It turns out that Europe isn’t the only place that’s going to be getting a new model of the Wii this year. Nintendo announced that North America will be getting a new Wii bundle just in time for the holidays. This new bundle will include the updated black Wii hardware, which does not include backwards compatibility for GameCube games, controllers, or memory cards. It will also include a black Wii Remote Plus, a copy of New Super Mario Bros Wii, and the soundtrack CD that was originally available with the release of Super Mario All-Stars.
This new system sits horizontally on your shelf and is not designed to be vertically oriented. The Wii logo has been modified slightly to accomidate that. I still don’t understand the reasoning for this new system so late in the life cycle of the Wii.
The new system will be available for purchase beginning on October 25th for $149.99.
The 25th Anniversary Edition Wii will be heading here complete with a copy of Wii Sports, New Super Mario Bros. Wii, the 25th Anniversary edition of Super Mario Bros., a red Wii Remote Plus and a red Nunchuk. It will be sold at retail for $199.99.
The red DSi XL will also be coming on that date bundled with a copy of Mario Kart DS. It will also come with pre-loaded copies of Brain Age™ Express: Arts & Letters, Brain Age Express: Math and Photo Clock and will retail for $179.99.
For those of you not needing a new system you can get your hands on the new Wii Remote Plus for $39.99. No longer will you need to keep track of your Wii Motion Plus dongle as it’s built right into the controller. Flingsmash, the new retail game that utilizes Motion Plus will hit stores on that date as well, bundled with a new controller.
Is it a sign you’ve played WAY too much New Super Mario Bros Wii when you try to shake the Wii Remote when you’re playing the original Super Mario Bros. to get Mario to jump just a little bit further? Yes while playing level 1-1 in Super Mario Bros. I realized I wasn’t going to hit the top of the flag so I shook the Wii Remote to try to get Mario to get up just a little bit to reach that top part of the flag pole.
Is that sad, or is it a sign of just how instinctive motion control has become to some people that when you’re playing older games with similar mechanics you try to use motion control even when you know it won’t do anything?
Video games have been around for a while now. They really hit their stride and came into their own following the release of the Nintendo Entertainment System in the 1980’s. Along with that, and the release of Super Mario Bros. came the popularity of the platformer. They started out as a simple affair. Move to the right stomp on some enemies and rescue the Princess. You didn’t need to know why you just did it. They were fun. Despite all the advances in technology, better graphics and more horsepower the platformer has evolved and endured. It’s grown from simple two-dimensional sprites where you could only move in one direction, to huge three dimensional worlds filled with all kinds of characters, weapons and anything else you could imagine. What’s been the driving force behind their popularity and why have they survived when other genres seem to have faded away? Well, I asked a few friends what they thought and we’re going to find out exactly what has been the key to this genre’s success.
If you’ve listened to any of our podcasts and read any of my articles it won’t take you long to realize that the platformer is my favorite style of game. There’s always been something simple, yet challenging and utterly familiar about them. They were the basis of many games on the NES, and most of my favorite titles, Super Mario Bros., Duck Tales, LostWinds, fall into that genre. They can be made as simple as running or jumping to get from point A to Point B, or they can be complex like games such as Metroid or Shadow Complex where you’re running all over a game’s world looking for every last little thing to give you an advantage.
I asked a couple “friends” in the gaming industry to give me their thoughts on what make platformers so universal and why they’ve had such longevity. You’ll be hearing my thoughts, but also those of Ole Teglebjaerg from Press Play and Julio Moruno from EnjoyUp. Our discussion started with what makes up the core elements of a good platformer and both agreed on one thing. Ole said, “The core elements of a good platformer are simple and effective controls. You want to be able to control in instinctively.” I don’t think I could agree more. You have to know that when you jump you’re going to go exactly where you want to go. Movement speeds have to be predictable and manageable. Nothing brings a game down like not knowing where you’re going to go when you jump off of a ledge, or if you’ll even jump at all. I’ve been playing through de Blob recently on Wii. It’s a good example of a decent game that could have been so much better if the controls worked solidly. It was an early example of trying to use a motion to replace a button and it fell short because it wasn’t easy enough to control the main character. Jumps didn’t feel right. As a result it’s been shown that the game is getting a sequel and the controls have been reworked. Chances are that de Blob: the Underground will be a much better game than its predecessor.
