Genre: Arcade Developer: Nintendo Publisher: Nintendo Classification: G Release Date: 1st Dec 2012 Platforms:
Average of 4 Ratings
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Nintendo has been churning out regular Mario platformers since the mid 2000s, with many fans (and parents of younger fans) barely able to draw breath before digging into their pockets to purchase the newest iteration.
From the moment it was announced, New Super Mario Bros U was met by grumbles and raised eyebrows from Nintendo fans whoíd had their fill of two dimensional Mario games.
NSMBU was viewed as just another Mario platformer. The vocal minority cried blood when it became clear the debut Wii U Mario game wasnít in the same vain as Mario Galaxy. A sequel to Galaxy would have been a worrying omen for the Wii U. Iíll explain why.
We are living in the golden age of two dimensional gaming thanks in part to the commercial and critical success of New Super Mario Bros DS. The follow up was 2009ís NSMB which played a major role in revitalising the Wii.
In itís bright red box and promising four-player Mario fun, NSMB Wii was a system seller. While Mario Galaxy was a glorious proof of concept and arguably fulfilled the promise Mario Sunshine and Mario 64 failed to deliver, it didnít achieve the same level of success as itís more accessible sibling.
NSMB Wii proved multiplayer platformers could work. More over, Ďparty-gamesí associated with the Wii could offer something deeper than a collection of mini-games. Nintendo had been quietly working towards a multiplayer Mario platformer that would offer an accessible, collaborative and competitive multiplayer experience. In many ways, New Super Mario Bros Wii was the apex of the Wii gaming experience.
In order to succeed as the new family console, the Wii U needs to prove it can build upon this foundation to deliver a multiplayer experience that surpasses its predecessor. The success of NSMBU will dictate whether the Wii U lives in the loungeroom or the bedroom.
Like 2009ís New Super Mario Bros, NSMBU reintroduces players to collaborative and combative multiplayer - a mechanic toyed with in earlier Nintendo outings (Rareís Donkey Kong Country series). NSMBU prompts a collaborative approach, encouraging players to work together. To encourage this, players are dropped into elaborate environments that require teamwork and significantly more thought than a traditional left-to-right platformer. This isnít your dadís Mario game.
Make no mistake, NSMBU is challenging, demanding a degree of patience and fidelity more commonly associated with indie platformers. While the difficulty curve is steep, it provides a feeling of satisfaction I didn't get from the recent DS offerings.
The attention to detail for individual levels goes beyond what weíve seen before in 2D Mario platformers. Of particular note is one level which evokes Impressionist painting, adding Monet to the Mushroom Kingdom. Itís an incredible level of detail for what amounts to a few minutes of gameplay, but I love that they took the time to create such an intricate space. High definition Mario looks impressive.
NSMBU is the first Mario platformer to focus on building an online community.
At the start screen there is a date and firmware/version stamp, presumably indicating there will be updates for my Mario platformer. Welcome to the future, Nintendo. NSMBU uses spotpass to track the progress of the player, and also provides tools to share experiences with the community by posting notes displayed on the overworld hub. This type of asymmetric multiplayer experience is the new black, and notes often help provide solutions for troublesome levels.
To help players tackle particularly difficult levels, NSMBU offers an AI controlled character to complete the level in your place, triggered by frequent deaths. The AI controlled character takes the simplest path available through the level. Once the the level is complete, players have the option of proceeding to the next area or replaying the level with their new insight.
There is no shame in a little help from the AI in NSMBU.
A variety of modes are available including story mode (playable with 1 to 5 players) as well as ĎPlay with Miií, a range of short and sharp mini-games. When playing single player story mode, players can use the GamePad, however for multiplayer Mario and his friends can only be controlled using Wiimotes. There's no Pro controller support - this is disappointing and hopefully is something that could be added in future updates. On the GamePad, NSMBU is the prettiest Mario game Iíve seen since Yoshiís Island. This is a game that has been made with a lot of love.
Mario games are all about the power ups, and NSMBU has a good mixture of the new and the familiar. The newest offering is the Flying Squirrel suit which melds the best of the racoon suit with the yellow cape from Super Mario World. The obligatory mushrooms are back as well as fire and ice flowers. The ice flowers provide players with the ability to momentarily freeze enemies that can then be used to create temporary platforms. Each power up offers players a different way to interact with the environment and can help solve difficult levels.
Yoshi features sparingly in NSMBU, though I was disappointed to see he could no longer process gobbled enemies into eggs for ranged attacks. Yoshiís limited appearances are made up for a variety of Baby Yoshis. These miniaturised milk-drunk dinosaurs are dotted about the overworld map and can be collected by the player to wield as weapons. Each type of Baby Yoshi has a unique ability corresponding to colour, for instance pink dinosaurs swell up like a weather balloon, allowing the player to access areas out of reach. Blue dinosaurs burp bubbles creating temporary platforms.
Combining ridable Yoshis, powerups, Baby Yoshis, bright and beautiful visual with level design that encourages collaboration, NSMBU succeeds in offering a multiplayer experience that surpasses NSMB Wii. NSMBU lays a foundation for more Mario games on the Wii U, successfully blending a single player and multiplayer experience to validate the existence of the GamePad.
Every new Mario game is someone's first, and while many may cry foul at yet another 2D Mario platformer, Nintendo are continuing the tradition introducing new fans while acknowledging their fanbase.
Remember Ristar, Bubsy, Gex and Titus the Fox? These are just some of the casualties of consecutive generations where publishers sought to create a mascot to front a franchise. While these forgotten characters remain buried at the bottom of the proverbial videogame back garden, Mario continues to feature prominently in video game culture and in critically and commercially acclaimed games,
NSMBU transcends traditional 2D platforming experiences because it is much more than the sum of their parts. As a multiplayer scrolling platformer, NSMBU successfully ad libs from a well worn Mario script to produce an evolution of the 2D platformer and importantly, a step forward for quality multiplayer games on the Wii U.