New Super Mario Bros. U Review
Nintendo has been extending the “New Super Mario Bros.” franchise for many years and succeeded at it, no matter how repetitive the games may be, they keep us entertained, at least for a little while (until we finish the story), but there is no true replayability to them, just a few times and then every few months or years. This is one of the major reasons why we are pleased with “New Super Mario Bros. U” and why it gives us hope.
When we heard yet another announcement for a new “New Super Mario Bros.”, we admit feeling pretty excited and surrounded with thoughts, such as: “The Wii U is going to be an HD console, therefore the game has to be in HD…That should be graphically amazing and full of stunning colors.” We had also recently played “New Super Mario Bros. Wii”, “Super Mario 3D Land”, and “New Super Mario Bros. 2”, so we were pretty familiar with Nintendo’s direction with this franchise, especially the fact that they were trying to implement challenges outside of the regular story in “New Super Mario Bros. 2” with DLC. The simple thought of any kind of combination between all 3 games blew our minds. As soon as we started seeing leaks, trailers, the map of all the worlds (leaked photo), we began to see that they could really succeed with this game, if they did it right.
This game’s gameplay can be pretty much summed up by saying that it is the same gaming experience that brought us so much happiness when we were children, only with a few additions (power-ups, special baby Yoshi’s powers, game modes, Miiverse, etc.) and previous power-ups that have been tweaked a little bit. Before we get into that, we will discuss a few things about the controls because choosing either one will affect the way you enjoy these additions.
Please enjoy this video giving you a sneak preview of gameplay and game modes!
Controls: Choosing a controller
Okay, so you turn on your Wii U, and put on the game, first thing you see is a very colorful loading screen, which can seem annoyingly long. As soon as it is done, you proceed and the game lets you know that you can play the game with the Game-pad or a Wii-Mote. We found that most people we asked choose the Game-pad.
Choosing the Gamepad:
Pros: You have a very nice analog stick if you prefer to use it for Mario games, like us. You can also, at any moment, switch your TV to another input and watch or listen to something else (if you’re a multitasker like we are) or you could let somebody else use the TV (one of the best features of Wii U in general). You could also just turn the TV off and play from a more comfortable place (within reasonable distance). Other than being comfortable or multitasking, when you are using the Game-pad you can view Miiverse hints, comments, and spoilers (we will discuss this further on) right in the palm of your hands.
Cons: We have heard complaints that the Game-pad can feel uncomfortable after a long period of time playing, but the good thing is that you can change controllers at almost any time (we will discuss this further on). Also, the game is always streamed to the Game-pad with sound as well, even though you are probably staring at your TV and drooling over the stunning graphics, the Game-pad’s stream of the game can often be distracting and lead to your death (we suggest you turn down the brightness on the Game-pad).
Choosing the Wii-Mote:
Pros: The Wii-Mote is a much smaller, simple controller that reminds us of the good ol’ days when we had to play with those types of controllers. Also, if your Wii-Mote’s volume is loud enough or TV’s volume is low enough, you hear certain sounds like power-ups, etc.
Cons: For a few people we have spoken to, the Wii-Mote is down-right uncomfortable (too skinny) and requires for you to shake it for certain moves, which is not only embarrassing, but annoying and painful (some of these movies require for you to do it over and over again in certain stages). Even if you choose it, the Game-pad it will still be streaming, so it’s not only a consumption of your Wii-Mote’s battery, it’s also a waste on your Game-pad’s battery, unless of course you decide to charge it while playing, which is still a waste of streaming. There is an alternative, to not have the Game-pad streaming all the time, which is pressing the “Home” button > pressing “Controller Settings” > and pressing “Display Off”, but the Game-pad is still essentially on, just not its screen.
(Note: When you choose the Wii-Mote over the Game-pad the game automatically assumes you will do “Boost Mode” even if you are playing alone, which is why the Game-pad is always streaming. More hardcore Mario gamers may want to ignore Boost Mode until they finish the story, since “Boost Mode” is essentially having a second person helping you play, but I will discuss this further on – refer to the “Multiplayer/Co-Op” section for more info on “Boost Mode”.)
Unlikely, but still possible:
Choosing the Game-pad as a screen, and Wii-Mote as the controller.
Pros and Cons: You can have basically every available alternative to play, but it will cost something pretty important: the sound. If you wish to do this, the Game-pad will have no sound whatsoever (unless an update is made). You will be able to play in any position, but without sound, which, at least for me, kills the game play.
New and Tweaked Power-ups:
The Super Acorn allows players to glide for a good distance holding down the “2 button” or “A”, you can also shake your controller or press ZL/ZR for a double jump or grab onto a wall. The Mini Mushroom makes Mario tiny so he can squeeze into small warp pipes, and run quickly across the water. He can even dash straight up walls with a running start. Balloon Baby Yoshi fills up with lots of hot air, ballooning in size and lifting you up the ground. You can shake him a few times but he will eventually come back to the ground (ZL on Game-pad to float or shaking Wii-Mote to float). Bubble Baby Yoshi belches bubbles all over the place. Enemies trapped in the bubbles drop coins. You can also hop on the bubbles to reach high places. Glowing Baby Yoshi will most likely be found in underground caverns. He shines when shaken.
