TOP 1000 REVIEWERVINE VOICEon 9 May 2013
Nintendo's decision to reboot side-scrolling adventures for Super Mario has, by all accounts, been an unprecedented success. While sales and reviews back this up, what makes it all the more interesting is that New Super Mario Bros for the Wii was little more than the original 1985 release updated with some new ideas. The real genius, however, is that the new game was designed around a family and friend atmosphere, making it easy to just pick up a Wii remote and follow the leader.
So you may be thinking that New Super Mario Bros U is much of the same. Well, it's not... It's even better!
That's a difficult feat in itself, but this latest release for the Wii U feels so polished that it should have been the original 'New' Super Mario Bros. The story is of course nothing new; Mario, Luigi, Peach and Toad are all gorging themselves in a castle when, suddenly, Bowser and family hold the hapless princess captive. If by now you're wondering why Peach isn't just tied to the ground, then bear in mind that Nintendo has been using this plot device for almost 30 years. Even James Bond has defied ageing and heavy drinking for longer than that.
The familiarity doesn't end here, because the entire game takes cues from some of Mario greatest adventures. If like myself you grew up with a NES and SNES console, then you will recognise how particular enemies are carried over from Super Mario Bros 3, the continuation of the level 'map' from Super Mario World, and all manner of other small hints to past games. The game never feels repetitive however, it's actually very refreshing to encounter all the old memories once more.
Though this game can be played alone, you're encouraged to invite other members to the party and they get their own unique characters (such as Luigi and Toad) to play with. There are plenty of options; the Wii U Game Pad is only one means of input as the the user can also bring along their Wii Remote for a more classic controller feel, while if you do play a multiplayer game, one person can use the GamePad to either help or hinder the other players progress! This really is the best multiplayer experience I've had in years, it's so much fun.
It also means that you have the option to play the game on the Game Pad entirely without the TV - something that is quite a revelation - or you can go for a more classic approach and play the game with a more NES-like feel.
The game's transfer to the Game Pad is genius, and set's the tone for things to come in the future. Complete a level without a dieing? Then straight after you can post a message, picture or screenshot to Miiverse. If you're stuck, you can get help from the same app and talk to other gamers about particular challenges. You'll even be greeted with little icons of other Mii's who have had a similar experience as you on a level, be that good or bad! And if you die during a level, you will be consoled by other frustrated gamers in the form of some Miiverse messages. "Bowser, stop making these levels so hard!1!!" seems to be the most popular...
If you don't like the idea of Mii integration, you can easily turn it all off. Nintendo never at any point forces you to get involved.
One of my favourite new features to arrive in this release is a Challenge mode, which is designed to test all manner of the player's skills across five different modes (such as coin gathering, 1-up gathering). No matter whether you're chasing a Nabbit against the clock, trying to get as many coins as possible or timing your moves with absolute precision, this mode is a response to claims that newer Super Mario games have become too easy. In many respects, Challenge mode returns one of the key features of the original Super Mario games, and that was moving across levels with speed and accuracy. This is perfect for just playing on the Game Pad alone.
Visually, I was surprised at just how beautiful the game looks, given that critics have suggested it looks simply 'OK'. To expect more would conflict with two things: the development schedule, and of course the purposeful pastel-look of the environments. The important things to take from the game are that clarity of the graphics are beyond anything I've seen on a games console, with stunning lighting and shadow details. It looks almost 3D at times.
The soundtrack didn't have the same impact for me, but I wasn't expecting too much anyway. It's clearly had a nice update and combines some 8/16-bit references at times, though it tends to wander off without the same importance as it had in past Super Mario games. Upon saying this, it's nice to hear some classic sound effects ported over such as the Warp Pipe, 'Yoshi Coin' from Super Mario World and even the Stage Cleared fanfare.
In short, New Super Mario Bros U is typically an essential purchase if you've just bought a Wii U, as other Super Mario games have been to their respective consoles in the past. It is just fun and completely harmless, yet after suturing you into some easier levels at the beginning, will really test your ability to control a character through great timing and awareness. The Miiverse integration keeps the game interesting every time you play it, and the range of new challenges give it a long term appeal. Top marks Nintendo!