by Matthew Thompson (Images-Nintendo, the NSMBU site can be found here)
If you’ve played a New Super Mario Bros. game, you sort of know what you are getting into at this point with NSMBU. This is the fourth installment in the New sub-series that saw Mario return to his 2D platforming roots and because of that a bit of fatigue has set in for me. But that isn’t to say NSMBU wasn’t worth my time. Few 2D platformers can match Mario these days and while U treads similar ground to the other New Super Mario Bros. games, it is definitely one of the better ones.
Again this is a NSMB game through and through. Along with Mario’s typical 2D tricks, the New series brings over wall-bounding, triple jumps and ground pounds from the 3D games and throws them in the mix. Old staples like fire flowers and invincibility stars are here along with recent additions like the handy ice flower. You’ll use all this to continually make your way to the right, hopping on goombas, throwing turtle shells and jumping your way through Mario’s sidescrolling obstacle courses on a quest to rescue Princess Peach from Bowser’s reptilian clutches. It is still sporting that familiar 2.5D look though the Wii U allows for some snazzier HD visuals. There is certainly some inspired art direction found in some levels as well despite a lot of reused world themes. And multiplayer is back. There is fun to be had here helping and griefing your friends if you can handle the chaos. The Wii U gamepad offers some additional twists to the formula too. And just as before, some levels are simply ill-suited to have another player tag along. Still a worthy addition to the game though.
There are some new things I liked. The flying squirrel suit is definitely a good power-up. It allows for gliding and clinging to walls, but what I really dug was how it could be used as a double-jump. There is a bunch of different baby Yoshis with assorted abilities to add a twist to levels here and there. And while I suppose it didn’t necessarily add much to the game, I do prefer this game’s single large world map (think Super Mario World) to previous NSMB games’ more segmented setups. I also thought the idea of Bowser setting up shop in Peach’s castle was a nice touch even if I found the final castle level a little lacking. While not new per se, I did like how challenging this latest iteration was. More so than any previous NSMB game I’d say.
The whole package is much better than either the original NSMB for the DS or NSMB2 for the 3DS. I’d put it a bit behind the Wii version overall, but that isn’t a knock. I’d definitely like to see this series mix things up going forward. The next 2D Mario should take a Mario Galaxy-like approach. I don’t mean be like Galaxy’s 2D sections or having gravity-switching (though there is potential in the latter). I mean think outside the box. Get away from the traditional world themes. Get creative. And not just with level designs and power-ups, but with the artstyle. I’d love to see it go back in a purely 2D direction with the graphics. As much as I’ve enjoyed the NSMB games, I think it is time to shake things up and take 2D Mario in a new direction. But this is a review for New Super Mario Bros. U and despite feeling a little too been-there-done-that, it is a high quality game and a worthwhile purchase for anyone who has a Wii U.