With Super Mario Galaxy, my interest in Nintendo’s classic series started to wane. I just didn’t see how the game could get much better. It was starting to feel so repetitive. Soon after clearing Super Mario Galaxy, I wasn’t obsessive about finding every last secret. But two years later, I wandered into Best Buy. That’s where I would find new excitement for the franchise. On display was the New Super Mario Bros Wii. The game went retro. It’s the traditional 2D style controls, tempered with modern graphics. Oh, and four people can play at the same time. Those seemingly minor additions added life to a 24 year old game.
Around the peak of the Christmas shopping season, I picked up New Super Mario Bros Wii. I think it was the last available copy in the store. (I picked up the game in Toys R Us.) I didn’t like the long name of the game, but that was to be expected. Nintendo has been re-releasing what is essentially the same game. I remember Super Mario All Stars on the Super Nintendo and Super Mario Deluxe on the Game Boy Color
You know it’s a Mario game because you are forced to pick Mario. This isn’t Super Luigi Bros. or Super Princess Peach. That’s unfortunate, because an improved character selection could have added more life to the game. While there are four different playable characters, they’re pretty much the same. It’s not like Super Mario Bros 2, where the Princess would float or where Luigi could jump higher.
I’m surprised that I enjoyed this game so much, when there’s so much to complain about. One of my biggest gripes is with the graphics. There were glitches! In the background, especially on the first world, there would be stray pixels. On the world selection map, I could see some polygon flicker. This was shocking. I’m used to Mario games that were highly polished. It made me wonder if there was something wrong with my Wii, but my other games play flawlessly.
Also, the story is lame. OK, so the princess is captured again… whatever… but I couldn’t skip it. Hey Nintendo, if you don’t want to change the story, I can understand that. It’s worked for almost a quarter of a century. But really, I don’t need to see the Koopalings jump out of a giant cake… over and over again.
I’m not done complaining yet, but I probably should focus on the positives. This game is adorable. The game is bright and colorful. Even your enemies seem almost friendly. Sometimes I feel bad for stomping on them, especially when they’re bopping to the background music. The sounds are familiar, reminiscent of older games. It’s not all cutesy though. The boss levels are a bit spooky… especially the last one. I don’t want to ruin any endings, but wow… AMAZING! That last battle against Koopa was impressive. The music and the graphics were superb.
The play control is pretty good. I liked the familiar sense of movement. With more than two decades of Mario experience, I was wall-kicking, jumping, flying and swimming all over the place. Although, some things felt awkward. I didn’t like having to shake the controller in order to fly. Picking things up can be a problem too. I also had the option to play with the Nunchuck, but that control mode was too confusing for me. The motion sensing parts of the game felt tacked-on and unnatural, but it wasn’t enough to disturb the game overall. My only real complaint is with a lack of Wiimotes. I only have two. My Gamecube controller could not be used with the game. If you want to play with your friends, finding enough Wiimotes might be a problem. While the Wiimote features are somewhat interesting, such as directing a search light on a raft, I think I would have preferred legacy controller support.
Playing with your friends is what makes this great Mario game. It’s the cooperative play that creates memorable experiences. My office echoed with hysterical laughter when I would pick up and throw my teammates. You can also command Yoshi to eat your allies. This technique can have tactical advantages, or it can be really funny. But unfortunately, the multiplayer entertainment is short lived. For one, I’m not a kid anymore. It’s not like my friends are saying, “Hey mom, I’m going over to Mike’s house to play Mario.” The kids that grew up with Mario are having kids of their own. Most of my gaming buddies are online, a place Super Mario does not go. Because of this limitation, I haven’t enjoyed a four-player game, or a multiplayer session lasting long enough to beat the game.
While I didn’t find the game to be too difficult, but multiplayer is just not too inviting. The fun lasts until world 1-3. But once Yoshi goes away, so does the fun. You either go to the first vertical castle, which is very difficult for a beginner, or you can warp to 5-1… also very difficult for a beginner. Either way, that’s when I start seeing attention spans wandering and teammates leaving. There’s also the boy-in-the-bubble syndrome. In multiplayer mode, you can be invincible by hiding in your bubble. By pressing “A” you can sit back and let someone else do all the work. It’s great for getting your friends past the tough spots, but it creates an inferiority complex. Do you want to play the game or do you want to watch someone else play it for you?
Nintendo must think it’s the latter, because there’s an extensive video library and a Super Guide mode. If you’re having trouble with a level, you can watch Luigi show you how to do it. There are Super Skills videos that were amazing. It makes Mario look less like a pudgy plumber and more like an elite ninja. The silly part is needing coins to watch the movies. You can simply save your game… watch the videos… reset… and get back your coins. Oh, and as for the Super Guide, I don’t think you don’t want that Green Block to appear. If you die too many times on one level, the Super Guide will appear. If that happens, you won’t be able to get the sparkly stars.
I picked up New Super Mario Bros. Wii with Wii Fit Plus. In retrospect, it seems like there should be a New Super Mario Bros Wii Plus. Here’s a list of features that I think it should have…
- Princess as a selectable character, because girls can play video games too
- Gamecube controller mode
- Yoshi on every map, not just rare appearances
- Mario can look up and throw shells upwards
- Big world – The giant centipedes were cool, but a whole world should be like that.
- Online multiplayer
- Fix the graphical glitches
But even with so many problems, I enjoyed New Super Mario Bros. Wii more than Super Mario Galaxy. This time around, I played until I completed everything… all star coins and five sparkly stars! What did I get for all that effort? Nothing special… just a message that said, “You’ve completed everything in New Super Mario Bros. Wii!” That was a lackluster ending. Although, after defeating Koopa, experiencing the scrolling credits was a real treat. I don’t write that sarcastically. You can smash the ending credits. It’s fun!