It’s been six years since the debut of New Super Mario Bros. on the DS, and the series has been going strong since whether everyone wants it to or not. Since the first, we’ve seen iterations on the Wii, the 3DS and now the Wii U. This new New Super Mario Bros. U continues the multiplayer sidescrolling trend the Wii version set back in 2010, but this time adds a fifth player to the mix thanks to the GamePad–and it’s surprisingly fun.
First of all, let’s get the obligatory gripes out of the way: Princess Peach gets kidnapped, no one really cares, but it’s a “new” Mario game so we let it slide. You run and jump. There’s only really one new power up – the Flying Squirrel suit – which isn’t much different to the Tanooki Suit except that the player doesn’t fly after charging a run. Boss battles consist of just jumping on the bad guy’s head three times. It’s freakin’ Super Mario.
Stepping back, New Super Mario Bros. Wii was a game that was often scrutinised for its multiplayer components due to the four-player gameplay being too frantic and difficult to interpret. NSMBU is still plagued by this, and it could be argued that the experience is further marred by the GamePad’s “Boost Mode” in which the fifth player can create extra platforms all over the stage by just tapping the screen. Here, the motives of that GamePad player will become very clear; either they will be benevolent and try their best to help everyone by placing platforms that will get them across hazardous obstacles (and inevitably fail most of the time), or they will be the biggest piece of crap and spam the screen causing everyone to fall to their deaths. Either way can make for some funny moments amongst friends; however, bear in mind the latter option is a sure way to eventually make everyone miserable, so be sure to pick that player wisely. Why there aren’t platform restrictions/penalties to the GamePad player for such moments is quite the oversight.
That said, the GamePad player can do more than just make platforms. Popping newly spawned players floating into view with just a tap of the touch screen is great for adding that extra bit of team work, as is blocking the attacks of enemies or bosses. The fifth player almost becomes a god-like entity, having the power to control the outcome of the stage depending on how well they’d like to extend their generosity.
There are also some other extra modes for players to get into that prove to be rather challenging. The modes differ between achieving certain objectives such as time trials: survive having fireballs thrown at you for as long as you can; complete the stagewith out touching the ground or collecting a single coin; plus more. It’s a great option for those looking for a little more out of their Mario experience – especially those who grow tiresome of the same ol’ Nintendo platforming formula.
In terms of both visual and aural aesthetics, NSMBU is a splendour to all the senses. The game looks crisp, both on the big screen and GamePad, keeping a constant 60 FPS. In fact, the boost in power to the game’s engine is also complimented by the lighting effects found all throughout the game such as fireballs and bio-luminescent baby Yoshis. The music is catchy like every other Mario game, which isn’t a bad thing at all. Mario’s first jump to HD is a heartily welcome aspect (finally), however it’s a shame that it’s come in yet another sidescrolling entry to the series rather than whatever the follow up to Super Mario Galaxy 2 will be.
NSMBU is a game built on a seemingly perfect formula that’s been refined over twenty-seven years. It’s fun, challenging, accessible and familiar all at the same time. After Nintendo’s lackluster efforts on the 3DS’ NSMB2, this Wii U version manages to feel less gimicky despite selling itself around the GamePad’s disposable support. But don’t let that fool you: that fifth player exponentially alters the dynamic of the game, but is otherwise not necessary to have an enjoyable Nintendo experience. If you feel saturated by Mario sidescrollers, then feel free to give this one a pass. However, if you’re looking for something that can involve your friends or family while giving an extra player the tools to overall success/failure, then give this title a shot.
New Super Mario Bros. U was developed and published by Nintendo. A Wii U copy was purchased by the editor for the purposes of review.