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SummaryBack to where he truly shines, 20 years on...
The GoodIn a way, it's the sign of the times. Everyone, young and old, can't get enough of the old school charm of the classics that, for many of us, helped to shape the industry as we grew up with it. So it makes sense that, 20 years after he first appeared, Mario and company return to once again prove his worth. And prove it he does.
Simply put, the 'New' in New Super Mario Bros. equates to a visual overhaul, a few moves based on those added via Super Mario 64 and a mash of different level designs based on those seen through-out the franchise's history. The game plays out much like Super Mario 3 and Super Mario World, in which you travel across 8 levels (2 must be unlocked via secret exists) towards the goal of saving Princess Peach. From an outsider looking in, it doesn't sound like a huge advancement from the last 2D titles before Mario went 3D, but when you look closely, the change is obvious.
You could say 'everything old becomes new again', right down to some of the levels playing out almost the same as the original Mario. The very first level, for example, is 99% identical to that of Super Mario Bros. What's the 1% difference? One 'mega' mushroom, which transforms Mario into an invincible giant who can plow through everything in his path. It's a nice touch, which also helps to show off some of the detail in Mario himself.
Speaking of which, this has to be the most colourful NDS title on the system to date, outside of, say, Mario Kart DS. There's barely a glitch in sight, with some impressive touches all over the place. It's a 2D game at heart, but all of the characters are 3D in design and, in many ways, movement.
You can't have a Mario game without the trademark musical score, and it's here in spades. There's plenty of new tunes mixed in with the familiar of old, and if you dig deep enough, the classic end tune (which appeared when you reach the flag) can also be uncovered.
I have to applaud Nintendo's decision to add some of the moves Mario inherited from Mario 64, including the butt stomp and wall jumps. I loved the wall jumps before, and within this game, they're even better, adding to the creative design of some of the levels.
NSMB must also be credited for adding an addictive multiplayer mode. Players compete as Mario and Luigi across a number of different levels based on those in the single player experience, and man it's fun! I had the opportunity to briefly compete in a multiplayer tournament at a recent Nintendo DS Connection Tour event locally. People cheered on their respective characters (I always went for Luigi, to be honest), and some of the one-on-one battles were very intense. It's loosely based on the Mario Bros. arcade game (which has appeared on the GBA on a number of occasions), but I think this rendition is far more fun.
There's also some addictive mini-games. Some already appeared on Mario 64 DS, but this time there's a multiplayer option. They're nice to have as part of the package.
The BadJust like all those before it, alot of the earlier levels and boss battles are easy enough to clear without too much hassle, which reduces the playtime by a fair margin. I guess I'm really only picking on it from my perspective, since many younger gamers will find it far more a challenge. Having said that, finding the second exits to open up the other two worlds is far more a challenge then Bowser Jr., so that makes up for it.
The second screen/touchscreen are also barely used, besides a quick tap to use a stowed away power-up when required. It would have been nice to have a few touch-screen challenges or boss battles to add some spice to the game, but I can't complain. It really isn't built for that purpose, it's a pure 2D platform game.
I mentioned those mini-games before. My one complaint there is that, besides multiplayer, a majority of them have already appeared before. It would have been nice to have a completely new set of games, maybe some based on NSMB's design.
The Bottom LineIt's great to have Mario back in his familiar surroundings, perhaps a long overdue return too. The Game Boy Advance acted as a re-release point for all the SNES/NES games, but apart from Mario Vs Donkey Kong, there weren't any original Mario platform games. Thankfully, that long period of absence was worth the wait.
I hope that, with this return, there will be more of this to come. Super Mario World still stands as the pinnacle of the 2D franchise (in my opinion), with a huge number of levels and challenges. NSMB comes close to knocking it off the podium, but it fell a tad short, mainly because it's single player is just that ... a tad short.
But when you throw in the addictive battle modes and mini-games, plus the option to play as Luigi and the hidden coins to find in each level, it's a well rounded package overall. Throw in the nostalgia of playing Mario in his 'true' form, and you've got a clear cut winner.
20 years sure is a long time, but with Mario Galaxy on the way, it just keeps getting better and better as each year passes. I love you Mario!! ... well ... not as much as Luigi... :p