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I've basically been playing Mario games my entire life. I got my NES at age seven, and have eagerly devoured every Mario game released, on all of Nintendo's consoles, ever since. I spent my grade school days with Mario Bros 1, 2, and 3, spent my junior high years making my way through Super Mario World, and bought Mario N64 the fall I entered college. Over that time, Mario grew up too, making the transition from 2D to 3D and introducing various new gameplay elements, not to mention entirely new spin off franchises like Smash Bros and Mario Kart.
Super Mario World remains my favorite game of all time, and while I've enjoyed the 3D iterations of the Mario series, I'd always longed for a return to the simple joy of navigating a two-dimensional world with carefully-timed jumps and discovering hidden secrets in a strictly vertical and horizontal space. New Super Mario Bros on the DS was a ray of light, but I figured my hopes of ever playing a 2D Mario on my TV were foolish. That is, until I heard about New Super Mario Bros Wii.
Apparently I'm not the only old-school gamer out there longing for a little traditional Mario gaming, because the developers at Nintendo are clearly catering to our nostalgic tastes with New Super Mario Bros Wii. As close to a true sequel to Super Mario World as I ever imagined possible, NSMB Wii takes everything I love about the classic Mario games and combines it into something that actually lives up to my idealized memories of the series.
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Gameplay is as simple (yet simultaneously complex) as you remember: guide Mario (or Luigi, or a couple of Toads) on a quest to retrieve Princess Peach, navigating moving platforms, battling dangerous sentient fungi, and outwitting Bowser's many eccentric children. Navigate an overworld similar to Super Mario World (and nearly identical to that of New Super Mario Bros DS) to enter various levels, take down mid-world castles, and defeat the boss at the end of each world's final castle to progress to the next.
Secrets are as prevalent as you remember, and they are as fun as always to discover. Finding the three star coins in each level will flex those old secret-finding muscles that have lain dormant since days spent discovering the entrance to Super Mario World's Star Road, and finding the secret exits from levels that lead to warp cannons is an even tougher challenge.
The power ups in the game are varied and extremely fun to use. The mushroom and fire flower return, as always, and they are joined by the ice-walking Penguin Suit, vertically-inclined Helicopter Hat, enemy-freezing Ice Flower, and the Mario-shrinking Mini Mushroom. You can store these power ups in a separate menu on the overworld, and equip them before jumping into a level.
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Multiplayer in Mario games has typically consisted of controller-swapping at best, but New Super Mario Bros Wii is the first game in the series since the original Mario Bros to allow multiple players to share the screen simultaneously. Players can work together to tackle the game's various challenges, or spend their time sabotaging one another by tossing teammates into pits.
Players one and two control Mario and Luigi, while players three and four are stuck controlling more generic Toads. While a more diverse roster a la Super Mario 2 would have been a nice touch, it does kind of make sense that Peach isn't a playable character, considering she's the one in need of rescue (once again).
Power ups are multiplied by the number of players, so a box that normally contains a single mushroom will have three in a three-player scenario, ensuring that everyone has access to them. Of course, this doesn't stop one inconsiderate player from swiftly scooping up all three power ups.
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Basically, if you've ever enjoyed a 2D Mario game in your life, you are absolutely going to love New Super Mario Bros Wii. It's as close to the consummate 2D entry in the series as we're ever likely to get. Nintendo has taken all the fan-favorite aspects of their games throughout the years and done their best to include them all in this one great package.
Whether you're a life-long Mario player like me, or someone who has never stomped a single Goomba in their entire life, you're going to have an absolute blast with this game. The difficulty ramps up a bit in the later stages, but the included tutorial videos and help mode that kicks in when you die eight times in a level ensure that nobody ends up stuck and frustrated on one particularly tough level.
Anyone looking for a great family game, or just a great overall game for the Nintendo Wii should not hesitate to pick this one up. I wholeheartedly recommend it to anyone, whether you've spent your life with Mario or are a complete stranger to the Mushroom Kingdom.
- All screenshots and references from New Super Mario Bros Wii.