New Super Mario Bros. U Impression
My dad was given a Wii U for Christmas and it came with New Super Mario Bros. U. He obviously got to try it first, but it seems he was a little out of practice and perhaps has outgrown Mario as a franchise since moving on from Nintendo when the PS2 came out. So he let me try it and I got him through the first world and a half.
It plays like a ROM hack and I mean that in the most complimentary way.
Unlike most modern Mario games I’m familiar with, this one goes back to the side-scrolling platformer format. I will admit that after the N64, we as a family didn’t play much Mario anymore. But when I was a kid, we had an SNES and on it we had Super Mario World and Super Mario All-Stars (the first release without World). I was well-versed in early Mario. I knew World nearly frontwards and back (although it was only near the end of my eight year relationship with the game that I finally figured out the secret of that Star Road warp point on the island in the middle of Soda Lake). I caught up on Yoshi’s Island later on, when I rebought all the games I knew as a kid on the Gameboy Advance.
Super Mario Bros. U is like some glorious amalgamation of cherry-picked features from all these early games, with some new stuff added in (flying squirrel suit, yo). It was honestly like riding a bike, playing this game. The jumping was a little heavier than I remembered, more like in the original Mario Bros. than World, but it felt so familiar!
There was a point at which I found a Yoshi and unless I missed the direction somewhere, he seems to have lost his powers with regard to eating koopa shells, but he does retain many of his abilities from Yoshi’s Island. Including, much to my annoyance, only following Mario through the level and not until you lose him. There was berry eating off of bushes though and that was something that only seemed to appear in Super Mario World.
There was also baby Yoshi feeding! Although they run away like fully grown Yoshi’s used to and I wasn’t able to see what happens when you feed one enough. Suffice to say, baby Yoshi’s in this game can eat the regular piranha plants, but not the extra large ones.
And the Koopalings are back! They kinda got lost in the shuffle when everything went 3D, but I loved those characters in Mario 3 and World. I only got to fight the first one, Lemmy, and the boss fight was really… pretty! Like, I see that it follows the same structure in New Super Mario Bros. Wii, but if your last reference of that sort of thing was Super Mario Bros. 3, it’s very !!!ing. I hope I get to see Wendy’s fight at some point. She was always my favorite.
In the desert world, there was the quicksand element that was first used in Super Mario Bros. 2, but that I remember most clearly in Mario 64. Where you had to hop constantly or it would drown you.
The item system from Mario Bros. 3, wherein you’d be given power-ups from Toad and others to be equipped from the map when needed instead of when picked up like normal power-ups, was brought back too. You have to play mini-games to get the items though. Most of them seem to be a variation on a shell game, but there was also an agility-type test where you had to collect power-ups while avoiding a bad one in the midst. They also brought back the fortress/castle boss format from 3, where you’ll encounter a fortress with a Boom Boom as the mini-boss and then the castle with a Koopaling in it.
There was also a sort of challenge where sometimes Toad’s stuff would be stolen from his little mushroom cottage and you’d have to go to a previous level and pursue the thief, a swift little character named Nabbit. The whole thing reminds me a lot of the rabbit in Mario 64, who was very quick and difficult to catch, but held one of the 120 stars. With Nabbit, you would return to a previously beaten level, and you’d have to chase him through the level without running into any enemies or falling or any of the usual. (I found that this is a great time to employ any super stars you’ve collected from Toad previously.)
Basically, it’s like they took all the Mario games pre-64, smooshed them together and then sprinkled in some stuff from the new era. It reminds me so much of ROM hacks where the creators will take sprites from various games in the franchise and put them in the same game, except this is polished and clean and :D. There are certain ways in which these elements were executed that I don’t care for, but overall, it was like a trip down memory lane.