Last week in Nintendo’s traveling airstream trailer John, Chuck and I had the chance to test-drive a few of the publisher’s holiday products. Up first was arguably their most anticipated 2009 title, New Super Mario Bros Wii
, the sequel to 2006’s Mario platformer revival on DS. The three of us teamed up with Janie, Nintendo’s very friendly representative, and stumbled through a handful of levels as Mario, Luigi and a pair of Toads.
You may have heard rumors that the game will play itself for you, and while it’s true that this is the first Nintendo title to include the “Super Guide” feature, it only gives you that option after you’ve failed a level eight times. Old school Mario fans hungry for a challenge need not worry that New Super Wii will hold your hand. Miyamoto’s sadistic platforming style remains pure and from what I’m told, white-knuckle hard toward the end of the game.
The levels we played ranged from easy to challenging, with a decent amount of variety between each. One of the early, green hilly levels featured moving terrain that made timed landings difficult, and thus it was harder to avoid running into enemies. Next we tried a fairly standard sewers level, complete with the obligatory pipes and piranha plants hiding in them. The most challenging level had all four of us riding on a raft through a cavern occasionally punctuated by hard-to-reach platforms, irritating bats and Koopas tossing fireballs down onto us. The hammers were bad enough; I must have missed the memo about those jerks getting fire flowers.
Speaking of which, we could obtain the usual Mario powerups and they functioned just as they did on DS, but Janie told us that we could eventually find a propeller suit and some other new items. The only new ability I saw was Mario’s spin move from Mario Galaxy. All four players can execute it now by shaking their Wii remotes, and I’m a little disappointed that it still feels just a bit floaty and unresponsive. We didn’t see any other new powers or goodies, or even returning New Super items like the giant and micro mushrooms, but seeing as they’ve been adopted into Mario Kart I’m sure they’ll show up. I’m still holding out hope for the Tanooki suit or maybe the Koopa shoe—after all, the Koopalings are finally coming back, maybe we’ll get some Super Mario 3 powerups too.
Yoshi makes a return and he functions almost identically to how he did in Super Mario World on the SNES, right down to the classic sound effects. He can devour enemies and gobble the apples hanging from trees, eventually laying an egg containing a powerup if you feed him enough. We only encountered Yoshi in two of the five levels we played, and considering that you could find him in almost every level of Mario World, his scarcity in New Super is a bit disappointing. Still it’s pretty cool that all four players can be riding different colored Yoshis at once, given you find enough Yoshi eggs.
For the most part New Super Wii played just liked the DS game with a few additions from older Mario games that were missing on DS. It’s the cooperative element that sets it apart from the first game. Having four people running around the screen, snapping up items and jumping on each other gets pretty frenetic and reminded me of Smash Bros. Players can now pick up and toss each other around the stage, which is useful for reaching certain areas but can be disastrous if not aimed and timed properly. Powerup blocks now spawn four items at once but if you’re feeling like a selfish jerk you can snatch all four items and deprive your buddies of a much needed super mushroom. New Super Wii can be played cooperatively or competitively—you can really mess up your friend’s game if you steal items, get in their way or jump on their heads. You can even jack a friend’s Yoshi with a well placed ground pound. Conversely players can work together to complete puzzles or reach places that a single person could never get to. Some of the secret areas can only be unlocked through teamwork.
4 player gameplay definitely gives 2D Mario party appeal. Our session quickly turned goofy—Chuck is a pretty professional guy but he was cutting up a little, although that might have been bemusement at me for using his head as a stepping stone to a fire flower. Still, this goofball atmosphere made it difficult to play a level with any precision, and it seemed like we were all dying far too often. Bunching up causing players to bounce off of each other repeatedly, and spreading out makes it easy to lose track of your character—two problems I’ve often encountered in Smash Bros. I’m sure a two player Mario-Luigi game would be easier, but a coordinated, well-flowing four player match is still sketchy.
Don’t get me wrong, I really liked New Super on Wii, but after playing it my opinion remains the same: I think it’s kind of an odd fit for the Wii. I’d really prefer another DS game with multiplayer, and considering that the Wii build doesn’t support online play I don’t see why they didn’t just do a four player DS title to begin with. I know they’re going for the family fun angle with everyone huddled around the living room TV and playing Mario, but the similarities to Smash Bros just made me want to play that instead. I’m still looking forward to New Super Wii and I’ll be picking it up without a doubt, especially considering my girlfriend has always wanted to get into classic 2D Mario and New Super Wii is a great starting place for newcomers. That said, I really wanted a sequel I could play on the go.