Player movement also goes hand in hand with the perspective of the game. When gaming burst onto the scene all movement was on a side to side or vertical plane. Two dimensions was all developers had to work with. Systems are getting more complex and we’ve moved into the world of 3D and that brings a whole other host of issues. Julio says that 2D has an advantage because, “everything is clear and precise. You can see better where to put your toes.” Ole said, “By restricting player movement you remove complexity in the players mind. It’s usually easier to navigate inside 2D. Of course the advantage of 3D is that the universe can be more elaborate and give players a sense of being ‘in the game”. There’s no greater example of this than Mario. He’s been around since the 80’s and he’s been successful in both dimensions. 2D Mario games really show you Nintendo’s focus on things outside of movement. They’re able to really open up creativity and complexity. The 3D games give you a bigger sense of a world and really immerse you in the experience of being in the Mushroom Kingdom. Both types of games are hugely popular and I bet if you ask every gamer they’ll enjoy them both, but they’ll have a preference. I prefer the 2D style games over the 3D because they can really focus on exploration and size in completely different ways than when you have to build expansive 3D environments.
Platformers, because they’ve been around so long and there are so many different examples have to find something that sets them apart from everyone else. More than anything it’s a genre that has to be completely creative, and unique. Both the designers I talked to have creative hooks in their games that set them apart. Julio worked on Chronos Twins DX for the DS and WiiWare. That game has you playing in two different time periods at the same time and you have to balance your attention between the two to complete a level. Ole, worked on the WiiWare title Max and the Magic Marker. That game was centered around a drawing mechanic that allowed you to create new ways to navigate through the levels, defeat enemies and overcome obstacles. Some games, like Mario innovate by bringing you new power ups and most recently made the platformer a group experience. Another unique title is LostWinds, a game that has the main character be a powerless child, relying on the help of a wind Spirit to reach inaccessible areas and defeat enemies for him. There are numerous other examples of unique gameplay ideas, like Bionic Commando’s bionic arm or Rachet & Clank’s huge arsenal of weapons. There are some ideas that developers like Ole would like to see. “I recently played Metroid Other M at a Nintendo thing. What I liked was the changing of view from 3rd person to 1st person depending on how the controller was held. I personally would like to do something with that.” Nintendo is no stranger to shifting perspectives either. One title, Super Paper Mario, released in 2008 used that idea on a similar scale to open up blocked paths or reveal hidden enemies and objects.
Platformers have been able to stand the test of time, more so than any other genre. It’s been essentially the same style of game, with a few variations for more than 25 years. Every platformer essentially boils down to one thing. Get from point A to Point B by jumping from one platform to another. You can accomplish this in a number of different ways. This style of game offers a basic element that can be built upon better than any other style of game out there. It has made the jump from side scrolling 2D adventures to huge planet hopping quests against larger than life enemies, and back again. People understand exactly what to expect from this style of game and they know what is expected of them. They were the stars of the show, relegated to handhelds with the advent of 3D and now they’re making their return. They’re available on every platform under the sun in any number of forms. Mario dominates Nintendo consoles; Ratchet is the star on the Playstation. Even the iPhone has games like Canabalt, which boils the platformer down even more to its most basic elements. No matter what happens, I believe if the gaming world ever came to an end the platformer would still be there holding on with every thing it’s got.
Remember back in November when everyone called Reggie crazy for saying that New Super Mario Bros. Wii would beat sales of Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2 on at least one platform? If this list has anything to say about it you can call the man a genius. He knows the power of Mario. Just look at these sales numbers.
* CoD Modern Warfare 2 Xbox 360 – 5.83 million units sold (4.2m Nov, 1.63m Dec)
* New Super Mario Bros. Wii – 4.21 million units sold (1.39m Nov, 2.82m Dec)
* CoD Modern Warfare 2 PS3 – 2.99 million units sold (1.87m Nov, 1.12m Dec)
It has not only beaten the PS3 version of Modern Warfare 2 handily, but it’s well on it’s way to besting both platforms sales, not combined but it could be the best selling single platform seller. Next time Reggie makes a bold statement you might want to listen to him.
