Looking Forward this month has a theme. In anticipation of the release of Nintendo’s eighth generation console, Wii U, I will be covering three different Wii U games in the coming weeks – and all of them are launch games. First, we have New Super Mario Bros. U, which is the premiere title for the system when it releases on November 18th.
In case you haven’t been keeping up with all the latest news on New Super Mario Bros. U that has been revealed by Nintendo since E3 2011 when it was revealed as New Super Mario Bros. Mii, this editorial will have you covered. All the different game modes will be discussed, the new additions of the formula, and my own opinion on whether or not this should be the game potential Wii U owners pre-order.
What’s old is new again…again
New Super Mario Bros. U is the fourth entry in the “New” Mario sub-series. The first two games were huge successes, both with sales and critical reception. The original New Super Mario Bros. on DS was the first 2D side-scrolling Mario since the days of the Super Nintendo and Game Boy. Fans loved being able to dip their toe in the nostalgia pool and enjoyed all the new features that were added, such as the Giant Mushroom and Mini Mushroom.
New Super Mario Bros. Wii brought the classic Mario platforming to Wii, and added four player co-op. This was a fantastic game and improved upon the original in numerous ways. However, many are accusing Nintendo of tarnishing the “New” series by pumping out way too many entries in quick succession. Just released a couple months ago was New Super Mario Bros. 2 for 3DS, which received the worst critical reception of any core Mario game in history, though it still enjoyed a high 70s rating on GameRankings and MetaCritic.
New Super Mario Bros. 2 was a good game, but it didn’t quite live up to my lofty expectations for a Mario game. It was too easy, lacked the fun mini-games of the original, and the level design was uninspired and predictable. Nintendo has a big challenge ahead if they want to avoid these same pitfalls with New Super Mario Bros. U, and even though the whole point of these games is to pay homage to Mario’s past, Nintendo needs to make sure that there’s enough “new” here to justify the title, and the price.
There’s a lot that’s being retained in New Super Mario Bros. U. The story is nothing to get excited about. Mario, Luigi, and two Toads are kicked out of the Mushroom Kingdom as Bowser has taken it over and has, once again, kidnapped Princess Peach. It’s up to the gang to return to the Mushroom Kingdom, defeat Bowser and his Koopalings, and save Princess Peach…as usual.
I know no one plays Mario expecting a Mass Effect-level plot, but I wish that Nintendo put a little more effort into it. It doesn’t take much to make a Mario plot feel special. Super Mario Galaxy has a pretty simplistic plot, yet it was infinitely more engaging than any other Mario story they’ve presented since. If only Nintendo was able to recapture that magic in Super Mario Galaxy, and then we’d have a truly excellent Mario platformer that had a little more purpose behind the goings on in the game.
Another aspect that is returning in New Super Mario Bros. U is collecting Star Coins. In all of the “New” Mario games, there has been three Star Coins hidden in each level. This mechanic returns in New Super Mario Bros. U, and finding all of these Star Coins will likely result in unlocking special content, just as it has done in the past.
Super Mario World U
One of the most beloved entries in the Mario franchise is Super Mario World. Released as a pack-in game on Super Nintendo, Super Mario World is still hailed to this day as one of the best, if not the best, game in the franchise. I’d have to agree with such assessments, especially if its only competition are the other 2D Mario games (Super Mario Galaxy could give it a run for its money). At any rate, Super Mario World is the peak of platforming quality, and it has set the bar so high that there are virtually no games that have even come close to eclipsing its glory.
That’s why it’s exciting to note that New Super Mario Bros. U is taking a lot of inspiration from Super Mario World. In fact, large portions of the game are modeled after Super Mario World in a number of ways. There are underground cavern levels that have hazards that are obvious nods to Super Mario World, plus there are many other aspects of New Super Mario Bros. U that makes a 90s kid like myself all warm and nostalgic inside.
