NEW Super Mario Bros.
“Goombas. Koopa Troopas. Coins. Mushrooms. The flag! I can see the flag!”
That was me when I sat down to play my first Nintendo DS game at E3. I didn’t know what it was – it seemed popular and it was made by Nintendo. That’s all I needed to know, so I got in line and waited for the stool to free up. (Nintendo was kind enough to have stools at several of their kiosks.)
Then, like a shining light at the end of a tunnel, Mario was there! His character model had polygons and looked three-dimensional, but his world was flat. He scrolled from side to side. He jumped, flipped and had to fight to avoid getting hit by a Koopa Troopa. It was the most joyous moment. I literally cheered, in front of everyone at the show, when I got to the end of the level and saw the flag pole.
I couldn’t find any touch screen features (I touched the screen…nothing happened), but the directional and button controls are perfect. Mario plays more smoothly than ever before. He has improved with every game, but it’s been years (over a decade) since he’s had a true 2D adventure. Super Mario Bros. DS proves that the world’s favorite plumber hasn’t lost his way.
Levels are all-new and classically designed. In addition to the flag pole, Mario Bros. DS features the clouds, platforms, bricks and blocks of his best adventures. New blocks have been included, but I have yet to discover what their purpose is (they might only differ in color). From dark castles to cloud-filled, Mushroom Kingdom worlds, the game is a trip down memory lane.
The butt-stomp makes its 2D debut, meaning that Mario can stomp out bricks that are below him. Hit the jump button and press down – that’s it. The controls, every action, are an absolute joy to perform. Mario can wall hop to reach higher areas, another new addition for the 2D games.
New to the game are giant Goombas. They fill almost half the screen, walking with force and are virtually untouchable. The key to defeating them is pretty simple (at least for the boss battle – the other giant Goombas weren’t so easy). Normally I’d share the secret, but it’s a spoiler for a game like this. Trust me, you’re going to want as much of this to be a surprise as possible.
On Friday it dawned on me that I had been carrying my iPod headphones all week. I have headphones and the Nintendo DS has a headphone jack. Put the two together and I become the only person at the show who can actually hear the music from the game that I'm playing. Let me confirm: Mario DS's sounds are amazing. The music, the coin jingle, the sound it makes when you squash a Goomba, etc., complete the experience. Those annoying "just what I needed" voice-overs from the GBA games are gone. Assuming new songs are added to the remakes, this will undoubtedly become the best Mario soundtrack since his 64-bit adventure debuted in 1996.
Using headphones as an excuse to return to the game gave me the chance to check out the third level from the demo. Koopa Troopas were everywhere in this platform-filled land, a place that looked like an evolved version of the fourth level in the very first Mario game. Giant mushroom pillars were everywhere. They were tilted back and swayed slowly, conjuring up images of Dr. Seuss's wacky trees.
Fighting through the cluster of Koopas brought back memories of Donkey Kong Country and the cluster of enemies it threw at us. Because of its faster gameplay, you wanted to move quickly. You wanted to run through each level and get to the end as soon as possible. That's what it was like to play the new Mario even though I wanted to savor every moment.
I can’t wait for this game to be released. You hear that, Nintendo? I can’t wait meaning don’t delay its release. We’ve been waiting over a decade for this. Now that it’s a reality, we can’t wait any longer.