The longest and most detailed review ever.....says me.
I cannot fathom why more games like this haven't been made; 3d, polygonal graphics, but on a 2d plane. Sure there's still some sprites in there, but the mix of the 2d with the 3d looks amazing. Plus, by using polygons, it's a lot easier for designers to stretch and rotate, etc, which is a challenge to do working with sprites. But back to Mario... Everything looks like old-school Mario. It's obvious that's the approach that was taken throughout the whole process of this game; taking something old and making it New (as in New Super Mario Bros.). There are a lot of familiar faces running rampant, and they haven't been tweaked so much that you don't notice them, which is a good thing. Hammer bros. are definitely my favorite looking enemies; they look so much more bad-ass now than they ever did before. There's also quite a few little details that make the game stand out even more; the way the water splashes when you're jumping about the surface for one, and the way it makes the screen shimmer while underwater, as well as the heat waves and little chunks of lava (or magma, whatever it is) flying up in the background of the fortress stages. Of course none of that is necessary, but it sure does look awesome.
As you may have noticed from advertisements, Mario gets super-sized quite a bit during the course of the game, and that's thanks to polygons. Like I mentioned, it's a lot easier to do those kind of effects with polygons rather than sprites, and to some extent, it seems as if they took advantage of that a little too much for my liking. But, Mario has that nice Mario 64 look to him, even though the game is strictly 2d. The action is fairly zoomed out, of course, and rarely does it zoom in too close, so you can't really see too much detail in his character however.
Overall, as good as the game looks, it's definitely not the kind of game you'd use to show off the DS' power. Kind of puts me in a bind; it is a very good looking game no doubt, there's just nothing about it that takes advantage of the hardware, really.
Once again, an area of excellence. I didn't really pick up on many remixes, which is good; no one likes excessive re-hashing. The new tracks however have that whimsical Mario feel to them, so they fit in perfectly. And each world has a different theme of course, be it sky world, lava world, ice world, etc, and the music in each world fits perfectly. The fortress levels have that “fortress music” and the areas where you go underground have that “underground music”; most definitely awesome.
The sound effects seem to be ripped straight from Super Mario Bros. The coin “ding” and the fireball shooting noise sound just like they did about 20 years ago. That's not really a bad thing, considering they wanted to go the whole throwback route. But the constant “woo hoo” and “wha ha” voice clips could have been toned down some. It's not as bad as in past games, but certainly as annoying.
It is what it is. Super Mario Bros. gameplay at it's best. Or, almost at it's best. Don't get me wrong though; the game plays fantastic. It plays a lot like Super Mario Bros. did on the NES (and SNES, and GBA; gotta despise those ports), as far as that floaty, slippery kind of action. To freshen things up though, there have been a few additions to that old-school gameplay. Namely, the mega mushroom, the (as I like to call it) “Minish” mushroom, the wall jump, the ass slam, and the Koopa shell (back to those in a sec).
The only way the touch screen comes into play (during the main game) is when you have a power up in hold; tap it to drop it on the field. I don't mind this at all, since I'd rather it not used than have a lame gimmick tacked to it. There are minigames that use the touchscreen to it's max, though they're straight from Mario 64 DS. Much like every Mario Advance game had the same Mario Bros. multiplayer tagged on, I guess every Mario game for DS will have the same touchscreen minigames.
The mega mushroom stretches Mario so large that he fills the entire screen. Then you just run into things and destroy them. That's the mega mushroom's only use. The more you destroy, the more extra lives you earn as a bonus. You could save the mushroom in your reserve and use it to one-hit kill a boss, but other than that, there's nothing more to this mushroom.
The “Minish” mushroom shrinks Mario down to a size even smaller than normal. So small in fact, that he's literally a feather weight; jumping while this small can carry you a long way. Unfortunately, this isn't always useful (more on that in a bit). Also with this reduced size, you can run on top of water, and fit into tiny little pipes. There's a few times during the game where you need to use that “enhanced” jumping and the other small-fry benefits, but other than those few moments, you'd be better off sticking to a normal power up. You can't kill enemies when you're Minish sized, and the jumping does a lot more hindering than helping.