I would be willing to bet that when all is said and done that before the middle of this year that New Super Mario Bros. Wii will have sold better than both the PS3 and the 360 versions of Modern Warfare 2 combined. It just goes to show just how powerful that portly plumber really is.
Hey everyone. I just thought we’d have a little bit of fun to start the new year. This week Nintendo posted a video on the Nintendo Channel where two guys tried to speed run through World 1-2 of New Super Mario Bros. Wii. I figured we could do something like that for the Nintendo Okie Community.
All you need to do is hit up the forums, sign up and enter the challenge. You just need to post a screenshot, or preferably a video showing your speed run through the level with the proper requirements. We’ll do something special for the winner, but we haven’t decided yet.
The contest will run for two weeks until Friday, January 23rd. I’ve posted my speed run through the level, but since I’m not eligible I can’t win. Let’s have some fun and start out the new year with a bang.
It’s our final list of 2010. Today we’re going to take a look at our favorite Wii games that hit store shelves this year. We’ve had a good run so far, but it’s come to an end. I think it’s a very fitting way to end 2009. Read the list. Let us know what you think.
Tony Says: MadWorld was the one game every in the “hardcore” pinned their hopes on for Wii. They said if it couldn’t sell then nothing could. While sales weren’t great for the title it was a very unique experience and one of the best on Wii this year. It had a super stylized, unique look with the stark contrast of the black and white splashed with red blood, a good soundtrack and some very interesting commentary. The brawler is still alive and MadWorld was one of the best ones of the year.
Matt Says: It was a shame that most peopled passed off the original Wii Sports as a tech demo and nothing more; but it looks like Nintendo rectified that issue by making it’s sequel, Wii Sports Resort, more robust in every way. You couldn’t accuse them of trying to shill the Motion Plus peripheral like a half-hearted Wii Play; not only are there more events like disc golf, sword fighting and canoeing, they show off their depth with multiple levels, a nice difficulty curve and ever-addictive achievements that have you coming back long after you’ve “mastered” the events. They just turned your Wii party’s awesomeness to 11.
Muramasa: The Demon Blade
Tony Says: There are two games that I said this year were head and shoulders above the rest in terms of visuals and they’re both unsurprisingly on this list. Muramasa would easily take my pick for the best looking game of the year. There’s no doubt it’s gorgeous. The amount of layers moving separately all blending to give you unparalleled depth of field made for a memorable experience from the moment you turned the game on. The hand drawn Japanese watercolor style art is a beautiful style for a video game. It might have had its flaws, like the length of the game, but there’s no doubt it is one of the best experiences you’ll find on Wii this year. The combat, while simple, provided a large amount of depth if you wanted to dive into it and the RPG elements and sword crafting immersed you in this world of feudal Japan.
Shelby Says: Back in 2002, Metroid Prime proved that Samus could exist in 3D. Two years later, Retro Studios added even more Metroid flavor to the 3D realm with Metroid Prime 2: Echoes. Without a doubt, these are two of the greatest games that ever graced the GameCube. So when Nintendo announced their “New Play Control!” series would include Prime 1 and 2, gamers had reason to be excited. My inner bounty hunter daydreamed at how much fun it would be to revisit the Chozo Ruins and Torvus Bog with the fluid control scheme of Metroid Prime 3: Corruption. Not only did Retro Studios update the control schemes of Corruption’s older siblings but they also upgraded textures, added an award system, shortened load times and added 16:9 widescreen abilities making these games much more than a simple port. In Japan, the upgraded Prime 1 and 2 saw individual releases but in America we got the Metroid Prime: Trilogy collector’s edition. Nintendo went above and beyond how all other “New Play Control!” games were published and gave fans a metal game case, an art booklet and they threw in Metroid Prime 3: Corruption for good measure! Regardless of how much of the Prime series you have played before, Nintendo and Retro have given Wii owners plenty of reasons to enjoy these three adventures of “The Huntress.” For a MSRP of $49.99, this is gaming’s best deal since The Orange Box and one of our top Wii games of 2009.
Tony Says: Every time a developer says something can’t be done on Wii we always get someone who says it can’t. While the Wii isn’t the ideal platforms for shooters (I still think that belongs to PC) EA did prove that you could put Extraction onto Nintendo’s console. It has most of the elements that made the original popular, strategic dismemberment, scares, and it looks great as well. 2009 may just be the year that people say shooters can work on Wii, whether they’re on rails or not.
