothing novel about Mario anymore, and it's a shame. As good as New Super Mario Bros. 2 is — and it's damn good — there's nothing new about it. It's simply Mario doing what he knows best, and you have to wonder if, for a lot of gamers, fatigue is beginning to set in.
Poor bastard couldn't even make it back home before passing out.
When New Super Mario Bros. launched on the DS, it was a magical revival of a beloved format. After all the 3D Mario stuff, it was refreshing to see Nintendo go back to its roots and create a legitimately compelling throwback to 2D platforming. New Super Mario Bros. instantly became a hit, and it cemented its spot alongside some of the best Mario games to ever grace a Nintendo platform. Then we got New Super Mario Bros. Wii and New Super Mario Bros. 2, and we're currently awaiting the arrival of New Super Mario Bros. U, which will probably refrain from introducing anything that can actually be categorized as "new" to the series. It'll be a good game, but it won't be anything we haven't seen before.
Super Mario 3D Land succeeded because it was actually an exciting new venture for the series. Yes, it was Mario, but it was fresh, and it was rewarding. It was a game that Nintendo fans desperately needed, and it delivered the goods as far as a new Mario experience is concerned. But just like a recovering alcoholic is prone to doing, Nintendo (and Mario) relapsed. After a shining example of something new, the Big N gave gamers something old and ever so shamelessly slapped the word "new" right on the product packaging. It was tasteless, really, but because we love Mario, we ate it up. We became enablers.
It's a downward spiral for this Italian plumber.
I had a lot of fun playing New Super Mario Bros. 2. I had so much fun that I deemed the game worthy of an 8/10 review score. I still feel that it deserved that score, because Nintendo once again provided gamers with superb 2D platforming. But after getting through the six required worlds, I felt that fatigue setting in. Sure, I returned to previous levels and collected Star Coins. I even went back and unlocked secret stages. But the game just wasn't as entertaining anymore. New Super Mario Bros. 2 is a perfect example of a game that offers high quality gameplay but not much substance.
But the Mario brand of 2D platformers isn't the only culprit in all of this. The unfortunate Mario rut is also being caused by the supersaturation of every other series in the franchise. Mario sports titles have lost their novelty; Mario Party isn't what it used to be; and a glaring lack of worthwhile spin-offs (I miss Wario and Yoshi) is hurting the appeal of the brand. Simply put, there are too many Mario games these days and not enough of everything else. Wario Land: Shake It! was an incredible mix of wonderful art and solid gameplay, and I'd much rather play a sequel to that game than a new Mario title anytime soon.
Flatulence is Wario's only problem. Well, that and high cholesterol, but you get the point.
Three recent games stand out in my mind as far superior to New Super Mario Bros. 2. Last year, Rayman Origins and Kirby's Return to Dream Land offered up some of the freshest gameplay in the genre in quite some time. Those two titles were shining examples of exactly why I fell in love with the platformer genre in the first place. I also recently played Mutant Mudds for the PC, and I was reminded of just how spectacular 2D run-and-jump games were back in the NES and SNES eras.
For the record, I'm still a fan of Mario games. But just like I get tired of listening to The Black Keys or Muse after they pop up on the radio every 15 minutes or so, I grow tired of playing the same Mario formula over and over (and over) again. Unfortunately, things are bound to stay this way for a while. The worst part is that we all know Mario will be back in that bar, spending his paycheck from Nintendo on hard drinks, and inching ever so closer to a life of alcoholism and pitiful mediocrity.
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