Sometimes, it's difficult to remember that Mario got his start as a 2-D platforming hero. In recent years, his platforming adventures have mostly been 3-D, and he's been everything from a fighting game character to an RPG hero to a kart driver. To most of us, the image of Mario is still the adorable 8-bit hero who jumps on Goombas, grabs mushrooms and saves princesses from giant turtles. New Super Mario Bros. on the Nintendo DS gave us a taste of old-school Mario action, and it became one of the best-selling games on the system, placing on the top sales charts for months after its release. A handheld release just doesn't hold the same allure as a console game, though, and while New Super Mario Bros. was fun, it left us wanting more. New Super Mario Bros. Wii is a game that gives players exactly what they want: More Mario. It doesn't reinvent the genre, it doesn't create innovative new mechanics, and it doesn't wow us with amazing visuals. Instead, it does exactly what it set out to do: Give us more Mario, and some of the best Mario to date.
New Super Mario Bros. Wii returns to the old-school style of Mario platforming. It's good, old-fashioned 2-D Goomba-stomping at its finest, and if you've ever played a Mario game, you know what to expect. The Princess has been kidnapped by Bowser Jr. and the Koopalings, and it is up to Mario and friends to get her back. However, as with New Super Mario Bros., it introduces some mechanics from the 3-D games. Mario can perform a butt-stomp be pressing down on the d-pad while in mid-air to break hard blocks. He can also perform a special higher double- and triple-jump by jumping again as soon as he hits the ground, as in Mario 64. It's possible to wall-jump in order to reach new heights by propelling Mario off a vertical surface. Perhaps the only slightly annoying part of the controls comes from shaking the Wii Remote. In order to pick up and throw blocks, Mario has to hold the 1 button and then shake the Wiimote to pick it up. It's not a bad idea, but it feels awkward until you get used to it. It proves its worth once you can use frozen enemies as platforms. You can also shake the Wiimote to make Mario perform a spin attack in mid-air for a brief boost to your jumping ability, and this feels a lot more natural than picking up and throwing. There are also a few usages of the Wiimote's tilting mechanism, such as special platforms that the first person to stand on can tilt by tilting the Wiimote, but they're few and far between and seem mostly geared for multiplayer.
That's right! The biggest addition to New Super Mario Bros. Wii is the inclusion of a four-player multiplayer mode, which lets players control Mario, Luigi and two oddly colored Toads as they venture through the game's stages. The stages are mostly unchanged, although having four people on-screen makes it a very different game. Players can interact with each other, throw each other, perform cooperative butt-stomps, jump off each other's heads, and any number of other actions. If a player dies, he'll turn into a bubble and remain floating until another player pops the bubble by touching it. It's an extremely unusual mode since it can be played competitively or cooperatively, and the exact tone of the game can change by the minute. A friend who helped you get a Star Coin one moment may be stealing your Super Mushroom the next. This mode is pure fun, as long as you're playing it with a group of friends. It's frantic and exciting, and it changes the entire game, but for the better. Perhaps the only downside is that there is no better way to make friends into enemies than to invite them over for a no-holds barred game of New Super Bros. Wii. It is, however, impossible not to lament the lack of online multiplayer, which would have given the game a tremendous boost to value.
New Super Mario Bros. Wii is structured very similarly to Mario 3, but the game also borrows some ideas from Super Mario World. Players will traverse a world map in between levels. The world map is fairly straightforward, but there are a lot of side attractions to see. There are Mushroom Houses as in Mario 3, where you can pop in to play a mini-game for a chance to earn extra lives or items. Earned items can be used on the world map to start your character with a boost in the next level. Occasionally, there are also multiple paths that players can find to access different levels; you can also battle roaming enemies to receive prizes. There are Ghost Houses to explore, mid-boss castles to investigate, and many stages have hidden exits you can find. There are even Switch Palaces, which can be activated (or deactivated) to alter the layout of other stages in the game. It combines the best elements of Mario 3 and Super Mario World while somehow managing to keep things fresh.
As is the tradition in Mario titles, New Super Mario Bros. Wii includes a hefty dose of new power-ups for Mario, and to be honest, they're some of the best in Mario history. The Raccoon Tail and Cape have been replaced by the new Propeller Hat. This new power-up functionally allows Mario to do a double-jump, activated by spinning the Wiimote. The second jump causes the propeller to activate, sending Mario flying into the air and allowing him to slowly float to the ground. It's a particularly good addition to the Mario franchise, and it fits well with the multiplayer design. The Propeller Hat lets Mario gain some additional height but doesn't let him fly over entire stages like the cape did.
In addition, the game also adds the new Ice Flower and Penguin Suit. As you'd imagine, the Ice Flower is a frozen counterpart to the Fire Flower. Mario can shoot balls of ice at his opponents, and it'll freeze them solid. A frozen enemy will eventually thaw unless you stomp on them. The exception would be flying enemies, who plummet to the ground. On the other hand, Mario can use these frozen enemies as makeshift platforms, which is nearly essential in some parts of the game. He can also pick them up to toss at other enemies, allowing him to kill two birds with one frozen stone. The Penguin Suit is like an upgraded version of the Ice Flower, very similar to the Raccoon Tail and Tanuki Suit in Super Mario Bros. 3. Like the Ice Flower, this adorable power-up lets you shoot ice balls at your foes, but it also keeps Mario from slipping on ice, allows him to swim in water, and even lets him perform a special belly slide that breaks blocks. Of course, beyond all the new powers, Mario still has his classic mushroom and Fire Flower, as well as returning power-ups from other Mario games, like the Mini-Mushroom and his ridable dinosaur pal Yoshi.
