New Super Mario Bros. U Deluxe (Nintendo Switch) Review

By Gabriel Jones 09.01.2019 8

Review for New Super Mario Bros. U Deluxe on Nintendo Switch

Disaster has struck the Mushroom Kingdom yet again. Bowser, whose hobbies include doting over his only child, has arrived at Peach's Castle to do what he does best. Indeed, he has captured the princess, plunged the land into chaos, and ruined one moustachioed hero's otherwise lovely day. Thus begins the classic tale of New Super Mario Bros. U Deluxe. Whether it's alone or with a few friends, this is a fine opportunity to revisit one of Mario's greatest adventures.

When it comes to video game development, there's something to be said about "getting it right the first time." The first entry in a potential franchise doesn't have to be perfect, but it does have to exhibit a high level of quality. All of the basics must be accounted for, and there should also be some potential for growth. It's impossible to include absolutely everything that the developer could ever want, so it's more a matter of establishing an absolutely rock solid base. In other words, leave the player satisfied and looking forward to a possible sequel. One of the most well-known games that "got it right the first time" was Super Mario Bros. This is a genre-defining classic. At the time of its release, there wasn't anything out there that could claim to be as ambitious and enjoyable. Think of this NES classic as the unofficial "how to" guide for designing a great platformer. If an aspiring developer takes the time to study it, they'll be better equipped to tackle their own projects. Even today, that statement still holds some truth to it.

The level design, for instance, is handled in such a way that, aside from a few pits towards the very end, the player always has plenty of room to make their jumps. All too often, developers include features such as a double-jump, but both leaps are always required to barely clear every gap. It gives the platformer a feeling of uniformity that's really dull and predictable. Furthermore, it forces one to only think about their very next move. If they're so worried that they might not make their next jump, they won't even think about upcoming obstacles. Ever since the first entry, the Super Mario Bros. series has always been designed around allowing you to think three or four moves ahead. This leads to all sorts of exciting situations. As time went on, these games have enjoyed continued success, and that's partly because they don't stray from the norms established in the first entry.

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Super Mario Bros. doesn't have any blind jumps. Granted, that's a fairly easy feat to pull off, since it's a platformer that only scrolls horizontally. By the third game, the level design makes use of a few clever tricks to ensure that there isn't any uncertainty when determining a jump. This includes placing background objects - such as trees - to point out where it's safe to land. One of the more subtle details is that enemies are rarely (if ever) placed in areas Mario can fly to. This is so he doesn't have to risk losing his tail - AKA his ability to slowly hover down and see what's below.

To sum it all up, a good video game creates a set of rules that are fair and easy to understand. The player should be allowed to bend them occasionally, but they can't be broken. No matter what the developer has in mind for future titles in the same series, they can't stray from the rules they've already established. That may sound rather boring, but consistency is essential to quality game design. For over thirty years, Nintendo has shown a masterful understanding of this philosophy. Now, with that in mind, here's a look at two of the more recent entries.

Screenshot for New Super Mario Bros. U Deluxe on Nintendo Switch

Great mechanics and superb level design is undoubtedly the pillar that supports the magnificent New Super Mario Bros. U. Every aspect of it is cleverly implemented and showcases an astounding level of confidence. Here's a title that's immediately accessible and doesn't in any way hinder the experts who enjoy pushing their skills to the limits. This is all courtesy of an incredible level of control. Mario and friends have multiple types of jumps to work with, all of which have varying heights and applications. To add to this, players are free to let go or hold onto the jump button to achieve their goals. There's no other way to say it: the jumping mechanics are perfect.

Additionally, smart level design is all about creating alternate routes that are easier or more difficult than what's intended. Subtlety plays a key role here. Something as simple as slowing down for a second or two to consider the danger can significantly change the route. Mario's current power-up can also have an effect. Case in point: the flying squirrel suit is not a free pass to glide over danger. In fact, using it creates new obstacles - sometimes it's safer just to stick close to the ground, or fling fireballs to clear the immediate area. Does the player take it slow? Taking great care to avoid every danger? Do they find that steady rhythm to quickly navigate everything? Every course can be approached in several different ways, which adds a level of replay value beyond grabbing all of the star coins.

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One of the best demonstrations of this game's exemplary level design is the second half of 'Freezing-Rain Tower,' which is located in the Frosted Glacier world. After reaching the checkpoint, Mario has to ride an elevator while keeping an eye out for dry bones' and falling icicles. However, by utilizing the full extent of both the flying squirrel suit and the plumber's natural abilities, the player can ignore the elevator and quickly make their way up the tower. The catch of course is that since they're moving at a faster pace, they'll have less time to react to danger. Again, this is all handled with subtlety. It's not like Mario just entered a pipe labelled "This leads to the hard route". Blocks and walls are arranged to facilitate the creation of these advanced strategies, and that's wonderful.

