Monday, August 20, 2007

New Super Mario Bros. review

Surprise! It's another review! Enjoy. (PS: This review may or may NOT be related to an article coming later this week... *Hint, hint*)

New Super Mario Bros. was the plump plumber's first non-remake, two-dimensional platformer game since Super Mario Land 2 (GB) was released nearly fourteen years before. As such, gamers were very excited to see Mario back in the format that made him so popular in the first place. Did Nintendo's main man fail to live up to expectations, or did he deliver a game worthy of the history books? Read on to find out.

Central to any video game is, of course, gameplay, but the necessity of this aspect is even greater when it comes to platformers. Thankfully, New Super Mario Bros. retains all that made the older games great, and even improves upon them in some ways. For example, New Super Mario Bros. brings along with it two new mushroom power-ups, the Mega Mushroom and the Mini Mushroom. As the names suggest, the Mega Mushroom and the Mini Mushroom make Mario very big and and very small (Respectively). When turned into Mega Mario (As seen below), virtually no obstacle can get in your way. With this power, players can smash through standard brick blocks, "?" blocks, and even those solid, usually indestructible brown blocks (Like those left behind after striking a "?" block). Even pipes don't stand a chance with faced with Mega Mario's might! When you are Mega Mario, a bar will appear at the top of the screen, and it will fill up slightly with every thing you destroy or defeat. Depending on how full it is by the time the Mega Mushroom wears off (It only lasts for a short while), you can get up to five 1UP mushrooms. The downsides of being Mega Mario are you cannot fit into many places where you could as Super Mario. Also, using the Mega Mushroom while under the effects of any other power-up will result in the previous power-up being lost. So, if you're Fire Mario and you get a Mega Mushroom, you will then lose your ability to shoot fireballs, even once returning to normal size.

Mega Mario, as seen in some New Super Mario Bros.
promo art

When turned into Mini Mario, you can fit into very small places, as well as enter small pipes. Also, Mario gains the ability to jump very, very high. Mini Mario can also now run across the top of water, if he gets a good run at it. The big downside, though, is that just one hit while playing as Mini Mario will result in death.

New Super Mario Bros. also introduces one other power-up, although it is not in the form of a mushroom. I am referring, of course, to the blue Koopa shell (Pictured below). When wearing the blue Koopa shell, Mario gains the ability to dash around inside his shell, similar to how a normal Koopa shell bounces around after being stepped on. Also, Mario gains the ability to swim much faster and with far greater agility, which can come in handy in many underwater stages. On the downside, Koopa Mario becomes somewhat hard to control when dashing around inside his shell, which can lead to quite a few unfortunate mishaps involving lava pits and bottomless holes.

That's Mario inside that Koopa
shell, you know.

On the subject of power-ups, Mario now has the ability to hold an item in a one-slot inventory, which can be easily accessed mid-level by simply tapping it on the lower screen (In some situations where the screens are swapped, however, this is not possible). Sadly, only one item can be held in reserve at a time, and, depending on your currently powered-up state, some items may be used automatically instead of being put in your inventory. I'm not going to go in-depth with this hierarchy, but basically, if the obtained item is inferior to your current power-up, it is stored in your inventory. If it is superior to your current state, then it is automatically used (Unless obtained from a Toad House).

Every level also features three Star Coins, which can be used to unlock alternate passage ways on the map screen. These coins are usually very well hidden within the levels, and some of which even require you to carry a power-up from an entirely different level to even obtain them.

In New Super Mario Bros., all worlds feature one mini-boss (Although some later levels feature two), as well as one main boss, all of whom must be defeated in order to advance to the next world. Every mini-boss is always Bowser Jr., but his varied fighting styles help keep things from getting too stale (Although you'll most likely have seen all his tricks by World 5). The big bosses are different every time, from a mummified Pokey to an incredibly angry Cheep Cheep to even the grotesquely mutated vegetable that is Petey Piranha.

There is also a wealth of mini-games available to be played on the main menu, all of which are available from the very instant you turn on the game (No collecting bunnies a la Super Mario 64 DS). Some games are merely ported over from Super Mario 64 DS, but there are a few new games, as well as a few slightly-altered old games. There's also a multiplayer aspect to these minigames, but I'll talk about that more in the Multiplayer section of this review.

If there's anything significantly negative to be said about the gameplay of this game, it's that it's rather easy to beat. Give a man a copy of New Super Mario Bros., a DS Lite and 12 hours, and he'll most likely have it done. However, he'll most likely have passed over several alternate paths and levels, missed out on collecting all the Star Coins, and perhaps even overlooked two entire worlds! New Super Mario Bros. may be an easy game to beat, but completing it is no simple task.

The storyline of New Super Mario Bros. is certainly predicted. Bowser kidnaps Peach, Mario chases him through eight worlds, saves her, blah blah blah. Nothing any of us haven't seen or heard before. And so concludes the shortest ever Storyline section in one of my reviews so far!