Tony Says: Despite the curious case of missing capital letters, a boy and his blob is the other game that I would say is the best looking game on Wii this year. It’s dripping with cuteness in nearly every aspect. The relationship between the boy and the blob, while curious in its beginnings, is a heart warming tale of friendship and dare I say…love? The puzzles in the game have you bending your mind while simultaneously lobbing jelly beans for the blob and dispatching enemies with boulders. There are secrets littered throughout the world that give you access to even harder challenges and it’s just a game that shouldn’t be missed, whether you’re 5 or 50.
Matt Says: While the light gun genre has been beaten to death on the Wii, Sega decided to take the staid formula and beef it up. Putting your zombie blasting skills to the test and reaching the highest score are still at the forefront; replays don’t seem as trite thanks to some weapon leveling and a more diverse feeling arsenal than you usually get. Taking the cheese that made the series so memorable in the first place, there’s a nonsensical but highly entertaining story that takes it all with a film grain. Mature? Not really. Lewd, violent, obscene and gross? Absolutely. And that’s why it’s !@#$ing awesome.
Ed Says: What can be said about the new Super Mario Bros that has not already been said? While it is not quite pure old school 2D side scrolling action, it is certainly in the spirit of those older Mario games. This games feels like a Mario game, which is more than can be said for a lot of sequels and re- imaginings. The game plays well and is a lot of fun both singly and with others. Nintendo pretty much delivered exactly what they said they would. A multiplayer Mario experience.
Shelby Says: In 2008, Boom Blox was noted by critics and fans alike as one of the best games of 2008. Even though EA wasted no time in producing a sequel, Boom Blox Bash Party builds on the concepts of its prequel to make it one of our top Wii games of 2009. Despite the word party being in the title, this game does not suffer the same pitfalls as other “party games” do. Boom Blox Bash Party features new environments, shooting mechanics, shapes and special blox that keeps the game play from being identical from the original game, but similar enough it doesn’t “recreate the wheel.” The level builder gives Bash Party nearly limitless replay value as levels can not only be shared with friends but can also be downloaded from EA servers. Also, thunderous applause are in order for the developer, EA Los Angeles, by eliminating friend codes and making Bash Party read directly from your Wii Friends list. Boom Blox Bash Party is a game that you can play with anyone, thus truly capturing what the Wii is all.
Tony Says: I love Punch-Out!! and it doesn’t matter what form it comes in. This retro reimagining of the original game introduces a lot of new challenges and one new characters. You’ll find yourself in familiar territory early in the game, but after you become the champ, the tables turn and even Glass Joe has it out for you. The brilliant use of the Punch-Out!! theme in every world and the classic gameplay combine for a healthy dose of nostalgia for those of us old enough to remember the original and a nice introduction to the series for a younger generation.
So there you have it folks; our look back at the best games of 2009. It wasn’t easy compiling the list, but I think we’ve come up with the best games of the year. If you agree, or disagree with us. Let us know in the comments, or head over to the forums and talk to us there. We’ll be back tomorrow to ring in the new year with our predicitions and hopes for 2010.
2009 was a very interesting year, at least in my opinion for video games. It was the year I jumped into the realm of video game coverage. I started that journey with a brief stint at Nintendojo beginning in April before circumstances beyond my control pulled me away from gaming for a short period. I decided to jump back into that realm in August with this site and have really enjoyed the experience up to this point. We started small, and we’ve grown to now have a staff of 6, two podcasts and bigger dreams for the next year.
The year in gaming for Nintendo started relatively slowly. January didn’t see any high profile releases and it wasn’t until February and the release of House of the Dead: Overkill that the gaming year really got started for Nintendo. That was a game that brought a new entry in the House of the Dead franchise to Wii and put the series over the top in terms of camp, violence and language. It was a great game that I hope every at least played once. On that same day Electronic Arts would release what would become the last game to come from their relationship with NASCAR. That game would be NASCAR Kart Racing, a Mario Kart style game that featured a number of faces and products from the world of NASCAR racing.
Mad World had the hopes of hardcore gamers everywhere placed on its shoulders this year and its release in March had many people saying that the hardcore market wasn’t something that could be captured on Nintendo. I don’t think it’s fair to place the thoughts of a purely marketing driven demographic on one game, but that’s exactly what happened with Mad World. Sales did not meet the expectations of many people and that hope shifted to another title that would be released 3 months later.
