By 2006, the 2D “Super Mario Bros.” format that we had become familiar with during the NES/SNES/Gameboy era was long past. It had been well over 10 years since Nintendo developed and released a 2D Mario game and with the critical and commercial success of “Super Mario 64” for the N64 and “Super Mario Sunshine” on the Gamecube, there was no reason to believe Nintendo would ever go back to its 2D roots.
The release of the “New Super Mario Bros.” for the Nintendo DS proved any of us doubters wrong as development went back to Mario’s 2D roots and to the side scrolling platformer style of gaming that the series revolutionized in 1985. Once again, Princess Peach has been kidnapped, this time by Bowser Jr. and Mario must rescue her again by pulling out all of his old tricks such as jumping, stomping, kicking and by the use of items such as the super mushroom that increases his size, fire flower that gives him fireball throwing power, and stars to make Mario temporarily invincible. Some new features introduced with “NSMB” include the ability to retreat into a shell as a form of protection but most memorably, the mushrooms that can make Mario both very large or very small. This gameplay addition reminds me of a line from the classic Jefferson Airplane 60’s psychedelia hit, “White Rabbit”. “One pill makes you larger and one pill makes you small.” Some of the tropes common to the 2D Mario Bros. games that ultimately found their way on the Wii, Wii U and 3DS, can be found in this entry, most notably the search for the 3 star coins on each level. The inclusion of the star coins really assisted with the replayability factor of “NSMB” since the stars become increasingly challenging to find as the game advances. Finding each one becomes a game unto itself as collecting them all isn’t required to complete the game but certain bonus levels become unlocked once you do.
“New Super Mario Bros.” is of average length; 10 worlds, 80 levels long and the set up is very reminiscent of “Super Mario World” in that you can complete many of the levels in different orders. For the most part, you must pass certain checkpoints before you are allowed to advance in the game too far. “NSMB” does a wonderful job of re-creating the world of Mario in the Mushroom Kingdom on an advanced graphical system. The graphics are a very nice upgrade to more what appears to be 2.5D, utilizing 3D renderings over 2D backgrounds, giving it a nice effect. Mario’s brother, Luigi, is back as well in two player or multi-player options. “NSMB” offers a multiplayer option where Mario and Luigi can compete for coins within a level, taking advantage of the DS’s wireless link connectivity between systems.
“New Super Mario Bros.” may not do a lot of new things but what it does, it does very well. In addition to nice visual presentation and interesting, yet familiar level design, the music and in-game sounds are also top notch. The second screen is used nicely as an overworld map but in all honesty, it doesn’t add much to the overall experience. Most importantly, “New Super Mario Bros” is fun. I was very pleased with this title when it came out since I was always a little wary of the 3D Mario games that had been popular over the past 10 years. I jumped at the chance to take part in a 2D side scroller once it was released and didn’t regret it one bit.
Currently in my collection: game, manual, case