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August 15, 2014

New Super Mario Bros. (Part 1)

I've realized something about Mario games. For some reason, I'm a huge fan of the series, and as a result I feel like I can be more critical of it. I keep punching on the series even though I should be supposed to praise it. Maybe my constant exposition to the franchise means I see all of its defects, and I see them clearly. Maybe it's because I keep myself informed more on this franchise than on any other. Or maybe it's just that sense of nostalgia that keeps pulling me back towards the red-clad plumber, his cowardly but funny brother, a peachy princess who never raises her own castle's security levels, and a fire-breathing dragon-turtle even though I should dislike the series. Either way, I am more critical, and it shows pretty much every time I review a Mario game. Mario Pinball Land is an ungodly abomination that should have never been made, and I also strongly hated Mario Party 2, mostly because of the story that did not respect the game's own rules and gave Mario the final reward even if he had no influence in the plot whatsoever becaUSE THERE'S MARIOCENTRISM AND IT PISSES ME OFF AND SCREW THIS GAME AND SCREW THIS GAME AND SCR-

Woah, I almost lost it again for a second.

Those two are bad examples of Mario games. The game I'm reviewing today is a much better example. If you want to see Mario in his element, you have to look at the platformers. The early Mario platformers from the NES, GB and SNES consoles are classics. Well... most of them are classics. Which is why Nintendo decided, with the arrival of the Nintendo DS, to bring some old-school in the new generation of consoles. They brought Mario back to 2D side-scrolling platformers. For the first time since Super Mario World in 1990, in fact. New Super Mario Bros. came out in 2006 and was a much welcome return to the plumber's roots. So welcome, in fact, that many 2D Mario platformers would be released afterwards, following this one's success.

Also, it has a mini-game mode. Just throwing it out there since I'll have to talk about it. So let's jump into New Super Mario Bros. and see just what's so great about it!

For starters, it's a Mario platformer game. Therefore, don't expect a huge story. It's simple as 1-2-3: Peach gets kidnapped, Mario runs after the villain, defeats him a few times, and in the final castle of World 8, he fights Bowser and incapacitates him for a few weeks (how else can you explain that he keeps coming back?), saves the princess, gets a kiss on his gaul-ish nose, roll the credits.

Uh oh! Peach! Look behind you!
I swear there's a bratty Bowser kid behind you!
And oh hey, that's exactly what happens! Okay, here's a greater description. Mario and Peach were taking a walk when they see black clouds appear over Peach's Castle. Mario runs there to investigate, but Bowser Jr. arrives from behind and kidnaps Peach. Alerted by her screams, Mario runs back and chases the young dragon-turtle, who somehow gets the upper hand and, through a series of funny sounds, hits Mario and runs away. Mario is now Small Mario, a form we hadn't seen much in a while.

And there our game begins- Wait a second! Did I forget to mention that if you press L and R while selecting a save file, you'll instead play as Luigi? That's awesome! You can play the whole game as Luigi! The second fiddle can act like he's the hero for once!

Sheesh, compared to later worlds, this is Heaven.

Moving on. How does this game work? It's simple, really. At first only one level is available in a world; beat that one, and another is unlocked; and so on, and so forth. I mean, what platform game doesn't follow that logic? Sometimes in this game, as you're navigating the world, going from a level to another, you'll stumble upon three different types of Toad Houses:
-Red ones, which contain a box that you can tap to get a random item. Okay, not THAT random; the items follow a pattern, so you can hit the box when you think you'll get the item you want.
-Green ones, in which six question blocks are shuffled; three of them contain regular 1-Up Mushrooms. One contains a 1-Up Mushroom X3 panel. One contains a X2 panel that doubles the amount of 1-Up Mushrooms you've won so far. The last one contains a Bowser panel, and getting this one ends the mini-game. At the end, if you were lucky, you come out with 10 additional lives! Ain't that great?
-And finally, yellow Toad Houses with red spots. What's in those? Just a large question block that contains a Mega Mushroom.