The Game Developers Conference was held during the period of March 23rd to March 27th. Nintendo held a press conference during the event where a number of things were announced. The first was that a storage solution had been worked out for Wii, meaning you no longer had to “clean the fridge” in order to play a WiiWare or Virtual Console title on the system. Games could now be downloaded to and played directly from High Capacity SD Cards up to 32GB in size. While still not a perfect solution it did solve a number of the problems that many people had with storage on the system.
The next installment in the Zelda franchise, The Legend of Zelda Spirit Tracks for DS was also announced during GDC. There were few details revealed about the game at that time, but it raised the spirits, no pun intended, of many gamers and we know knew that another Zelda game was on its way.
The last big announcement to come from the show was that a new DS system was on its way. The Nintendo DSi would be officially announced then and it was also announced that the system would go on sale April 5th, just about two weeks after the show. The system would feature a slightly faster processor, two cameras and a new downloadable shop known as the DSi Shop. Users would now be able to download original games and take them on the go, though no portable version of the Virtual Console was announced for the system and still has not been talked about by Nintendo other than to say it won’t be coming.
My pick for one of the best games of the year hit stores in May and brought boxing back to its most simple elements. Punch-Out!! made a return in a big way and brought the feel and fun of the classic franchise with it. The over the top characters and simple, yet in depth game play was something that a lot of people were looking for this generation. Newer gamers had the motion control options, but Punch-Out!! knew what franchise fans wanted and delivered in a big way. The fights were familiar, but brand new at the same time and then threw another wrench in your plans when you had to defend your belt against those same fighters who had learned from their previous mistakes.
The biggest gaming show of the year, E3, returned to the LA Convention Center this year during the first week of June. The show was trying to get back to some of the flair of the past and Nintendo made quite a few announcements during the show. The first and probably most unusual was the Vitality Sensor, a new peripheral that will connect to your finger to take your pulse. There was no software, only some vague ideas of what they wanted to do. There were also two different Mario games announced during the show. The first would be a return to Mario’s roots with New Super Mario Bros. Wii, a new side scrolling adventure that would feature four players for the first time. The second was a direct sequel to 2007’s Super Mario Galaxy, and this time Yoshi would play a part. Probably the most surprising announcement during the show was Nintendo and Team Ninja’s collaboration on a new Metroid game, Metroid Other M. We still don’t know a lot about the title, but it promises to be something interesting.
On the handheld front during the show Nintendo announced a new Golden Sun game for the DS and many games were playable, including IGN’s game of the show, Scribblenauts. We were also able to get our hands on Mario & Luigi: Bowser’s Inside Story and The Legend of Zelda: Spirit Tracks.
Nintendo’s new peripheral, the Wii Motion Plus, would hit store shelves the following week and would be bundled with a couple of different games meant to show off the technology. These were both developed by EA; Tiger Woods PGA Tour 10 and Grand Slam Tennis. They both showed off exactly what Motion Plus could do and Tiger Woods benefited most from the technology. The depth that this new motion controller allowed meant that the game was more realistic than ever and gave people hope that the Wii Remote add on would be worth their purchase.
Later during the month of June the most high profile first person shooter to show up on the Wii since Medal of Honor Heroes 2 was released. That game was The Conduit, a sci-fi shooter set in a near future Washington DC. Many people were resting their hopes on this finally being the game that would show that shooters deserved a place in the Wii’s lineup. The game was most notable for being completely customizable. There wasn’t anything about the presentation that you couldn’t change. It was marred by a mediocre storyline and a multiplayer component that was prone to crashing and was easily hacked by cheaters. Despite that it was a good showcase for a shooter on the Wii, and I think there is still room for improvement in the genre on the platform.
Motion Plus made its debut in June, but hit its stride with the release of Nintendo’s first effort with the peripheral; Wii Sports Resort. This sequel to the Wii’s launch pack in added 9 new games, brought back two favorites, added in game achievements and created a new character from the world you inhabited. The simple games had layer upon layer stacked onto them and mixed up the action with a number of variations that created what would be one of the most fun and most talked about games of the year. While Wii Sports might have been a tech demo to show you what the Wii could do, Wii Sports Resort was the showcase for all that Motion Plus could do and it was fun as well.
