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I can't really speak for NSMB the original on DS, but after playing through NSMBWii a bit by myself and with some friends, I honestly don't get the hate. Despite its low production values with the laughable visuals and sound design, its got to be one of the more fun 2D platformers I've played in recent time. I've played through Kirby's RTDL, Epic Yarn, DKCR, Bionic Commando: Rearmed, Rayman Origins, and more this gen, and the game has this flow to it that only DK and Rayman come close to perfecting. The fact that each and every level has its own gimmick to it, the little meta-games they hide in levels such as infinite one-ups, etc all really make it stand out from the crowd.
Donkey Kong Country Returns is a beautiful game, and Rayman Origins' art style is simply unprecedented, but I feel that the art in said games clouds people's view of what really matters in a 2D platformer, and that's the level design. They are both marvelous games and among the best 2D platformers I've played recently, if not ever, but despite this I feel that if the NSMB series were given a new coat of paint people would feel the same.
Of course it will, it's gonna go for 10 million at least.
However, when it comes to the fanbase, I feel like everyone is too caught up in the production values and can't see that the level design is what truly makes it a great game. The pine for realistic visuals, more characters, etc mean nothing in the long run if the game isn't all that hot, and not to make excuses but in the end I feel that if Nintendo accomplish what matters most (making a solid platformer with fun levels and good pacing) then I can't complain.
I think the games are fine but they need more of a story and premise to frame them. The stories have never been deep but they were enough to make each game distinct (except the Japanese SMB2), and plus there's usually some new gameplay element that really pervades the whole game. I suppose NSMBWii covers that somewhat with the four player co-op, but it still doesn't feel like it's quite enough.
People eat up Mario like candy. Watch this game beat Rayman Legends in sales.
A Mario sports game would probably beat Rayman Legends in sales, honestly. As great as the Rayman revival has been critically, Mario's name alone prints money.
Personally, I do believe that NSMBW is a much better game than the DS version. Far from a perfect game, mind you, but it has better stage design, much more challenge, way more secret content, and far better power-ups. But lack of innovation still caused me to lose interest anyway.
The problem is, Mario used to be a different game every time it came out. There were common themes (Reach the end of a level, collect stars, Bowser kidnapping Peach, etc.), but the music, settings, gameplay and art style would always change, making it a fresh experience.
Now we have 4 games that look alike, and 2 Galaxies (so far). It's troubling for long-time Mario fans.
"The best things in life must be taken by force!" ~Captain Khan