Perhaps the most obvious nod to Super Mario World is the world map in the game. Players will probably notice this right away when they boot up the game. Like Super Mario World, players are presented with a large world map that connects all the different worlds in the game, unlike previous entries where these worlds are sectioned off.
With this return to form for the map, there will now be branching paths. There will be plenty of secret levels to discover and secret areas that will allow players to skip ahead in the game by a wide margin, of course, but “branching paths” is really taking on a whole new meaning in this Mario adventure. For the first time ever, players will be able to decide what worlds they want to go to, so instead of having to go through a water world right then, they could choose to go to a different world and complete its levels first. This means that there is a lot more player choice this time around, and the freedom to decide which world to go to will definitely make this one of the more interactive Mario adventures yet.
Yoshi was featured in Super Mario World as Mario’s pet dinosaur that he could ride and use in all the levels. Yoshi is returning in New Super Mario Bros. U (fruit-eating and all), but the baby Yoshis are also making a comeback. There is a variety of baby Yoshi colors in the game, and each of these different colors can use different abilities by collecting off trees.
Pink Yoshi will be able to inflate like a balloon, and players can use it to ride to higher areas in the stage. Blue Yoshi will be able to shoot bubbles, encapsulating enemies inside and clearing them out of the way to make the levels a bit easier for players. And finally, Yellow Yoshi can illuminate dark areas completely, which will make darkened cave levels that much easier to complete. These are the only Yoshi colors confirmed in the game so far, besides the standard Green Yoshi that can be ridden.
New Modes for U
New Super Mario Bros. U is featuring the addition of new game modes to the series, and they sound like good ideas on paper. Hopefully these new modes pan out and provide healthy, new gameplay experiences that complement the main game nicely.
For one, there is Boost Rush Mode. This mode is unique in that players can work together to try to beat high scores and set record times in the level with one player using the GamePad and one player using a Wii remote. Boost Rush is a mode in which one player plays through the level like a typical Mario platformer, except that the screen is constantly scrolling at a break-neck pace, forcing the player to truly master their platforming skills to complete all the levels and gather a lot of coins to increase their score. The player with the GamePad can try to help (or hinder) the other player by using the touchscreen to place platforms in the level.
Nintendo doesn’t want to add achievements or trophies into their games, but Wii U will feature an achievement style system called Accomplishments, according to the latest information. Instead of having Accomplishments in New Super Mario Bros. U, Nintendo has added a Challenge Mode that plays out similarly, and reminds me of the special challenges featured in the Super Smash Bros. games.
In Challenge Mode, players will have set goals in each stage, such as completing the level without touching the ground once, killing every enemy in the level, collecting every coin, beating the level in a certain time, and stuff like that. This mode sounds like it will provide an exciting challenge, and will be great for gamers that are looking for just a little more difficulty in their Mario platformers.
And finally, Nintendo is going to integrate the Miiverse into New Super Mario Bros. U. Miiverse is Nintendo’s new social media platform that will connect Wii U users with their friends in a style not unlike Facebook or Twitter. Players will be able to use Miiverse in New Super Mario Bros. U to post comments about levels and offer hints to their friends. Nintendo will be aggressively monitoring and moderating Miiverse to ensure that there is no dirty talk and no spoilers for games posted.
What is a Mario game without new power-ups? Each game in the “New” franchise has introduced or re-introduced a power-up, while also axing a few here and there to balance out the game. New Super Mario Bros. 2 in August saw the reveal of the Golden Fire Flower power-up which allowed Mario and Luigi to turn anything they shot into coins. There’s no word on whether or not that power-up is returning, but many other have been spotted in screenshots and gameplay videos.
For one, the Fire Flower is obviously returning. Mushrooms are going to be featured heavily in the game as always. Ice Flower is also returning. The Mini Mushroom is going to be back as well, but it has been upgraded. Instead of just turning Mario small and allowing him to run on water and jump in a floaty-manner, the new and improved Mini Mushroom will now allow Mario to run straight up vertical walls, reminiscent of one of the powers of Mario’s cape in Super Mario World.
