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New Super Mario Bros. U (Wii U) artwork

New Super Mario Bros. U (Wii U) review

"New Super Mario Bros. U isn't just a bad title for a game but a misnomer as well."

New Super Mario Bros. U isn't just a bad title for a game but a misnomer as well.

It's one thing watching the titles in my beloved series descend into Street Fighter-style hodgepodges of meaningless adjectives; it's another to give me a game I already own. The only thing that struck me more than the similarities between this latest release and New Super Mario Bros. Wii was how much less I was enjoying it.

Whole level concepts are replicated. Enter a dark cavern and use fireballs and glowing Yoshis to guide your way. Hop on a moving platform and make your way up a castle tower. Run through a lava level as flaming debris rains down. Even the set-up, from the plains to the desert levels all the way to the clouds leaves you feeling like you're running the same route, conquering exactly the same challenges as its predecessor.

What was great was that in Wii these were fresh concepts for the series; now different platform and enemy placements change things up, but I'm not sure how it's not exactly the same thing. The graphical style is the same; the locales feel the same. The power-ups are the same save the exclusion of Mario's spinning top cap in favor of an acorn cape he can use to gracefully glide as he falls, a much less handy trinket. He can't even swing it as a weapon the way he could in World, a game two decades this one's elder. There just aren't any surprises on this adventure – a level that tributes Van Gogh's Starry Night an exception – and one can look at the world map and use past history to know exactly what lies ahead. You know which levels are going to be a chore before you hit the ground running, because they're just variations on what's been done before.

I could see this being wonderful add-on content, but beefing it up with forgettable castles and fortresses for a major release doesn't work. It very much mirrors my impression when I took on the Lost Levels in All-Stars; it's the same game as its forerunner yet slightly more frustrating without the same payoff since it's a road that's already been traveled. It may have changed since the last time you drove down it, but the landmarks are the same. What made this series so great from the beginning was that each game was always rewriting the Mushroom Kingdom, veering into remote parts like the Subcon and Dinosaur Island and bringing a refreshing take to the landscape. Now Nintendo seems to think they nailed it with Wii – and they very much did – but that exact same package doesn't work a second time because the expectation isn't just more of the same, but the same with all the necessary tweaks that make it feel brand new again.

My argument isn't that this is a bad game; my argument is that as a Mario fan, there's nothing that distinguishes this from the last entry in the series, and that's very disappointing. Jumping on enemy's heads and leaping chasms has been a staple for so long it isn't innately fun anymore; the care should have placed on leading me through a land that makes it fun, not integrating pointless social media where other players can scrawl their current thoughts, which vary from “THIS IS SO HARD!!!” to “URRRG THIS IS SOOOOO HARD!!!”. Don't confuse that with the game presenting a significant challenge; its been beaten in three sittings already. And while I don't think anything could top Wii's final Bowser battle, this latest installment only piles on the disappointment as it concludes. It reminds me just how much I wish I was playing previous games instead.

Leroux's avatar
Community review by Leroux (December 29, 2012)

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