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August 18, 2014

New Super Mario Bros. (Part 2)

Hello, and welcome back to this review of New Super Mario Bros.! Now that every aspect of the game has been explained, I suppose I just have to explain the plot and the Mini-Game mode, and then I'll be done. So let's-a go!

When we left, Mario had just defeated the Mummipokey and made his way to either World 3 or World 4, if you were talented enough to unlock that one.

World 3 takes place on an island and looks calm. It's all very pretty. Once again, Mario chases Bowser Jr. to the Fortress, and then to the Castle. This time, our red plumber battles a giant fish, the Cheepskipper, in the Castle's last room. The only real problem with the Cheepskipper is that it's protected by the floor, but it keeps jumping towards you. Boss arena idiocy for the win! After that, Bowser Jr. takes Peach to World 5, but if you unlock World 4, somehow the Bowser kid makes a detour and passes by there, just to nag you.

World 4 is a forest world, with toxic purple water in most places. Mario can't even touch those waters, it's like acid or lava! So he uses Dorrie to travel around. Somehow, the large water dragon isn't hurt by it. Wait, you don't know who Dorrie is? It was in Super Mario 64, and in the DS remake, too! ….Anyway, by now every world has the same pattern: Levels, Fortress, Bowser Jr., levels, Castle, boss. Who's the boss in World 4? A... Goomba? A teeny-weeny Goomba enters the room! Hah! Hilarious! Like it can stand a fight! I'm in Fire Mario form right now, you don't stand a chance!

I'm gonna get you down from your superiority complex!
...then the Goomba grows giant. Crap. This is a tough boss fight, as the Goomba is very big, so much that you need rising platforms to reach its head – and even then, it doesn't feel hurt at all when you jump on it! You have to ground pound on the Goomba's head to damage it! Luckily, the creature is still hurt by fireballs, so if you can survive the Castle as Fire Mario and kill the Goomba with fire, that's great. Fun fact about the game: Originally, Miyamoto wanted the enemies to be able to use the same power-ups as Mario and Luigi. This is a brilliant idea that was scrapped because it would have made the game too hard, according to Miyamoto. They did keep a Mega Goomba for the fourth world, which is great. But I can't imagine how ungodly powerful Mega mooks would have been in other levels... Imagine a Mega Koopa! A Mega Hammer Bro.! A Mega Blooper! Heck, can you imagine if those enemies learned to use the other power-ups? A Fire Blooper! A Fire Goomba! A Fire Hammer Bro.! ..Wait...

Oh right, those already exist...

Nice undies. Are they available for plumbers?
Mario moves on to World 5, an ice land, and repeats the same thing he's been doing in the last worlds. Levels, Fortress, levels, Castle, boss. This world's boss is... Petey Piranha? Oh no, not you again! Anyway, the large plant is kind of easy to defeat, as it flies (WTH?) and tries to land on Mario, but each time it does that it knocks itself out for a few seconds. Also of note, if you can beat that boss as Mini Mario, you gain access to World 7! Otherwise, you get to World 6, a mountain area. Hey, those were pretty rare in the early days of Mario games!

Lather, rinse, repeat, and Mario reaches the World 6 Castle. Who's awaiting in the last room? A war machine that looks like a fantastic tank. It shoots Bullet Bills, and it is piloted by a Monty Mole... who sometimes comes out so it can toss a Bob-Omb at the plumber. Geez, what an idiot! Mario just has to jump on the mole's head when it comes out! And it gets more difficult with time, as the tank grows by another floor every time the mole is hit. Anyway, the thing is defeated quickly enough.

Ack1 Bombs and Bills could break my will
But luckily, the Monty Mole is rather stupid.

"Cloudy With A Chance of Spinies"
In World 7, which is located in the sky, on the clouds, Mario repeats exactly what he's done before, until he reaches the boss. It's a Lakitu riding a black cloud; it's appropriately named Lakithunder. I suspect it's the villain who caused the black clouds and thunder over Peach's Castle in the intro, to be a diversion for Mario so that Bowser Jr. could kidnap Peach. The boss is defeated, and Mario moves on to the final world... World 8! (duh...)

