New Super Mario Bros. (Nintendo DS) Review

By Adam Riley 30.06.2006

Review for New Super Mario Bros. on Nintendo DS

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...

Screenshot for New Super Mario Bros. on Nintendo DS

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.

Screenshot for New Super Mario Bros. on Nintendo DS

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...

Screenshot for New Super Mario Bros. on Nintendo DS

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!

Screenshot for New Super Mario Bros. on Nintendo DS

Cubed3 Rating

Rated 9 out of 10

Exceptional - Gold Award

Rated 9 out of 10

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.






2D Platformer



C3 Score

Rated $score out of 10  9/10

Reader Score

Rated $score out of 10  10/10 (59 Votes)

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


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