The DS library is chock full of critical and commercial gems. Be that as it may, a sizable portion of the console’s best selling titles have been part of the "Touch Generation" lineup, a brand that caters towards people who don’t usually consider themselves gamers. 2006’s New Super Mario Bros. helped break that early trend by becoming the second best selling title on the DS thanks to support from hardcore old schoolers and casual audiences alike. At E3 2009, a follow-up to the first all-new 2D Mario in ages was unveiled, this time for the Wii.
I was initially sold on New Super Mario Bros. Wii after seeing the poster and hearing that it spawned from the brain of Shigeru Miyamoto, but my hands-on time with the game wasn’t as promising as the premise. NSMBW–perhaps the oddest acronym ever–isn’t exactly what you would expect from Miyamoto or a Mario game. Designed as a "competitive cooperative" game, the title is a classic Super Mario Bros. only in the faintest sense.
Up to four gamers can take control of familiar Mushroom Kingdom characters to trounce through side scrolling levels until they reach the token flagpole. Sure, you stomp on goomba heads, kick turtle shells, and collect coins, but that came off as filler–a means to an end–rather than the main objective. Finishing the level is important, but the real goal seemed to be points, and making sure that your character had the most at the end of the round. Upon completion of a level, points are tallied by combining kills, lives, and coins. This would be fine if something came out of it, but it seems as if these points offer nothing more than bragging rights.
The E3 demo was far slower than any Super Mario that I have ever played, due primarily to the competition aspects the title. Harassing, kill stealing, greed, and outright murder were the best ways to make sure that your character ends up at the top spot once the flag flies. While I normally hate making these types of comparisons, New Super Mario Bros. Wii comes off as a mash-up between classic Super Mario Bros. and the slow-paced challenges presented in Mario Party.
Unfortunately, the overly competitive spirit of the people that I was playing with ruined the game. After jumping in with a different bunch of players however, the experience was far more enjoyable. There were no Yoshi’s spitting players down pits, nor were the other people kicking shells at each other or taking all of the mushrooms for themselves. This time, the foursome worked together as a team to dispatch enemies, help each other make tough jumps, find hidden areas, and clear the level at a respectable pace. It was in this game that I was able to take in the fine level design, bright colors, and stylized 3D graphics that the title has to offer. This shows how important your player group is in NSMBW, as they control how fun or annoying a round of competitive coop can be.
It is a good thing that Miyamoto’s upcoming creation isn’t scheduled to come out until holiday 2009, because it frankly needs some fine tuning. A competitive/cooperative Mario isn’t a ridiculous notion, but the current incarnation of competition seems a bit pointless. Other than harassing friends and slowing your overall progress, what’s the point of having points? New Super Mario Bros. Wii could also benefit from a few gameplay tweaks, such as an increased gameplay speed and the fact that the foursome consisted of two identical Toads rather than throwing in the Princess. To make matters worse, the characters didn’t seem to have any special attributes like their Super Mario Bros. 2 counterparts.
As it stands now , New Super Mario Bros. Wii isn’t as super as the title suggests, falling short of the high standards expected from Mario franchise. The game ships this fall exclusively for the Nintendo Wii.