Only one brand new power-up is coming to the fold, or at least Nintendo has only advertised one new power-up. This is the Acorn, which turns Mario and friends into flying squirrels. This new ability allows them to glide around and a shake of the Wii remote or GamePad will create a gust of wind that will allow them to reach even higher heights.
It’s a whole new world Wii live in
Since Mario and company are not actually in the Mushroom Kingdom this time, this marks a great opportunity by Nintendo to introduce new locations. While not all of the worlds have been revealed, Nintendo has lifted the lid on a few of the different worlds and levels that players will play through in New Super Mario Bros. U.
For one, there is Acorn Plains. Obviously a reference to the new power-up, Acorn Plains will likely feature many levels where the Acorn will definitely come in handy. Sparkling Waters is a tropical island-style world that will also sport numerous underwater levels. Frosted Glacier is the obligatory ice world in the game. A world based on a forest and a world that seems set in the cloud has also been spotted on the map, but these places have not been given names by Nintendo just yet. There was another world that is covered by a tornado, and is likely either a secret world or the final world where the players will confront Bowser.
One of the more interesting worlds is Layer Cake Desert. Instead of having another generic desert world, Nintendo is switching it up by combining the desert worlds with a dessert (get it?) theme, like the levels seen in Super Mario Galaxy. This is a brand new world concept, and considering how little Mario has changed at its core since the 80s, this is a very nice change of pace.
Harmony with the GamePad
Since New Super Mario Bros. Wii, one of the biggest focuses of this “New” sub-series has been co-op. Even New Super Mario Bros. 2 on 3DS featured two player co-op throughout the entire game, so it comes as no surprise that New Super Mario Bros. U will feature co-op as well. But this time, they’re taking it up to five possible players.
Four players will be able to play as Mario, Luigi, one of two Toads, or their Miis. However, a fifth player with the GamePad can join in on the game and add platforms to the levels to either help or hinder the other players, as I mentioned is possible in Boost Rush Mode earlier.
Besides acting as the portal for a potential fifth player to join in on the game, the GamePad also has numerous other features that a player can utilize. Environmental puzzles and hazards can be interacted with using the GamePad’s touchscreen. Players can tap the screen to stun enemies, and if an ally is floating around in a bubble, players can tap the bubble to free them.
All of the action on the television screen can also be transferred to the GamePad. This means that you can play the game on your very own screen if you’d like when playing co-op, or even take the game to bed with the TV off. The possibilities are endless with New Super Mario Bros. U
New Super Mario Bros. U is scheduled to release on November 18th as a launch title for Wii U, and it will be exclusive to Wii U. Its control input includes the Wii U GamePad controller, regular Wii remotes (with or without motion plus), Classic Controller, Pro Controller, and the nunchuck attachment to the Wii remotes. Of course, the definitive way to enjoy the game is with Wii U’s unique GamePad controller.
New Super Mario Bros. U is critical for Wii U’s launch, and is likely a huge part of the reason that Nintendo sold out of Wii U pre-orders so quickly in the United States. New Super Mario Bros. U is going to be Wii U’s flagship title for its early life, regardless of any franchise fatigue, but I think that this game is shaping up to be a measurable improvement over New Super Mario Bros. 2.
There is a lot to like about this game. For one, it’s gorgeous. Seeing it in action makes my mouth water, and is what convinced me to lay down the cash for a pre-order so I can have it on day one. While the gameplay is familiar, new game modes and the addition of the GamePad controller should help keep things fresh.
I am disappointed that the story is just the same song and dance Nintendo has been spinning since introducing Mario over 20 years ago, but the gameplay will hopefully hold up and eclipse those problems. However, I think releasing New Super Mario Bros. 2 and New Super Mario Bros. U so close together was not the best idea, but Mario’s fanbase is so large and loyal that I don’t think it will matter in the end.
+Takes cues from Super Mario World
+Mario always delivers quality gameplay
+New modes are enticing
-Not enough “new” here