New Super Mario Bros. Wii has wonderful level design, easily on par with the older NES and SNES Mario games. Each level is unique and interesting, and a lot is done to keep things fresh. Whether it's walls of Bullet Bills, constantly rotating platforms, levels that take place in pitch-darkness and are only lit by the fireballs you throw, or any of the truly impressive number of gimmicks, the game makes every level interesting. There are even levels that change if you return to them later. The most impressive thing is that none of the stages feel like they're only intended for multiplayer matches. They're fun to play with other gamers, but they're just as fun to play single-player.
Another nice feature of the levels is that there is a reason to replay them beyond simply having fun. Each level has Star Coins, which are special large coins that are often located in hard-to-reach places. Some of the hardest parts of New Super Mario Bros. Wii involve finding these coins, but collecting them is very worthwhile. They can be spent to unlock special videos at Princess Peach's castle, and if you manage to find all of them, you'll even unlock an extra world to explore — the hardest in the game. Even the bosses are well done, which is a bit of a surprise. Each level has a mid-castle and a final castle. The mid-castle houses one of the Koopalings, each with its own gimmick. Defeating the Koopaling causes it to retreat to the final castle in the stage, where you battle it again, only with a new and upgraded gimmick.
One area that works both for and against New Super Mario Bros. Wii is its appeal to nostalgia. New Super Mario Bros. Wii is like a "greatest hits" of Mario. You'll find callbacks to every previous game in the series, from the NES original to Super Mario Galaxy, and a lot is done to make older gamers smile in fond remembrance. A lot of these callbacks are used in new and interesting ways, but it's also impossible to deny that some are just straight versions of old ideas. Especially to those who are just casually playing the game, New Super Mario Bros. Wii has a bit of a "been there before" feel to it when played in single-player. Fortunately, there is enough new material in the game that it doesn't feel like a simple rehash. The new powers, great level design and clever usage of old Mario gimmicks do a lot to keep things feeling fresh and new, although multiplayer is where things change the most. It also helps that old Mario ideas are still a boatload of fun.
For a Mario game, New Super Mario Bros. Wii is surprisingly tough. It isn't overly difficult, but it certainly is about on par with Super Mario Bros. 3. The game isn't unfair, but it offers a lot of different challenges and can a bit overwhelming to gamers more used to the laid-back difficulty of New Super Mario Bros. or the wide variety of game-breaking power-ups in Super Mario World. However, there is also a lot done to make the game more accessible to more casual gamers. You'll find a generous amount of 1-ups, so even with the increased difficulty, running out of lives is unlikely. Players having trouble with a stage can also spend collected Star Coins to get video tips on how to earn infinite 1-ups, find hidden exits from the stage or see super-skillful methods of getting through the stage.
The biggest and most controversial addition would be the Super Guide. If a player dies too many times on a stage, he'll earn the option to activate the Super Guide mode. This will switch the game to a computer-controlled version of Luigi, who will finish the stage for you. It's completely optional, and those who wish to continue trying a tough stage can simply ignore the option, while those who are tired of a difficult or frustrating stage can opt to have Luigi handle it for them. Be warned that Luigi only does a straight run-through of the level, so collecting Star Coins is something gamers will have to do on their own.
New Super Mario Bros. Wii isn't the best-looking game, but it makes up for that with loads of charm. While the characters are bright and cheerful, they look a bit simplistic, even compared to other Wii games. New Super Mario Bros. Wii really shines in the details. Enemies dance in time to the background music, which is a tiny little detail you might not notice but adds a bit to the game's cheerful nature. Bullet Bills carefully alter their movement to avoid slamming into one another, and they slow down if they hit water. Fireballs light up the area around them, while the glowing Invincibility Star lights up an entire stage. There was also no slowdown, even with four players on-screen and tossing fireballs everywhere. The music is full of classic nostalgic Mario tunes, both new and old, and each one fits the tone of the game perfectly. The fact that enemies dance along with the music really helps to emphasize the quality of the soundtrack.
New Super Mario Bros. Wii may not be as innovative as Super Mario Bros. or Super Mario Bros. 3, but it stands on its own through pure quality and is easily one of the best Mario titles. Each level is fun and interesting to play, and the game has done a lot to balance and alter power-ups and level design so that both novices and hardcore can enjoy it. In terms of multiplayer, New Super Mario Bros. Wii is one of the best co-op games in years, and it's a boatload of fun to play with friends. It almost turns it into an entirely different game, despite sharing levels with the single-player portion. The simplistic visuals are bolstered by some awesome attention to detail and great level design. If you're a Mario fan, a Wii owner or just a fan of good platformers, you owe it to yourself to pick up this game. Just be careful who you play multiplayer with, or you may find yourself sleeping on the couch.
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