New Super Mario Bros.
Nintendo DS version
Finally a new Mario side scrolling game, and it's awesome!
It is a Mario game in classic side scrolling glory! It's been quite a while since we saw the last really big Mario Bros. game: Super Mario World which launched with the SNES. But now there is NSMB. It feels absolutely like a Super Mario Bros. game should. The greatest elements from previous installments are put together in one awesome game. There are power-ups similar to the suits from Mario 3, warp pipes, secret exits and Star Coins to collect from Mario World and the Red Coins are back too. These are just a few examples of all-time classic Mario elements used in NSMB.
The power-ups include many new ones. Besides the fire flower that gives you the famous Fire Suit there is also the Koopa Shell, which gives you the ability to smash into enemies and walls and gives better swimming abilities (like Mario 3's Frog Suit). There are also a very tiny and a very big mushroom. The mini mushroom shrinks Mario so he can fit through small holes or pipes and makes him lighter, allowing for higher jumping and walking on water. The big mushroom makes Mario grow for a short time so he can destroy all obstacles and enemies that get in his way. The levels have the classic themes we all know and love: Grass, Pipe, Desert etc. These themes are far from original but that's not really a problem. In classic Mario Fashion, it's about level design, which is again done in a superb way. There's tilting platforms, pipes that lead to bonus areas, snow that falls from trees on Mario's head, Koopas, Goombas and basically everything we've come to expect from a Mario game. The bosses are more diversified than in previous Mario games, but the sub-boss, in the form of Bowser Jr., can get a bit repetitive. This is a bit of a letdown, but fortunately gets a bit harder every time, making the difficulty of these battles grow at a steady rate.
Mario also has some new moves, mostly translated into side scrolling gameplay from Super Mario 64 DS such as the wall jump. You will enjoy smashing boxes, collecting coins and power ups and fighting baddies just like you did on the NES and SNES systems. The graphics are also done in a great style. The characters look just about the same as they did in Super Mario 64 DS. They are all done in pretty 3D models and translate well into the 2D world, which is in classic pixel art. Although they have the more detailed style instead of the simple style used in the old days, you still get the feel that those classic games had, which is nice. Everything is animated well and things like opening doors and underwater areas look brilliant and really show the excellent blend of 2D and 3D graphics. Everything is colorful and suits the classic style as it should.
The story is just as simple as always, Bowser and Bowser Jr. have kidnapped Princess Peach once again and Mario must save her. While not very original, it should be this way. Without Peach to save a SMB game wouldn't be complete and the simple story has its charm. Once completed there is quite some Star Coins to collect and art to unlock as well as secret paths to find which will keep you busy for a while. The worlds are full of normal courses as well as Ghost houses, Warp Cannons, Towers and castles, just like in the old days. Music is great and most tunes are new. They are really cheerful and sound great on the stereo speakers the DS has. The sound effects are mostly classic NES sounds but they still work surprisingly well more then twenty years later. Some sounds had to be added, most notably the beautiful sound of closing a door.
Is it all greatness, or are there any flaws? Well, yes, unfortunately. First of all this game is rather easy. When following the game in standard order you miss out a whole two worlds of all eight. Instead of making two secret and extra hard worlds as an extra challenge after beating Bowser, like in Super Mario World, you just skip them and do the hardest world earlier on, which is just plain weird. The later levels are just not as challenging as the ones in earlier Mario titles. If you manage to find all levels and exits, gaining access to all Star Coins isn't really challenging. Since you can often make things easier by getting a power up in a Toad house on the map, so you won't have to bother with all those hazards, picking up the Star Coins is never as challenging as the hardest Yoshi Coins of SMW which had five on each level. NSMB has only three Star Coins in each level. You can complete all these tasks to unlock some art but nothing special. There is also another surprise which is given after beating the game once, which is a bit more interesting and which I'm not going to spoil here. There is also a multiplayer via wireless connection in which Mario and Luigi race for stars. While this may be fun for a while, the overall blandness of it makes you stop quickly, returning to the excellent single player mode.
The world maps are very simple. SMB3 and SMW had players travelling over the maps to find all secrets in them and they were very different from the ones seen in previous worlds. They had roads stretching in totally different directions. Every world was a lot bigger than the previous one. This is not the case with NSMB. The maps are basically one road from left to right with some paths connected to it leading to one or two new levels and ending in a dead end at the last one. Only the last world is significantly bigger than the others, which is a shame. As said before, the sub-boss Bowser Jr. battles may be a bit repetitive at times. A little less of these to make every battle feel more challenging and fresh, perhaps may have been better. Some of the moves translated from Super Mario 64 DS are not really needed, something I already experienced while playing that game.
The Bottom Line
While not being of the same amazing quality as Super Mario Bros. 3 and Super Mario World, New Super Mario Bros. is still a very, VERY solid buy for both experienced Mario players and newbies. It's second only to these two famous classics when it comes to side scrolling games in the franchise. And, as we all know, that's a VERY big name to live up to.
by Rensch (203) on July 18th, 2006