Saturday, November 14, 2009

My Day with New Super Mario Bros. Wii

Pardon my wordiness and poorly stitched Minineko, but I thought I'd write a review for New Super Mario Bros. Wii, which I've been playing pretty much nonstop since yesterday afternoon.

Yesterday, I managed to pick up a copy of New Super Mario Bros. Wii, contained in a unique red case. There are two DVDs I can think of off-hand that are packaged in the same color - Austin Powers: The Spy Who Shagged Me, and Jingle All The Way. Based on the time I've spent with NSMBWii, I can say with little doubt that this is by far the best disc ever to sport the red case. See why after the jump.

New Super Mario Bros. Wii is much more than a multiplayer console port of of the similarly titled DS game that came out a few years ago. The game digs deep into the past catalog of 2d Mario games and brings up many of the best elements. There's a marked emphasis on holding things over your head and throwing them, one of the core features from SMB2. The maps, finding the lack of a better word, are more SMB3-ish than ever, with wandering enemies, alternating obstacles, and an arsenal of items you can access before a level. There is also the return of Yoshi, complete with the additional drums that play as you ride him. I could go on, pointing out everything I noticed from previous games that is making a reappearance in this one, but I'll end this list by mentioning the huge variety of enemies that the game throws at you. Most of Bowser's past foot soldiers, even some of the obscure ones, show up at some time in the game. I haven't played every level yet, but I've yet to see any Shyguys, but this game has the f'n Koopalings in it, who haven't been in a game since 2003's Mario and Luigi Superstar Saga.

All this nostalgia is fortunately backed up by solid gameplay and a considerable handful of new stuff. There are several new items; if New Super Mario Bros. was a game of scale, then New Super Mario Bros. Wii is a game of ice, with new ice flowers and penguin suits. Perhaps upon realizing how broken the fire flower was in NSMB, the ice flower has replaced it as the predominant projectile item. It's a very interesting item, and the blocks of ice encapsulating the corpses of your enemies add a new layer to some already interesting level design. The penguin suit is a welcome addition to the list of animal suits Mario has worn throughout time, combining the new ice flower, frog suit, and to a lesser extent, NSMB's blue shell's sliding abilities. There's also the obligatory flight item, the propeller mushroom, that makes you soar in the air with a shake of the Wiimote. Sure, the motion controls in this game may be a questionable movie, but at least you don't need a running start this time. There are a few other surprises in NSMBWii, which I shan't spoil here, since you should experience the same "what the f" moments (or "holy s" moments, or whatever abbreviated profanity you use to express surprise) that I did.

I only spent a couple hours in multiplayer, but I can say that the fears and hopes everybody has about four players on screen at once being a total slobberknocker at times is completely true. Sure, you can pick up other players to help them through tough parts or reach higher places, but for some reason, once you have somebody held above your head, the habits you develop from playing as Donkey Kong in Super Smash Bros. kick in. Needless to say, any semblance of cooperation is rare, making a challenging game that much more difficult; I only played the first few worlds with others, I can't imagine playing some of the later levels while getting bumped around by Luigi and some Toads. I must say, though, that when two adjacent players have a fire flower and ice flower, constantly spin jumping in order to produce an unforgiving tornado of fire and ice is one of the coolest looking parts of the game.

Speaking of the graphics, they're quite good; not quite Galaxy caliber, but definitely a jump up from the DS version. If you've played the DS version, you know that the 3d models, while brilliantly animated, had some very jagged edges, and they did not combine very well with the pre-rendered graphics in the game. The Wii title, at least from what I can tell from my television and its composite video connection, manages to blend all the graphical elements into one cohesive and occasionally brilliant-looking image. The backgrounds, by Mario standards, are still kinda generic. Remember that movie, The Hills Have Eyes? Well, they don't, nor do the clouds.

Looking at other games this generation, New Super Mario Bros. Wii seems a bit outdated in certain aspects. Perhaps I was a bit spoiled by Castle Crashers, another game that also featured four simultaneous characters; online play is also a significant feature, and said game's playable roster includes practically every bipedal character you encounter therein. While the lack of online in NSMBWii is a disappointment, there are many moments in the game where you're definitely going to want to glare at your "partners" for what they're doing to you, and that's when it's good to have them in the same room. As for the playable characters, having two Toads as players 3 and 4 seems like a bit of a copout, considering the huge selection of Mario's friends Nintendo had to pick from. If Wario is good enough for to be a protagonist in Super Mario 64 DS, why not here? He wears yellow, not unlike one of the Toads. I've read a lot of angry things about this issue online, but I think I've finally come to terms with it; I'm probably going to be playing single player mode most of the time anyway, which is always done as Mario. Don't mistake this paragraph as reluctant complacency or arbitrarily defending Nintendo; I'm just saying that the game's so incredible that the last thing on your mind should be who player 4 plays as; if they were really your friend, they wouldn't be player 4, now would they?

All in all, New Super Mario Bros. Wii is a game definitely worthy of its differently colored packaging, as well as being part of the long line of 2d Mario platformers.

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