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New Super Mario Bros. (DS) artwork

New Super Mario Bros. (DS) review

"With most modern games choosing to focus on today’s big trends, the occasional nostalgic title is (ironically) a breath of fresh air. It feels refreshing to have something that is not concerned with wowing you with cinematic presentation, providing a deep, complex story, and whatever other ideas and gimmicks the big games of today might contain. "

With most modern games choosing to focus on today’s big trends, the occasional nostalgic title is (ironically) a breath of fresh air. It feels refreshing to have something that is not concerned with wowing you with cinematic presentation, providing a deep, complex story, and whatever other ideas and gimmicks the big games of today might contain.

New Super Mario Bros ignores any modern trends and strips the series back to its 2D roots. Forget anything Nintendo has been trying over the past twenty years or so. NSMB takes Mario back to his days of 2D platforming, running and jumping through linear levels, and pulling down flags and clearing castles to save the princess.

Unfortunately, going back almost twenty years isn’t as pleasant as it might sound.

Although it is a new entry and not some sort of remake bullshit Nintendo likes to pump out, NSMB fails to be the next step forward after the phenomenal Super Mario World and Super Mario Bros 3. As the series progressed over the years, we have seen new level designs, items, gameplay mechanics, and more. Instead of taking the series to the next level, NSMB feels like one giant step back. The levels might have been a blast back then, but today they come across as stale and lacking. Most of them offer nothing new that wasn’t seen before in the previous games. Instead of getting all excited about revisiting classic moments, I was thinking “do I need to play yet another water level where I swim through fish and collect coins?” and “when can I get to the castle so I can finish this world and hopefully see something new?”.

NSMB takes exactly zero chances with its predictable gameplay, and offers very few new elements over the original Super Mario Bros. The most noticeable addition is probably the ability to kick off walls to reach ledges that are normally unreachable with a normal jump. This is a welcome addition, but often proved to be more frustrating than anything due to me accidentally kicking off walls that I didn’t want to kick off of. Then there are a few new powerups present as well. There’s a koopa shell that allows you to run through enemies similar to a kicked koopa shell, a mini mushroom that allows you to reach certain areas that are otherwise unattainable, and finally the big mushroom, which appears too rarely to be of any importance. The first two are decent additions, but when the advances of Super Mario World and Super Mario Bros 3 are omitted they really don’t seem too remarkable. Without Yoshi, the raccoon suit, and anything after the original Super Mario Bros the game seems more like a step backward than a step forward.

It might be bland and lacking in areas, but the biggest problem with the game has to be its difficulty. Most Mario games are not known for their difficulty, but NSMB takes it to a whole new level. I wouldn’t exactly consider myself to be a 2D platform expert and managed to finish the game with about fifty spare lives. There are so many ways to earn lives, from collecting coins, to finding mushrooms, and much more to the point where losing a life barely penalizes you and there is no fear about being wiped out at all.

Fortunately the game isn’t a total stinker. The final world is definitely a step in the right direction, featuring new enemies and much improved level design. NSMB finally begins to build on Super Mario World’s innovations and brings out some interesting level concepts. One of my favorite bits was one of the last levels, where you’re moving vertically while being chased by rising lava reminiscent of Donkey Kong Country 2’s final stages. There are even two distinctive hidden worlds available to visit which can only be obtained from finding the secret entrances. This provides the game with a good amount of replay value.

There is definitely some good gameplay to be found here, but that is a very small part of the package. Fact of the matter is NSMB is not a nostalgic trip from the NES days. Most of it comes across as a very old game with new levels. Even though the graphics received a nice update and the enemies occasionally move to the music, we are still left with what is basically Super Mario Bros with different levels and no challenge. More than twenty years later the strengths of the old games are nowhere to be found, and the flaws are more glaring than ever. If New Super Mario Bros did not star Mario and feature a slew of other familiar faces, this title would’ve been something that is quickly forgotten.

Halon's avatar
Community review by Halon (January 03, 2010)

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