I haven't had a chance to see the fan reaction to New Super Mario Bros. Wii, but around the E3 show floor most of the IGN editors are only…sort of excited. That isn't to say they aren't interested in playing it – it's just visually not quite "pushing" Nintendo's system to the limit, and obviously is a bigger brother to the Nintendo DS engine and concepts. Same look, same style, four players, on Wii, and full price? It isn't exactly a stunner at first sight.
After about a half hour with the game though, I can't wait for more. It's fun as hell to play.
I just got finished with what I hope is the first of multiple play sessions with New Super Mario Bros. on Wii, having gone through five of the 10 available demo levels shown at Ninty's booth. For starters, if you're looking for a visual stunner, you aren't going to get it. Unless, that is, you want something that aims to look more like a reimagining of the Super Nintendo Super Mario World experience with a mix of 3D and 2D. I dig it, but there are of course dozens upon dozens of games that will look better on Nintendo's console.
To check out the two-part Nintendo demo of New Super Mario Bros. Wii, click on the video link above.
That's not what New Super Mario Bros. is about though. Like The Legend of Zelda: Four Swords Adventure, Mario Bros. is a game that really aims to capture that four player, half co-op, half vs. spirit. If everyone dies the level will start over, but with more people in on the action there are less coins and baddies to go around. Nab the most gold and baddie kills, and you'll take the top rank for that stage.
It often turns into this wave of co-op and chaos that always ends up in flux. Just like Four Swords I found myself helping teammates one minute (gulping them up with Yoshi and then spitting them at helpful items… as if they wouldn't be on their way over there without my "help") and then jumping off their head to get to a higher power-up the next. If you've ever pulled off a team attack in Four Swords only to pick up your buddy and carry him while collecting all the gems, imagine that in Mario and you should have a perfect image of New Super Mario Bros. for Wii.
I'm seriously doubting that the experience would be any fun with just one person playing, but as you add in Luigi and a couple colored Toad characters the game ramps up in entertainment value in a big way. More than anything though it's that the levels themselves are designed with multiplayer strictly in mind, and in addition to that, with hardcore areas overlapping the main, casual-friendly areas.
Sure, you could run through the original Super Mario Bros. 1-1 inspired level by just hopping and taking out goombas, but skilled players will work together to get giant Yoshi coins, hit up higher ground areas built literally on top of the regular path, or make use of in-level contraptions to work towards a greater good. That, or you could just do what me and a fellow IGN member ended up doing; grab Phil the IGN Stars editor, toss him back and forth by combining the 1 button with motion, and then end it all by holding him above your head and jumping directly into a pit. Man… it's tough to play cooperative when picking on people is so dang fun.
This game is also riddled with fan service as well, and those hectic moments that pile up during four player sessions can make for some awesome events. In my short time with the game we ended up with a group of three colored Yoshis running as a pack together, jumping and "nom"-ing on everything in our path. I've never been part of a Yoshi herd, but it's a blast, and inevitably ends with everyone chasing after their runaway dino, pulling the screen every which way until they all end up with nothing. Yup, there's that Four Swords feeling again.
Yup, when you get four people in there itis as fun as it looks.
New Super Mario Bros. Wii also adds a whole lot of action into each of the levels, and it really makes for a very fresh feeling each time around. Each area may be inspired by previous Mario offerings, but when everything piles up into a full package it feels extremely robust. Tilt-based platforms are color-coded to one of four players, with tilt control moving the seesaw back and forth. You can try to work together, or you can tilt it back a bit, run up to a new path on the high ground and steal a bunch of coins, only to dump your "buddies" into the darkness below with a quick turn of the wrist. An underwater cave area – actually half above water, half under – has one member of the team working a search light with tilt, all the while trying to guide his buddies through dark, enemy-infested waterways.
When too many baddies start to gather though, it turns into the Mario version of Open Water, as everyone starts jumping on each other's head to air-bounce out of danger, pushing the lone loser deeper into the water and directly into danger. The new propeller suits allow for huge double jumps and gliding (pressing down brings you into a corkscrew slamming attack), the penguin suit allows for running on ice and doing belly slides through ice blocks, and other in-level contraptions like gears and rotating ground change up the experience a bit as well. Oh, and as for mobility, all the standard butt stomps, wall jumps, wall slides, spin attacks (out of Galaxy), and shell grabbing is in and as you remember it.
As a final quick note, drop-in and drop-out play isn't currently supported on the demo, but according to Nintendo's keynote today (and the press materials packed in with the announcement) it will eventually be supported. Be sure to check out the latest media on the game in our gallery below. We'll be playing more of New Super Mario Bros. Wii as the show goes on, and update with any additional notes when appropriate.
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