Nintendo re-released a number of GameCube games during 2009 under the New Play Control banner. This series of games brought back many gamers favorite franchises from the previous generation, and added a new wrinkle in the mix with a brand new control scheme tailor made for the Wii. These games included Pikmin, Mario Power Tennis, Donkey Kong Jungle Beat, but probably most notable for not having that banner, but still belonging to the series, Metroid Prime Trilogy. This new release packed all three games from the series onto one disc and added all the functionality of Metroid Prime 3: Corruption to the two original GameCube games. The achievement system and control scheme were both added and the graphics were given a bit of polish to create what was essentially a brand new title.
September saw three really big game releases from third parties from three very different areas of gaming. The first, Muramasa: the Demon Blade brought beauty and simplicity to the side scrolling action game. The levels of depth that were added to gorgeous hand drawn environments were something many thought weren’t possible on Wii. The controls were simple, yet elegant, even if the game was too long for its own good. The second saw the Beatles reimagined in The Beatles: Rock Band. The game even came packed in with replicas of the group’s actual instruments. It didn’t bring a lot new to the Rock Band franchise, but saw the world’s greatest band brought back to life and introduced to a generation who might not have known them. Lastly we have Dead Space: Extraction. This guided first person experience raised the bar for rail shooters on the system that was becoming known for them. It was able to take the visual prowess of the HD version of the game to Nintendo and made for an experience, that was fun, while still frightening.
October is probably best known for Halloween, but Nintendo wanted to make sure you were able to shed those added candy pounds with the release of Wii Fit Plus. This new game added a few welcome features to the original Wii hit with the ability to string exercises together to create a workout play list as well as a bunch of new balance games.
November is always the biggest month of the year for game releases. This year was no exception. November saw the release of a large number of high profile games, Lego Rock Band, Tony Hawk: Ride, Call of Duty: Modern Warfare – Reflex Edition and most notably New Super Mario Bros. Wii. After first getting hands on with the title back at E3 gamers were chomping to have a go with three friends in this new entry into the Mario franchise. The action was frantic, fast paced and totally insane. Everyone will tell you the game is a totally different experience when played with friends compared to solo. While many disapproved of the graphical style of the game it is considered one of the best Mario games to come along in a long time.
While there were a lot of highs during the year, 2009 will also be known as the year of the layoff. The last half of the year saw layoffs at just about every studio there is. Here are just a few that saw big hits in their workforce this year; Electronic Arts, Activision, Ubisoft, Maxis, Midway, Eidos, Square Enix, Nokia, Sony, Transmission Games, Slipgate Ironworks, LucasArts, and Harmonix. There’s no denying the economy was not good to anyone this year, and the game’s industry, once thought recession proof, proved that even it is not invulnerable.
So there you go. There’s a bit of a look back at some of the biggest events of 2009. 2010 is proving to be a very good year as well. We know Super Mario Galaxy 2 will probably see release, but there’s also a possibility of the new Metroid, and maybe even a new Zelda game. Stay tuned to the site next week to see what we think might be coming to your living rooms in the next year, and join us back here again this time in one year to see what 2010 had in store for us.
It should come as no surprise that lots of people were going to buy New Super Mario Bros. Wii. In fact, so many people bought the game that it set records over in Japan. The game sold, according to Famitsu, 422,000 copies the first day it was on sale (December 3rd). It then went on to sell almost a million copies, 936,734 to be exact, in it’s first week of sales in the country.
I bought it, chances are you bought it. The game is without a doubt going to be one of the biggest sellers of all-time. The DS game still sells enough new copies to show up on NPDs regularly. Let’s see how long that will last with this newest version of the game.
- Level design is brilliant.
- Multiplayer adds complete, but at times funny chaos.
- The Koopa Kids are back.
- Soundtrack is excellent.
- Super Guide is quite handy.
- Would have preferred a different art style.
- Motion can sometime cause inadvertent death.
- Lack of online multiplayer.
- Super Guide embarrassed me.
