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Reviewed by Jason Zingale
hen you think of Nintendo, you instantly think of their mascot, Mario, so it makes sense that they would utilize the character’s popularity as much as possible. For all the different games that he’s appeared in over the last 25 years, however, Nintendo has continued to stick with what works by releasing side-scrolling platformers starring the famous plumber in red. It’s been three years since “New Super Mario Bros.” came out for the Nintendo DS, and though his latest adventure isn’t quite a direct sequel to that game, it has inherited its title. Still, for as lame as the title sounds, “New Super Mario Bros. Wii” perfectly recaptures the spirit of the long-running series with a well-balanced mix of both old and new.
One of the things that hasn’t changed is the story, and after more than two decades of Princess Peach being kidnapped by Bowser, you’d think the Mushroom Kingdom would install a security system, or at the very least hire Mario as a bodyguard. It doesn’t matter, though, because the “Super Mario Bros.” franchise has never been known for its epic storytelling, but rather the smart and innovative gameplay that still captivates gamers everywhere. There are not too many companies that could get away with releasing a 2D platformer in today’s technology-obsessed industry, and though “New Super Mario Bros. Wii” tries to make the most of the Wiimote’s unique capabilities, it’s the classic gameplay that makes it so much fun.
Designed like a greatest hits of the franchise’s best titles – namely the original “Super Mario Bros.,” the incomparable “Super Mario Bros. 3,” and the game-changing “Super Mario World” – “New Super Mario Bros. Wii” features everything from ghost houses and level-ending flagpoles to cameos by Yoshi and the entire Bowser family. Unfortunately, with the exception of the standard Mushroom, Fire Flower and Star, none of the other power-ups appear. Instead, you get a trio of brand new ones, including a Propeller Suit that spins you up into the air, an Ice Flower that freezes enemies, and a Penguin Suit that gives you the ability to belly slide on ice and swim more efficiently. Neither one is especially memorable, but the Propeller Suit is a cool rendition of the Super Leaf, the Penguin Suit is a fun callback to the Frog Suit, and the Ice Flower was only inevitable.
Also new to the game are Tilt Lifts that are operated by tilting the Wiimote left and right when you’re standing on them, as well as three different kinds of Toad Huts that can be found throughout each world’s map. The red mushroom huts feature a card-matching game similar to the one found in “Super Mario Bros. 3”; the green huts give you a chance to win extra lives by shooting yourself out of a cannon and popping balloons; and the yellow huts just give you a free Star. There are also mini-bosses that you bump into along the way that reward you with Mushrooms, and even a few airship battles that (thankfully) aren’t auto-scroll, but the game’s marquee addition is multiplayer mode.
Though you can’t go online, you can gather up to four local friends and play through the game simultaneously. If that sounds difficult, it’s because it is, but what makes things really fun is deciding whether you’re going to work as a team or against one another. Playing together certainly has its advantages, but due to the chaotic nature of the onscreen action, it’s sometimes more entertaining to just beat up your friends. That gets old fairly quick on the standard levels, but for Coin Battle – a free-for-all competition to see who can collect the most coins – it’s an absolute blast. Of course, between the party game atmosphere that multiplayer creates and the charm of the single-player campaign, it’s easy to see how “New Super Mario Bros. Wii” could be considered one of the best in the franchise. The thing is, you could say the same for just about any of the Mario adventures, and though the latest entry in the series has a few shortcomings that prevent it from taking the throne, it’s definitely a must-own for anyone with a Wii.