Helpful Start Options:
When “Start” is pressed, a series of options are displayed that come in handy:
Star Coins”: It displays the amount of Star Coins you have collected in general in the world you are in and how many out of 3 you have collected in each stage. I found this very useful, because if you are like me, you are going to try to get them all, and it’s very nice to know where you are missing them.
“Number of Players”: An option that allows you to add more players or remove players, but if you are using the Game-pad, it is useless until you change to Wii-Motes.
“Change Controller”: Pretty simple, let’s you change controllers as long as you still have not gone into a stage.
We have never been one of those: “I don’t want to play that game because it’s not HD and it does not run at 60 frames per seconds” kind of gamers. We know quite a few people like that. We have even been told and we quote: “Why would I play a crappy Mario game when I have games like Uncharted for PlayStation 3 where the dude looks more real than me?” Any serious gamer would say “Hold your horses and let’s not compare two incredibly different games!” But, alas, I understand what they mean. Even though Mario games are not about how they look, more about the gameplay, I get it; it’s a new era and it was time that Mario came in HD as well, and well, it did.
In this new installment of “New Super Mario Bros.” our favorite Plumber is doing his thing all over again, but this time we get not only to enjoy the joyful gameplay, but some truly breath-taking graphics. If you have played “New Super Mario Bros. Wii” recently, you know the incredible jump that Nintendo did graphical-wise with this game; from SD to HD. Now you turn on “New Super Mario Bros. U” and it’s truly so beautiful and clear. Even the backgrounds look amazing! It’s truly what you would and should expect from a Mario game in these times. Should it have been done before? Probably, but we are just very glad they did and like we said before, it gives us hope for the next games in the franchise, including Mario Kart, Mario Tennis, etc.
As we have mentioned before, the game is always streamed on the Game-pad so I bet you are probably wondering how it looks, if there’s any lag, etc. Well, we have played the game on both the TV and the Game-pad and they look amazing! Of course, the TV looks by far better, but we have done several tests and comparisons between the Wii U Game-pad and “New Super Mario Bros. 2” on the 3DS XL and the Game-pad looks better, in our opinion, so there you go! It’s not the HD version, but it’s still very much enjoyable to play it from a more comfortable position, and it does not lag as long as it is within reasonable distance.
If you have played “Super Mario 3D Land”, “New Super Mario Bros. 2” or “New Super Mario Bros. Wii” we can say you’re pretty familiar with this game’s soundtrack. It varies a little bit, but in essence, it’s still the same funny music. We enjoyed the 3DS Mario Bros., but at times wish they were louder and had to resort to headphones, which sometimes still did not satisfy our sound needs. Well, we are happy to announce that unlike the 3DS’ games, this game’s sound quality is pitch-perfect and it’s very loud, not just because you can connect it to big speakers, but even the GamePad’s speakers sound much louder and clear than the 3DS’, plus you can connect headphones, so even better depending on your location.
Please enjoy this preview of the music!
One feature that really made us smile every couple of stages was finishing a stage and hearing that original music that brought us so much joy! We am not entirely certain, but we believe if you finish a stage before a certain amount of time or get a certain amount of points, the music appears at the end, because sometimes we would play the same stage and it would not appear, but in some other stages, it would. It was a really nice touch to end some of the stages with that music.
Another thing we enjoyed was hearing the Wii-Mote’s sounds during Gameplay when I received power-ups or when I died, etc. It really complemented the experience nicely.
(Note: We did not notice this until we muted the TV, mostly because we had the TV very loud, so I could enjoy the amazing music going on!)
Multi-player or Co-Op in this game is always referred to as “Boost Mode” which is essentially having a player or several players with Wii-Motes and 1 player with the Game-pad helping players by putting colorful blocks (that disappear after several seconds and leave 3 coins) to get them to higher places. The Game-pad user can also put blocks when and where they think the other 1-4 player(s) are going to fall, and distract or stun enemies.
“Boost Mode” is a great way to integrate casual gamers, non-gamers, children, parents, anyone basically, since they can either get help to make the stages easier or they can be the one to put the blocks, which does not require too much work.
It is very important to mention 2 things:
When you are actually trying to boost your friend (just 1 player on the Wii-Mote & 1 player on the GamePad) properly in order to achieve something (time, coins, etc.), it requires consistent practice because it’s difficult to predict the exact falling location of your friend and it can lead to you putting a block in a bad place and causing your friend to die.
