Great review 'Raz, Totally agree with the score.
Other than the constant supply of ports on the GBA, the last proper 2D Mario game was Super Mario World back on the Super Nintendo (Yoshi's Island does not really count). Quite amazing, right? Now Nintendo is back to bring Mario back home to his 2D roots on the DS, though, is the magic really still there? Read on to find out more...
Super Mario Bros. 3 on the NES was a technical marvel, full of large characters, fluid animation and wonderful attention to detail. This style was transferred over to the SNES for Super Mario World, with the graphical designers adding little extra touches that lifted its visual appearance above even many later generation 16-bit titles. Now Nintendo has pushed Mario onto the DS system, which is comparable to the N64 in terms of overall power...and it really is one of the most impressive looking games on the platform so far. This is more pseudo-2D in that the game moves through a side-scrolling environment full of bright colours, moving background details and interactive aspects, yet has bursts of 3D throughout. For one thing, the characters have a solid feel to them, with all sorts of special effects being thrown in that look like they are straight out of Super Mario 64, and then, for example, at the start of the game there is a clever little sequence where Mario wanders across the screen, the turns and heads into it in a very three dimensional way. The most attractive 2D Mario by far, without doubt...
Unfortunately the same cannot be said for the game's soundtrack. Surprisingly, stalwart Mario composer Koji Kondo is not on-board this time round and it really does make a huge difference. Whilst previous Mario adventures have so many tunes that firmly lodge themselves in your head, many of the pieces in NSMB are far too forgettable. Pleasing, but nowhere near as special as you would expect from Mario's latest main outing. Thankfully the sound effects and little voice snippets retain their usual quality, with all the classics making a welcomed return. The music is NOT bad, but the bar was raised so high by Kondo-san that it just cannot be matched by someone else.
It may be hard to believe, but there are probably a few poor souls out there that have never touched a side-scrolling Mario platform adventure in their lives. For their benefit, the main star is the Italian plumber himself running from left-to-right across various stages full of enemies, obstacles and various secrets. He starts off very small, can grow larger and much more powerful by collecting special mushrooms and even shoot balls of fire from his hands when claiming a Fire Flower. With this update, however, Mario has learned many new tricks, such as wall jumping, butt slamming (Yoshi-style!) and triple jumps, as well as having access to new items such as blue shells (that let Mario slide around, quickly killing enemies or accessing certain areas), tiny mushrooms (that shrink him) and giant mushrooms (that make him enormous and able to smash through walls, pipes and so on). His repertoire of manoeuvres has been expanded considerably and other than the annoying/frustrating blue shell move, they all fit into the Mario world perfectly.
The levels are just as varied as you would expect from a Nintendo game, throwing up the standard over world stages that are full of platforms, question mark blocks (which hold items) and bricks (that can be smashed for points, contain hidden items or give up coins when hit), right through ice, lava, underwater and desert stages, plus some that take place in the dark, dank depths of the underground sub-world (make 'Super Mario Underground' Nintendo!). Rather than reverting to the restrictive original Super Mario Bros., gamers can move back to the left of the screen if anything is missed (the exception being levels that automatically move, where if you do not head right fast enough you are crushed, adding to the challenge). However, it must be remembered that everything is done against the clock and if you dilly-dally too much and the timer counts down to zero, then you must start all over again.
Aspects from other Mario universe titles return here as well, particularly in terms of the collecting side of affairs. Each level contains a switch that reveals eight red coins that must be collected quickly as an invisible timer speedily counts down (you can tell by the ticker noise increasing in tempo), rewarding you with various items or extra lives, plus three large coins (similar to the ones you had to find in Yoshi's Island). These coins prove VERY important as they are your currency for accessing some of the alternative routes mentioned earlier. There will be wooden signs dotted around each world, complete with a number on representing the amount you need to have stored up in order to pass. It definitely makes collecting them worthwhile...
