Thursday, February 17, 2011


New Super Mario Brothers Wii

You have to understand -- Super Mario Brothers 3 was a phenomenon.

Even when you get past the marketing blitz that propelled it to larger than life proportions -- McDonald's toys, a Saturday morning cartoon, an appearance in The Wizard -- it's just a really amazing game. The fact that it still holds up today as one of my favorite video games of all time speaks to how far ahead of its time it really was. There's an overworld map, complete with wandering Hammer Brothers; there's themed worlds like Water Land and Sky Land and Giant Land; there's an inventory of items to save and use as you see fit; there's dozens of new enemies, including the Koopalings; there's all kinds of crazy power ups, including items that allow you to fly -- it's just amazing. The Super Mario Brothers 3 strategy guide was my reading material of choice in sixth grade. I just loved reading it over and over again, memorizing where all of the power ups were, where the secret passages were in each level, and on and on.

I remember looking forward to the Super NES because it was going to come with a new Mario game! And... Super Mario World was good and all, and it looked amazing and Yoshi was a lot of fun to play with but... it really didn't give me the same feeling that I had playing Super Mario Brothers 3. And Nintendo's gone on to make a lot of Mario games and other sidescrolling games set in the same universe -- Yoshi's Island, the Warioland games, the 3D games, New Super Mario Brothers on the DS -- and while they've all been good and fun and everything, none of them ever really surpassed my memories of playing Super Mario Brothers 3.

So understand that I'm awarding the highest praise possible when I say that New Super Mario Brothers Wii is the clear, true successor to Super Mario Brothers 3.

I mean, the game just gets everything exactly right. Every single level is unique. They all have some sort of gimmick or quirk that sets them apart from all the rest. Even when a level has some sort of mechanic that you've seen in another Mario game, it's twisted just a bit to make it feel totally new.

The powerups are excellent. It's hard to pick a clear favorite because they all have something to recommend them. Even the flying item isn't necessarily a front-runner this time around because your power of flight is slightly limited, and the offensive abilities of the fire and ice flowers are very helpful. And I kind of like the way they handled Yoshi, where he's only available in certain levels that were designed with him in mind. Using Yoshi feels a lot like using the Kuribo Shoe in SMB3.

The game has the same themed worlds that the DS game had, but they're presented in a slightly different order, and you go through all of them. I really disliked the "hidden" access to Worlds 4 and 7 in the DS game; I'm glad you just get to do all of them this time around.

And I love all of the little bits of fan service that are everywhere in this game. They did a really good job of bringing back all of our favorite stuff, but putting a new spin on it. Like, the Koopalings are back. Every Koopaling is in charge of one world. You face a Koopaling as a mini-boss in the World's fortress, and then as the end boss at the castle, but in the castle fight, Kamek shows up and uses his magic in some way to make the fight more unique. All of the Koopalings retain the special powers they had in SMB3 -- Wendy O. fires candy rings, Lemmy rides a bouncing ball, Roy shakes the ground when he jumps -- and the ones that didn't really stand out originally have had a little more work put into them so that it doesn't completely feel like they're just re-skinning the boss fights. And Bowser Junior also returns, for all of those fans who wondered if he was there to replace the Koopalings or if they were working together or what. There are a few moments in the game where you catch up with the Airship and you have to battle Bowser Junior, who's piloting a junior-sized Koopa Clown Car, but obviously his attacks are different from the ones in Super Mario World. There's just all of these little things that reference old Mario games while feeling completely new, and it just makes you feel all kinds of joy to see them again.

But the best part is the multiplayer. I mean, this is the thing that everyone's been wishing for ever since the first Super Mario Brothers -- the days of having a friend over to play, but then one of you just ends up sitting there and watching because the other one never dies. At long long last, here is a Mario game that everyone can truly play together, and it's worth every minute we've waited for it. You help each other, you screw each other over, you laugh because everyone went into their protective bubble at the same time and the level ended, you panic because you're getting in each other's way, you fight over who gets the powerups -- it's everything that you always thought a multiplayer Mario game would be.

This game has stuck with me for so long and I've come back to it so often and it's just continued to make me so happy that I really feel confident in making a call here. This is the new Super Mario Brothers 3. It's a classic that's bound to endure. It sets a new high water mark for what you can do in a Mario game or in a 2D platformer in general. And it's just completely, amazingly fun. If you have a Wii, you should buy it.


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