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Which Console Did You Buy/Receive Over The Holidays?

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Game Profile
GENRE: Platformer
PLAYERS:   1-2
May 15, 2006

Super Mario Maker

Super Mario Bros. 3DS

Super Mario All-Stars

Super Mario Galaxy 2

New Super Mario Bros. Wii

More in this Series
 Written by Chris Reiter  on July 06, 2006

Review: Traveling back in time doesn't always include making out with the hot version of your mom -- sometimes it's better.

1981: Jumpman battles the princess-stealing, barrel-flinging ape Donkey Kong. Jumpman dies. 1985: Jumpman is reincarnated into Mario. Mario isn't an only child any longer. Mario gains a firmly established reptilian arch-nemesis. Princess Toadstool is smuggled around castles a lot like another white substance. Hmm... 1996: Just over a decade after the initial appearance of the side-scrolling, platforming, 2D Mario original, this Italian stallion is modeled into 3D for the first time. So he really was fat all along! 2006: Ten years later, Mario in his old age has trouble getting any jump action. Plenty of RPGs, party games, and sports titles, though. The first official 2D Mario since 1991's Super Mario World launches as New Super Mario Bros. Old-school gaming is back in a very ?New' way.

The most recognizable gaming figure is back. We already know the details about Mario -- the sportsman, the racer, the role-playing hero, but first and most importantly the platform superstar. It's been a long time coming since Mario's starred in a brand-new platform title that reinvents the series' formula, and even longer since he's been in one that sizes him up for a 2D quest. New Super Mario Bros., as generic as the name may sound, provides DS players with a retrofitted look that's as refreshing as it is entertaining. In another tale about a stolen Peach, Bowser Jr. is the maniacal mastermind this time to have plucked the forbidden fruit from its garden in the Mushroom Kingdom. This is Mario to the rescue once more, out to restore peace and happiness across the land by rising to the challenge throughout several differentially dangerous worlds.

Likened to all past Marios, New Super Mario Bros. is simple, yet complex. Classic, yet redefining. Stunning, yet plus one times infinity of that. Completing stages along a track-based grid similar to that of Super Mario World, the game edges players in and out of a total of eight different worlds. Together with midlevel and end-level boss fights against Bowser Jr. and a host of others, this new Mario holds up strongly, mostly, with increasingly impressive trials and confrontations. Both Bowser and his miniature counterpart can be a shoe-in, while boss battles against a tougher lot such as an expanding tank-ridden, bomb-omb-tossing and bullet bill-blasting mole will have you constantly shaking a leg with awakened glee. Ingenuity runs rampant through the courses, of course, in reaching these bigger brutes. They punch through layers of stone walls -- they're giant rock block monsters Mario will take advantage of to clear pathways barricading his travels up ascending staircases in one instance. They love Italian food -- they're humungo fish that hone in on little Mario in his underwater exploration past reduced guppies, squid, and exertions of bubble blockades. The walls have balls and they're not afraid to use them. Mario will dodge skeletal turtles and spiky spheres tumbling along the rising ground beneath his feet in another point of peril and excitement.

Yes indeedy: filled with classic, new, and tweaked baddie types -- from Lakitu's spiny egg-tossing deserts, to slip and sliding and snow-falling icy lands -- the fun and genius of old-school Mario platforming is back in full force. Spicing up this old recipe reworked is the addition of new power-ups and king-sized secret coins. Three of these weighty tokens are waiting to be taken by Mario throughout every new level. While they're not always easy to find under the circumstances given, these hard-earned coins are essential for freeing open special access points along the map. One example of this has a bloated sharp-toothed fish in pursuit of Mario from the water underneath his feet. Proceeding over the land above and taking precautionary methods through reactive quick thinking, you'll need to grab hold of one of the coins very near to this aquatic death monger. Cutting it this close many times over in the end is all worth it, when mushroom houses and extra levels become open and available. Activating power-up blocks and supplying Mario with 1-ups, evidently these coins become very useful on hard times. As for what the power-ups provide, Mario isn't just a fiery snot-shooting or bigger-guy-becoming plumber anymore. He's still those things -- but now with a few new power-ups he also inherits a turtle Mario form for slide-tastic brick-breaking times, the incredible shrinking Mario for small times, and a hefty-sized mega mound of Mario for taller times to crush any and all things. Add to all of this the now standardized wall-kick maneuver and uncomplicated run, jump, and butt stomping commands, and you get everything you'd expect from another tremendous, stupendous, and never horrendous Mario adventure.