Taking a nod from Mario 64 and Sunshine, a wall jump and ass slam have been added. The wall jump lets you slide down a wall more slowly, and you can climb up to higher places with it. Most of the time you'll only be using the wall jump to get after a star coin; using it as a lifesaver will more often than not end up killing you. The ass slam is used more as an offensive move, and one that allows you to open more of the environment; as Super Mario, you can ass slam bricks and bust them open. You can also slam coins and power ups out of blocks from above with it. There's also a few times where you'll come across some obstacles that need an ass slamming to get by, but most of the time you'll be just running and jumping like a good ol' Mario game. Giving bosses a good ass pounding is a great way to put them away quickly too.
The Koopa shell is a terrible excuse for a power up, in my opinion (keep in mind what sounds good on paper doesn't always go so well in execution, Nintendo). You hop in the shell and when you start running fast enough, you “lose control” and you slip into the shell and roll by, much like when you toss a Koopa shell. It's like you're your own, portable, Koopa shell. I only came by a few places where you needed to use the Koopa shell, but other than that, the erratic behavior of all the bouncing around makes it pretty useless for normal trekking.
In an effort to stick to the original Super Mario Bros., all elements of flying were removed. Personally, I would have much rather had a raccoon tail or cape as that final power up as opposed to a new, crappy one (Koopa shell).
All the old Mario stuff is still present though; fire flowers, Starmen, killing multiple enemies with one shell netting you an extra life, bouncing off a number of enemies in a row netting you an extra life, jumping high enough on the pole netting you an extra life. Seems as if extra lives are given away rather liberally, eh? That's because they are. But, as liberally as they're given to you, they're taken away rather easily too. The game is pretty short by some standards, but you will die a lot in that short amount of time. The deaths are never cheap though, and no chasm is impassible, they just make sure you have plenty of chances. And since the game saves rather often, it's not like having all those extra lives hurts the difficulty any. There are some frustrating moments later on, but never anything that will make you snap your DS in half.
Remember how it took days and days to go through the old Mario games? New Super Mario Bros. is the same way. In this day in age however, that doesn't really cut it like it used to. You will have a blast playing it. But it seems as if in no time, it's all over with. Of course there's always the star coins to find; three in each stage, as a matter of fact. But, what do you earn by finding these coins? Access to the lackluster power ups of course. And after you beat the game you can buy themes for the lower screen. Wow. Not much incentive to fully complete the game, eh? But, since it's so fun to play, you shouldn't mind completing it all the way.
There's also a competitive multiplayer mode; you and a friend (or foe) run bout some random maps and try to collect the most stars. Being competitive though, of course you can steal stars, by ass slamming, bopping on the head, shooting with a fireball, etc. Those minigames I mentioned earlier also can be played with someone else. There's no inclusion of online play at all. It's obvious that multiplayer was not the focus with this game, but it would've been nice if the multiplayer was a tad more fleshed out.
I have not forgot about my big “but...” at the beginning. New Super Mario Bros. is an outstanding game; yet another great game for the DS, and a must buy. My problem with it however is that I waited 12 years for this? It's been that long since an all new Mario sidescroller came out, and while the game impresses as a whole, I can't help but feel that it falls short as a Mario game. The alternate exits were fun to find in Super Mario World, but there aren't many of them at all in NSMB. Flying around in Super Mario Bros. 3 and in Super Mario World were some of the best moments from those games, but they were taken out of NSMB altogether. It's almost as if for every step forward that was taken, another one was taken back. I had high expectations for this game, since I've been waiting so long for it, and if I said it exceeded them, I'd be lying. I am satisfied with the experience, I'm just left wanting more, which is the case most of the time. Here's hoping I'm blown out the water with the Next New Super Mario Bros. (and that it doesn't take another 10+ years to come out).