Monday, November 16, 2009

"New Super Mario Bros. Wii" takes old-school formula to create an instant classic


New Super Mario Bros. Wii
Developed and published by Nintendo
Retail price: $49.99
Available NOW
Rated E

Tell me if this sounds familiar - Italian plumber rescues a princess abducted by ghouls, evil turtles and other not-nice creatures.

Still baffled?

Ok - one last clue - he has a brother named Luigi, who often helps him get out of jams.

I know you know who I am talking about now.

Yes, I am talking about your friend and mine, Joe the Plumber, I mean Mario.

Apparently, Mario never goes tired of rescuing Princess Peach. However, this time, Mario can enlist the help of three other players for hours upon hours of laughs.

Developed by Nintendo, "Super Mario Bros. Wii" is more than just an update to the NES hit, "Super Mario Bros." It takes the series down a familiar path. No, it doesn't go galactic, no, it doesn't go 3D except for a few spots - the maps and Toad Houses come to mind - but stays close to the icon's winning formula.

And we won't talk about the way-cool red game case, the only red game case in Nintendo's Wii game stable.

As most Super Mario Bros. games start, baddies kidnap Princess Peach and dare Mario and company to come after them. If you have played any Super Mario Bros., this is familiar territory. Yet, if you want help on your quest, you can bring up to three friends along. More on this later.

I'm the map!

To play "SMBW," gamers have a couple choices. You can play the Wii way, with the WiiMote and Nunchuk, or go old school and use just the WiiMote, turned sideways, mimicking the old NES controller. For me and my Jr. reviewers (my son is 6, my daughter is 2), we went with turning the WiiMote sideways and playing.

There are a couple modes you can choose - single (you play through the game solo) and multiplayer (you can play against loved ones in Free-for-All and Coin Battle). There's also cooperative play, which is the version of "SMBW" that really shines. In this mode, as I stated earlier, up to four players (yourself included) can help the main character out. Unlike "SMB," all of the players are on-screen at the same time. I can't tell you how many times my son, playing as Luigi, decided to jump on my head to springboard to a very high block.

There's also a feature I like to call 'Leave no man behind.' Let's say one of the players hits a pipe. On the next screen, all of the characters, regardless of where they were at in the previous area, are there on the next stage. Also, when a player in co-op play dies, the game keeps going until the player respawns (in a bubble) and floats back into the thick of the action.

In multiplayer, players can also lift other players and wipe out a ton of enemies with a simultaneous ground pound.

Two new features which can be for n00bs to the Mario world are the Super Guide and the Bubble. For gamers who are having a tough time in multiplayer staying alive or clearing stages, pressing A will enter the player into a bubble. The good thing is - when a player is in a bubble, they are immune to attacks from enemies. The bad thing is if you are in a bubble and the last player not in a bubble dies, it's game over for you too. At least one player has to be out of the bubble. So, if you are playing with someone with a lot more skills using the plumber, being in the bubble is NOT a bad thing.

The other feature? Super Guide will help players clear a stage they are having clearing. Here how is works - hit a green exclamation block to activate the Super Guide. Luigi comes on screen and zips - literally - through the entire stage. It's a great way to see how to attack courses - except for Toad Houses, you can revisit any stage you want to retry. Plus, even though he cleared the stage, he keeps all your powerups, coins and points from the stage. You didn't think it was a FREE feature, did you?

Super Mario Bros. Wii

The graphics look great. It's not "Kill Zone 2" or "Uncharted 2," but does well for a Wii title. The maps are vivid - the stages and worlds are splashed with bright, vibrant colors. Even on an HDTV, it looks a lot better than you'd expect.

Sounds are great - though the tunes are a wii bit jazzy. And unfortunately, Nintendo thought it would be a cool thing to have the creatures walk/stroll/fly to the music. That's fun, initially, but when the timings of your jump are off, the creature stops briefly to pop and lock - and Mario is either dead or loses his power-up. Nintendo, not cool.

Replay value? Of course. It's a Super Mario Bros. game. And with multiplayer and co-op play, no doubt. When I first saw co-op on display with Nintendo reps letting us play with them, all I could imagine are dazed and confused college frat boys with tight polo shirts screaming at a 55" LCD as their characters are running, jumping and dying all over the screen. Good times ahead, no doubt.

For gamers with roots in the 80s, this game will bring back a ton of memories. As soon as I started playing, I was taken back to the 1980s when my then-crush, Shalunda Henry, invited me over to her house to chill. She pulled out the NES and put in Super Mario Bros. Wow. She ran through the stages so fast and never died. And for a few minutes this past Saturday, I was back there, a child in the '80s, hooked on MTV, GI Joe and Robotech: Macross.

This time around, other gamers will get a chance to teach and show little gamers that Mario is pushing 50 and still fit, Princess Peach needs to hire Blackwater and Bowser is still a hater.

The verdict: 9.5 (out of 10) Look, for Mario,it's never been about graphics, but about stellar gameplay. It's about saving the Princess, again, and telling her to get military contractors to protect her. It's about teamwork and about taking a step back for some awesome gaming. Rent it if you must, but buying "Super Mario Bros. Wii" is a decision anyone who loves the little Italian plumber won't regret.

-- M4dSkillz

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