Can you believe it has been over twenty years since the introduction of everyone’s favorite plumber? You would be hard pressed to find someone that has not heard of Mario and his infamous adventures in the mushroom kingdom, in fact most of us older gamers cut our teeth on one of his many adventures. But nostalgia will only get you so far in this industry; you have to deliver a universally appealing game to last this long in videogame history and no one has done it better than stereotypical Italian plumber in his red suspenders. New Super Mario Bros delivers an entirely two-dimensional experience in the vein of the NES and SNES versions while still retaining enough new addition to make it appealing to everyone. For the first time in 15 years it is time to once again save the Princess from the evil clutches of Bowser and company in the glorious 2D mushroom kingdom.
As you can probably guess the game isn’t going to win any Academy Awards for its story telling. The same formula applies here as we are once again chasing after Princess Peach who somehow has managed to get kidnapped-again. Only this time it is Bowser Jr. doing his fathers dirty work and apparently he will only run to the nearest castle until you manage to work you way there. The worlds you will traverse are a nice mixture of past games and really bring back memories for anyone who still remembers their first trip to the mushroom kingdom. All of your favorite characters are back as well including Bullet Bill and of course your random thugs whether they come in Goomba or Koopa form. There are also a lot of nods to past games that will please the fans such as hopping on the flag pole at the end of the level to finding hidden warp pipes that lead to massive coins and 1UP mushrooms. The game is almost like one big trip down memory lane for many gamers young and old.
So the big question on everyone’s mind has to be does this game venture outside of the traditional jump/run/bounce formula that the game is famous for. Thankfully the developers have added some new flavor to the original style in order to make the game appealing to new and old fans. For starters Mario is now fully rendered in 3D ala Mario 64 which allows them to give the plumber some fancy new moves and plenty of new animations. One of the coolest new features is the ability to grow Mario extremely large and simply plow through the level completely demolishing everything in his path gaining tons of extra lives and coins in the process.
The super-sized Mario is only one of the cool new features added for New Super Mario Bros.; the levels also have some brand new tricks to add to the franchise. Some levels actually have platforms that shrink and expand creating much more difficult jumps and some even have parts of the ground that will deform creating rolling hills right under your feet. The water levels also have a new addition; they now have 3D whirlpools that can suck Mario under if he decides to venture to close to the vortex.
Enemies are also not limited to one size anymore thanks to the hybrid 2D/3D engine the game is running. So now you may run into variable sizes of any enemy in any level. There are also other subtle, but appreciated additions to the universe thanks to the new 3D engine such as rolling logs, swinging vines, and even spinning question blocks all of which are integrated very well into the Mario universe.
Mario also has some new moves in this DS outing. Like we mentioned earlier he does have a nice super-size mushroom power, which really looks cool on the screen by the way, but in addition to that you can also eat a tiny mushroom and shrink into miniscule Mario and access areas that are otherwise impossible to reach. When in this mode Mario also has sort of a space jump that allows him to float in mid-air for extended periods of time. Jumping has also been given some upgrades, for instance you can now wall jump to reach higher areas of levels and even butt stomp some blocks and enemies just like in Mario 64.
The level layout is very similar to that found in Mario 3, where you move along this overhead map choosing which level to enter. Along the path you can use giant coins, of which there are three in every level, to open up secret shops and pathways to new goodies. In sticking with Mario tradition there are a total of eight worlds in the game all containing a familiar theme with everything from ice to fire this game screams Mario cliché. While most of the levels can easily be breezed through for those wanting to just finish the level, the real challenge comes in collecting all three coins and discovering every last secret. The developers have even made it so that two of the levels are not even accessible by traditional means so make sure you take your time and discover every secret to enjoy the entire game.
If all of this wasn’t enough to get you completely excited Nintendo has also thrown in some wireless one-on-one multi-player to keep those cartridges in your DS as long as possible. The main attraction is definitely the Mario vs. Luigi face-off where the objective is to collect five stars before the other player. This can lead to some severely intense sessions and quite possibly some real-life violence. The rest of the mini games are recycled from Super Mario 64 DS, but as an added bonus they have been retooled for one cartridge multi-player which is a very nice addition indeed.
New Super Mario Bros. is a testament to games today. It proves that a simple style that we once loved and cherished can still be pulled off in today’s world of flashy visuals and 80-hour game time. The level design is fantastic, the music is nostalgic and the sheer joy I get while playing this game is indescribable. If more companies paid attention to what makes gaming fun and stick to the basics we could easily have more masterpieces like this one, but for now enjoy it while you can because the next 2D Mario may very well be 15 years away from now.