Generally, each course is designed to leave nothing to chance. Everything operates with absolute certainty. This is what being a pure platformer is all about. Luck is never a factor, nor will the same actions yield different results. The reason why the alternate 'Freezing-Rain Tower' route exists is because it is 100% consistent. The placement and movement of the dry bones' is the same, no matter how many times the course is replayed. The icicles don't fall at random. In fact, they'll only fall when Mario is within a certain proximity to them. Though the player doesn't immediately realize it, they have a lot of agency. Provided one's knowledge and skill is sufficient, stylishly navigating all of the courses is a breeze.

Screenshot for New Super Mario Bros. U Deluxe on Nintendo Switch

What's really amazing is that this is just one course. There are over 80 more to discuss. In the interest of both brevity and sanity, though, that talk will be saved for another time. Therefore, let's move on to the Challenge Mode. This mode offers up a slew of challenges that are quite demanding, even for those who have seen and done everything in the main game. Some of them require the player to complete a course in under a certain amount of time, while others have special conditions such as "don't touch any coins" or "don't hurt the enemies." Some might just require one to survive increasingly intense situations for a period of time. In any other game, this mode might have just been extra padding, but here it's a truly fantastic addition.

This is because many of New Super Mario Bros. U's obstacles are designed to account for a variety of nuances. Something as simple as a bouncing fireball is greatly affected by the ground underneath it. Keeping balance on a stone that's prone to toppling over is practically a game within itself. All of these elements and more are wrapped together in an incredibly addictive package. Expect to spend many hours trying to get all of the gold medals. Boost Rush is also pretty fun. A number of courses have been revised so that they're auto-scrolling, with the player being able to grab coins in order to speed things along. It'll take some practice and skilful movement to achieve the best times though. Anybody who underestimates this mode might find themselves overwhelmed by how fast it's capable of moving.

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Super Luigi U is best described as a re-envisioning of the previous game. The idea behind this DLC is to create a different experience, one that challenges players in new ways. Each course has the same theme as before, but they've all been completely reworked. They're more compact, more focused, and more challenging. Adding to the fun is the fact that though Luigi and Toad can jump higher and further than before, they have a little trouble hitting the brakes and changing directions while running. If they're not careful, they're liable to slide off a ledge and into oblivion.

This aspect draws comparisons to Luigi's role in Super Mario Bros. 2: The Lost Levels. In most cases, the best idea here is to go full throttle, while making full use of the hero's jumping capabilities. The purpose of this add-on is that it gives the level designers another chance to focus on concepts and obstacles that they felt were underutilized. Needless to say, they took full advantage of the opportunity. Most of the courses here can be completed in less than a minute, but they're packed full of brilliant touches. Everything serves a purpose. Enemies and hazards are placed in the optimal locations. Whether they help or hinder Luigi's progress is all up to the player.

Screenshot for New Super Mario Bros. U Deluxe on Nintendo Switch

With New Super Mario Bros. U Deluxe, Nintendo has seen fit to include a number of features to help give it an edge over the Wii U originals. Most of these features are designed with user-friendliness and convenience in mind. First and foremost, players are free to choose their favourite characters. That means player 1 isn't stuck with Mario for the entire game. Setting up a multiplayer game is also easier than before, mainly because the Wii U's clunky GamePad is no longer a factor. Unfortunately, the lack of a GamePad also means that Boost mode has been cut. On the upside, Nabbit is now playable in both games. The only catch is that whenever he clears a course, its marked purple instead of blue on the map. It's still possible to move onto the next course, so even Nabbit-only players can see the entirety of the game.

Then there's Toadette. She's been getting a lot of buzz lately, hasn't she? It's probably because of that Super Crown of hers. When the crown is placed upon her noggin, she transforms into Princess Peach. It's never explained why such a power-up exists, but whatever. Peachette shares mechanics and abilities with the flying squirrel suit. She can hover and get a boost while in mid-air. The flight controls are also a tad more responsive. Basically, this is an outfit that works for almost any occasion, which is just as well as it's also Toadette's most common power-up drop. Players, whether they're trying to or not, will end up spending more time as the Princess mimic than all of Toadette's other forms put together.

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Regardless of form, Toadette is a fantastic alternative to the other playable characters. Yes, she's slightly easier to control, but not to the point where it feels overly advantageous. She doesn't require as much finesse, which is good for the crowd that's having trouble adjusting to the other playable characters. Each course is still sufficiently challenging. Although, Toadette's speed and manoeuvrability in underwater courses tends to be a trifle overpowered. In the Star Road course "Swim for Your Life," Toadette can easily outswim the otherwise ruthless Cheep Chomp.

