New Super Mario Bros U review: a must-have

Combining the best elements of Mario 3 with the best elements of Mario World, all while adding its own unique flavor, New Super Mario Bros U is easily a must-have for the Wii U early adopter.

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It's easy to dismiss New Super Mario Bros U as "just another" Mario game, especially as it comes hot off the heels of another mainline game--NSMB2, which launched on 3DS this past summer. However, unlike its handheld predecessor, the Wii U version of the game doesn't just regurgitate the same Mario ideas. It constantly surprises with excellent level designs, fantastic boss battles, and exhilarating multiplayer modes. Simply put, this is the best game in the New Super Mario franchise to date. What makes Mario U so successful is how it carefully balances nostalgia with new ideas. For longtime Mario fans, Mario U will be an exciting trip down memory lane. Why? Because Mario U acts as a sequel to Mario 3 and Super Mario World--two of the most iconic entries in the long-running franchise. As in Mario 3, the world map is not merely a means to select levels. It is constantly changing, with moving enemy encounters, hidden power-ups, and tons of secret paths. There's even some mild puzzle-solving you'll have to do to make your way to certain levels. The return of a continuous world map is quite welcome, and makes us question why Nintendo got rid of it in recent Mario games. Still, it returns--along with a world filled with giant enemies, airships, P-wings, and those dudes that pop out of the ground and throw hammers. Mario U is the ultimate class reunion, bringing together the Koopa Kids, Bowser Jr, Yoshi, and seemingly every enemy from the Mario franchise ever. Mario fans will love the constant throwbacks to classic games. However, Nintendo doesn't simply recycle gameplay from previous games. Instead, there's always a "twist" that keeps things interesting. When you encounter your first airship, for example, don't expect it to play exactly as it did in Mario 3. When Kamek appears to sprinkle dust on a boss opponent, don't expect your enemy to simply grow large. In fact, the boss battles are among the best in the Mario franchise. Yes, many of the battles involve jumping on an enemy's head three times; the key is figuring out exactly how. However, there are quite a number of battles where you must do something entirely different. One of your encounters with Bowser Jr, for example, will have you directing homing missiles at his protective shell. The game culminates in a final battle that not only pays homage to Mario World, but has the players doing something awesome. Finding all the Star Coins, and discovering all the secret exits will, as usual, take quite some time. However, thanks to the addition of new challenge modes, Mario U is the meatiest game in the series, as well. The Challenges will test even the most dedicated Mario player with specially-designed objectives. Time Attack and Coin Collection should be rather straightforward affairs, but there are some surprising twists here, as well. In some Coin challenges, you'll actually have to avoid collecting coins. Finishing a level without touching a coin in a Mario game is actually quite a challenge. Other "Special" challenges will have you avoiding an onslaught of fireballs from Fire Bros, for example. There's no shortage of interesting missions to play in these modes. By combining top-notch level design and a plethora of excellent boss battles, Mario U really stands out on its own. However, it does little as a flagship title for Nintendo's new home console. Nothing about Mario U says "this can only be done on Wii U." When playing solo, both the TV and GamePad display exactly the same information, rendering one of these displays useless. Admittedly, it was nice playing a console-quality Mario platformer while lying down in bed, but this feature certainly doesn't scream "system seller."

The GamePad doesn't offer much besides Boost Mode

In multiplayer, the player with the GamePad will be able to tap the screen to make platforms appear. While not entirely imaginative, it does make Mario U more accessible to casual players that may otherwise find Mario platformers too intimidating and difficult. While its impact on gameplay is quite minimal, this mode does a better job of engaging a second player more than, say, collecting star bits with the Wii Remote in Super Mario Galaxy. Mario U's other multiplayer offerings are a blast. Four players can play with Wii Remotes through the entire campaign, and as in New Super Mario Bros Wii, you'll find yourselves hurting each other just as often (if not more so) than helping each other. Accidentally killing a co-op partner by stomping on them before a jump makes for laughs, but the real fun comes when you're playing Coin Battle. As a competitive mode, you'll be using all those dirty Koopa shell-throwing tricks intentionally, as you try to collect more coins than your fellow players. It's a blast. New Super Mario Bros U may not sell the Wii U by showing off the GamePad in any meaningful, innovative ways. Instead, it sells Nintendo's new hardware by simply being the best 2D Mario game since Yoshi's Island. Combining the best elements of Mario 3 with the best elements of Mario World, all while adding its own unique flavor, New Super Mario Bros U is easily a must-have for the Wii U early adopter.
This New Super Mario Bros U review was based on a retail Wii U version of the game provided by the publisher. The game will be available on November 18th. Local multiplayer requires additional Wii Remotes (up to 4). Online functionality could not be tested, as Nintendo Network was unavailable before publishing.
From The Chatty
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    November 15, 2012 10:00 AM

    Andrew Yoon posted a new article, New Super Mario Bros U review: a must-have.

