Review by NewMoonShadow

"A good game that plays the Nostalgia Card way too often..."

New Super Mario Bros. Wii: A good game that plays the Nostalgia Card way too often...

Presentation: 6

The fact that most of the graphics are ripped polygon-for-polygon from a DS title doesn't bother me nearly as much as the fact that they show no creative design to speak of (Again, from a COMPLETELY GRAPHICAL perspective. I'll get to level design later). I played through this game pretty much looking at every platform and enemy, thinking to myself “wow, that's in here too?” because virtually everything in it is a 3D version of an enemy from a previous game… mostly Super Mario Bros. 3, which I'm pretty sure had every single enemy ripped from it and translated into 3D. Even Big Boss Bass and those turtle-things that spit out spiked balls and threw them at you have returned for the first time since their SMB 3 debut. This wouldn't be so bad except… this is all that populates the game.

These enemies are interpreted as precisely as possible from their original games, which all had conflicting styles, resulting in the enemies looking like a mish-mash of different styles, colorings, and techniques rather than a cohesive whole. The spiny wire-wanderer things that looked okay in 2D with two frames of animation haven't been updated at all. When I first saw them I thought they were 2D until I killed one and it started spinning. Why would you make a 3D model in a game like this with 2 “frames of animation” (for lack of a better term)? Nostalgia, obviously, but it just doesn't look right, which is the case with many enemies. They're designed to look like they used to look rather than being updated to the current style to match everything else. It's strikingly inconsistent. Piranha Plants just look weird somehow… I'm not sure how, it's like they're just brighter than everything else, and they animate just like they did in Mario 64, which makes them the most frenetic thing in the entire game.

The general graphic quality is okay for a DS (Not necessarily a Wii) title with some cute animation details (though it's hard to feel threatened by things that keep dancing to the background music), but I can't give it high marks for design since little-to-no design went into the game aside from that which was provided by previous entries in the series. Even Megaman 9 made new sprites for new regular enemies to fit the look and feel of the new levels, this game doesn't bother designing anything except the new suits. The graphics are almost as much of a graphical remake as games like “Bionic Commando: Rearmed” or “Turtles in Time Re-Shelled”, just with the levels rearranged.

Audio: 9

It's hard to argue with the music of a Mario title, and this one is no exception. The only strike against it I can find is that they continue to use digitized samples, some of which were ripped directly from previous, less-powerful entries in the series, instead of actual instruments. Hearing the “Bah bah bah, bah-bah bah” sound effect from Super Mario 64 play every so often makes my ears sad. It was good for its time, but that was on a cartridge with VERY limited sound capabilities, how about taking advantage of your CD medium, guys?

Gameplay: 7

Alright… let's get down to it. If you've played a previous entry in the 2D Mario series, you've played this game. Period. I could probably just leave off the review of the gameplay right here and that would sum the whole thing up, but I think I'd like to say a little more than that.

Off the bat, the level designs are pretty good. Hidden entrances aren't out in the open and instantly recognizable, but nor are they so well hidden that someone looking for them will never see them. Subtle changes in the textures of the walls will clue you in that they're there, but if you're rushing you'll never notice them. This sort of sharp level design choice permeates the game, resulting in an experience that does a good job of capturing the feeling of the classic 2D Mario titles. Some of the challenges presented later on do a decent job of challenging you as well, from darkened waterways illuminated only by Jellyfish (???) to lava waves that come up over the land at set intervals, the game's level design is top notch… but this doesn't mean the game isn't without its problems.

First of all, despite the item-system implemented with the game, it's pretty clear the game was designed the same way Galaxy was, so that each level corresponds to a different power-up. Within each level, you're likely to only find one Power-up in every item box (Barring Mushrooms). You pretty much only find Ice Flowers or Penguin Suits in the entire Ice World, for instance. It's almost enough to make you wonder why they bothered with the item system. Also Yoshi… poor Yoshi… despite being on the cover of the box as an advertisement, is only available on a tiny handful of levels before he's taken away at the end of that level. There should be a law against advertising something and then forcing you to go without it for 95% of the game.