Oh, right! I had almost forgotten! There's a special feature in this game! Whenever you pick a Power-Up that you already have, or a power-up of lesser importance than the one you have now, it's placed on the bottom screen. If you get hit, you can tap that Power-Up to have it appear above your character. It can often decide between victory and defeat, so it's a great idea. However, it's not that new... There were similar systems in Super Mario Bros. 3 (where you could earn lots of items thanks to some Toad Houses; the items were stored for you and you could access them anytime), and in Super Mario World (where you could store an item in a box on top of the screen, and that item would come down as soon as you got hurt).

Touch! Touch! Even if you don't need to!
Touch! Touch! Even if it will burn you!

And now that I'm on the subject of items, there's the regular stuff in Mario games: The Super Mushroom, the Fire Flower, the invincibility Star... but you probably knew those. However, you probably don't know about the new objects in the game.

Ain't that beautiful?
First of all, you've been kicking Koopa shells all day and you want to know what it feels like to roll free? There are blocks blocking your way towards a secret exit? You have heroic guilt and want to know what your enemies feel like when you kick them into their comrades? Despair no more, the Blue Shell is there for you! Made with 100% artificial Koopa Troopa shell, you put this on, start running, and you'll be rolling on the ground in no time! You're also impervious to most attacks when you hide in it! Heck, the interior is so spacious, you can fit a flat-screen TV and a toaster, too! No wonder Koopas love their shells! It also helps swimming underwater, but I strongly suggest you remove any electrical equipment you store into it before jumping into the water.

Available at a "small" price! There's
even a "reduction"! Zing!
Oh, but what's that? You want to repay your debt in another way? You want to give your enemies an advantage? You have a superiority complex, all your friends hate you now, and you want to change that? Use this Mini Mushroom! Made by splicing a mushroom with the Drink Me potion from Alice in Wonderland, this Power-Down will make you tiny! So small, in fact, that you won't be able to kill most enemies unless you ground-pound them! This item is great for acrobatics, and you can even run on water thanks to it! Plus, it's required to access some worlds and some Star Coins. If you complete multiple levels while tiny, the mushroom may not have an effect on your superiority complex. Call now before they're all gone, our stock keeps shrinking! (Pun!)

Oh, but wait! Are you asking for the opposite? Are you running low on lives? Or you're just someone who loves destruction? You feel like the level has annoyed you and you want to take revenge by smashing absolutely everything? The Mega Mushroom is for you! Once you consume this large mushroom, you will grow HUGE. The size of the screen! You'll break everything in your path, no enemies will survive, all the blocks and pipes will be trampled, crushed or just destroyed! Also, if you break enough things, you can earn up to five lives! In fact, you can even break the freaking flagpole! Call now for a solid minute of shattering fun!

Ha! Who's laughing NOW, you worthless blocks?

Let's see, now... what else is there to mention about the game? Well... Hey, what's that on the level selection screen? A sign on which there's a picture of a coin followed by “X5”... Huh? Just five coins? Sure, deal! ...Hey, wait a minute, it's not working! Oh... I get it! You see, in this game, there's a side-quest: Every level contains three Star Coins, some of which are easy to get, others that are harder. Also, because there are some devious developers doing dirty deeds to discourage daring dudes (gotta love alliteration), some of the Star Coins are really well-hidden. As if that wasn't enough, some can be accessed only by some Mario forms: As an example, you might need a Mini Mushroom to go down a tiny pipe that is the sole way to reach one Star Coin, or you have to break blocks that only a Mario in a rolling shell can break, when there are no Koopas around.

After that, you can use five Star Coins to break off signs on the world maps. Each time such a sign is broken, you gain access to extra levels, more Toad houses, and you get the option to save! You can go hunt for five Star Coins, then break a sign and quit playing, you don't have to wait that the world's Fortress boss or Castle boss is beaten! You can save at any moment once you've beaten the final boss, but it's alright, it's also rather easy to save before that. Always keep a number of Star Coins with you, don't spend them all too quickly, and when you want to save, just go to a Star Coin sign.

Is there anything else to know about? Well, there's all the special features on the world maps. There's the levels, the Toad Houses, the signs, what have I forgotten about... Oh, right! I already mentioned the Fortresses (which are the halfway point of each world) and the Castles (the final level of each world). When you beat either, you can save your game. But there is another kind of "special" level: The Ghost Mansions! They return from Super Mario World and, once again, they're filled with Boos and other ghastly creatures.

