Admittedly, over the last decade we’ve been bigger fans of Mario’s 3D platformers like the Galaxy series, but it can’t be denied that the New Super Mario’s 2D revival is loved more by the world at large. After the multimillion-selling New Super Mario Bros Wii, Nintendo is cooking up a fully-fledged console sequel that looks timed for the launch of the Wii U. We got some hands-on time with both single and multiplayer of New Super Mario Bros U and liked what we played so far.
Taking up a solo run of the first of three stages available (witnessing a prominent, if not stunning graphical improvement), we noted that when played with the Gamepad, everything that was on the TV was on the controller’s screen as well. Just as Nintendo repeatedly brought up at its press conference, this is an example of how the Wii U can free up the TV for non-gamers. The stage was began like a classic Mario opening, with the same Goomba and block layout as in Super Mario’s World 1-1. A little of the way through the stage we met the first of the new additions to the game: the Flying Squirrel.
As we took a running jump into the air with this new version of Mario, we assumed it was a minor update to the classic Raccoon Mario power-up. But as we began to descend and shook the Gamepad for the first time, Mario slowed down and we were able to direct his descent better than ever. It was strange at first to float in a way Mario never had before, but by the time we hit the top of the flagpole of the first stage, we really got a handle on Mario’s newest adorable costume change.
The second stage we entered featured an update to a different classic power-up, with Baby Yoshi making its first appearance in some time. Working similarly to how they did in Super Mario World, you carry him in front of you, eating nearby enemies, but the hatchling has some new tricks. Once you jump into the air and shake the controller he balloons out, expanding your hang time in the air considerably. You could shake the controller several times for a boost to your air time, but eventually the little guy tuckers out and drops you to the ground.
After completing that stage, we played the final demo level in five person multiplayer. Four of us grabbed Wii Remotes and explored the decidedly more difficult stage pretty similarly to how we played New Super Mario Wii. Meanwhile, the fifth person held the Gamepad and helped out everyone by touching the screen to add little platforms to the stage, making jumps much easier. It was a simple technique meant for players that may not understand how to play Mario but still want to be involved, similar to the co-op modes in the Galaxy games.
We enjoyed our time with this new chunk of 2D Mario goodness, though we wouldn’t call it groundbreaking, not that it has to be. New Super Mario’s strength is the familiar warmth and retro feel that harkens back to a simpler time. It’s more about clever updates than revolutionizing the concept, unlike the 3D Mario titles. We aren’t sure if it’s the best of the possible launch line up Nintendo presented at E3, but it’s definitely the most dependable.