Platform: Nintendo DS
Developer: Nintendo EAD Team 4
Some boardroom in Kyoto a year ago:
“Let’s make a Mario game”
“Sure, why not. What’s he going to do this time? Fishing? Cooking? Basketball? Mario Party 9?”
“No…like, a 2-D Mario platform game”
“Wait…with no gimmicks?”
“Yeah, just a regular 2-D Mario game.”
Who knows how it went down or why its even taken this long, but New Super Mario Bros is the first true side scrolling sequel to a Mario title since Super Mario World came out on the SNES in 1991. And since Mario has just celebrated his 20th birthday, it means he’s spent 3/4’s of his life kart racing, doing 3-D levels and a bajillion spin off titles rather than doing the thing that made him famous in the first place. Scrolling from left to right until he hits the marker at the end of the level.
So it is then that you are overcome by a really satisfying feeling playing New Super Mario Bros. Finally, a proper goddamnned Mario sequel! I don’t quite know how this feeling will translate onto Playstation generation raised on Crash Bandicoot and Spyro but for anyone who played the original games, this is mana from heaven.
It’s also a bit of a reunion tour. The ‘New’ in the title seems to refer to different levels for you to run through. Thematically though, NSMB is a revisiting of the worlds from 20 years ago. In the same order as Super Mario Bros 3, specifically.
So you get the regular world to start off, the underground level with the bass soundtrack, the desert level, the underwater level, all in that order. The only world I didn’t really recognize was the regular world except with purple water that kills you instantly. Perhaps pollution is becoming a problem in the Mushroom kingdom.
While the level designs are inspired by SMB3, the power-ups are the stock standard mushroom/fireflower combo in all the previous games as well as three newly designed items. These come in the form of the world destroying giant mushroom which allows Mario to grow to the size of the screen and destroy everything (including the clever level design). The blue mushroom which makes Mario incredibly small and allows his to fit into gaps regular Mario can’t fit into. And there’s the Koopa shell which…I can’t really understand it’s purpose actually. I finished the game and unlocked the two hidden worlds and still don’t get why it’s there.
It’s been 15 years but Nintendo haven’t lost their touch when it comes to platforming level design and NSMB shows us how its done. The levels are varied, the difficulty curve is well measured and there is the right amount of gimmicked levels (autoscroll levels, swimming levels, haunted mansions) to compliment the basic formula. The new moves given to Mario, such as the wall-jump and the butt stomp are well implemented and easy to perform.
The biggest panic you get with New Super Mario Bros is that inevitably, you will complete the game in under a week. That’s the main world AND the two hidden worlds. Waiting this long for a sequel means we’ve played the hell out of the old worlds and so despite the later levels being a little harder, you should still tear it up and have the Princess back at your place by Sunday.
This is where panic sets in and where the majority of the critism of the game stems from. Look, I don’t mind that there are no flying powerups, longer worlds, airship levels, that sexy/rude looking frogsuit from SMB3 or any of that other stuff. *But* that is only because I fully expect with the critical and commercial success of this game that there be a New Super Mario Bros 2 in 2007/08 with all of the aforementioned. That’s 2007, not 2027. Got it, Nintendo?
Summary : A welcome return for 2D Mario platforming. It's not a patch on Super Mario Bros 3 or Super Mario World but hopefully that game is something we can expect in the near future. More please, Nintendo!