I have a confession to make. Despite being a longtime fan of Mario games, both 2D and 3D, I really didn’t care for New Super Mario Bros Wii. While all 2D Mario games are going to have a certain sense of familiarity, I found Mario’s 2D adventure on the Wii to be too ordinary in terms of gameplay, and the multiplayer element didn’t do enough to make up for it.
Needless to say, this made me hesitant to pick up New Super Mario Bros U right out of the gate, but I saw enough that I liked from pre-release trailers to justify the purchase. While my time has been divided, given that I picked up five launch titles, I’ve put enough time into Mario’s Wii U side-scrolling adventure to be thoroughly impressed, especially with the multiplayer. Hit the jump for some early impressions.
One of the biggest advantages that the Wii U has over the Wii is its superior processing power, enabling it to have better-looking HD games. Granted, it doesn’t take the most powerful system in the world to make a game like New Super Mario Bros U, but you can really tell the difference between this game and its predecessor. New Super Mario Bros U just looks gorgeous all around. Even the Wii U GamePad display, which is not in HD, looks fantastic. You can barely tell that it’s at a lower resolution than your TV display, and it doesn’t detract from the quality of the game.
While all 2D Mario titles are pretty similar, a big part of why New Super Mario Bros U impresses me more than other recent Mario titles is the fact that it clearly draws most of its inspiration from Super Mario World. Given that Super Mario World was always my favorite of the classic 2D Mario games, this was a very welcome concept.
There are a lot of throwbacks to Super Mario World that add to the fun gameplay, but the one that sticks out to me the most is the huge, beautiful overworld. While Super Mario Bros games typically divide the game into individual, non-connecting worlds, Super Mario World gave us one vast world, divided into different, but connected sections. Finding all of the secrets of the map was a joy back then, and it still is today. New Super Mario Bros U even improves the idea by adding in pipes that act as cannons to other parts of the map, as well as adding in enemies to the overworld map ala Super Mario Bros 3.
While I didn’t particularly care for the multiplayer on New Super Mario Bros Wii, it was definitely a popular feature, and bringing it back for the Wii U was a no-brainer. What makes all the difference now is the inclusion of the GamePad. Up to four players can play normally with Wii remotes, while another player can place and remove platforms via the GamePad’s touch screen. While this is extremely simple in concept, I can’t stress enough how much fun this adds to the gameplay. I’ve played the multiplayer with half a dozen people so far, and the GamePad is a unanimous winner. Whether you’re strategically placing blocks to help your teammates out or just finding creative ways to make them die, (and in my case it’s usually the latter) the GamePad just makes the game that much more fun.
The few gripes I have with the game so far are minor, but still worth mentioning. While most 2D Mario games allow you to collect an item, such as a fire flower, even if you already currently have an item in use, New Super Mario Bros U does not. Generally if you collect an additional item it is stored, and can be summoned with the press of a button, but for some reason this isn’t the case, and I’m not really sure why that longtime feature was removed.
The other gripe I have is that, at least as far as I have progressed in the game, there’s no real incentive to collect Star Coins. Like previous entries in the “New” series of Mario games, each level has three hidden Star Coins. Usually these are used to unlock secret levels on the map, but I have yet to encounter any such thing in New Super Mario Bros U. This doesn’t really dampen the gameplay experience, but it does give you less incentive to really search through the levels, and thus, lowers some of the replay value.
Overall I’m very pleased with what I’ve played of New Super Mario Bros U so far, and I can definitely say I’d recommend it to Wii U owners. Even if you weren’t a fan of New Super Mario Bros Wii, this game is worth picking up. It looks better, plays better, and is just more fun.