Review: New Super Mario Bros. U is classic platforming, with an HD coat
The debate whether the New Super Mario Bros. series actually bring something new to the table, instead of just rehashing worlds and power-ups is still going strong to this day. Both sides have a valid point. Aside from a few new power-ups and mechanics, these 2D platformers are very similar to one another. With that said, Nintendo always strives to put something new into the game, to satisfy those looking for a little change, and those hoping the platformers stay the way they are.
New Super Mario Bros. U certainly brings in a host of new features that will undoubtedly make those wishing for a little change much happier, while preserving the platforming bliss that Nintendo has so masterfully crafted over the years.
It's almost pointless to mention any sort of story at this point, but just know that good old Bowser just wants the Princess all to himself again, which means that Mario, Luigi and the two Toads are ready to venture through various worlds in order to take Bowser down, reclaim the Princess, and wait for another inevitable attack by the evil dinosaur in the near future.
The story mode will take you through eight worlds that will all feel somewhat familiar to fans. You have green plains, sandy deserts, haunted, ghost filled mansions, you know, the typical stuff. However, NSMBU pushes these tropes by some truly impressive level design. It's clever, tricky, even downright dastardly at times, and it will really push your platforming skills to the limit. Honestly, that's what we've wanted all along. Much like Super Mario Bros. 3 back on the NES not only reinvented the Mario series with new power-ups but with some truly awesome level design, NSMBU seems to do the exact same.
The newest power-up to make an appearance in Mario's latest outing is the Flying Squirrel suit. While it doesn't take the the top spot as my favorite power-up, (which still belongs to the Tanooki Suit) it is still awesome, and opens up awesome new platforming possibilities, since you can now glide, boost yourself up in the air and even hang on to walls.
Other new additions are the baby Yoshis. These little guys have to be held instead of ridden on and have different skills such as completely lighting up dark cavers, blowing bubbles to trap enemies in or inflating letting you soar to new heights. They're great, except they do require you to constantly have a button pressed down to hold on to them. Minor gripe really.
It's the modes outside of the story mode that truly impress however. Challenge mode will task you with varying goals such as Time Attack, collecting a specific amount of coins, or even not touching the ground the entire level by hopping across enemies. These challenges are devious, and might even make you want to throw your controller (please don't, these gamepads look quite expensive). However it's called Challenge mode for a reason, and you'll certainly get good mileage out of it.
Boost Rush mode is another awesome mode, which makes you pick various level packs to complete, whether you need to rely on baby Yoshis, Mario's Squirrel Suit, or just plain old platforming. In these levels, you're trying to get the best time, however the levels scroll automatically, and they move faster as you pick up more coins. Dying results in a decrease in speed, which makes it an exercise in both survival and some intense coin collecting. Lastly Coin Battle mode is a more multiplayer focused mode in which four players are competing to get the most coins.
Multiplayer, sadly, makes a return. Honestly, this is the one thing I've hated since the Wii version, and even the 3DS version of New Super Mario Bros. 2. The frustration you'll experience from constantly hopping on one another, causing your friends to die or vice versa, will undoubtedly make you want to quit very early on. Tack on the fact that four people can play together, with an added fifth playing on the gamepad, placing down various colored blocks that allow players to reach otherwise hard to reach areas, you have a complete mess on the screen, that no matter how hardcore or pro player you are, you won't be able to find your footing.
Mario in HD looks pretty stunning. It's nowhere near as nice as Nintendo Land graphically speaking. The beautiful textures we saw in Nintendo Land just aren't present here, and makes all the objects on screen look rather bland. With that said though, it still is Mario in HD, and seeing him on a big screen, looking crisp and sharp is awesome.
My biggest disappointment, and once again I have to allude to Nintendo Land, is the music. It's literally the same old music we've heard during every single NSMB game, and it's certainly starting to sound old. Nintendo Land took classic songs, reorchestrated them, remixed them, made the old sound new again. Mario U just does the bare minimum, if that, and tries to get away with it, and that's not cool.
If you picked up your shiny new Wii U console this Holiday season, then New Super Mario Bros. U should certainly be a part of your library. It does a lot of things right, and both fans of old school platforming, and those looking for something innovative from the series will find exactly that. Plus, seeing Mario in HD for the first time on your big screen is certainly a treat.