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Monday, October 17, 2016

Making New Super Mario Bros. Feel New Again

When New Super Mario Bros. released on the Nintendo DS in 2006, it was a pretty huge deal. This wasn't just the release of a new Super Mario game. No, this was the release of a new 2D Super Mario game. Despite it's title, Nintendo does not count Super Mario World 2: Yoshi's Island as part of the Super Mario series and has effectively grouped it with the Yoshi games. Before New Super Mario Bros. released, the last 2D Mario we had seen was Super Mario Land 2: 6 Golden Coins, which was released in 1992. Twelve years is a long time to go without a new 2D Super Mario adventure. So of course we ate it up. Fast forward ten years and four games later and the NSMB series doesn't feel so new anymore.

The NSMB games were made to cater to fans of 2D Mario. As great as Mario's 3D exploits were/are, backtracking through non liner levels wasn't to everyone's liking, especially when you consider a great deal of older fans grew up playing 2D Mario. The biggest criticism labeled against the NSMB games is that they feel too samey. And as much as I enjoy the NSMB games, it is kind of hard for me to find fault in that argument.

It was like 1985 all over again
when New Super Mario Bros. released in 2006.

Trying to keep a series that has been around for ten years fresh can be a daunting task. You can keep doing the same old, same old and have one set fans continue to come back or, you can change things up and risk upsetting another set of fans. Its a tricky business and if we've learned anything about Nintendo fans and gamers in general, it is that they can be quite the fickle bunch. As much as they shout for innovation and new, game changing features, we've seen them slam the door on that stuff with the quickness. But that's a discussion for another time.

I honestly don't think Nintendo needs to reinvent the wheel to keep NSMB feeling fun and exciting. Case in point, Super Mario 3D World. I've seen some people scoff at the praise SM3DW has received, saying the game was not innovative. And to them I say, well, duh! And then I shake my head in disappointment because of how grossly misinformed these people are. Of course SM3DW wasn't innovative. Anyone that thinks SM3DW garnered the accolades it did for being innovative is not paying attention. SM3DW got the wondrous recognition that it id because of the level design. The game's levels are insanely fun, charming, creative, imaginative, and most important of all, unfamiliar. It is incredibly rare to play a course in SM3DW that plays just like one you've played before. One course has you speeding across boost pads in a level that was clearly inspired by the Mario Circuit courses from Super Mario Kart, another one has you sneaking past Goombas in an Japanese-like dojo. The only time you'll start to get a sense of deja vu is when you reach a few of the brutally hard special worlds.

Super Mario 3D World doesn't bring anything new
to the table but that game is so much more fun than the last few
installments of the New Super Mario Bros. games.

If you were to ask me if the NSMB games should incorporate some of SM3DW's non samey level design, the answer would be a resounding "Yes!"That game may have had the token, fire, ice, grass and sky levels on the surface. But once I set foot into some of those levels, I was taken by surprise. I thought for sure that World 3 was going to be nothing but slip sliding slopes, but only one level (the first one) was an actual ice themed stage. It was a pleasant surprise to have my expectations played with and that one ice level of World 3 was pretty dang fun. Just because the overworld map is all desert doesn't mean every stage has to be nothing but sand.

SM3DW was so much fun because it took elements from previous games. Some of the best things of the Super Mario universe came from the black sheep of the series, Super Mario Bros. 2. Mario, Luigi, Peach and Toad all play differently from one another and I was so happy to see that brought back in SM3DW. I think it is high time the NSMB games make each character control differently from one another. Actually, New Super Luigi U already did this by giving Luigi his higher jump and poor traction. The two Toads and Nabbit all controlled the same. I'm aware that this might take away from NSMBs simplicity a bit. but as it stands, the NSMB titles could stand to take some more risks and break away from that simplicity.

Only Luigi plays different but giving at least
one character different skills was a step in the right
direction for New Super Luigi U.

The NSMB games are also in desperate need of some new tunes. And I'm not talking about overworld map music. The sad truth is, the map music has changed far more than the stage music has. I love the Beach theme from New Super Mario Bros. Wii, but it's been used  in every game since its inception . The same goes for the Tower, Castle and Boss music from said game. We were fortunate to get a new Ground and Athletic Theme for New Super Mario Bros. U. Using the same themes since 2009 wreaks of laziness. Nintendo has some of the best musicians in the business. There is no reason for us to hear the same music in the next NSMB game.

One of Super Mario Maker's updates was keys. I love using keys as a means to get people to fight bosses, explore a level or block the path. Keys were a thing in SMB2 and to get one in that game, you had to run from Phantos. Why not bring that freaky mask back? He could be way more aggressive, shoot beams from his eyes and be a lot faster. Bring the Sniffets back while we're at it. We should be clobbering Shy Guys, too. What makes Pokey so special that he's one of the only SMB2 enemies to be included in the NSMB games?

On the subject of old enemies returning, how about some old power-ups? In New Super Mario Bros. 2, we saw the return of the Super Leaf. The Squirrel Suit is't too shabby but that let us glide, not fly. I can kind of see Nintendo's reluctance to not bring back the Cape Feather seeing as how broken the thing is. As busted as the Hammer Suit is, it doesn't let you skip entire levels and stay air born. And yes, I'd love to see the Hammer Suit come back.

A NSMB game will undoubtedly release on the NX. Despite all I've said, I really do enjoy the NSMB series, but I do hope Nintendo takes some more risks with the NX version.


GameOverYeah said...

I really enjoyed the DS game but thought that Mario Bros. Wii was ridiculously dull, even with the four player option.

DS90Gamer said...

Same as above but I also couldn't be bothered to see more than the first half of the DS game. Never played the 3DS or Wii-U versions so I can't comment on those but I think the 2D-with-3D-visuals simply creates no charm. It looks cheap and doesn't look pretty like Super Mario World for example.

Fortunately, all of the 3D games since SM64 have been utterly ace. Well, I didn't like Sunshine all that much but it was still an interesting game and well-produced.