Wait a second... If Bowser, who is already difficult to defeat,
becomes a Dry Bones, which are also near-impossible to get
entirely rid of... Oh my Gosh, this is one of the greatest combos
Again, the pattern is repeated. Mario reaches the Castle, where he sees all of Bowser's bones. But they come to life, in the form of Dry Bowser! Ack! Now, you can really say that Bowser's got a bone to pick with you! (Ba-dum-tssh!) This one is nearly indestructible, so all Mario can do is wait for the skeleton turtle-dragon to jump, run under it and press the switch on the other side of the room. This time, the bones don't fall in the lava, though they do fall in a pit. And, surprise! As Mario was about to save Peach, Bowser Jr. runs away again! A bridge appears over the lava in this Hellish world, and Mario chases the villainous kid again, beats a few levels, another Fortress, and reaches Bowser's real Castle, which looks freaking awesome. This final castle contains a gimmick: When Mario presses special switches, the whole Castle gets flipped 180 degrees! Oddly enough, the Thwomps and creatures do not follow the rule, and thus keep causing trouble by appearing where they can be a danger for our plumber. Luckily, Mario runs through this new challenge, and reaches the final room. Peach is waiting on a platform, high up! Bowser Jr. picks up his daddy's bones, throws them in a cauldron... and out comes a super-sized Bowser! Mario had to battle Bowser father and son, at the same time! Jr. is still easy to defeat, you just have to use the same technique as before... but once Jr. is defeated, the father goes berserk and spews fireballs like crazy! Luckily Bowser is still weak against fireballs, and it's also possible to run under him to reach a switch to remove the floor... but until then...

Whoa, that's not playing fair! ...Then again, since when are villains playing fair?

Anyway, the two turtle-dragons are defeated. Mario saves Peach, and the two return home. Isn't that great? Oh, the villains are not dead (and if you thought a fall was going to kill them, clearly you've seen too many Disney films and not read enough superhero comics). Bowser Jr. is seen dragging his daddy away in a post-credits scene.

And that was New Super Mario bros., everyone. I hope you enjoyed, and- Wait a second, Mini-Game Mode??

If I thought I had a big brain, I would
be playing Big Brain Academy, thanks.
Yes, there is a second mode available in this game, which only consists of mini-games that you can play alone or with three other people. You don't have to unlock this more or anything, you can play them from the start if you want. It's very fun, I'll give it that. There's about 24 mini-games. Also to note, most of these mini-games are available on the Super Mario 64 DS cartridge as well. The mini-games are placed in five categories: Action, Puzzle, Table and either Variety or 1-On-1 (only in the case of a 2-Player Match). If you have three or more players, only 18 mini-games are available. If you're two players, that number jumps to 26 (due to the 1-On-1 section having 8 games). If you're playing alone, only 18 mini-games are available as well.

Among the options, when a multiplayer game begins, you select between Shuffle and Free Play. If you selected Shuffle, you can then pick a category in particular, or select Random so that the game will pick among all the games available. You also select the number of Rounds (Max. 6). I should add that in this multiplayer mode, the winning player gets a number of Stars. In Shuffle, the category (if Random), mini-game and awarded amount of Stars are all selected randomly, which means you never know how high the stakes will be. Thirty Stars? Pfft! No big deal. One hundred Stars? Holy crap, I need to win this one! In Free Play Mode, however, you select everything. The category, the number of Stars... That mode is a lot better if you want to play with your friends for a long time. Here's the list of mini-games.

There's another mode I forgot to mention: Mario VS Luigi. In this 2-player mode (which can be played even if the opponent doesn't have NSMB, though it sure helps), the main player can pick between Mario or Luigi, and then decides on a few settings: How many victories from either player are needed for the game to end; the number of Stars to collect for a player to score one victory; both players' number of lives (I guess another way to win the mini-game is to have the other run out of lives); and finally, whether the levels are chosen each time by the first player or selected randomly by the game. As to how it works: Both characters appear in a miniature level. A star appears somewhere in the level, and one of the plumbers must pick it up. A level ends when a player has picked up the required amount of Stars, earning a victory. There are five levels in which these battles take place, and they're all kinda fun. Plus, one of them is based on the first half of Super Mario Bros. Level 1-1, THE nostalgia level!

Well... final verdict? This game is great! First of all, I'm reassured that there are Mario games I'm positive about. Almost everything is done well! The music is a treat to listen to, the 3D sprites and the environments look great, the levels are designed with a lot of intelligence... Actually, let me clear something up about the levels. Every world has its personal gimmicks, and on your first playthrough, you will get many surprises. You may not always guess what's waiting for Mario a little further. I was actually startled by some of the later levels. You have no idea how much I was creeped out by the giant eel in a level of World 8! The levels contain just the right balance of enemies, traps, and question blocks to give the player a bit of help.