Mario entered the hearts of gamers everywhere way back in the mid 80’s. He started on a 2D plane moving from left to right. That’s all we knew and we liked it. That continued until 1990 and the release of Super Mario World. That was the last time that Mario would appear in a 2D game on a home console as he would soon transition into 3D. It’s been nearly 20 years since we had the pleasure of playing a 2D Mario game in our living room, but man the wait was worth it.
Mario is back in 2D with New Super Mario Bros. Wii. This game is the successor to New Super Mario Bros. DS and the spiritual successor to games like Super Mario Bros. 3 and Super Mario World. The game features an Overworld map where you can navigate playing through a number of levels and taking different paths to reach different areas. Scattered throughout those maps are places that you can go to earn new power ups and extra lives to help make the trip through the Mushroom Kingdom a little easier.
Bowser Jr, along with the returning Koopalings have kidnapped Princess Peach and it’s up to Mario, Luigi and two toads to rescue her. Mario can do this alone, like he’s done so many times, or the other three can join in on the action for four player fun. You’ll traverse the levels from left to right stomping on Goombas and Koopa Troopas while avoiding bottomless pits, spiky urchins, fire and more. The game immediately brings back a sense of nostalgia in old folks like me and introduces younger gamers to a world that they may not have explored before. The game play is very reminiscent of Super Mario World and will feel very familiar to anyone that has played Mario’s classic adventures.
To help Mario and the crew out there are some new power ups introduced all of which, with the exception of one, add a huge amount of depth to the game play. The first we’ll talk about is the propeller suit. This allows Mario, with a quick flick of the Wii Remote to launch himself high in the air reaching previous inaccessible areas. You can then float safely back to the ground or you can drill your way back down taking out enemies or blocks that are unlucky enough to be in your way. The second is the Ice Flower and the one power up that feels a bit unnecessary. This is the analog to the Fire Flower and allows you to shoot ice balls out that will freeze enemies in their tracks. These can these be used as platforms to reach higher areas or as projectile weapons that take out anything in their path. It feels a bit unnecessary only because of the inclusion of the next power up, the Penguin Suit. The penguin suit has the same ice ball ability, but also allows you to walk on slippery surfaces, belly slide through enemies and low hanging blocks as well as the ability to swim very accurately and quickly through water. After you’ve used the penguin suit the ice flower feels a bit redundant and boring. The old favorites are back like the Fire Flower and the return of the Starman and you have the new mini mushroom that was introduced in New Super Mario Bros. DS.
Traversing the levels themselves is quite a lot of fun and there are some amazingly innovative levels designs present in New Super Mario Bros. Wii. From the very beginning you see things are going to be a lot different than you’ve ever seen before. The very first world has spinning areas that have hidden pipes and secret places that you don’t know exist until you happen to stumble upon them. Old favorites like the Boo House make huge returns and are tougher than ever with boos surrounding you on all sides making some of the levels very tricky to navigate. World 7 probably has some of my favorite levels and will be on my list of favorite experiences for a while to come. The level design with the moving platforms combined with foggy areas and tricky jumps make for some very challenging, but rewarding platforming and you won’t soon forget them. Yoshi is back as well, but only in a small capacity. He’s in a small handful of levels and will be available to you only for the duration of that level, bidding you adieu when you reach the flag. Those levels with him in them though are throwbacks to some of the better areas of Super Mario World, complete with the apples on bushes that will earn you additional 1-ups. There are areas of one castle toward the end that ended up being the part I liked the most. There are platforms that one player can control and you have to move from side to side to avoid ledges and at the same time control Mario to keep him from being blown up by bob-ombs. It was frustrating at first, but once I got down the movement it ended up being a great twist to what could have been a rather boring part of the game. Having to control two different objects on the screen is not something we’ve seen in a Mario game before and it added another layer of depth to the gameplay.
Did you miss the Koopa Kids after Super Mario World and want to see them come back? Well you get your wish here and these are some amazingly well crafted boss fights. You’ll fight each Koopa Kid twice in the world that they inhabit. The first time, in the mid level castle, is a traditional boss fight on a platform. The second time, though, at the end of the level Kamek shows up, sprinkles some magic Koopa dust on them and changes the rules of the game. These fights ramp up the difficulty a bit and add some interesting twists to the encounter. Wendy O, for example has water added to the level and you can’t stomp on her until the water drains, but you still have to avoid her and her deadly rings of doom. Roy hides in pipes and fall on you when you least expect it. There are others and I’ll just say that the second fight with Bowser Jr on his airship was my favorite boss encounter of the game. It involves electricity and the clown car from the Bowser fight at the end of Super Mario World.