Despite the fact that all the “Boost Mode” trailers from Nintendo show 4 players cooperating properly to finish the stage, everyone waiting for the last player, and the Game-pad booster doing it correctly, it is our experience that this is often not true. All four players are extremely patient, cooperative, and just plain lucky if more than 1 player is alive by the time the stage ends. It is very difficult, but extremely hilarious to play like this, and were are just speaking about the regular stages, do not get me started on the challenges.
There’s a section called: “Play with Mii” with 3 sub-sections for the obvious reason, you can play as your Mii but with a cute Mario costume (you can choose whether or not to have your Mii wear Mario’s hat). The reason why it’s considered multi-player/co-op is because your score and time is compared to the other players that played that same challenge (meaning you can “out-score” them and whoever has the highest score or lowest time will get a replay of the challenge) and because when you’re playing Miis you have encountered, socialized with, etc. on Miiverse or the Miis on your Wii U will appear in the background to cheer you on, which we thought was a very nice and cute touch to enhance gameplay.
The first sub-section is called “Challenges” and can be played with the Game-pad or Wii-Mote (Boost Mode), and every time you complete a challenge whether a time trial or speed run, coin run or coin hunt, stomping on enemies without touching the ground, jumping on tight spaces, etc. a new challenge appears, and might I say that these challenges are a test of true hardcore Mario gamers and are the reason why we believe this game has replayability (trust us, any hardcore gamer will want to test their skills).
The second sub-section is called “Boost Rush” and can also be played with the Game-pad or Wii-Mote. The game mode basically consists of running through courses you have already played in the single player, but rushing to the finish. The only way to accelerate the course so you can get to the finish faster is to get a lot of coins. At first it can be quite frustrating to play because it goes really slow, but eventually it speeds up a lot, and the difficulty increases, so you die easily while trying to hurry. Another true test for hardcore gamers!
The third sub-section is called “Coin Battle” and it’s a “2 player or more” required type of game. It basically consists of you and a friend in the stages you have already played in the single player and battling each other for all the coins in the stage and to finish the stage. If you get hit or die, you lose coins, if you die, the other player has to pop your bubble to revive you, and if both players die, it’s a draw. One other amazing feature this Game Mode has is that the Game-pad user can pick where to put the coins in the stages, meaning he/she can make it easy or very hard. We thought that was extremely creative and it’s a challenge to test out of 2 hardcore gamers who is the best. It’s truly a blast to play!
Miiverse is an extraordinary addition to this game with all the right settings to make it just right for you. You can choose whether or not to post to Miiverse (it can become annoying to be asked to post if you really do not want to) and it can be a great joy to share your moments with other people. If you choose to have Miiverse displayed (you can turn it off), you can choose your display settings: Whether you want to see everyone’s posts, only your friends’ posts, or no one’s. This is a great addition for people who only want to see their friends’ posts and for people who do not have any friends (forever alone LOL). You can also choose whether or not to show spoilers, since you might not want to find out the ending of the game (LOL again).
After you’re done with the settings, the way that Miiverse is displayed is through “Red Balloon Pop-ups” on top of a stage that you might enter. The GamePad gives you the option to display or not display these messages as they might be a comment of success or failure, they could be hints (my personal favorite) like: “Make sure to take a “Flying Squirrel upgrade” with you”, which are usually pretty accurate, or a spoiler of some kind.
As we stated before in this review we all know that Nintendo has been extending this franchise for many many years, but we believe this game is the perfect combination of everything good that Nintendo has done throughout the years. Despite the fact that the Game Disk contains only 3 saves, which are usually enough, but can be frustrating when you have more than 3 family members or friends who want to have their own save file and achievements, the fact that the Game-pad is always streaming, even though it has a purpose (showing Miiverse comments, hints, and/or spoilers in the palm of your hands), the fact that Wii-Motes are required for multi-player and a player cannot play with his friend –one friend on GamePad, one on Wii-Mote–, and there is no online play (even though “New Super Mario Bros. 2” has a local multi-player option), this game is still fantastic with the same amazing gameplay with some new additions (discussed above) and some old power-ups tweaked-up a bit, stunning graphics bringing Mario games to the 21st HD century (some breath-taking creativity in the worlds and stages), and same funny and happy music. We all know Mario has always been family oriented, but this game gives that term a whole meaning with “Boost Mode” which allows you to integrate children by making the stages easier on them or integrate casual gamers by letting them boost you. I can guarantee this game is sure to get your childhood memories flowing with excellent new ways to test your gaming skills.
This is the game we, Mario fans, have been waiting for!
Score: An amazing 9.5/10
Publisher: Nintendo, Developer: Nintendo
Release Date: November 18, 2012 US, November 30, 2012 EU
Platforms: Wii U Digital: Yes
Game Cost: $59.99 US, £59.99 EU
Players: 1-5 (4 Wii Remotes and 1 GamePad)
Offline: Co-Op, 2-5 Competitive, 2-4
Online Pass: No ($54.99 US / £54.99 EU Cost if purchased Used)