Mario is great. His games are always good fun and more often than not truly revolutionise the platforming genre as we know it. We’ve seen it happen with the original back on the NES, again on the Nintendo 64 where the plumber was first introduced to the third dimension and once more again with the Galaxy series. As of late however many gamers have started to complain that maybe we’re seeing just a little too much of Mario with too many titles being released so close together. It’s worth noting that by the end of the year we will have seen Mario Kart 7, Super Mario 3D Land, New Super Mario Bros 2 and New Super Mario Bros U all released within the space of twelve months. Is that too much Mario?
With New Super Mario Bros 2 nearing its release we’ve seen reviewers complain about a lack of innovation and that the series may be starting to lose some steam so where exactly does this leave the Wii U version? While many will be quick to jump to the conclusion that Mario’s next 2D adventure willhave them yawning at the Wii U launch, the game may have a few additions and ideas that help take the 2D Mario platformer from good to awesome once more. So I’ve come up with five reasons why you shouldn’t simply shrug off New Super Mario Bros U and why it may be worth taking the portly plumber out for one more spin.
1. The visuals
Let’s not beat around the bush here, I know many of you out there are not the biggest fans of the art style the “New” series has used since it first appeared on the DS and every year I constantly see forums bombarded with gamers begging Nintendo for a change in appearance. From a Yoshi’s Island style to something in line with the more recent Wario Land: The Shake Dimension the ideas really sound fantastic. So okay, while it isn’t exactly the overhaul we all wanted for the series, the upgraded HD visuals New Super Mario Bros U certainly make things look a lot more bold and bright. Even on the smaller screen the game looks fantastically clear.
Now HD visuals are all good and all, but it’s the environments shown so far which have proven Nintendo are experimenting a little more outside the standard desert, ice or fire worlds. Going over the trailer alone we can see even the grasslands have been given a new change-up with giant rock-like structures (not too dissimilar to those of Super Mario World) in the background. Giant enemies, night time icy stages, jungle areas with trees towering in the background and finally an area that looks almost like an oil painting (Check out the 44 second mark in the video below to see what I’m talking about). Now so far we’ve seen just a single trailer and three playable stages and chances are there’s plenty more Nintendo aren’t showing so if these small teases are any indication of the worlds you’ll end up exploring then already New Super Mario Bros U is leaps and bounds ahead of the recycled sequel on the 3DS.
2. Baby Yoshis
New Super Mario Bros Wii brought back our lovable sidekick Yoshi to the 2D mix, but sadly felt somewhat underused only being available in a small handful of stages. Hopefully the Wii U version won’t fall into the same trap, and judging by evidence we’ve received so far, that doesn’t look to be the case.
First off, adult Yoshi will be back as proven by the promotional artwork first shown during Nintendo’s E3 conference. Next we have the baby Yoshis and their individual abilities. The pink one for example, playable at E3 would inflate like a balloon allowing Mario and the gang to launch and float around the stage. The yellow ones shown in the trailer act as lightbulbs especially useful in darkened underground sections, while the blue ones shoot bubbles that can turn enemies to coins or be used to bounce from. Knowing Nintendo there are likely to be more colours at your disposal, and with one new Mario power up also revealed (the Acorn Mushroom) hopefully we’ll see plenty of variation with these new skills and abilities. Don’t get me wrong, the fire flower and mushroom are great, but I want to see some new ideas like the fantastically realised Cloud Suit from Super Mario Galaxy 2. If Nintendo can supply something along those lines with these new baby Yoshis then great.
3. Five Player Multiplayer
Walking away from E3 I have to say I was disappointed with the implementation of the Wii U gamepad for New Super Mario Bros U. While it was initially fun using the touch screen to help (and hinder) my team mates by placing blocks around the stage for them to use as platforms, I quickly started to eye-up the Wii remotes as I asked to switch and play as one of the actual characters. Don’t get me wrong, this is a great idea for gamers who might want the helping hand during some of the tougher stages, but from my viewpoint, it just didn’t seem anywhere near as fun as doing the actual platforming.
Then I walked to Ubisoft’s booth and began playing Rayman Legends. Here the person with the gamepad felt more involved with the game asking you to rotate the control, collect lums and even communicate with the other players to pass obstacles. It was fantastic and made me hopeful that Nintendo too had ideas like this planned for their attempt.
Now I have faith in Nintendo. With just three levels on show at E3, it’s likely they didn’t reveal their entire hand and I’m sure they’ll be plenty more ideas for the touch pad revealed at a later date. Ubisoft have proven that the gamepad can truly change the way we play a platformer and if Nintendo can see this too then we may be looking at the best multiplayer Mario game to date.
4. Additional DLC?
New Super Mario Bros 2 on the 3DS will receive new downloadable stages at a future date so why not have the Wii U version offer the same. Think about it. What a fantastic first step toward Nintendo showing off their commitment to their online service on their newest home console. 2D Mario games are perfect for add-on packs and simply adding an extra world or two would be fantastic news for fans. Even if it was something as simple as new character skins instead of the usual Mario, Luigi, two Toads combo that would at least be something. While there has been no confirmation or even a mention of any form of DLC coming to New Super Mario Bros U, you have to think Nintendo must be considering it since announcing it’s inclusion for the 3DS sequel. Fingers crossed.
Miiverse. Nintendo’s attempt at bringing a unique online experience to their titles. While we’re still being kept in the dark about a lot of the specifics of this service, we do know a few things. Firstly that we can communicate with other players via posting messages on stages. For example if I had an opinion on how cute the new squirrel suits are, I could post it for my friends to see. If I was to die at very last point of a level, I could vent my anger in a short message (no swearing mind). Think of it like a Facebook page constantly updating with new posts from other players that pop up on your screen during gameplay. An example shown in Nintendo’s pre-E3 video showed someone bragging on beating a stage in less than 100 seconds. (This was also highlighted with what looked like an in-game achivement) This adds an element of competition that until now hasn’t been featured in a Mario game online.
Where do the online features end though? Nintendo of America President Reggie Fils-Aime stated in the Nintendo E3 conference “In New Super Mario Bros. U, not only will you be able to see what others are saying … but you’ll also be able to connect right within the game.” Does this mean we’ll be able to play together online, or perhaps watch others play through the game? I don’t know about the rest of you, but I do find it enjoyable watching YouTube videos of some randomer playing through certain games from time to time so this feature would be a fun distraction. Leaderboards would also be a great idea and add plenty of life to the game long after you’ve finished the main adventure.
Nintendo have made it clear they want to make a unique online experience that doesn’t compete with Sony or Microsoft so they need to prove it with New Super Mario Bros U. What we’ve seen so far is encouraging and hopefully will only be expanded as we hear more on Nintendo’s plans.