That said, some might prefer the added weight that the rest of the cast brings to the table. This is especially notable in Super Luigi U. The added difficulty that comes from controlling Luigi or Toad is actually rather satisfying. It forces players to commit to actions, because attempts to turn around might leave them in worse shape than if they had attempted the jump. Oh, and by the way, only Toadette can pick up the Super Crown. Everyone else will walk past like it wasn't even there. Also, neither she nor Nabbit are usable in Challenge Mode.

Screenshot for New Super Mario Bros. U Deluxe on Nintendo Switch

Cubed3 Rating

9/10
Rated 9 out of 10

Exceptional - Gold Award

Rated 9 out of 10

New Super Mario Bros. U Deluxe is an exemplary compilation. Both games have received some quality of life enhancements, and playing as Toadette is pretty entertaining. More importantly, this is simply some of the best content in the Super Mario saga. It's amazing how every element comes together for a thoroughly refined platforming experience. The level design is nothing short of genius, and the flawless controls make every leap more joyous than the last. Everyone who hasn't already played through the Wii U version should pick this up immediately.

Developer

Nintendo

Publisher

Nintendo

Genre

2D Platformer

Players

4

C3 Score

Rated $score out of 10  9/10

Reader Score

Rated $score out of 10  0 (0 Votes)

European release date Out now   North America release date Out now   Japan release date Out now   Australian release date Out now   

Comments

I didn't give this the attention it deserved on Wii U because I'd been burned out on NSMB, but time to dive back in, methinks Smilie

Adam Riley [ Operations Director :: Senior Editor :: Cubed3 Limited ]
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If it was £20 I'd probably dive straight in but considering I own it on WiiU i just can't find myself double dipping on this, even though I want to. It's the same with DK, Bayo and Pokken Tournament.

Yeah, for those that stuck by Nintendo and went in full with Wii U, I totally get that. Looking at how ridiculously well MK8 has sold on Switch, though, (and now Smash) methinks Nintendo did actually make the right call with the Wii U "remasters" route. I just wish Pikmin 3 and Wii Sports Club would make a return... 

Adam Riley [ Operations Director :: Senior Editor :: Cubed3 Limited ]
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I think I'm good with my Wii U versions. Pretty sure I got my Wii U version of NSMBU for something like £20 on GAME's UK website way back when, then I got New Super Luigi U for free from a Nintendo promo at some point. I'm set. 

Cubed3 Limited Staff :: Review and Feature Writer

I've never touched any of the 'New' series before, so it's a new series to me, essentially. 

I don't regret buying it, and I'm only about 2 hours in, but already I can see why they decided to drop this in January. For me it's not just that this is a port and re-packaged content, it's also about the series' aesthetic blandness, which I think Nintendo will want to change with the next 2D Mario. This deluxe package seems to be selling very well because people can always appreciate Nintendo's classic platformer level design and cleverness. However, in the future, for the next 2D Mario, I predict they'll go with a real refresh in that department. I am enjoying this very much on a mechanical level, but after the visual creativity of Odyssey, I'm finding this dull, and I feel like I'm playing the best hits of the New series (a last hurrah) - since they've stuck with this art style for so long.  

I suppose the fact Tropical Freeze on the Switch is a far more interesting port, illustrates my point that a new design style for 2D Mario, a different technique like hand-drawn stuff, or using some existing aesthetic like Paper Mario, would be far more interesting for whatever is next. 

Edit:

On the subject of creative Deluxe U levels, I did forget about:



( Edited 15.01.2019 19:59 by The Strat Man )

Tom Barry [ Reviewer - Editor - Resident Sim-Racer @ Cubed3.com ]
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I am still holding out on Super Mario Maker for the Switch but I really don't think it will happen. We can all dream though!

Mr Buy Tropical Freeze (guest) 17.01.2019#7

NSMB is so uninspired and dull. I have zero interest in these games. At best, they control well, but that's all the positives I can say about them and even then, I would say there's other platformer games that do that better than NSMB does.

I know they aren't the same series, but when you look at a game like Donkey Kong Tropical Freeze or Rayman Origins/Legends compared to NSMB U, the difference in the creativeness is outstanding and offer so much more appealing attributes.

There's nothing "New" about New Super Mario Bros. It's old in design, with a backwards save system, lives, pointless score counter. The visuals look clean, but are old and feel like they've been reused forever. The music all sounds the same. There's nothing appealing, nothing exciting, nothing to look forward too. Nothing that would make me want to keep playing. You know exactly what you're getting every time one of these games comes out.

I definitely have to agree,compared to Nintendo's high level of creativity it is so surprising that the NEW series is quite the opposite. The formula is quite a tired one these days. 

The Donkey Kong series is definitely one of the better platformers out there, I would double dip on Tropical Freeze if it wasn't £40! 
 

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