Review: It's a me! Mario in 2D!
Ever since Nintendo introduced the Wii Remote and its "NES style" button layout, gamers have been speculating that developers would one day create new games for the Wii that would have felt right at home on the NES. And between Mega Man 9, Contra ReBirth, Punch-Out!!
and a whole host of others, game publishers have responded to this call for "neo retro" games. Even Mario has gotten into the act with New Super Mario Bros. Wii
, the first side-scrolling Mario game (on a home console) in 18 years.
Rather than just upscale Mario's last adventure, New Super Mario Bros.
, Nintendo has made a Mario game that is both a new entry in the classic side-scrolling series and a game that was designed with the Wii in mind. They've done this by making New Super Mario Bros. Wii the first truly multiplayer Mario game ever.
Four players (Mario, Luigi and two Toads) can crowd around one TV and attempt to rescue the Princess as a team or as competitors. Players can interact with each other at any time, from picking up another player to throw them at an enemy to using a another player's head as a springboard to get a better jump. The motion of the characters is where the game's multiplayer component really makes itself known as Mario doesn't jump as high or move as fast as he did in Super Mario Bros. 3
or Super Mario World
. But this was done intentionally by Nintendo to make the game better for cooperative multiplayer. To get the most out of NSMBWii, players will have to work together. It's very exciting to see in a Mario game.
But that's not to say that NSMBWii has left the classic 2D trappings of the Super Mario series behind. The game fits in well as a sort of hybrid of SMB3 and SMW while using the Wii Remote (and a handful of new suits) to bring some changes to the formula. NSMBWii uses the tilt functions of the Wii Remote throughout the game. For example, shaking the Wii Remote after Mario has obtained the Propeller Suit will cause him to rocket up to the sky. In other levels, Mario will be required to tilt platforms or spotlights. This is performed by tilting the remote in your hand and holding it in place while you move Mario with the control pad.
On the one hand, the tilt controls are an ingenious way to add functionality to what's basically an NES controller. On the other hand, some of the tilt functions (such as holding 1 and shaking the remote to pick up frozen enemies) would have been better off as a simple button press (the Z trigger goes unused in the game). In fact, it would have been very easy to remap all of the controls to button presses on the Classic Controller. Would the game have lost something without the tilt controls? Perhaps, but Nintendo has never liked giving gamers the ability to remap a game's controls and the lack of that option is frustrating.
New Super Mario Bros. Wii also introduces a new tutorial system dubbed the "Super Guide" to video games. Much has been made of the Super Guide's ability to play the game for you, and it's true, if you lose a life eight times in a level, hitting the green Super Guide block will call Luigi in to show you how its done. But the Super Guide also includes unlockable videos depicting how to find some of the game's secrets or how to do special tricks like kicking a Koopa for unlimited lives. The Super Guide is really a powerful new option for games and its implementation in NSMBWii (that is, its completely optional) is perfect.
For all of the game's new tilt controls, Super Guides and multiplayer options, it's still a Mario game at its core. The first few levels are a bit slow, but the castle in World 1 changes everything. All of the lava... the castle theme music... the grinding gears... the joy of a new sidescrolling Mario game all came rushing back to me. My critical eye disappeared and I was eight years old again. After that, I began looking forward to each new red circle on the map and wondering what new (or classic) treasures each level would bring.
And that curiosity led me to witness the return of many of Mario's greatest hits to the series. For example, the airships are back (and the Koopalings to go with them). There's a dusty desert world. There are underground caves. There's a world in the clouds. There's a glittering ice-covered world. All very familiar locations, but this is also the next step for Mario games. After Super Mario World (which I contend is the pinnacle of video games), Mario had to undertake new adventures in 3D and in the various spin-off games to make his return to 2D all the more sweet. And this return is beautifully rendered in a style that is both classic in its presentation and modern looking thanks to its eye-popping color and vibrancy.
Believe it or not, New Super Mario Bros. Wii is even loaded with replayability. In addition to the single-player/co-op divide, Nintendo has packed a super secret ninth World into the game that can only be accessed by finding the ever elusive Star Coins (three of which appear in every level). After giving Bowser his annual dip in a lava pit, I've put just as time into the game looking for these special coins and I'm loving every minute of it.
The game's world is even built to march to the music. Like an old Looney Tunes cartoon, characters move with the music (which is a mixture of remixed themes from past games and a few new tunes). Koopa Troopas, Yoshi, even stray mushrooms will get a little hop in their step when the music hits the right note.
Much like you'll be doing as you play this fantastic new entry in Mario's 2D odyssey.