E3 09 Hands-On Preview: The sequel to Super Mario Bros., the prequel to Newer New Super Mario Bros. Wii HD
Nintendo's ho-hum E3 2009 media briefing didn't showcase unannounced motion control products or feature big-time celebrities like the remaining Beatles or Steven Spielberg, but what the company lacked in presentation, it made up for in substance on the E3 show floor. There's no greater example than New Super Mario Bros. Wii. Walking away from the Nokia Center, we felt as if this 2D retro title wasn't pushing the limits of the Wii, that we've seen this sort of game on Nintendo DS in 2006 and that this is the hardcore-worthy game that should've been announced last year, not Animal Crossing: City Folk. All of our underwhelming thoughts about this four-player retro side-scroller disappeared as soon we got some quality hands-on time with the actual game at the Nintendo booth. What emerged in its place were chaos, laughter and the sort of fun that only Nintendo could supply.
The first level of the E3 demo actually pays homage to World 1-1, so gamers who've played the 1986 original will instantly recognize the first set of boxes on screen. This time, however, three other players are vying for the coins and mushrooms within. It's at this point you begin to realize that having up to four people involved in New Super Mario Bros. Wii is as much a competitive affair as it is a cooperative one. As Mario, Luigi, and two Toads, players help each other bridge the many gaps between platforms. And, initially or unintentionally, they also cause each other to fall down these bottomless pits.
There were as many ?Sorry's? being tossed around as turtle shells during our demo. Whether we were causing each other to shrink in size by accident or taking two mushrooms when someone's tiny character was clearly scrambling for it first, we felt badly one second, and were filled with laughter the next. Plus, the same madness would happen to the offender within less than a minute, that's how frenzied it is in a four-player version of Mario. Think of the chaotic fun of a Mario Party mini-game, minus the downtime of rolling the dice or taking turns.
In addition to bottomless pits and ricocheting turtle shells, other obstacles include Goombas (that very first enemy you stomp on in World 1-1), Koopa Paratroopas (the flying turtles), Bloopers (the white squid-like creatures seen underwater) and Piranha Plants (always found in warp tunnels). All of these enemies, especially the Piranha Plants, are entertaining ways in which you can force or trick your buddies into receiving damage when the score gets tight. After all, you're competing in real time in this game, unlike the NES original where two players had to take turns as Mario and Luigi.
A few items give players an edge over their friends and foes beginning with the multiple mushrooms that spring from boxes and rain down on players. There's enough for everyone, but keeping them for yourself is an option if you're fast enough. Fire Flower also returns from the NES game, while a coveted Yoshi ride-on is available just like in Super Mario World on SNES.
Finally, new to the Super Mario Bros. series are Propeller Suits and Penguin Suits. We got a chance to check out the Propeller Suits, which was the first time we really used the Wii's motion controls in this game. Shaking the remote sends your character in the air and allows him to hover for a few seconds, like he's a human helicopter. It's not as technical as the Leonardo Da Vinci helicopter prototype seen in the forthcoming Assassin's Creed 2, but this simple Mario power-up seems just as fun.