Review by Anime Fangirl

"A girl can only handle so much disappointment..."

I'll spare you the history lesson. We all know that it has been far too long since a 2D Mario platformer has appeared on a home console (18 years, to be precise!). And while I had my fair share of fun with New Super Mario Bros. on the DS, I'll be the first to admit that it didn't live up to expectations. So for the past few months I've been keeping a close eye on this game, eager to see if Nintendo would iron out the flaws and create another classic Mario title.

Is New Super Mario Bros. Wii the glorious return to form that everyone was hoping for? Sadly, no. There are the foundations of a seemingly competent platformer here, but they are marred by silly design choices, buckets of missed opportunity, and a lack of innovation.

Story: N/A

I don't particularly place much relevance on story in a Mario game, and I suppose what's here works well enough. Peach is celebrating her birthday with Mario and Luigi at her castle, when suddenly she is presented with an enormous cake. And it sure looks delicious. But before the plumbers have a chance to sample it, the Koopa Kids jump out, grab Peach, and fly away on their airship (my nostalgia senses are tingling!). So Mario must once again trudge through the Mushroom Kingdom and rescue her sorry ass from the clutches of Bowser.

Yeah, it's not going to win away awards for narrative brilliance, but would we have it any other way?

Gameplay: 6/10

For the most part, the classic sidescrolling formula has been left intact. Your goal is to run and jump to the end of each level, collecting coins and navigating all sorts of obstacles along the way. The set-up is identical to the DS game -- there are 8 worlds in total which consist of roughly 6 levels apiece. And each world has 2 castles; one at the midway point and one at the end. And unfortunately, just like the DS game, you can only save your game after you have completed one of these castles (although Nintendo haven't been quite so evil this time and included a nice quick-save feature).

The level design is very similar to the DS version. Meaning, it's not very challenging at all. I've seen a few people on the message boards liken the difficulty of this game to Super Mario Bros. 3 and Super Mario World, and I can't help but scratch my head in confusion and wonder if they've played the same game I have. Abilities such as the spin jump make precision platforming much easier, and falling down a pit no longer means instant death as most of the time you can just wall jump your way out. Sure, there are a few tricky parts in the later worlds, but the game is so generous with the 1-ups and power-ups that it never really becomes problematic.

The power-ups in this game are severely lacking to say the least. And before you ask, no; the Tanooki Suit is not in this game – the wait for its magnificent return must unfortunately continue. Other fan favorites from Super Mario Bros. 3, such as the handy Frog Suit and mighty Hammer Suit, are also sadly not present. Nintendo have even removed some power-ups from the DS version, although I can't say I'm all that sad to see some of them go (hello, Mega Mushroom).

Instead, there are a grand total of 3 new additions – the Propeller Suit, the Penguin Suit, and the Ice Flower. The Propeller Suit, as the name suggests, gives Mario the ability to launch himself into the air. The Penguin Suit, however, rather oddly makes the Ice Flower completely redundant. Both give you the ability to freeze enemies, yet the Penguin Suit can swim better and lets you slide around on your belly. So what exactly was the point of including the Ice Flower again?

But hey, at least we have Yoshi! Indeed, Yoshi, the lovable dinosaur/turtle/thing makes his long awaited return in a 2D Mario platformer. And he controls just how you'd expect, complete with his signature flutter jump and the ability to gobble up enemies. But don't get too excited – Yoshi is only in around 5 levels in the entire game. And the worst part? Unlike Super Mario World, you don't even get to keep him after beating a level. I can't help but find it humorous that a character who features so prominently on the boxart makes hardly any appearances. It almost seems like they just threw him at the last minute to bag a couple of extra sales (oh, wait, that's exactly what they did). Sorry, Yoshi fans -- Nintendo hates you!

More positively, it's nice to see that the world maps have been spruced up a little bit since the DS game. Visually, they are much more impressive, and they are filled with all sorts of extras such as alternate routes, ghost houses, and those elusive cannons. However, I couldn't help but notice that the worlds have the exact same themes as the DS game. If you were hoping to see the return of fan favorites such as giant world or pipe world, or perhaps some brand new worlds entirely (after all, isn't that sort of the point of creating new games?), you're very much out of luck.

So what about the multiplayer? Indisputably the focus of the game, at least from a marketing perspective, 4-player Mario is finally a reality. If I had to sum it up in a single word, I think the most fitting would be “chaotic”. No, really, it's a lot of fun. Depending on who you play with, it can be dangerously competitive or blissfully co-operative. You will laugh, you will scream, and you will probably cry.

However, it soon becomes apparent that some of the levels simply weren't designed with 4 different players in mind, especially when you reach the later worlds. You will often find your partners resorting to bubble abuse (press A at any time and you can summon the same bubble that you appear in when you die) – after all, only one person has to do the platforming while the other three can float safely in their bubbles, waiting to be brought back into play. It's not quite as balanced as I'd have liked. And for some strange reason, the game will annoyingly pause the action for a second every time a player dies or grabs a power-up. Not only does considerably slow down the pace, but it can seriously mess up your timing, which, in a platformer, is crucial.

