Written by: Big Ross, CC2K Staff Writer
If you own a Wii and have yet to try out this game, here's (another) ringing endorsement.
A couple of years ago I bought my girlfriend a Nintendo Wii for Christmas. She's not a serious gamer, no first-person shooters or RPGs for her, but she loves the Wii. Mainly because Nintendo has made most of the classic games for the NES and SNES playable on the Wii and available for download through their online service. I swear my girlfriend has spent more time playing the original Super Mario Bros. and Super Mario Bros. 3 than any of the new games she and I have bought. That is, until New Super Mario Bros. Wii came out recently. It's become her new favorite, and having spent a good chunk of a recent weekend playing with her, it's easy to see why. Mario went 3D back in Super Mario 64, and the trend continued on the Wii in Super Mario Galaxy. I can remember how new and cool Super Mario 64 felt to play after years of 2D platforming. 2D was lame. 3D was the future. Who would want to go backwards? Turns out, nostalgia can be a powerful influence. Look at the success of 'Splosion Man and Braid as just two examples of newly released, old-school 2D platformers in an age of increasing complex graphics and 3-dimensional worlds. New Super Mario Bros. Wii could be added to such a list.
For a new game, there's surprisingly a LOT of recycled material in New Super Mario Bros. Wii. The story is that tried and true tale that you know by heart. Bowser comes in one of his flying ships and kidnaps the Princess, takes her to his castle, and scatters his koopalings across multiple "worlds" through which Mario and Luigi must battle to reach a climactic showdown with Bowser. Each world has a gimmick; there's a water world, a desert world, and ice world, and so on. So many of these, and the koopalings that rule over them, are so similar to that of Super Mario Bros. 3 that you get a sense of deja vu while playing. The level designs elicit memories of the old NES classic Super Mario Bros. with with all the pipes and hidden areas and flagpoles adjacent to little castles at the end. Even the music and sound effects are reminiscent of Nintendo's first major success.
The irony is, none of these are bad things. Considering a game franchise with more iterations than Final Fantasy or Mega Man, one would expect that change is the order of the day. Straight repetition, simply offering more of the same might leave a stale, bland taste in the mouths of gamers. Might leave them with a feeling of "I've done all this before, BORING." What makes New Super Mario Bros. Wii most certainly not boring, what makes it so much fun to play is the combination of these nostalgic elements with new twists and features.
The classic powerups like the mushroom, fire flower, and invincibility star make a return, but as with Super Mario Bros. 3 there are some new tricks up the sleeves of your favorite plumbers. There's the ice flower, propeller cap, and penguin suit, just to name a few. Each offers unique abilities, and while certain levels are designed with a particular powerup in mind, there are uses for each in nearly every level. And while you won't find every powerup in every level, another great addition circumvents this, allowing you to somewhat tailor your gameplay. Throughout the various world maps you can access mushroom houses with symbol-matching games. By matching symbol cards and avoiding the Bowser cards, you can accumulate various powerups that you can activate at any time on the map screen prior to entering a level. It's a great touch that lets you try out different powerups in levels that don't offer them, as well as gives you a bit of an edge on particularly challenging levels.
New powerups aside, what really makes New Super Mario Bros. Wii feel fresh and exciting is the multiplayer. Remember how on a lot of the old Mario games if you played with a friend, they'd have to sit and watch while you'd play through levels until you died, then you'd have to sit and watch while they played through the same levels you just played through? Kinda boring right? Well, that's not the case with this game. Multiplayer has been revamped so that up to 4 players can play at the same time. This can make for hectic, at times challenging, and continually fun gameplay. It's just one more example why the Wii is so popular. While mutliplayer on the Xbox 360 means your only contact with fellow players is verbal via headsets, playing co-op in New Super Mario Bros. Wii means you sit side-by-side on the same couch. I had forgotten how much fun that can be. Forgotten how good it feels when you can share a high five or fist bump with your fellow player after beating a particularly difficult level.
In the end, all of the nostalgia and new variations on old gameplay would be worthless were it not build on a foundation of solid platforming. That's what the Mario Bros. games have been about since the beginning. And New Super Mario Bros. Wii definitely has it. It can be challenging, at times frustrating, but endlessly fun and elicit exuberant cries of joy upon completion of an especially hairy portion of platforming. This game is just good, clean fun all around. Find a buddy, and play some Mario today.
Score: 9 out of 10