If you have a soft spot in your heart for Mario music, be prepared to hope this soundtrack becomes available. The music takes some of the best elements of every Mario platformer, mixes it up and bit and spits it back out. All the classics are here along with some very memorable new tunes. My favorite track of all is the airship music from Super Mario 3, and the airship levels of this game have a remix of that track that adds a bit of rock to it and makes an already good track even better.
Despite all the gushing I’ve done about this game so far, there are a few spots that I think could have used some work. I loved the art style of the Mario 1-1 and Mario 1-2 levels from Super Smash Bros. Brawl and thought that would be the perfect art style for a Mario platformer. Instead, Nintendo went with an upgraded look to the New Super Mario Bros for DS. Everything is quite brilliant, colorful and full of detail. In this game it’s not so much the big things that you’ll notice, but the little things. Every character on the screen is in sync and dances along with the music. Goombas jump during hard beats in the tunes, while Koopa Troopas turn to face you and thrown their arms from side to side. Yoshi will dance in place if he’s not being ridden and will turn his head at those points and the little flowers on the ground pulse and grow in time to the music. While it’s good I think it could have been even better with that Brawl style.
The motion controls enhance the play just enough to be really good, but can also get in the way some times. I’m a rather heavy button pusher at points and these hard button pushes would sometimes register as a shake and would cause Mario to do his spin jump, which would send me off a ledge and to my death. It didn’t happen often, but it was enough to be noticed and be a point of frustration.
I would have also liked to have seen more power ups. There are plenty of classics that have yet to make another appearance, like the raccoon leaf, Kuribu’s shoe are just a couple that I would like to see make a return. The power ups that were included were great new additions to the series, but some of the classics feel a bit neglected. None of these gripes that I have detract from the game in any way. They’re small gripes to what is essentially the best Mario game, aside from Super Mario Galaxy, in a long time.
There are two other new features that can’t be missed. The first is the addition of four player co-operative play. For the first time ever you can have four people on screen at once and it makes for a very interesting experience. The game seems to be designed for the single player experience, but having four people playing together doesn’t make it any more or less challenging. It really makes it fun. Whether you are four inexperienced gamers or four Mario veterans the experience is going to be memorable. Veterans can help younger players along through the harder portions of the game. You can backstab your friends by picking them up and throwing them in a pit or you can work together to bounce up to higher areas by leapfrogging off your friends head. There are any number of strategies that are possible. While it can be frustrating at times to be accidentally bounced into a Bullet Bill or into a pit, as long as one player remains alive the level will continue. If you die you lose a life, but you enter a bubble and by shaking the Wii Remote you can head towards friends who can bust you out and you’re back in the game. You can also voluntarily go back into the bubble, which saved many lives during my run through the game with an opportune press right as I was about to head into a pit. If you have friends around you have to experience this as it really is a completely different game than when you’re playing by yourself.
The last inclusion is the new Super Guide feature which generated a lot of conversation on the internet before the game’s release. This feature allows anyone that’s having difficulty with an area to have a computer controlled Luigi play through the level for you and get past the difficult spots. You can take over control at any time and finish the level yourself if you choose. This feature will be quite handy for a lot of players, but chances are if you’re experienced in the ways of Mario you’ll never see the feature. I can assure it it’s quite embarrassing for someone who really enjoys these games to get the Super Guide. It happened once during my play through and I was furious at myself when it showed up because it was a part that I shouldn’t have had any trouble with. While it was a controversial feature it’s definitely a feature that I welcome with open arms because more people will be able to get through a Mario game. It will not show you any of the secrets of a level, you’ll have to find those on your own, and there are a ton of secrets to be found in the game. If you are having trouble finding some of them you can unlock hint movies at Peach’s castle that will show you where some of the more tricky ones to find are.
Mario is an experience that everyone should have at one time or another. Old vets will be filled with nostalgia at all the little touches that have been added to New Super Mario Bros. Wii and new gamers will be able to experience a new classic.
Final Score: 5/5 Excellent
Review Copy of the game purchased at Gamestop.