Unless you have been living in a cave for the last six months, you will have no doubt heard all of the complaining about players 3 and 4 having to play as two generic, nameless toads. WHY did Nintendo pass up the perfect opportunity to throwback Doki Doki Panic and give us Mario, Luigi, Peach, and Toad? Or what about a crazy twist with Wario and Waluigi? Or, hell, even just regular Toad and Toadette would have been better. And it wouldn't even be so bad if you could unlock more characters after completing the game or something. But no, we just get two generic, nameless toads. Laziness doesn't even begin to describe it.

And for some bizarre, nonsensical, utterly inane reason, this game does not have online. Seriously now, it's 2009, it's Nintendo's biggest game of the year, their perfect chance to push online for their system… and they blow it. I just don't understand why Nintendo seem so content with being stuck in the past, offering nothing but an absolute barebones experience. Does this game NEED online? No, but would it benefit from it? Absolutely, and it's a colossal missed opportunity.

Controls: 5/10

Want to spin jump? Waggle. Want to launch yourself into the air with the Propeller Suit? Waggle. Want to pick up a frozen enemy? Yeah, you guessed it: waggle waggle waggle. You should also be prepared to do lots of tilting to control various gimmicky platforms. To be fair, the motion controls are quite subtle and never really become too much of a hindrance (although I have died once or twice thanks to the Propeller Suit responding too late!), but you can't help feeling that it's all just… well, incredibly unnecessary.

Unlike Super Mario Galaxy, the motion controls don't actually enhance the experience, and it seems that Nintendo included them not because they should, but simply because they could. It's something you might expect from a launch title, not a major release 3 years down the line. And unfortunately, it's not optional, as there is no classic controller support for some absurd reason. So this leaves you with the default control scheme of the Wii remote on it's side (and if you have Wii Motion Plus, this is particularly uncomfortable), or the alternative of the Wii remote + nunchuck, which is clunky at best.

Graphics: 5/10

You'd be forgiven for thinking that this looks like a slightly upgraded version of the DS game. Because, well, that's pretty much exactly what it is. The textures have been bumped up in resolution, character models are slightly more refined, and the animation is a lot smoother. But essentially, it looks the same, and it's just overwhelmingly bland.

It's frustrating because with a little more effort this game could have looked legitimately good. This Wii isn't a powerhouse, but it's certainly much more capable than this. Remember those stunning 2D sections in Super Mario Galaxy? Yeah, now imagine a whole game looking like that. Or better yet, Nintendo could have gone down the same route as Wario Land: Shake It! and ditched the generic 3D character models for some beautiful 2D sprites

Music: 3/10

Okay, what the hell happened. I mean, seriously Nintendo? Seriously? After the abysmal soundtrack in the DS version, I thought you would have upped your game, but I guess not. Equally lacking in quality and originality, pretty much every song is completely bland and forgettable – the few exceptions being the new title screen music and the castle theme (which is admittedly badass). Also, the main theme has returned from the DS version for another assault on your ears, and now every song seems to have that horribly annoying “BAH BAH” mixed into it (JUST MAKE IT STOP, PLEASE). It's truly tragic because the Mario series has produced some of the most iconic themes in gaming. Oh, how the standards have fallen.

Sound effects are nice and clear, although it appears that Mario has finally snapped and cut out Yoshi's vocal chords. I always knew it was only a matter of time…

Replay Value: 6/10

Collecting all of the Star Coins will extend your playtime by a couple of hours, and unlike the DS game, they're actually fairly difficult to obtain this time. They also serve a purpose beyond mere bragging rights, as you can use them to unlock numerous hint movies at Peach's Castle. Initially, I wasn't too thrilled with the prospect, but these movies are actually pretty useful as they can demonstrate the best way to complete a level, or point out various tricks you probably haven't thought of (such as methods to obtain infinite 1-ups). It's a nice little extra.

But, once again, the lack of online really hurts. Your friends will eventually get bored of multiplayer, or they might not always be around to play, and it would have been nice to have the ability to jump online in these instances. This is a game that could have really benefited from that sort of longevity, as there isn't exactly a lot of meat to the game as things stand.

The minigames from the DS version have also axed. Not really surprising, considering they were just there to show off the capabilities of the DS, but they were still a fun little distraction.

Conclusion

I find myself confused. This is by no means a terrible game, and there is fun to be had here if you're willing to take the plunge. But it's impossible to shake the feeling that this game could have been so much better if Nintendo just went that extra mile and really put some effort into it. They played it safe with this one and offered the bare minimum, and maybe for some that's enough. But for everyone not looking for New Super Mario Bros. version 1.5, and instead a genuine sequel which can proudly stand alongside Super Mario Bros. 3 and Super Mario World, you will only find disappointment here.


Reviewer's Score: 5/10 | Originally Posted: 11/19/09, Updated 11/23/09

Game Release: New Super Mario Bros. Wii (US, 11/15/09)


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