Date: June 30, 2006
Author(s): Rob Williams
Mario has appeared in so many games, but this one is special. In some ways, this game can be considered his ‘largest’ adventure yet. Even though Nintendo introduces many new elements to the series, they still manage to retain it’s classic feel.
Mario is a special video game character to a lot of gamers, because many started out in the video game world with his games. Super Mario Brothers for the original NES is what began what was to become a massive franchise. Though it was a rather simple sidescroller, it was very fun to play. As the series continued, it only got better. That’s assuming we skip Mario 2, which I found to be a horrible game ;)
The next blowout game was Super Mario World for the SNES, which proved to offer classic action, but throw in a few new elements.
Fast forward a full 16 years, and we have the New Super Mario Bros. Not only does it promise to deliver the classic action that players have come to love, it DOES. NSMB, like the first game, offers a total of 8 worlds for the player to traverse through. These eight worlds are full of color and surprise. You begin in a modest world full of mushrooms and lush greens, that help kick the game off. You will end up traveling through the desert, clouds, ice and even lava.
The story has even been taken straight out of Super Mario Brothers. The same “The princess is in another castle.” problem will occur many, many times throughout the adventure. If this doesn’t bring back memories of early gaming hood, what will? The game carries over countless elements from Super Mario World, so if you were a fan of that game, you will love this. There were many times throughout gameplay that I said, “Wow, I remember those.” It’s a great experience overall.
The gameplay is straightforward. Beat the level, then head onto the next. Rinse and repeat until you are finally at the end. The game took around 3 hours to beat, but that was not including even playing through most of the available levels. After completely beating the game with all coins and hidden paths, I estimate it took around 10 hours total. Not too shabby for a $40 game, really.
What elements the game adds is what makes NSMB a great experience. Instead of just having the classic Fire Flower power, Mario can find large mushrooms that will increase his size so much, they he takes up the entire screen. With such power, you can crush anything in your path… even pipes. The only way to die in this mode is if you fall down a large hole. When you are playing as large Mario, an extra element is added on top of it. The more stuff you break while being large Mario, the more extra lives you will acquire once you become small again. If you pummel through everything in your path, you have chances of earning up to six free lives. So the benefits of becoming large Mario are twofold.
On the other side of the ‘coin’, we have small Mario. As you would expect, Mario can become the size of an ant, in order to complete specific goals that you would not be able to do otherwise. This was a great idea and adds a lot of possibility to the levels. Though you would think mini Mario could avoid trouble easier than big mario, it’s not so. Mini Mario is -so- light, that he will literally float through the air. Sometimes this will get you killed, so you have to play smart.
You can also find a shell that will act as protection, but it wasn’t a mode I was immediately fond of. When you try running with the shell on your back, you will automatically hop inside it and slide across the stage. This has gotten me killed a few times. The star Mario puts you invincible for around 15 seconds, and allows you to kill anything simply by touching it. This is a cool mode, but you are much faster than normal, which can throw off your predictions when trying to jump to a certain spot.
What the game really touches on is classic gameplay though. I am impressed that Nintendo could throw in so many extras into the game, such as Big and Small Mario and still retain the classic feel. While playing, it really did feel like I was playing the old game on the SNES, just upgraded graphics. The music is very reminiscent of what we have come to expect with almost any Mario title. The music for each world varies, and works well with whatever the theme is.
As for throwbacks to Super Mario World, you will experience very similar aspects. Most notably, the Ghost Houses brought back quite a few memories. Recall the ghosts that stayed in place unless your back was turned to them? The sounds that they make also, is straight out hilarious. There are a huge variety of levels overall, and regardless of how much you played the old school versions, you are bound to see something you recognize.
Because this is a Mario game, the overall difficulty is nothing intense. This is actually one complaint I have, because some aspects of the game are very, very easy. For example, the bosses at the end of each tower and castle… most of them are incredibly easy to take down quickly. Specifically, in the towers if you have fire power, sometimes you don’t even need to -move- in order to kill mini Bowser. You can simply stand in place and rapid tap the Y button and have him dead before he reaches you.
The castles at the end of each world have more difficult baddies, but they are still nothing that will take you more than twice to beat. Even the last battle in the game was rather quick… it took two lives and about 90 seconds. Though I wish the difficulty wasn’t so easy, it didn’t really detract from the game that much. It’s truly a game you can jump in and go.
In addition to normal gameplay, the game includes 16 mini-games that can be played solo or against three other DS owners. All of the games are incredibly simple, such as building a snowball before your friend, by rolling it down a hill quicker. Other mini-games include whack-a-mole, match the caterpillar and even one where you must blow into the DS to help Yoshi float. None of these are time consuming, but make for good muliplayer action or quick diversions.
Though this is a fantastic game, there are a few things that strike me odd. The first being, that if you play normally through the game, you will end up completing it by skipping world 4 and 7 completely. They have to be unlocked, but I found it weird to lay the game out in a misorder like that. You -can- complete those worlds in order, if you know how to unlock them. But most wouldn’t at that point.
I found that it was tedious to not have the ability to save whenever you wanted. Once you complete a tower, castle or something else you unlock, you can save. But, you first have to beat the game in order to save whenever you like. In the end, to save yourself any sort of stress, it would be easier to just beat the game first, before trying to collect all of the coins.
Lastly, this game didn’t seem to have many unlockables, or goals that you really need to accomplish. The primary ‘extra’ that you can unlock are wallpapers for the bottom screen during gameplay, but they cost 20 coins each. In the end, you can buy four different ones, for 80 coins total. This was far from exciting, and while they are cool looking, it’s a waste of time playing simply to unlock them.
In the end, does the game deliver on it’s promises? Yes! I have not had so much fun with a platformer in quite a while, and even though I beat the game in it’s entirely, I am still going through and replaying some levels. Overall, it’s a great experience and anyone who wants to experience what a classic 2D game is supposed to play like, this is the game to pick up. I am awarding New Super Mario Bros. a 91%.
Pros & Cons
+ Classic gameplay, lives up to original
+ New gameplay elements add to the experience
+ Superb graphics for the DS
+ Sound is very well done
+ Mini-games a plenty
– Very easy game overall
– Not much in the way of unlockables
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