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REVIEW: New Super Mario Bros. Wii (Spoiler Free)
Earlier in the year Nintendo was heavily criticized for a lack of quality games on the system, especially from the parent company itself. They swore things were in the pipeline, and soon enough they announced their big holiday title: New Super Mario Bros. Wii, the sequel to the beloved DS game.
I've always been a fan of the side scrolling Mario games. In fact, as good as Mario Galaxy was I've never been a huge fan of the 3D-style titles. When it was announced a new game much more in line with the DS, SNES, and NES games was coming out, I was thrilled. When I found out who the stage bosses were, I was ecstatic. I loved the idea that Nintendo was returning to some of their roots and bringing back some long abandoned ideas. Of course, there is that old saying I forgot about: be careful what you wish for.
Okay, maybe that comes off as a bit too negative. I love the new takes on the retro stuff, and I'm certainly not complaining that Nintendo dusted off some old ideas for the sake of nostalgia. The problem is sometimes nostalgia gets in the way of innovation, and in the case of this game it does almost nothing in the way of adding to the franchise.
I think long time Mario fans know what I mean. Super Mario Bros. 2 (the US version, even though it wasn't meant to be a part of the series) was a radical change from the original game. It introduced a whole new set of characters, ideas, gameplay, and even Luigi and Peach's unique designs and moves. When Super Mario Bros. 3 came along, fans were introduced to a whole slew of power suits beyond the Fire Flower, giving him a wide variety of abilities (that idea alone may have had the biggest impact on the series). The game also seemed much bigger than the previous games, with items cleverly hidden and tricks no one would even think of, such as crouching on the white block to go behind the scenes. Next to Super Mario World, it is probably my favorite Mario game ever made.
And speaking of Mario's debut on the Super NES, Super Mario World did more than bring Mario into a graphically beautiful world. It introduced Yoshi, switch blocks, ghost houses, a ton of new characters, and secret exits that opened up entire new worlds. It was an incredible upgrade from previous games. The one thing all of these games had in common, however, was that while each one was a sequel in name and used a few elements here or there from the series, they were all their own unique games. They took the best of the line and found ways to be innovative, and that innovation was one of the main reasons I looked forward to Mario games the most.
And that's the problem with this game and its DS predecessor. As fun as they are (and don't get me wrong, they are fun) there is no innovation. There are virtually no new enemies, save for giant versions of existing ones. Aside from the multiplayer, which I'll get to later, there's nothing ground breaking about the title. Instead of borrowing elements from the previous games simply to enhance the new experience, it aped them completely. The Nintendo of old would never have been that lazy.
Still, even a lazy Nintendo knows how to make fun games, and NSMBW might be the best of the year. It is easily a game that I will keep on my shelf and replay over and over. One of my biggest complaints about the DS game was how easy it was to beat, partially due to the amount of lives you can quickly earn and partially due to the level design. While this version still suffers from the 1up glut issue, the difficulty has been turned up a notch. Some areas were pretty easy, but as the game progressed others required multiple playthroughs and a lot of patience. The challenge of finding all of the coins was upped by hiding or using clever ways to access them. In most cases there always was a small but very subtle clue, but even the sharpest players could miss a few. And the ending fight was one of the best I've seen in a Mario game yet. The fear that Nintendo would dumb down this game with the addition of the Super Guide was unwarranted; in fact, I usually forgot it was even available and the game doesn't point it out unless you die eight times in the same level.
For those curious about the multiplayer mode, you needn't worry. Having played two player mode with a family member, it was absolutely one of the craziest, frustrating, and fun times I've had. It was weird to experience all of that at the same time, but that's the genius of it. At times you use the other player to access hard-to-reach items; at others, you're too busy messing your partner up to remember the common goal. I can't even imagine what four player might be like.
The game also continues the tradition of new costumes for Mario to use. For the most part it's stuff we've seen before, but there are at least three new power ups that players have access to at different points of the game.
The controls are, for the most part, what you expect from a Mario game. To control Mario you use the Wiimote on its side (like the classic NES controller) while occasionally using motion. The motion controls work just fine and are used so little it isn't a distraction. The only real complaint I have is with performing ground stomps. Normally this works just fine, but randomly at times Mario would perform the move while over a Pit of Death (TM) when I was attempting to pull off something completely different. Suits that involved shooting things (ice and fire) also made it extremely difficult to do the smash attack.
As for sound... well, it's what you expect from a Mario game. The music is wonderful, but if you're looking for voice acting beyond grunts, noises, and a word or two, you won't find it here.
Visually the game is appealing but it gives off the impression Nintendo didn't put their full attention to it. The game looks good, but it hardly appears to be pushing the Wii's limits. Still, the 3D character models seem to work with the 2D background. It does suffer from a problem I've seen only in one other game: Deadly Creatures. When something required a lot of animation, such as the moving sand pillars, horizontal lines were noticeable. In all the games I've played on the system, this is only the second time I've seen this. I seriously doubt it's hardware limitations, as more complex games like Mario Galaxy and Super Smash Bros. Brawl had flawless visuals even during the most intensely animated moments.
New Super Mario Bros. Wii is flawed and a little lazy, but it's still an amazing game for fans of side scrollers and the DS predecessor. It's at least worth dusting off the console for.
SCORE: 8 / 10
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