For over 25 years, Mario has been an icon of the gaming world, above and beyond your Sonic the Hedgehogs and your Crash Bandicoots for one simple reason: Originality. Whereas Sonic has stretched one central concept over 20 years and Crash has finally run out of boxes to smash, Mario has kept going from strength to strength because he’s listened to the old adage: Adapt to survive. In 1997 he gloriously embraced a third dimension for the first time in Super Mario 64, and has recently managed to reinvent the platform genre with the excellent Galaxy games. However, the most interesting part of his continued survival has nothing to do with countless spin-offs, but the way he’s still so keen on his past, and so when the time was right, New Super Mario Bros on the DS sent the plumber right back to his roots, which by virtue of being old felt fresh and new.
So it’s ironic, then, that this is the problem with New Super Mario Bros Wii: It doesn’t feel like it’s adapted. It doesn’t feel like a proper Mario game, no matter how much Nintendo flag it as being the ‘new SMB3’. There’s a tone of unoriginality running throughout NSMB Wii, from opening Goomba to final Bowser confrontation. While this never stops it from being a good game, the lack of the trademark Nintendo spark does stop the game from pushing onto the greatness of Super Mario World, its’ 2D console preceder. While there’s nothing wrong, at the heart of NSMB Wii, we just couldn’t shake the slightly forgettable, throwaway feel the single-player antics on offer gave.
It’s funny, because Nintendo has certainly thrown plenty of new ideas into the ring: There’s a grand total of three new suits for Mario to wear, plus the 2D debut of Ice Mario, which handles completely differently to how it was used in Super Mario Galaxy, essentially making it a new item. However, none of these will blow you away in the same fashion the Tanooki suit did or more recently Bee Mario or the aforementioned Ice flower. The propeller suit is new, but the effect is just that of the wing-up springs, while the penguin serves no real purpose and doesn’t even look as cute as it should. In fact, there’s something rather creepy about a grown man with a moustache wandering around in the hollowed out penguin.
Also disappointing is Yoshi, who works well enough, bringing memories of Super Mario World flooding back at every turn. However, unlike in The Best 2D Platformer Ever Made™, at the end of each level Yoshi turns and waves you off instead of carrying on until you lose him in battle. A very disappointing feature considering that it was included almost two decades ago, and even then the levels he appears in don’t utilise him as well as they could, certainly not as well as Galaxy 2 did, with the capture of a couple of Star Coins seeming like his only purpose for being in the game. Said coins are, however, a nice touch, albeit one copied from the DS game. If you can be bothered to collect them, they do stretch out the games’ lifespan considerably, especially as now there’s a proper reward for you, rather than a new skin for the bottom screen and a few stars by your profile name, although we won’t spoil what it is for you, but you could easily find yourself trudging through even the most unimaginative of levels multiple times to try and nab yourself the coins.
While this may not be platforming gold, (Although don’t get us wrong, it’s still an excellent entry into the genre, if not the Mario series.) our negative start makes it easy to forget how much fun NSMB Wii can be, largely thanks to the chaotic four-player action that caused much of the hype surrounding the game pre-release and has helped it on to become one of the Wii’s top-selling games. For the first time ever, other players can join you whilst bounding around a Mario stage. Nintendo have created such a system that anything goes: You may all press start with intentions of helping each other through in mind, but before long you’ll find yourself resorting to the dirtiest tactics to nab that 1-Up mushroom before your mate/brother/sister/boyfriend/girlfriend/husband/wife/dad/mum/dog can treat themselves to a tasty virtual fungi-based snack. You can tell from the way bomb-ombs are planted and Koopa shells bound that Nintendo wanted to break up families, even down to the bubble respawn system, allowing you to spite other players by avoiding touching them as they float towards you in the process of a regeneration, or even unleashing them down a bottomless pit.
A fear many of us shared was that levels would be stretched to accommodate four players, something Nintendo have wisely sidestepped. Instead, four-player seems like somewhat of an afterthought, with later stages struggling to accommodate a quartet of Mushroom Kingdom figures, making it ridiculously tough to get through. We’d recommend giving up on multi-player beyond the first, say, two worlds for frustrations’ sake. While dying at the hands of a mate may be frustrating, being killed by him during a pixel-perfect jump that you’d failed to make five times before is infuriating to the point in which you want to lock them in another castle. The game is far harder than the original DS game and verges on topping the later stages from SMB3 at points, although it’s never near the Lost Levels when it comes to impossible leaps of faith. However, less experienced Mario players can always use the SuperGuide- a brilliant idea, that lets Luigi take over at a point at which you have died eight times or more, so he’ll do the level for you, although you can jump in when you feel comfortable.
To be perfectly honest, this reviewer played all the way through the game on their own and forgot entirely about the four-player mode and the SuperGuides existence. (Although multiplayer had been played on another save file, of which there are three, for laughs, as well as in the surprisingly good Coin Battle mode, which does what it says on the tin.) At the end of the day, this is another Mario game, albeit one spruced up with a bit of multi-player joy that feels more progressive than a Smash Bros or Mario Kart experience, but retains the sense of chaotic fun provided by both. As a social experience, it hits all the right notes. As a piece of Nintendo history, it certainly makes contact with the right keys, but it just isn’t done with enough speed, confidence or harrumph to create the beautiful piece of music we know it easily could have been. Mario may still be above his rivals, but this is hardly proof of the heights he is capable of hitting.