New Super Mario Bros. Wii (Review)

“Mario returns to his roots once more in this enjoyable 2D platformer.”

For many years, I was complaining that Nintendo was foolishly wasting their time making fully 3D Mario games, which I still feel they inappropriately named as platformers. Mario 64 never clicked with me and Mario Sunshine was so mediocre that it was depressing. I never played either of the Mario Galaxy games due to not being a Wii owner. Despite the fact that I don’t own Nintendo’s latest console, I’m still allowed the opportunity to try a Wii game from time to time. Except for Mario Kart Wii, there’s probably no other game on the console that I’ve ever wanted to play except for New Super Mario Bros. Wii. Now that I’ve gotten the chance to try it out, I feel that I really must write about the game being the Mario fanatic that I am.

New Super Mario Bros. Wii (let’s just call it NSMBW for short) opens up with Mario and Luigi, as well as many toads (the mushroom people), attending Princess Toadstool’s birthday. Things take a completely random turn for the worse when Bowser’s goons lift Peach’s gigantic cake and throw it on top of her, trapping her inside before running off with her. I know that this is just a Mario platformer and all, but really? The cake? Nintendo surely could have done a little better than this? A crew of koopa caterers in disguise nabbing her would have been better. Even though I didn’t like the cake scene and found it to be really uncreative, it hasn’t affected my overall take on the game so no need to worry.

After the princess is nabbed, it is time for Mario, Luigi, and the two toads (one blue and one yellow) to save the day. With four characters comes four player support, new to the main Mario series. I only played the game solo which is how I feel Mario platformers should always be played unless we’re talking two players taking turns. In NSMBW however, all four players can romp across the screen together. It sounds like a little bit too much for me, especially in a Mario game, so I’m a little glad that I didn’t get the opportunity to try the multiplayer since it allowed me to play this game for what it is, a Mario platformer and not a four player orgy.

So once all is said and done and you’re past the intro sequence and player select, you get to tackle the first world. As is the case with all Mario games, NSMBW is divided into eight worlds, each comprised of several levels. Each world in NSMBW follows a different theme, most of which are pulled straight out of classic Mario games.

On the subject of emulating the classic Mario games, NSMBW does not hesitate to take many pages from the older games. NSMBW in fact borrows so many elements from the classic games that it ends up feeling like the first four games (Super Mario Bros 1, 2, 3 and World) were dumped into a big cauldron and left to stew. The number of gameplay elements from the old games is staggering, but it is huge relief after the 3D titles which tried desperately to be different.

Most of the classic enemies and power-ups from the first four games have returned. While they may be rendered in 3D now and have received drastic makeovers, everything is the same as ever. As a long time Mario fan, I was constantly encountering somewhat obscure enemies that I had met in the older games, so I had the privilege of knowing what they do and how to get around them. It was so great to experience so much familiarity in a new Mario game and it left me feeling really good.

In terms of what’s new to Mario, there are three new power-ups that are quite a lot of fun to use. The first that you will likely encounter is the ice flower which, instead of giving Mario the ability to throw fireballs, allows our plumber friend to freeze enemies for a few seconds. The second power-up is a propeller cap which allows Mario to fly up and down by shaking the Wiimote. This is a cheap gimmick to add to a power-up, and it immediately makes the propeller cap inferior to the leaf from SMB3 or cape from SMW in my opinion. The third and final new power-up is the penguin suit, which allows Mario to glide across the ground effortly like a penguin on ice.

Level structure is the same as ever, keep moving forward until you reach the goal post at the end of the level. How to progress through the levels has remained unchanged so Mario veterans should be able to complete most of the game with relative ease. There are a few new challenges littered throughout the game, most of which start to appear in the secord world.

There are a few old faces that have returned to the Mario franchise, which makes me very, very happy. First off, there’s Yoshi. Our beloved dinosaur has been restored to his Mario World glory thanks to a smart decision by Nintendo. Gone is Yoshi’s bizarre baby voice which has been replaced by the deeper, more reptilian Yoshi noises that we fell in love with in Super Mario World. Unfortunately, Yoshi is only present in a small handful of levels and cannot be taken outside to other levels. This seems to be a nod to Mario Sunshine and, quite frankly, I hate it. The inability to bring Yoshi anywhere is really not beneficial to the gameplay at all. Super Mario World, which is essentially twenty years old, has a superior Yoshi that can travel to any level. That does not look very good on NSMBW.

Also returning for the first time in many years are the Koopa Kids. I missed this guys immensely, as they were among my favourite aspects of the old games. The order that you fight them in has been shaken up quite a bit and is fairly interesting now. For example, Larry Koopa was usually always in castle 6 or 7 before, but is now the very first Koopa Kid who you must overcome.

World structure is actually the best ever in a Mario game. While the game world doesn’t feel as diverse as Super Mario World, which featured a brilliant overworld map, NSMBW instead emulates the map style that we’ve seen in Super Mario Bros. 3 and New Super Mario Bros. for the DS. There are several levels scattered across the maps which the player must beat to progress. Among them are mushroom houses, ghost houses (returning from Mario World), and towers. The towers are actually quite nice. In most cases, towers sit smack dab in the middle of each world. Whichever Koopa Kid is lording over the world you’re in will be present in the tower, and you get to have a nice little fight with them before they flee to the castle at the end of the world. After beating the tower, you are treated with a save prompt and the second half of the world to play through.

