Thereâ€™s been a lot of taking turns and character swapping with the Super Mario Bros. games over the years, but it seems strange that a series about two brothers has never really put them on the same screen before. In other genres, the name Mario is synonymous with multiplayer thrills, but in the official platforming games, Luigi, Toad and anyone else in the headlining plumberâ€™s crew are usually sidelined. But with New Super Mario Bros. Wii, Miyamoto decided that this yearâ€™s big innovation would be four-player support, ushering in a fresh, chaotic, friendship-ending brand of fun to the beloved series.
This is not to say that the game fails to offer a compelling solitary experience. While playing alone canâ€™t offer anything as thrilling as tossing your buddy into a swarm of enemies or using him as a go-go-Gadget personal helicopter, youâ€™ll still appreciate the impeccable level design and nostalgic enemy roster. But NSMBW is most successful when it forces players to figure out a means to proceed forward together, even as they constantly push each other off into bottomless pits. Intentional or otherwise.
When The Legend of Zelda: Four Swords Adventures was released on the Gamecube, I recall enthusiastically bringing the game over to my friendsâ€™ place for some good old fashioned Gannon hunting. We never made it quite that far – mainly because a less adept player kept us sequestered in the first dungeon long enough so that he could bomb us to death – but we progressed enough for me to appreciate that unique give-and-take dynamic. While even the most ruthless FPS co-op campaigns minimize internal conflict by setting one collective goal, Four Swords Adventures and now NSMBW donâ€™t really penalize you for being a jackass. And of course, then you need to take into account the countless accidental deaths too.
And as far as sidescrollers go, this could only really work with Mario anyway. The main games have always been praised for their flawless controls, and NSMBW is no exception. I canâ€™t think of any other series that can allow for such pinpoint jumping while still allowing you to constantly be running. As much as I love LittleBigPlanet, poor Sackboy wouldnâ€™t last a minute in the Mushroom Kingdom.
And that trademark precision is absolutely necessary, because in this installment, thereâ€™s already a natural propensity for jumping on your buddyâ€™s head. I donâ€™t know if Luigiâ€™s hiding a tractor beam under his green hat, but I just couldnâ€™t avoid stomping him into oblivion at every given opportunity. And based on anecdotal conversations with friends and my fellow podcast mates, Iâ€™m not alone in this affliction. You need to be ready to laugh off frustrations here, because NSMBW can be maddening.
But for old-school Mario junkies, they may be too distracted by all of the new level gimmicks. While most of the music and stage themes are drawn completely from the DS original – a disappointment in my book – youâ€™ll be using the Wii remote to control moving platforms, pendulums, spotlights and more. These moments are especially fun when youâ€™ve got another buddy on enemy patrol. Plus, youâ€™ve got some rare Yoshi sightings, new suits and even a few clever boss battles in your own personal clown copter. Sometimes youâ€™d wish that these moments would be fleshed out a bit more, but thereâ€™s a reason why gamers still talk about Kuriboâ€™s legendary footwear even though itâ€™s only ever been seen in one level.
On the other hand, while Iâ€™m glad to see so many enemy cameos from previous games, the familiar faces sometimes take away a sense of identity. We havenâ€™t seen Monty Mole or Rocky Wrench in ages, so their returns are welcomed by this Nintedo geek. But why didnâ€™t Miyamotoâ€™s team extend invitations to new enemies? There are a few original designs here and there, but by the end of the game, you can count them on one hand.
After Super Mario World debuted, Nintendo could have pushed a sequel out in just a year or two. But instead, Miyamoto waited until the systemâ€™s twilight years to create Yoshiâ€™s Island, arguably the pinnacle of the genre and host of dozens of new enemies. While Yoshiâ€™s first big outing was only a Mario game in tacked-on subtitle only, it did seem to carry the torch for the 2D games until this most recent installment. NSMBW therefore has a lot to live up to in my mind, and while the level design and four-player stuff succeed, I think that koopa nostalgia will only get you so far.
These issues might bug me as I write this, but whenever I pick up the controller, these gripes tend to vanish pretty quickly. Like Yoshiâ€™s Islandâ€™s red coins and Super Mario Worldâ€™s 96 goals, there are dozens of â€œStar Coinsâ€ that I need to go back to collect. Even without these additional goals, the unbridled joy pressed to this disc would be enough to get me to replay a dozen times over – exactly as I did with the cartridge-based Super Mario Bros. games 20 years ago.