Don’t let ME to tell you kids what to like, with your Robert Pattinsons, your iTwitp3pods, and your rock ‘n’ roll noise music, but years before New Super Mario Bros. Wii there was a game called Super Mario Bros for the Nintendo. Now that you’re up to date on decades of fiddling with a Super Mario Brothers formula which has come full circle — let’s play!
Okay, so there is actually a lot more to the Mario franchise between the years, but New Super Mario Bros. Wii is a throwback of epic proportions. As such, it skips a few generations. Someone finally realized that the main problem with each antecedent Mario game was that it wasn’t enough like the original NES games. The solution? A brand new game using all the comforts of modern gamefare yet delightfully antiquated. Good on them. You won’t find a true gamer around who won’t herald this idea as a stroke of genius, and I am no different, though I would maybe downplay the “genius” and up-play the “It’s about time!” Here are the four things that impressed me most about this title:
1) For starters, the main thing I noticed right away was that girl non-gamers dig this game. I have met many women who, when asked about their video game preference (which can get you some…odd looks), reply, “Oh, I liked Mario when I was 9.” You know the kind? Well, now they have no excuse. It’s a perfect unisex gift for the holidays. Certainly better than a pair of UFC tickets or a DVD of Mad About You Season II. The girls I played with were excited to get back to simple, fun basics where they didn’t feel pressured to excel. There is a very good reason for this and it is point #2.
2) There is basically infinite lives. Gone are the days of challenging repetition, for better or for worse. It’s been replaced by way of fun repetition. Playing 4-player through the first two worlds, three of our players needed 5+ continues (each continue worth 5 lives), including bonus lives, while the fourth required none (the jerk). With respawning this frequent, even the most AB-challenged gamer can enjoy New Super Mario Bros. Wii without fear of derision. It’s forgiving because its primary purpose is pure entertainment.
3) Forgive me, it’s primary purpose is pure entertainment and being a madhouse. Four players on one screen is exciting enough – there’s always tons of activity – but the inclusion of pushing, shoving, grabbing, throwing, and head-stomping inter-player makes for an experience that is ripe with particularly funny incidents. It is very easy to head-stomp a fellow player into a pit by accident, or nudge them just enough to get blasted by fire. Your friends are always getting in your way and it makes for lots of laugh-out-loud moments. It can also be intensely frustrating – until you realize that you really haven’t lost anything because there are plenty of lives and continues to go around.
4) Old-time attention to detail. They really do deliver on the retro feel. Fifteen seconds of plot sets off the entire game and the world map plays out somewhere between Super Mario World and Marios Bros. 3. You might even recognize the first screen of level one (wink, wink). Hammer Bros. are back. Piranha Plants are back. Even mini-castles with tall clingable flagpoles are back. Add a pile of Mario Bros. 3 Koopa children to the mix (called “Koopalings”) and you have a veritable old school game that takes a proven formula and revitalizes it.
So in the end New Super Mario Bros. Wii is a lot like the other Wii games of any value: an easy to pick up party game. But I think it is safe to say that it will be playable for the tenure of the system itself, making the game vastly superior to the Wii’s trove of shovelware and worthy of investigation by those seeking a retro rescue.