i’d been itching to play a platformer after forcing myself not to play too many last year. even though there seem to be a ton of platformers out there, somehow i don’t get tired of the simple mechanics of running, jumping, defeating enemies, and collecting powerups and useless tokens and points. as a genre i find platformers to be gaming at its almost purest form in terms of the simple pleasure it provides. maybe my fondness for them is due to one of the first games i ever played (and mastered) which was the original super mario bros.
anyway, the game that i tackled was that juggernaut of the best-selling games charts, new super mario bros. for the DS. (yeah, i know i’m late to the party, but i had to catch up on all the other mario games i’d missed out on.) as someone who still finds mario 3 to be the pinnacle of platforming greatness my tastes may not completely coincide with the majority. it seems many people prefer super mario world on the SNES (which i played a year and a half ago and wasn’t bowled over by, although i did enjoy it). similarly, although i wasn’t wowed by NSMB, it’s a solid, enjoyable entry in the series, and considering it was released in the US in may of 2006, almost 15 full years after mario world was released in the US (august of 1991), it’s a great return for the bros. to classic 2D platforming.
it’s kind of hard to say what exactly i found lacking in NSMB. jeremy parish’s review, at the just recently reduced 1up.com, has some cogent remarks:
- . . . Even the worlds themselves are practically cribbed directly from SMB3.
Unfortunately, that fidelity is also where it disappoints. Being so closely patterned after one of the greatest games ever, everything about NSMB is incredibly fun. The controls are tight, the levels are exquisitely designed, enemies are carefully placed to provide maximum challenge without excessive cheapness. But there’s a certain creative spark missing, a level of originality that the best Mario games offer freely. . . .
Nintendo has taken a weirdly conservative approach to NSMB . . .
i’m less forgiving than parish about the level design, which i found to be unsurprising more often than not (although the later levels definitely improved). but i think he’s right that the game feels more conservative than it needed to be. the new powerups were fun, but i got bored having to revisit levels to complete them just b/c i didn’t have a micro mushroom on hand. all the additions, whether it’s bouncing on platforms or travelling on a swimming dinosaur or a giant wiggler, felt more like variations on a theme than completely new elements. i also didn’t agree with parish’s comment that unlocking and collecting everything makes it “an unrelentingly tough game”. the extra challenges certainly make the game more worthwhile, but for me they didn’t redeem it that much or set it far enough apart from many other great past platformers. and i really hate to even think it, let alone admit it in electronic print, but i actually found myself enjoying the element of surprise and novelty the mini-games provided more than the actual game itself. which is disappointing, to say the least.
but i’m fairly sure we won’t have to wait another 15 years for the next iteration of super mario bros., so here’s hoping that the followup will take its inspiration from the creativity of games like SMB3, or dare i even think it, the too often neglected SMB2. we’ll just have to wait (impatiently!) and see.
new links for the new super mario bros.:
– PDF of the instruction manual
– guide at IGN
– nice FAQ at gamefaqs with a succinct list of the levels that have alternate exits. also include summaries of all the mini-games and a list of the enemies.
– list of unlockables at cheatmasters.com
– section at themushroomkingdom.net, including audio sound effects, screenshots of pre-release builds, and wallpapers