    Combining the best elements of Mario 3 with the best elements of Mario World, all while adding its own unique flavor, New Super Mario Bros U is easily a must-have for the Wii U early adopter.

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      November 15, 2012 10:08 AM

      That's nice to hear. Does it still have that weird stutter effect in multiplayer when someone dies or gets a power up?

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      November 15, 2012 10:08 AM

      The Wii U is the first major console since Sega Saturn that I'm not buying on launch day (or any time soon), but this game looks so fun. :(

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        November 15, 2012 11:28 AM

        Yea, i'm right there with ya. Nothing about the Wii U urges me to get it day one. It will probably be a year or two before I even consider picking one up.

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      November 15, 2012 10:09 AM

      Man I want this game. I also don't mind that it doesn't utilize the GamePad as anything other than a controller with an extra perk or two. So many Wii and DS games felt gimmicky, and would have played better if developers hadn't felt obligated to make their games do everything the console and its peripherals could do.

      New Super Mario Bros. Wii and Punch-Out!! (Wii) are perfect examples of how NOT to use gimmicky controls. I didn't care for the motion controls; they're nowhere near as precise as the Classic Controller. Nor do I like holding the Wiimote sideways; it's bulky and uncomfortable.

      I would rather Nintendo continue to make solid games that either use gimmicky hardware correctly rather than abundantly, or better yet, stick to classic control schemes and focus on designing a fun game.

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        November 15, 2012 10:13 AM

        I'm all for ditching motion controls completely.

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          November 15, 2012 10:16 AM

          I can think of many good examples of motion controls done right, but I wouldn't miss them if the industry were to shun them completely.

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            November 15, 2012 10:49 AM

            Mario Galaxy made good use of motion controls, but I don't think they really have a place in many 2D games.

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              November 15, 2012 10:59 AM

              I agree. New SMB Wii's motion controls in particular felt tacked on and pointless. I LOVE that game, but I'd love it even more without motion controls.

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                November 15, 2012 12:20 PM

                the new donkey kong country was the worst :(

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          November 15, 2012 12:17 PM

          [deleted]

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            November 15, 2012 12:39 PM

            No More Heros is the only Wii game I can think of where the controls are awesome and add to the game.

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              November 16, 2012 6:38 AM

              Mario Galaxy 1-2? Zelda Skyward Sword? Resident Evil 4?

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                November 16, 2012 8:35 AM

                The waggle on galaxy sucked. I'd prefer a controller. Never played the others.

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        November 15, 2012 6:58 PM

        The perk of the GamePad is that you can stomp on a goomba while churning doo doo butter on the throne.

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      November 15, 2012 10:13 AM

      [deleted]

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        November 15, 2012 10:32 AM

        Hahaha, that part of the bombcast was great.

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        November 15, 2012 1:39 PM

        yeah, Jeff's crtis of the game match mine..

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          November 15, 2012 1:40 PM

          well, the game direction..the laziness, etc. i haven't played the new game yet.

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        November 15, 2012 7:04 PM

        more like BAH

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      November 15, 2012 10:25 AM

      Urge to buy Wii U rising. #fml #lol

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      November 15, 2012 10:29 AM

      I'll get it when I can order Wii U off of Amazon for < $200. I don't mind waiting that long.

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      November 15, 2012 11:50 AM

      SCREW YOU! now i havet to buy a wii U :(

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      November 15, 2012 12:04 PM

      This may be the first NSMB game I get. All of the previous ones were criticized for being too easy, which means I never bothered to play them. If the challenge levels are hard enough and numerous enough, I'll probably enjoy this one.

      Still waiting for Rayman Legends before I even think about getting a Wii U though.

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        November 16, 2012 3:02 AM

        The main quest of the NSMB games are easy, but the side bits get tough. You've missed out, imo!

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      November 15, 2012 12:18 PM

      [deleted]

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      November 15, 2012 5:43 PM

      Since the music isn't any good, the game can't stand up to the classic marios. The cool music was like 25% of the product. Now, it's just garbage.

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      November 15, 2012 7:00 PM

      I don't understand new Mario games. They don't even update the rosters...

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      November 15, 2012 10:28 PM

      Glad to hear it's a great game but it's not even close to being a must-have for me. Try as I might, I just can't get into the Mario stuff - it's just too kiddy-looking and feeling for me. My wife loves that stuff though.

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      November 16, 2012 3:38 AM

      Definitely picking this one up!

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