Perhaps one of New Super Mario Bros.' most unique aspects is it's graphics. Featuring three-dimensional character models on two-dimensional levels is an art style mirrored rarely by other video games, and even more rarely surpassed in terms of quality. The character sprites are all rendered beautifully, with every last defining detail present. Heck, you could probably expand this Mario sprite, clean it up a bit and slap it on a Super Mario Sunshine screenshot, and barely anybody would notice the difference (Well, besides the lack of FLUDD, that is). The environments are also drawn beautifully, with almost everything handled in a traditional animation style.

Despite the vast difference between the animation styles of the characters and the environments, everything meshes together beautifully, and nothing sticks out like a sore thumb, whether it's two-dimensional or three-dimensional. Very impressive stuff, Nintendo.

The audio in New Super Mario Bros. is fairly standard, but that's actually a good thing here! The music, although new, fits in well with the tunes from older games. If you were to make a mix tape of all the Mario music since the original game, and play them in random order, the differences would be hard to notice (Except for the distinctly 8-bit sounds of the older tracks).

The sound effects from the previous games all make their return, from the jumping "Boing!", to the "Klonk!" of kicking a Koopa shell, to the "Crack!" of breaking a brick block. Every sound effect you know and love from the last twenty years of Mario history is back, folks, and it all sounds oh so sweet.

Charles Martinet again reprises his roles as Mario and Luigi, and all of the other voice actors return to play the characters they're best known for. Mario's "Wahoo!"s and "Yippee!"s sound just as great as ever, yet they don't clash with the classical sound effects and music. It all meshes together so well.

Strangely (Especially when considering the typically solo history of Mario games), New Super Mario Bros. features two modes of multiplayer action (Both of which feature single- and multi-card wireless play). The main one of these multiplayer modes is Mario vs. Luigi. In this gameplay mode, players play as either Mario or Luigi, and fight to get the pre-determined amount of stars before the other player(s) can. The game takes place on one of five basic levels. Players can find Stars lying around the stage, or attack other player(s) who have a star, and steal it from them. In the end, the first person to gain the required amount of stars wins. Mario vs. Luigi can be very hectic, especially if you can get four players in on the action.

The other multiplayer mode, as said before, is competitive minigames. When playing minigames competitively, players may compete to last the longest, act the fastest or collect the most items. Special multiplayer-only minigames are available when playing competitively. These games are tailor-made to the multiplayer experience, allowing for the most competitive situations possible. Also, existing single player games have been slightly altered to better suit multiplayer action. Like Mario vs. Luigi, competitive minigames support two to four players. Overall, the multiplayer aspects of New Super Mario Bros. are fun, and they don't get in the way of the single player experience. Definitely worth the effort of grouping together four DS-owning friends.

New Super Mario Bros., like most other Mario games, boasts some fairly adequate longevity. Running through all the levels and collecting the Star Coins is sure to keep any gamer busy for quite a while. Unlocking all the worlds and levels also takes quite a bit of work, so expect to be spending quite some time with this even after you've beaten the final boss. And, as always, multiplayer helps skyrocket the longevity into the stratosphere. This game will keep your attention for a long, long time.


Gameplay: 9.3/10
New Super Mario Bros. retains all the gameplay we've grown to love from the past twenty years of Mario games, and even improves upon it in places. The main game is a little easy, however.

Storyline: 7.0/10
Peach gets kidnapped, Mario chases after her, beats the big guy, gets the girl, the end. We've all heard this story before. Well, at least they stuck to the tried and true!

Graphics: 8.8/10
The character models are of surprisingly high quality, and the environments are all drawn beautifully in simple 2D. And everything all fits together so well, despite the huge difference in animation styles. An artistic triumph.

Audio: 9.0/10
All the music sounds so classic, yet somehow new, and the sound effects are exactly what we've all loved for lo these many years. Add to that a full returning cast of voice-actors, and you've got a real treat for the ears.

Multiplayer: 8.5/10
The Mario vs. Luigi mode is super-frantic fun, and the competitive minigames are jut icing on the multiplayer cake. Add to that the single-card download play and support for up to four players, and ladies and gentlemen, we have a winner!

Longevity: 8.0/10
New Super Mario Bros. may be short when it comes to a main storyline, but getting all the Star Coins, levels and worlds is no simple task. This game will take even the best of gamers quite some time to complete.

OVERALL: 9.2/10
New Super Mario Bros. is an amazing Mario game, and possibly the best platform available for the DS. This game excels in nearly every field, and it deserves a spot in any gamer's collection. If you don't have it, get it. If you do have it, congratulations, my friend, you've made a very wise purchase.

Well then, there's my second review in the last five days! I love New Super Mario Bros.! What do you guys think of it?

PS: Keep that "*Hint, hint*" in mind, pals.

The Duck Has Spoken.

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