The whole game is quite a strange experience, mixing the old with the new to wonderful effect. The wall-jumping from Mario 64 has been made much simpler to execute, whilst sliding under bricks makes a return from the original. The mix works very well indeed and helps to make NSMB one of the best in the platform genre. However, you cannot help feel like there is a little something missing from the formula. This is no Super Mario Bros. 3 or Super Mario World. But at least it is not too far off those games in terms of overall quality, meaning that it beats the rest of the competition hands-down. Classic Mario that is probably 90% as good as SMB3/SMW...cannot argue with that (too much)!
The daggers were drawn very quickly for NSMB, disappointingly, mainly due to the lack of real challenge offered, as well as the game's short length. However, there are eight main worlds to play through, each with numerous stages to play through, plus hidden bonuses, secret rooms and alternate routes that lead to levels that can be accessed by finding hidden exits in certain levels. Okay, the boss battles will hardly have you breaking into a sweat, but the main game and extra content found within, as well as the mini-games and two-player modes included mean that you will hardly feel like you have wasted your money!
Mario is back with a bang. Run, jumping, flip, bounce off walls, smash through stuff...His repertoire of moves just increased, as did the fun factor!
This is one of the tastiest DS games so far, mixing all the well-known features from the Mario universe together with a great pseudo-3D feel.
Whilst not terrible, after being treated to some of the most memorable pieces of gaming music in past Mario games, these just prove too forgettable.
The game's eight worlds can be breezed through without too much trouble, but finding all the extras in the game takes much longer. Throw in the mini-games and multiplayer modes and you have a great package!
And there we have it, the first true side-scrolling Mario since Super Mario World on the SNES and it almost reaches the same level of quality. The changes to the formula fit in with the existing world just fine and whilst some of the spark from SMB3/SMW may be missing, you will be hard-pressed to find a better platform adventure than this.
Great review 'Raz, Totally agree with the score.
Sorry... but what came out first? Super Mario World or Super Mario Land 2? Could it be possible you forgot Mario Land?
Anyway, it's really a brilliant game, I got it on Friday too, & so far I've managed to get to World 4!!
Gonna go play it sommore :-D I might do a reader review when I'm finished! :-D
Love the review 'Raz.
Will have to obtain this once I get a DS as my sisters got the other one... :-(
This was way too over-hyped. I guess I was expecting too much. I was really let-down...
SO! I'm going to avoid any previews or whatever for Supper Mario Galaxy. I don't want that to be ruined for me.
Thanks Joe, the game really took me back a decade or so. I know what tiamat means about the hype surrounding NSMB, but if you let yourself go and just imagine you're back playing a classic Mario, then you should enjoy it more.
STP, it goes like this:
- Super Mario Land (1989)
- SMW (1992 in Europe)
- SML2 (1993 in Europe)
- SML3: Wario Land (1994 in Europe)
Seems everyone is indeed over-looking the Game Boy platform games!
Thanks Kin - you getting a DSL then to replace it?
If we count the Wario Land series, then that means Nintendo HAVE been making a steady flow of Mario platformers since the 1980s :-D
Wario Land 1-4 have been release teadily & Wario Land 4 is quite recent.... I guess.
I wonder why they decided to rid the Mario Land series & replace it with Wario? Is it like Having Jak games on PS2 with Daxter games on PSP? 'Cos I think that might be why...
Yer nice review
I have it and its great I think its the best 2D mario game.
The Mario Land series may return one day, I hope in a Mario Allstars style package. That I'd DEFINITELY buy! :
And success in the UK - seems NSMB has gone into the Top 40 at No.2! The DS just goes from strength to strength... :-D
EDIT: (no edit button?!)
I think maybe Nintendo will replace Wario Land with the new series, Wario Thief (DS) So I think maybe Nintendo should get to work on starting the Mario Land series again, on GBA or DS, begginning with a Mario all stars like Cart with Mario Land 1 & 2 (& 3?) & then release a brand new Mario Land title, maybe Mario Land 4, or 3, depending on what Nintendo do with "Mario Land 3: Wario Land"
Very useful reaview, bought the game and I totally agree!