In hindsight using the word ‘New’ was probably not the sharpest idea Nintendo could have come up with. It’s now been 12 years since Mario dazzled players when New Super Mario Bros. launched on the DS – an entire school career ago. Yes, as old as it might be, this 2D rebirth of the popular series can still teach its younger siblings a thing or two.
You know, after all these years of kidnapping you would think that Peach would have a group of bodyguards protecting and watching her every move. Even after all the turmoil she’s been through in her life she’ll go on strolls by herself if and when she pleases to do so. She must be a real tough cookie? Mario and Peach go on a walk in the Mushroom Kingdom when suddenly the both of them realise that there is smoke oozing out of Peach’s castle. Mario scrambles towards to the castle to check things out, but on his return… *GASP!* Peach is gone! What could have happened? Who? Why? How?! You know the drill by now – it’s time for Super Mario to be all super again.
It’s hard to believe that in 2006, when New Super Mario Bros. launched on the DS, that there hadn’t been a new 2D Super Mario Bros. game since 1991 when Super Mario World launched on the SNES. There had been some ports to the GBA of previous titles along with a few upgrades, but there was nothing new for well over a decade when it comes to original 2D Super Mario games. There’s a reason Nintendo basically rebooted the game on the DS by including that word, New. This was a big return for the original side-scrolling platformer and Mario re-entered this realm in style. As before Mario makes use of his most important and basic moves – running and jumping on Goombas, Koopas and the many foes Bowser and Bowser Jr. could throw his way.
The mushroom, star and flower power felt right at home, but it’s the Mega and Mini mushroom that really spiced things up.
It’s in the simplicity of the control scheme that this game plays so incredibly well. Unlike other Super Mario titles (Super Mario 64 DS for example), the developers did not force the new touch mechanics into the general play of the game. Your traditional buttons and d-pad were enough to have Mario perform some exceptional moves. Pressing down on the d-pad (when on a slope) would see Mario sliding down and topple enemies or press down with the jump button and he could ground pound. He was capable of swinging on ropes, grabbing and throwing items and, for the first time, he could now finally wall jump. Your mind will tell you that Mario could do that before, but you might have to consult with that ageing memory. All these various moves equated to one thing – more abilities to find hidden secrets in Mario’s new world.
As has become the default itinerary, there are 8 worlds to explore with various levels in each world. These include the typical beautiful green entry levels, through to the desert, ghostly Boo and later lava pits as you near Bowser’s fortress. New Super Mario Bros. returned to the map world where your progress was marked with a path of blue and red dots. Blue spaces indicated levels you had completed, while a red dot showed available levels you are yet to tackle. Scattered throughout each world were secret levels and to get to these wasn’t as straight-forward as merely completing all the default stages. No, it required you to find hidden goal poles that would give you access to new and undiscovered areas. It’s half the magic of a Super Mario Bros. 2D game – finding hidden Easter eggs and secrets. To assist Mario in finding everything that’s there, he had to depend on his various returning and new powers.
The mushroom, star and flower power felt right at home, but it’s the Mega and Mini mushroom that really spiced things up. The Mega mushroom had Mario growing gigantic for a limited time, where he could squash and destroy anything in his path. It’s the perfect tool for overcoming any problem (even boss fights). The Mini mushroom, on the other hand, gave you access to a really tiny Mario. What he lacks in size he gained in stats. It allowed him to run on water, jump incredibly high and also, due to his size, gave him access to smaller warp pipes that would otherwise not be accessible. It’s in these small warp pipes that you’d discover many of the games’ secrets. The other new ability came in the form of a Shell Mario item, that had Mario basically turning into a Koopa of sorts. He could smash into enemies, as you would when kicking a green or red shell… and as such wasn’t quite as snazzy as it might sound. It’s probably one of those ideas that looked better on paper but not so enjoyable in reality.
Throughout the world you could find toad houses that would host power-up items and, in some instances, access to free 1Up mushrooms. I did find that there were just far too many mushrooms being handed out. When I completed the game, in one sitting, I ended up with just over 30 available lives. The currency used to get access to a toad house was in Star Coins. Three of these Star Coins are hidden in each level, so going for those hard-to-reach places has its reward. Your time with the game takes place on the top screen, while stats, like the Star Coins, show up on the touchscreen. The only time you’ll really use the touchscreen is to activate a spare power-up that’ll drop from the heaven on Mario, wherever he might be situated on any level. It’s the perfect use for it and has ease of access. The only other time you’ll look at the bottom screen is when Mario moves down a warp pipe. Cleverly, when he travels down one, the screen swaps around and you look at the bottom screen for a few moments while collecting hidden coins or whatever it might host. As it was the first return for the series in 2D in several years it wasn’t going to include everything that we now tie with the series, such as a co-op mode. There is a 2-Player challenge mode to get to most Star Coins and there are a host of additional mini-games, but other than perhaps playing one game to test it out, you won’t be returning to it.
New Super Mario Bros. has aged exceptionally well. It will unfortunately not last you a very long time and there isn’t much to draw you in after you’ve completed the single player mode, but overall it’s still a very enjoyable game of Super Mario 12 years on.