New Super Mario Bros. E3 2005 Hands-On Report
It's an all-new 2D Super Mario game. That should be enough to get you excited right there.
New Super Mario Bros. is a polygonal game that is presented from the classic 2D side-scrolling perspective that made Nintendo a household name in the '80s. But Mario's learned quite a few new moves since those halcyon days, and now Nintendo's bringing Mario's 3D moves back to a 2D world in a game that, at least in the brief three-level demo being shown on the floor at E3, looks like a smashing success.
The basics of New SMB stick close to the original games. You'll do a lot of running to the right (though you're free to run left at any point, if backtracking is your thing) and you'll constantly be stomping on goombas and koopas. You'll also encounter that punk Lakitu, who will do his thing by dropping spinys at you. About the only thing missing from the short demo at E3 were the Hammer Bros., though we'd be willing to bet that they show up eventually.
While the basics may be similar, that doesn't mean this is some sort of "classic" game. Mario also has a lot more moves than he's had in any of his other 2D adventures. Most of these moves are moves that originated in 3D Mario games. You'll be able to butt-stomp, backflip, and triangle jump off of walls. You'll also encounter more power-ups, like a pump-up mushroom that you inflate by hitting a block over and over again. Once it's at full size, grabbing it turns you into giant Mario, and at this point you'll gain many of Mario's punches and kicks from Super Mario 64. You'll be able to absolutely crush regular enemies, and being as big as the screen lets you take on giant enemies on even terms. This is a temporary power-up, so you'll need to act fast when you pick it up.
The dual screens of the Nintendo DS are useful. The main action takes place on the top screen, and the bottom screen is usually used to store power-ups. Sort of like how you could store a backup mushroom or fire flower in Super Mario World, you can now store up to three items on the touch screen, and touching the items makes them drop into the world above. But since Mario's world is filled with pipes, you'll often be taking pipes underground, which transitions the action to the bottom screen. It's a neat little trick that makes for a good use of the hardware.
New SMB may be a 2D game, but the graphics in the game are polygonal and look absolutely great. Mario has always been an animated little dude, but now he's looking more and more alive than he's ever looked in 2D. He's looking good, and the enemies look great, too.
Though it's only a demo with three levels to it, New Super Mario Bros. stands out as one of the strongest DS games on the show floor. Look for Mario to finally make his side-scrolling return later this year.
GameSpot may get a commission from retail offers.