As for the Star Coins, the majority of them are easy to find, and only a few (maybe 5 or 6 per world) are actually hard to find. To find these select few, you will need to use power-ups that you might have a problem with... especially the cursed Mini Mushroom. Getting these difficult Star Coins? That's another game entirely. No pun intended. Some are devilish, and require amazing timing and precision. Just imagine the one that you cannot get unless you're Mini Mario, with the floaty physics and all, and there's many spiked pillars coming from all the directions to crush him! ...Real example from a level. On the other hand, I should feel grateful, while it is difficult to get some of the Star Coins in NSMB, it's nowhere near as bad as it is for the sequel, New Super Mario Bros. Wii. That one... Oh God.

But nothing's perfect. The three new power-ups are fun, but they all have their flaws. The Mega Mushroom is pure awesome, but it's very easy to destroy things you need and fall in large endless pits in that form. And if there's no solid ground to begin with, Mega Mario can fall. Shell Mario can defeat just about every land enemy and swims remarkably well, but is a pain in the butt to control when rolling on the ground; it cannot change direction unless it hits something or Mario stops rolling first and starts running in the opposite direction. As for the Mini Mushroom, it's fun and all, but Mario cannot hurt most enemies in that form, he cannot take a single hit (you better be good at avoiding). Running through difficult levels as Mini Mario is like a suicide mission. Imagine the poor plumber. Overall, the difficulty is balanced, maybe going more towards “Easy”, but that makes the game enjoyable nonetheless. Unless you dislike things that get too easy with time.

This game is very creative. I love to look at the graphics.

Picture from Brawl in the Family. Comic here.

The bosses are creative; I think I should point out that this is the only New Super Mario Bros. game that doesn't feature the Koopalings, Bowser's seven underlings that aren't his children, apparently, even though they used to be considered as such and- Ack! This not sense makes! Anyway, the replacement bosses they invented for this game are all cool. However, I look at the Mega Goomba again, and like I said, wouldn't it be awesome if the Mario baddies somehow learned to use the power-ups? Considering the slim chance of finding Mega Mushrooms, we'd mostly see Fire baddies, Shell baddies (kind of redundant for the Koopas), Mini baddies (easy to crush!)...

The idea of putting Star Coin signs around is good, too; thanks to them, not only can you save at nearly any moment (given that you have five Star Coins with you), but you can also use them to access bonus levels, Toad Houses, two things that are always welcome. And considering that the bonus levels also have Star Coins...

As for the plot? If you forget that it's the same thing over and over again, it's kind of fun. I mean, Peach gets kidnapped, nothing new there. But keep this In mind: It isn't Bowser or his mooks that kidnap the Princess this time: It's Bowser Jr.'s operation all the way through. He's a boss in every Fortress and appears in the final showdown. Bowser is barely involved in the plot. It's kind of fun to see the Bowser kid be the villain of his own game... by the end, Bowser also has to be defeated, but doesn't put up much of a fight when you know his weakness: Putting switches behind him that break off the bridge he's on! Yeah, no wonder Bowser isn't that good of a conqueror.

Now, the other game modes. I really like the Mario VS. Luigi mode, but I feel like its biggest flaw is the lack of “levels” to play in. The five levels in which the plumber brothers can battle are all very short and I must admit it would have been fun to see them fight over entire actual NSMB levels for the Stars. Or play in levels like it's a race, and whoever reaches the end first wins! I suppose that was too much to ask for this one... As for the Mini-Game Mode, it's also great, though it's kind of sad that the Shuffle Mode is very restricted, while the Free Play Mode changes a lot depending on the number of players. If you play alone or with two or three friends, there's only 18 games, and if you're playing against only one friend, it's 26? In other words, you get more out of this mode if you're playing against one opponent. Same thing could be said for the Mario VS Luigi Mode, I guess.

The "Mario VS. Luigi" levels are way too small and also rather "meh". But it's just an opinion.

Hm. Despite these flaws, New Super Mario Bros. is a fun game that I definitely recommend. You know, even though I tend to be negative about Mario games, I just can't stop myself. I just enjoy playing Mario games. They're just... There's something great about them, you know? Maybe I'm just looking at it a dimension beyond what's presented to the player...

Oh well. I still like this new SMB, and I hope you do too. I'm glad the team behind it drew inspiration from the original Super Mario Bros. games to make it. And this game is so pretty, you'll feel drawn to it. Anyway, bye, and tune in this Friday!