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New Super Mario Bros. Review

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Developer: Nintendo Publisher: Nintendo
Release Date: May 19, 2006 Also On: None

Changing the formula for a Super Mario game is like making building supports out of toothpicks. It’s risky, it just might work, but chances are that sticking with what you know works is a better idea for everyone. New Super Mario Bros. is just that, a new Super Mario game with a few frills and all the Mario thrills you could possibly want. New Super Mario Bros. gives you as much of a story as all of its predecessors: Mario is out to save Princess Peach, who has once again been abducted by Bowser and his son, Bowser Jr. Why a mangy pack of reptilian predators would want to kidnap a human princess has always escaped me, but for 20 years it’s worked and I’m not the type to start worrying about it now.

Besides, have you ever played a Mario game for its story? Even the Super Nintendo classic Super Mario RPG didn’t intrigue me in terms of story as much as it did the Mario-themed gameplay and Mario style. New Super Mario Bros. has that style with the perfect recreation of the 8-bit gameplay that spurred a platforming revolution. That platforming style has yet to be matched by anything other than…well, other Mario games.

What makes New Super Mario Bros. so great is that it’s as easy to play as the NES phenomenon and it’s got some new stuff for old-school fans and fanatics alike. While it contains the flat feeling of Super Mario Bros., it’s got the bounciness of Super Mario 64 and the seemingly endless amount of secrets of Super Mario Bros. 3. The world maps of the single-player mode mimic Super Mario Bros. 3, complete with traveling Hammer Bros. and Mushroom Houses to visit. Each level found in this huge world is chock-full of jumping puzzles, enemy patrols, hidden pipes and everything that casual and hardcore Mario fans could ask for.

Mario’s new platforming moves include a wall jump and a ground pound. The wall jump was made popular in Super Mario 64 and is probably the most useful maneuver in this title. Not only does it allow you to reach otherwise inaccessible areas and collectible Star Coins, sometimes it really saves your butt from plummeting through many of those annoying pits that scatter the Super Mario landscape. The ground pound (also known as the butt-stomp, butt-pound, whatever crude name you want to use) makes a return and serves its purpose very well against Bowser Jr. and other powerful enemies that would normally take a few stomps to defeat.

There are also three new power-ups to the initial line-up of Mushrooms, Fire Flowers, and Starmen. Mario can now collect Blue Shells that make him curl up into a deadly shell while dashing. He can munch on Mega Mushrooms that make him grow to the size of a tower. He can also eat Mini Mushrooms that…well, I’m sure you can guess what they do. Special mini abilities like running on water (Jesus is jealous) and floaty jumping make the Mini Mushroom a valuable commodity. Using all three of these new power-ups will allow you to find hidden paths, Star Coins and other secrets.

The graphics mimic recent Nintendo platformers like Super Mario 64 DS, Super Mario Sunshine, and Super Princess Peach. Mario, Peach, Bowser, Bowser Jr., and all of the enemies are rendered in 3D polygons. The worlds that you’ll jump through are mostly 2D, but of course, they’re colorful and have a common theme. World 1 has a grassy plain look, while World 3 takes you to the tropics and World 6 sends you high into the mountains. Though there aren’t any revolutionary movements in handheld visuals to speak of, New Super Mario Bros. looks great for what it is and is impressive for a 2D platformer anyway.

The music isn’t as addictive or memorable as the original title, but years of the Super Mario Bros. theme being hummed and heard through cell phone ring tones is a lot to compete against. New Super Mario Bros. has a soundtrack that is very similar to Super Mario Bros. and the same sound effects you’ve heard since the 1980’s. The only real differences accompany some of the newer moves, like the wall jump and the ground pound, but that’s the most change you’ll notice from the sound effects.

Theoretically, there isn’t anything wrong with New Super Mario Bros. When one grows tired of playing through the relatively short single-player game (I clocked in about five hours and completed more than 75% of the game my first time through), there is an interesting multi-player option where Mario and Luigi run through looping stages to collect stars and defeat each other. This reminds me of the Genesis classic, Sonic and Knuckles. Also, Super Mario 64 DS’ mini-games make a return with a few new distractions.

Though it’s not perfect, New Super Mario Bros. feels like what it should. It’s a perfect platformer, a great DS game and a good Mario game. That’s a descending order, and it’s fitting: New Super Mario Bros. won’t make you realize all over again that Mario is gaming’s greatest personality (though he is), but it’ll make you appreciate the steps forward in platforming and gaming as a whole. It’s a fantastic game that deserves more than anything to sit in your DS library.

Graphics: 8.5
Sound: 7
Gameplay: 10
Creativity: 8
Replay Value/Game Length: 10
Final: 8.8
Written by Cliff Review Guide