Review: New Super Luigi U for Wii U

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Nintendo has a very interesting way of handling downloadable content when it comes to Mario, New Super Mario Bros. games specifically. There’s a certain sense of urgency, of rushing that they seem to share.

Mind, I don’t mean that they didn’t take their time with the content. Though they did get the DLC for both New Super Mario Bros. 2 and New Super Mario Bros. U out in a prompt, but not too prompt fashion, they both share one key aspect in common despite their other differences: They want the player to hurry.

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Before we get into all of that, though, here’s a quick primer on what New Super Luigi U is. First, it may help to have read my review on New Super Mario Bros. U.

New Super Luigi U is basically a sort of retelling of New Super Mario Bros. U— and quite literally so. Those hoping that Luigi would have his own side-scrolling platforming adventure– perhaps one where he rescues his own sweetheart, Princess Daisy, rather than his brother’s fling– might be slightly disappointed.

As far as setting goes, this is the exact same tale told in New Super Mario Bros. U, except that Mario himself is almost ominously absent (his hat sitting at his place at the table making it look like he passed away or something). Other than that one detail, everything happens the same: Bowser’s fleet of airships attacks Peach’s castle, a giant arm comes out, smashes Luigi and the two Toads, and proceeds to hurl them to the farthest reaches of the game’s map. Your goal, just as before, is to reach the Princess’s castle and save her from her own home.

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Though the map remains identical to that of New Super Mario Bros. U, the 82 stages featured within are all-new, and this brings us back to what I was saying at the start about a hurried pace accompanying Mario DLC. In New Super Mario Bros. 2, you’d download packs of three stages in which you would start with a short time limit and race to gather as many coins as possible without dying or allowing time to run out, with clock items allowing you to stave off the latter outcome.

In New Super Luigi U, every stage begins with 100 seconds on the clock, no checkpoint flags (that I remember seeing, anyway), and perhaps most notable of all, no clocks to pick up in order to extend the time. On the plus side, unlike New Super Mario Bros. 2, you’re allowed multiple lives to try to get through each stage, so that is a plus.

Now, I know what you’re probably thinking: Going through Mario levels in 100 seconds sounds like it might be more frantic than fun. And in a way, this can ring a little true, as one result of this is having the “hurry up” version of every stage’s theme playing the entire time. But beyond that? It’s actually extremely well measured, plotted, and paced.

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If there’s one thing the developers don’t expect you to do, it’s take on stages the size of those in New Super Mario Bros. U in a paltry 100 seconds. To this end, they’ve adjusted their way of thinking in producing each of the stages this game presents.

Part of this is in the way they looked back at the stages of the Nintendo Entertainment System classic/legend, Super Mario Bros. 3, and created more condensed, packed stages. Stages in many of the more recent New Super Mario Bros. games, as well as Super Mario World on the Super NES, tend to be sprawling fields with lots of open areas.

Here, the action is much more tightly packed as you move from one challenge to the next. It’s akin to the sort of sensation you get from biting into a double-stacked burger, rather than simply eating a single patty with a greater diameter, if that analogy suits you.

As for the clock, the developers also set it so that each tick of the clock lasts slightly longer than in New Super Mario Bros. U, effectively giving you a bit more time than you might realize. It’s clever tricks like these which make the most of the idea behind this package, and make more of it than the basic description might lead you to believe. In fact, I rarely ever felt like I didn’t have enough time to complete a stage, or even look around a little bit on my way to the goal.

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Beyond the stage designs and their accompanying time limits, there are other changes as well. The most prominent of these is that Luigi (as well as the two Toads) now has his higher, floatier flutter jump seen in Super Mario Bros. 2, the Super Mario Advance titles, and every 3D Mario game he’s appeared in to date.

On the downside, he’s also a bit more slippery to handle, just as in many of those games. Personally, it usually takes me a bit to warm up when I start playing (sometimes costing me a life or two in the process), but it’s not bad once you get going, and the high jumps still make up for it. Still, you might run into a few of those instances where you’ll swear you hit jump, but Luigi’s slippery traction sees you fall into a pit anyway.

