New Super Mario Bros. U- Impressions.

I don’t quite know how this happened but I am trying to enjoy a New Super Mario Bros. game that just isn’t doing anything for me. I have played ever primary console Super Mario Bros. game to date. And I have loved every single one of them. Now to avoid confusion I am talking strictly the Super Mario BROTHERS games, the ones where both Mario and Luigi are playable and I am not talking the RPG games I mean the normal, side scrolling action games were all grew up with. I am also talking the primary games as in those released on the home consoles, not the spin offs on handhelds like Super Mario Land or the games on DS/3DS.

So it came as a surprise when I found one that I didn’t enjoy. I love Super Mario Bros on NES it is a classic that got me hooked on video games when I was a young kid. Super Mario Bros 2 and 3 are both great games that I enjoy very much and Super Mario World is probably my favorite video game of all time. When I picked up a DS I was excited for the return of “real” Mario games. I sat through Sunshine, Mario Party, Mario RPG, Mario and Luigi, Mario is Missing, Luigi’s Mansion, Mario Kart, Mario *random sports game* and even Paper Mario, for close to a decade it felt like Nintendo just forgot what made a Mario game so great, hint it isn’t about the title character it was the game play.

I recently began playing New Super Mario Bros U and New Super Luigi U for Nintendo Wii U. I have to admit I am just not getting into these two games like I thought I would. I loved the previous entries in the series, and Super Mario 3D World is an amazing game I played quite a bit of when I first got it. But for some reason I just am not feeling it with this New Super Mario U games. I have read criticisms online of the game being unnecessary to which I shrugged off as bitter writers who just can’t get over the SNES being a thing of the past.

There is no denying that nostalgia is what Nintendo does best and the game is certainly steeped in plenty of that. It plays very similar to previous New Super Mario Bros. games, it also features similarities to Super Mario Bros. 3, one of my favorite games of all time, so I expected to really enjoy this game.

Now I am not saying this is a bad  game, not at all it is actually a very well polished game. What I noticed is that it just doesn’t really live up to my expectations of a Super Mario game. I know that with each game the level difficulty usually is about the same, the first few levels are easy to get you familiar with all the new controls and then they slowly get harder as your character learns new tricks and abilities. I think the difference here does fall on the Wii U controls partially in that I had a hard time with the jumping mostly since the buttons are do not behave how I would expect. In previous entries in the series they add new abilities each game, but the button layouts mostly remain unchanged. This game the controls just felt  a little off, something I have noticed others complain about too.

The graphics are pretty good especially for a Mario game. They are in HD for the first time which is strange when you consider that Nintendo chose to make a 2D Mario game their first HD Mario game. And that is another problem. There is too much going on. I found myself distracted by the graphics for the first time since Super Mario 3, which was breathtaking when it was first released. This game it just felt like they had to go back to the drawing board and re-design the entire world from scratch. This lack of continuity is part of my other gripe, by now the Mushroom Kingdom should be well mapped, at least with a Zelda game you typically can figure out the layout pretty quick as Hyrule doesn’t change. They solved this problem with Metroid easily by having Samus exploring different planets each game. But somehow the topography of the world keeps changing from one game to the next. This is sort of explainable to some extent the layout of the individual levels changes because the inhabitants are constantly having to rebuild their cities and villages from constant attack from various monsters, but the geography changes from game to game are starting to become distracting.

To put it simply when you play any of the previous Mario games the graphic style of the hills changes as does the clouds, the pipes, etc, with the newer technology. Usually what happens is the artists use the newer hardware to make the features look smoother, have more details such as the trees and hills look more like trees and less like splotches of brown paint on a brick wall as in the NES games. But that stopped being an issue with the Game Cube, this is different they didn’t just make things look better for being in HD, they completely redesigned the entire concept almost as if suddenly hills don’t look like hills anymore now they look like these strange geometric formations that are protruding all over the place. If the game wasn’t in full HD this wouldn’t be such a problem but sometimes the backgrounds are so complex and have so much detail they often begin to blend in with the foregrounds making things harder to distinguish. Now this isn’t always a problem and once you begin to get used to it you start to shift your focus to the Mario character, but it was just a little too distracting for me at first.

On the subject of level design, I barely made it through the first map in my first setting, it can usually take me a couple of tries but it was about as difficult as I expected in that only one level game me trouble, it was a tree top as they usually are the harder levels for me. Since  didn’t see much of the game I can’t comment much on the level design but I can say what I saw just didn’t jump out at me as spectacular like previous games. In each game there are levels I want to skip and never replay but this game doesn’t even feel like it has the kinds of fun levels that I do want to enjoy playing. Usually the first level in a new Mario game is pretty basic, they are used to introduce you to the new concept of the game, but by the second or third you should be having fun exploring the levels and discovering the secrets. This game it feels more like a chore to get through the levels. I didn’t find myself having the same amount of fun I am used to in a Mario Bros. game.

I almost had to force myself to finish the first map and only because you have to defeat a boss in order to save your progress, a major flaw in the Mario games since World on SNES, but I didn’t really feel that motivated so I almost gave up. I will go back sometime this week and try to see what the second world plays like to see if there is hope for it to be more enjoyable. There is a chance the New Mario well has run dry and it is now time for the Big N to go back to the drawing board. I have never been much of a fan of the 3D Mario games, I LOVED Super Mario 64, HATED Super Mario Sunshine, barely played Galaxies and refuse to play Galaxies 2 on principal, yet I found myself in love with Super Mario 3D World. With the side scrolling 2D games until now I had enjoyed very single one that I had played.

I don’t want anyone to consider this a proper review of the game, I haven’t really played enough of it for that, consider this more my first impressions, well actually second impressions this is my second time trying the game after not being impressed before, which is why I am now leaning towards it just not a very good Mario Bros. game. It was bound to happen sooner or latter they can’t all be perfect.

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