And then you have the multiplayer, a frustrating mess of a system that's only fun because you're playing with someone, and this is something that would be true for virtually any multiplayer game you can think of, and I can think of a LOT of multiplayer games more fun than this one. People have said the game is way harder in multiplayer than in single-player, and this is why. Unless you enjoy dooming one-another on hairpin jumps by either bumping into one-another and messing up your momentum or accidentally jumping on one-another's head sending them hurtling into a bottomless pit, there's really nothing here that isn't done better in other multiplayer games. The levels and mechanics simply aren't designed for multiple players, the only concession to multiplayer play is that multiple items pop out of item boxes. In fact there are Toad-saving missions that are disabled during multiplayer, meaning you miss out on opportunities to get more lives and powerups (As if you'll need more lives, by the end I had 70+).

Overall, probably the biggest strike against the game is something that Mario games used to excel at… it doesn't innovate at all. It plays it so safe you'd think it was made in the 80's with some unheard of supertechnology far beyond 8-Bit.

“But, but NewMoon, it has multiplayer, which is totally innovative for a Mario game!”

Let's think about this phrase for a moment… “Innovative for a Mario game”. Does anyone else remember a time when everything Mario did innovated the industry as a whole? He single-handedly created both the 2D and 3D Platformer genres, even as recently as Galaxy he at least did SOMETHING original with gravity-based planetoid hopping, and here his big innovation is something that's been done since the 80's. For crying out loud, there were 4-player NES games if you had a multitap adaptor. Catching up to modern standards after 20 years of refusing to change is not “innovating”, even within the confines of that unchanging series.

The game is fun, in single-player, which is why the score is as high as it is, but outside of a handful of tilt-control gimmicks and a ramped up difficulty you'd might as well stick with New Super Mario Bros. DS. No new enemies, 2 new powerups, and a multiplayer mode that's equal parts amusing and frustrating unless you enjoy screwing each other over, which is actually something the developers realized because the advertisements actually mention “competing”, which though I haven't really tried it, can't possibly be as bad as trying to actually cooperate to the end of a level.

Story: 2

I've said it before and I'll say it again, Mario does not get a free pass into having no story just because he's Mario, okay? I don't care if it's “tradition”, I don't care if you think it wouldn't “fit”, Mario's refusal to do anything besides “save the princess” is seriously grating on my nerves now. Mario Galaxy may not have had a “narrative” to speak of for most of the game, but framing it all around the Star Festival and Rosalina's past gave the player some extra context for the events of the game, something to tie it all together. This is just a cop-out. A pure unadulterated cop-out. There are a few scenes at the beginning and end that can be amusing, and little bits of comedy randomly inserted between (mostly revolving around Bowser Jr., Nintendo's newest and worst star), but overall it's just… nothing. Even Super Mario Bros. 3 was more involved than this, at least that involved a takeover of multiple kingdoms and the restoration of their kings. This has nothing, at all.

Everyone was so excited about the return of the Koopalings only to find that they have all the personality of a Piranha Plant. What a waste of an opportunity.

Features: 3

If you collect all the Star Coins, you unlock special levels! Beat those and you get… NOTHING! No bonuses! At all! WTF Nintendo? No new characters, no new powerups, not even a change in graphics like Super Mario World had, or nearly infinite P-Wings like Super Mario Bros. 3. At LEAST give us 99 of each existing powerup on future playthroughs (apparently it lets you unlock the toad houses forever… they make you work tediously for your items). The only thing you can unlock with the Star Coins aside from some extra stages is the ability to watch “Super Skills” videos of the programmers doing awesome things in the game. Great, I get to unlock the ability to watch someone else play the game. What a wonderful idea. I guess this shows what the programmers were doing when they could have been making Peach unlockable, goofing off playing their game.

I suppose you DO at least unlock the ability to save any time on the map screen, which should have been that way in the FIRST PLACE.

Oh yeah, and if you reach 99 lives, Mario takes his hat off…….. yeah.

Overall: 7 (Not an average)

The game tries so hard to feed the nostalgia centers of the brain, I doubt those gamers who grew up in the N64 era or beyond will really be able to get as into it as those with fond memories of Mario's 8 and 16 bit outings. I know I've said a lot of negative things about it here, but as long as you stick to the single-player and expect nothing but classic Mario platforming, it actually is a really fun platformer, even if it is a little too heavy-handed with the nostalgia card and has no story to speak of. It's good

For a Wii game.

Reviewer's Rating:   3.5 - Good

Originally Posted: 12/03/09

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

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