The graphical style in NSMBW isn’t bad at all and, quite honestly, just looks like the original Super Mario Bros. on the NES with a massive makeover. This is quite a good thing, and there’s a lot of charm in the game’s visuals. Sound effects match nicely, as many of them are straight out of the classic games with few alterations. Music is a different story and I personally found it to be a bit of a bag of mixed nuts. Some of the music tracks are very enjoyable and pleasant to listen to, but others are entirely forgettable. It is a little disheartening that a Mario platformer could have music that won’t stand out or stick with you, but that’s just the sad truth. The music is at least an improvement from New Super Mario Bros. on the DS, but just about anything is an improvement over the music in that game. Sorry Nintendo.

So, is the game worth your time? If you are a Mario fan, then the answer is a definite yes. If you enjoy Mario platformers, then there is absolutely no doubt in my mind that you will enjoy this game. Heck, even just fans of platformers in general should find a lot to like in this game. While the game falters a tiny bit from a few shortcomings, it stands strong and is only bettered by perhaps Mario 3 and Mario World. Nintendo has proven to us that they still have it in them, and this is undoubtedly the best 2D Mario platformer in a whooping twenty years.

Final Score

9/10

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Super Mario World (SNES, 1990)

INFO: My “Retro Vault” reviews are not scored. Instead, I just talk about why I have fond memories of whichever game I’m writing about at the time. Generally, I won’t pick out any bad games for the Retro Vault feature, so scoring them is essentially useless anyway. Enjoy the read.

I have to apologize to fans of Mario 64 and Mario Galaxy, because those games cannot stand up to the 16 bit behemoth that is Super Mario World. 3D Mario games are great and all, but 2D platforming, where Mario’s roots are, is also where he shines his best.

I remember when I was only six or seven years old, and I was visiting a friend’s house for a few hours. When I had walked in, I was greeted by what sounded like a very exciting video game. Back then, there was no internet and most people found out about games by word of mouth. Also, the Super Nintendo had only been recently launched, so a lot of people didn’t yet know about it. So, what was the first thing I saw when I rounded the corner and peered at their living room television? Why, it was Mario looking better than I had ever seen before! And he was involved in a fight with Bowser, and the graphics just blew my mind. Everything about this unknown Mario game captivated me. I found myself not caring much about the mysterious console that it was running on, instead only caring about one thing. Mario.

After I had gone home, I anxiously told my brother about what I had seen. It’s funny, because I vaguely remember him not believing me. However, after he had seen it for himself, a Super Nintendo wasn’t long showing up in our home which resulted in our bulky old NES being pushed aside. It was at this time that I could finally sit down and play Super Mario World. No, not play it… Bond with it, and love it.

Super Mario World is really something special. These days, those who are relatively new to gaming are spoiled when a new generation of consoles arrives. My first transition into a new generation was going from 8 bit to 16 bit, and this was a colossal leap at the time. Everything was just so much better by leaps and bounds, and this included Mario. This SNES launch title was better than any of his NES adventures by a gigantic margin. Not even the fantastic Super Mario Brothers 3 could compare!

So what was so great about Super Mario World? And why is it still so great? Well, Super Mario World took the superb gameplay formula from Mario 3 and did one simple thing – they perfected it. Mario World isn’t made great from the way it looks or sounds, no. Incredibly friendly and responsive controls, imaginative enemies and obstacles, and one of the most balanced difficulty curves I’ve ever experienced in a game are what makes Mario World what it is to me, and that’s the best platformer ever made.

Mario World probably doesn’t have as many levels as Mario 3, but the game makes up for that by making it’s levels some of the finest ever in a 2D video game. There are many superb challenges and obstacles that Mario must overcome, and the amount of secrets that take both creative thinking and skill to reach astounds me even to this day.

This was also the first game to feature one of the most iconic Mario sidekicks ever, and that is Yoshi. The green dinosaur has become very popular over time and certainly has his own loyal fanbase. Nintendo has not introduced a character as beloved as Yoshi since Mario and Luigi themselves. The later games try to make us fall in love with new characters, such as Bowser Jr, but the charm just isn’t the same anymore. Yoshi became well loved for being the most sought after “power up” in Mario World. He could breathe fire, fly, ground pound, and eat just about anything that wasn’t bolted down to the ground. Obtaining Yoshi also instilled a sense of confidence in players, since Yoshi made it far more difficult for our plumber friend to bite the dust. Yoshi allowed even the not-so-skilled players to get through some of the harder levels, which was a great thing.

Super Mario World had loads of charm. The music is only surpassed by the tunes in the original Super Mario Brothers in my opinion, but the graphics are the most charismatic out of all Mario platformers. The NES titles cannot compare, nor can the woefully unimpressive New Super Mario Brothers on the DS. I can’t speak for the latest Wii incarnation, but it doesn’t look that much better than what I played on the DS.

Considering that this game was a Super Nintendo launch title, it’s stunning that the graphics are as good as they happen to be. Many Super Nintendo games that came along a few years later couldn’t even look as charming as Super Mario World. This is evidence that Nintendo went the extra mile to make this beloved game not only play better than the competition, but also look it in some instances. Of course some Super Nintendo platformers such as Donkey Kong Country look better from a plain graphics perspective, but the DKC franchise doesn’t have nearly as much charm or charisma. Super Mario World had it all and then some. The koopas, thwomps, boos, various fish, and of course the Koopa Kids, Mario World had loveable style oozing out of every pore.

Super Mario World is my second favourite Super Nintendo game, and one of my favourite games of all time. This game is, purely and simple, Mario at his best. Try to hate this game I dare you, because you’ll find it hard to do so when you can’t even put your controller down.

Nintendo, thank you. This game truly is the epitome of 2D platforming.