New Super Mario Bros. U for Wii U: The Mega-Review

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New Super Mario Bros. U holds the distinction of not only being the fourth entry in the New Super Mario Bros. series (which, if we’re being honest with ourselves, is anything but “new” six years after it began), but also the first 2D Mario game to launch with a new Nintendo platform since Super Mario World accompanied the Super NES in 1991 (unless you count 2001’s Super Mario Advance, an underrated, overlooked remake/update of Super Mario Bros. 2, for the Game Boy Advance).

Nintendo has stated that the company needs to sell only one game per Wii U unit to make the system profitable, and with Nintendo Land being the pack-in with the Deluxe Set, it seems that the job largely falls to New Super Mario Bros. U (the only other 100% Nintendo game in the launch lineup) at the moment.

But is it worth taking the plunge? That’s the question undoubtedly on the mind of critics of the series, who feel that despite the “new” moniker, Nintendo hasn’t kept things as fresh and innovative from one installment to the next as they do in their 3D Mario titles, or even the original heyday of 2D Mario platforming. Even I was a bit critical of New Super Mario Bros. 2, as while I felt it was a solid and fun offering, it played things a little too safe as it stood alongside its predecessors.

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One thing I was critical of New Super Mario Bros. 2 for was its story. Not that I want or expect any long, drawn-out, or involved narratives; I simply like for Nintendo to keep things interesting when establishing the premise, particularly when they keep returning to the well of “rescue Princess Peach” as the end goal.

And thankfully, the developers here have done just that. As seen in the trailer and the game’s attract mode, the game begins with the Bros. and their Toad companions having lunch (or tea, or something) with Princess Peach in her castle, which looks more fortified than before with new outer castle walls. Unfortunately, walls are no match for Bowser’s fleet of airships, and the flagship unveils a new weapon devised to deal with those pesky plumbers.

In a humorous sequence, we see Bowser mix things up a bit: Rather than taking the Princess away from her castle, he instead hurls the heroes far across the land, meaning that instead of beginning at Peach’s castle, it is now the main goal. It’s a simple way of mixing things up versus the norm, and greatly appreciated– especially since it’s not the last you see of Bowser’s secret weapon, thus providing a certain continuity throughout. The use of the weapon almost has a Saturday morning cartoon-like feel in its very nature, and works quite well here.

In the grand scheme of things, however, it doesn’t affect the gameplay itself, and that’s fine– it allows us to do what we love to do while still keeping things interesting, and that’s really all we can really ask of a story in a Mario title. New Super Mario Bros. U pretty much nails it, and I for one hope that this simple inventiveness is kept going forward.

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The core gameplay remains unchanged from New Super Mario Bros. Wii, as you run and jump through numerous levels which present various enemies and obstacles for you to overcome. In fact, it is perhaps a little bit too similar, which is unfortunately to the game’s detriment.

New is the ability to play the game single-player style with just the Wii U GamePad. It works just the same as the the sideways Wii Remote scheme from the original, which also returns. But in addition to being able to shake the Wii Remote to pick up certain items or spin jump, you can now use the shoulder triggers to perform the same function as well, offering a greater degree of precision than the motion-based alternative. On the downside, you cannot turn the GamePad screen off while using it, and it can be a little distracting to have those lights and images moving just below eye level as you try to play on the television screen– the system is in high definition, after all, and one can hardly be blamed for wanting to enjoy that fact.

Speaking of the Wii Remotes, you don’t need the Wii Remote Plus or a MotionPlus attachment for this game– regular Wii Remotes work fine. In fact, if you wish to play multiplayer, they are actually required– an unfortunate aspect, given the comfort of the Wii U GamePad and discomfort some feel by using the Wii Remote held sideways.

Worse still is the fact that you cannot use the Wii U Pro Controller in any fashion. Though it’s a very comfortable, contoured, traditional-style controller, it lacks any sort of accelerometer as the other controllers have. This shouldn’t be an issue, given the shoulder-button use mentioned before, but a very, very small portion of the game brings back some of the tilt-controlled platforms from New Super Mario Bros. Wii.

The sad fact is that this segment does nothing to enhance the gameplay, and in retrospect, seems to exist solely as a reason to exclude the inclusion of Pro Controller support. Additionally, the Wii U GamePad cannot be used for anything but Boost Mode when dealing with multiple players. For some, this may not be a big deal, but if you’re trying to gather a group of four or five players to enjoy the game to its fullest, or even just want to use a more comfortable controller than the Wii Remote, this move was simply unnecessary and feels shortsighted.

Personally speaking, I have no discomfort from the Wii Remote, but I do kind of like having the button-press option for picking things up and spinning. Nonetheless, I do know there are many people who find the Wii Remote less than comfortable (enough that there is even a market for shells to bulk it up into something more comfortable), and they should know that shy of playing solo with the GamePad, there is no relief here.

And honestly? This is the worst thing I have to say about the game. Read on to learn more of the game’s positive aspects.

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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.