Another plus– for me, anyway– is the return of New Super Mario Bros. Wii‘s new power-ups to prominence in this title. Propeller Mushrooms are plentiful, but the Penguin Suit (my favorite) isn’t quite as easy to get a hold of, though it at least has a full stage more or less dedicated to it.

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Between the way Luigi controls and how the stages are laid out, New Super Luigi U is a rather challenging game. More so than New Super Mario Bros. U, in my estimation, but no quite as brutal as Super Mario Bros.: The Lost Levels or Donkey Kong Country Returns. And this time, there’s no Super Guide to help you out.

With the Super Guide gone and extra lives not quite as plentiful as in other Mario titles, there is still some salvation for those who come across a challenge they cannot endure. The multiplayer mode introduces a new player in Mario’s place in the form of Nabbit, the strange purple rabbit-like bandit who you chased through stages of New Super Mario Bros. U for items.

Immune to enemy attacks (though not pits), Nabbit serves as a handy way for less-experienced players to be able to tag along with others in the multiplayer mode. But when you’re going solo, holding ZL before entering a stage will allow you to play as Nabbit, complete with his invulnerability until you complete the level.

Additionally, using Nabbit is an excellent way to stockpile extra lives. He can’t use any items he picks up, and will instead receive extra lives for each one he has picked up at the end of a stage. So in addition to just using Nabbit for fun, you can use him for profit as you fuel Luigi’s runs with more and more 1UPs.

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Some other fun changes include some new graphical elements to some levels. This includes a meta-game of sorts, wherein you try to find the Luigi graphic tucked away in each level.

A downside to the game is that the bosses remain just as they were in New Super Mario Bros. U. If you could beat them there, then you should have little difficulty here. That said, those who might have a little more trouble with them will be relieved to know that extra time is added to the clock when you reach their doorstep inside each fortress.

Another change which may be welcome is the inclusion of Wii U Pro Controller support for this title. In fact, it has even been added to New Super Mario Bros. U via a free downloadable patch as well. One would think I’d be happier about this, and I am, for the most part, but the layout doesn’t quite match that of the Wii U GamePad, and the lower ZL and ZR triggers– where my fingers naturally rest– aren’t used for the shake-controlled moves.

I don’t want to be one to complain, but it does feel like a monkey’s paw might have been granting that particular wish. But so long as it works out well for those who found discomfort in using the Wii Remote– a must for multiplayer– then it’s all good.

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Though the game has its downsides, New Super Luigi U is still a great title. In fact, if you felt that the New Super Mario Bros. formula could use a little more shaking up and a little more challenge than what New Super Mario Bros. U provided, then it’s so much better and feels a bit more fresh, too (and I already hailed NSMBU as the freshest in the New series since it began).

Those who passed on New Super Mario Bros. U because they felt it was too formulaic may want to give this one a look as well. Fortunately, while the downloadable version requires that game to work, there is also a retail version that will soon be available, and for half the price of New Super Mario Bros. U, no less.

It’s not quite the full-fledged Luigi platformer that many of Mr. Green Stache’s fans have long desired, but it’s still a remarkably good step towards realizing such a game. My fingers are crossed that this won’t be the last time Nintendo goes to this particular well, and that the next time they do, they go all the way and give us an all-new platforming adventure Luigi can call his own… perhaps with Waluigi in tow, at that.

i_39045New Super Luigi U was released for the Wii U on June 20th, 2013, at a price of $19.99 in the Nintendo eShop and requires New Super Mario Bros. U to play. A retail version will be available on August 25th, 2013 for $29.99, and will not require New Super Mario Bros. U to play.

A review copy was provided by Nintendo of Canada.


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David Oxford

David Oxford is a freelance writer of many varied interests. If you're interested in hiring him, please drop him a line at david.oxford (at) nyteworks.net.