No, not that one! On the other hand, they sure would fit well in these houses... The ghost mansions are trickier than regular levels because there's some kind of puzzle dimension that is added to them. You have to search for the exit, some Houses become labyrinths, and sometimes you can waste a few hundred seconds on finding the right path. Oh, and there's also big cannons. If you find a secret exit in a level, you might discover a path leading to a cannon. Usually, these will throw you three or four worlds beyond the one where you are.

Talking about worlds, if you look on the bottom screen on the world maps, you'll notice that this game has placed the maps in kind of an odd way... As you can see, there's World 1 first, then World 2... and then there's a fork in the path! The default one leads to World 3, the other leads to World 4. Then it's World 5, and then there's yet another fork in the path that leads to either World 6 or World 7, and then the two join towards World 8. Hm, I really wonder why... I mean, if you're not much of a gamer and you're not looking for secrets, then you will be playing only six worlds. And if you suck at using Mario with the Mini Mushroom- Oops, I said too much!

Okay, well... I suppose the time has come to jump into the plot! Now that I've described everything about the platformer part of the game, I guess that's all there is to describe now.

After the hilarious intro (in which Bowser Jr. somehow defeats Mario – ooh, what a shame for the plumber!), we see Bowser Jr. bring Princess Peach to the nearest Fortress (side-note: For once, I cannot complain that her castle's defenses were too weak, as she was kidnapped outside, during a walk with Mario; good thinking there, Miyamoto). The young turtle-dragon jumps into the fortress, leaving Mario alone in World 1, the least dangerous world for obvious reasons. Mario reaches the Fortress and defeats Bowser Jr., but the Bowser kid runs away. Still with Peach. Hey, if you do anything wrong to her – slap her in the face, claw her to open wounds, undo her haircut – you're going to suffer!

Chandelier platform, spikes, lava, ice blocks and
other traps all sold separately.

She gave Fox McCloud a cup of tea! Show some respect, jerkass!

Mario (or Luigi) seems completely unfazed that he just
murdered his greatest enemy by making him fall in lava.
Now that the Princess is in a Castle, Mario has to beat a few more levels to reach it. He enters the castle, goes through many traps (have you noticed the trend in Mario games that Fortresses and Castle contain less regular enemies and more actual traps?), and reaches the boss room. BOWSER falls down onto the bridge! Whoa, so early? If Mario has a Fire Flower, he can shoot Bowser repeatedly. If he isn't, then he has to find a way to run past Bowser and hit the switch behind the dragon. Ooh, like the ax from the very first Super Mario Bros! Either way, Bowser falls into the lava, where he suffers a painful death. In fact, we can see his skin decomposing, his body being destroyed by the lava, until he's only skin and bones- OH GOD! After this horrible death, Mario moves on to the next room... and sees Bowser Jr. still escaping with Peach! You moron, why did you wait for me? Are you a masochist?

Mummipokey, huh? Nice to meet you. Are you
also a mommy Pokey? Where are your kids?
Bowser Jr. runs away to World 2, a desert – gee, really creative. Never seen a desert in a game before. Once again, Mario beats a few levels and reaches the Fortress, where he battles Bowser Jr. once more. The kid runs away AGAIN! Hey, little crap, you're dragging her on the ground! You'll ruin her pretty dress! Mario chases after the Junior again and reaches a Castle filled with dangerous spike balls. He makes his way through these traps and reaches a boss: A mummy Pokey. No, really. That creature is very tall, which makes it hard to hit. However, Mario defeats the boss and moves on, only to – guess what, no really, guess what. One try. Go ahead guess! Oh, why bother? Of course you know what happens! Bowser Jr. STILL runs away with Peach! Oh, I get it! He's constantly on the run, so he relaxes in the Fortresses and Castles, where he knows (or thinks) he's safe from Mario! Or at least, he knows the plumber will take some time to reach him, so he can stop running for a bit and catch his breath before having to run away once again.

Also, something important to say here. If you somehow manage to run through the World 2 Castle and then defeat Mummipokey as Mini Mario (which means you cannot hurt the creature unless you use a Ground Pound its head), you will access a place that sends you to the secret World 4! I'm still gonna look at the worlds in the correct order, though.

Well, I guess it's a good time to take a break. See you Monday for Part 2 of this review.