After everything in the single-player mode is over, the one major downer about New Super Mario Bros. is that it can be completed in just a few short days. However, for two-players especially, a handful of extras come prepared to prolong the experience. First up, a Mario versus Luigi mode entangles the two brothers in a battle for the stars. Thrashing your opponent with the likes of fireballs and jump moves in a stage that wraps around as you'll attempt to contain all five star pieces is intensely fun, provided you and someone else you know has a DS. The second extra arrives in the form of all those stylus-based mini-games that came with Super Mario 64 DS. Drawing bouncy canvases for Mario to spring off and stay afloat, tracking and tapping the heads of Mario, Luigi, Wario and Yoshi in a mix-up game, sorting red and black bomb-ombs into pens elsewhere, and entering into Luigi's casino are just some of the assortment of activities you can play around with again or for the first time. Even though you've probably had experience with these mini-games before, the good news is that Nintendo's now upgraded them with DS linking capabilities so you can play against a friend as well. It's just too bad single-players are left in the lurch.

Mario was never fat, he was flat. 3D gave him weight, so it looked like he ate. Now Mario is back in 2D, in a very 3D sort of way. Updated from the classic charm of cartoon 2D sprites, Mario and his world are rejuvenated for the 21st Century with one-sided character models that give mass to their formations. When a giant cement block can fall on its face (literally) and show the camera it's got dimensions, you know that this is a 2D evolution. Eye-popping visuals crowd the plate, when gooey molten lava spits upwards through craggy caverns, while bombs burst into puffs of smoke and one oversized turtle forces his weight and thrashes through chunks of flying brick. Delightful as ever, Mario hosts an array of colorful moves and appearances, that see him acrobatically kicking off walls, crouching and raising his arm during a leap, and skidding down long slopes nailing enemies along the way to the bottom. Enlarged, Mario fills the screen up in his red outfit and blue overalls; shrunken, he's tiny as an ant lightly flitting through the air; and with a blue shell on his back now, he's got a blue shell on his back now that gives him the ability to spin himself back and forth like the vacant Koopa shells of old. It's also with examples of cloudy bright blue skies, spookily decrepit brown manors, and tan tinted dusty sand lands, that New Super Mario Bros. keeps the series perfectly thematic for its many imaginative sights to see. Vibrant from its outstanding color palette, creative from its interesting level designs (mushroom platforms that extend and retract, switches that turn the entire level upside down, etc.), this game like all Mario games doesn't disappoint on the visual end.

Oldies but goodies that never die, the classic musical motifs of Mario history continue to pave the way once more throughout Mario's newest plot. Revived background tracks are enacted, like the uptempo number jingled once Mario touches that flagpole and the fireworks explode: "Dun-dun, dun-dun-dun-dun, dun-dun, dun-dun-dun-dun, DUNNA NUNNA NUNNA!" As you might expect, some unfamiliar tracks make their way into the game as well. By far though, every single selection, whether lively or tunes to fit the darkest of darks in their respective environments, is fine and dandy like Raisinette candy. Mmm, and you know those are good! Insertions of the typically stereotypical Mario voice bytes (i.e., his jumping "Wa ha!") paired up with precisely crisp audio feedback (the bonking of blocks, the bopping of shells, the dinging of coins, and the sizzling of plumber rear touching lava) also makes good doing for what it does best to typify a series innately regarded for its high standards.

Bottom Line
Bowser may die and resurrect countless times. Peach may already be an expert on maleficent castles and their owners' doings during kidnap and rescue periods. But you know what? Mario is everlasting. Through thick and thin, through the good times and bad, video gaming as we know it today has the red plumber to thank for recapturing the market's investment in the cultural hobby that at one time was headed for certain doom to become a widespread phenomenon. Title after title, game after game, Mario just gets better with age. Never slowing down, never faltering: New Super Mario Bros. redoes the past with new action and some new surprises, once more in retro-materialized gold. Whether you're from the old school or a student of the new school, you're going to love New Super Mario Bros. no matter what.

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