For such a "new" series, there sure have been a lot 'em.
New Super Mario Bros. started on the Nintendo DS way back in 2006, and since then, Nintendo dedicatedly churned a new Mario out for all of their modern hardware—New Super Mario Bros. Wii on the Wii, NSMB 2 on the 3DS, and NSMB U on the new Nintendo Wii U. Like many of the previous games, NSMBU is a throwback that introduces as many new ideas as it rehashes old ones.
Notably among these old/new ideas is a large overworld map, a la Super Mario Bros. World, and a big focus on Miiverse integration, utilizing the new system's social networking features. Still, after all is said and done, can Nintendo keep up the blistering pace set by New Mario and New Luigi or should gamers wait for "NEW" New SMBU?
As far as launch titles go, you can't beat a Mario game, and the same is true here. The portly plumber's first outing in High Definition is worth any Nintendo fan's interest, especially if you've been a diehard follower of Nintendo EAD, the stewards of Miyamoto's timeless character. That said, it can be hard to stomach so much Mario in such a short span of time. Having just come off of New Super Mario Bros. 2 back in August, the jolly jumping and shouting wore on my nerves.
How many blocks can Mario possibly break open? How many times will Bowser kidnap the princess? How many times can you discover a hidden room full of coins and really feel like you've unlocked the gates of El Dorado? I started to get sick of it. Even playing four-player multiplayer couldn't keep me from expressing my displeasure. I passive-aggressively jumped on my co-op partner's head, sending Luigi into a bottomless pit from which he'd never return (except for seconds later in a bubble I could pop).
I dodged the second-player bubble as best I could, hoping to keep him in virtual jail for a few more seconds. It was the smallest of dastardly pleasures, but it helped me turn a corner in my experience with NSMBU. Instead of continuing on a path of hate, we switched to the new Boost Rush mode. This multiplayer mode lets one player use the GamePad touchscreen to place helpful (or harmful) blocks for the other players. Lift your multiplayer partners up to the heavens for even more hidden coins or simply provide back up by placing a block over the bottomless pit ahead.
Enjoying NSMBU with friends also got me to bask in the nostalgia. My girlfriend excitedly pointed out how the opening theme is essentially ripped from the previous launch title in Mario's long credits: Super Mario 64. Other Mario callbacks abound.
Players can find Yoshi hidden in a question mark box and feed him a steady diet of apples. Mushroom houses allow you to stock up on helpful items or a fresh stock of lives. Toad might be hiding behind an end-level castle with a treat for particularly skilled players. With these throwbacks are a host of "New" hallmarks and a handful of new spins.
Players can collect three Star Tokens in each level and new puffer Yoshis allow Mario and Luigi to take flight. NSMBU doesn't feature a singular fresh focus like NSMB 2 did with its obsessive-compulsive propensity for coins, but you still can't beat Mario on his home turf and new Wii U owners will find few other opportunities to get the most out of their new system.
NSMBU can be played entirely on the Gamepad in single-player modes. That means the whole campaign and all of the challenge modes are available to you even if someone else takes control of the TV. NSMBU also goes out of its way to encourage players to post messages to the Miiverse stream (if you couldn't already tell).
The overworld map will be populated by messages from other gamers who discovered secrets, beat a level quickly, are having a tough time, or just want to brag about how many coins they snagged. Whether you're playing well or not, NSMBU will constantly ask you if you'd like to post a message about whatever you just played on the Miiverse stream. Over and over again, you'll be asked, constantly, after each and every level….
Until finally you just snap! I didn't go so far as to unplug my Wii U from the internet, but I gave up trying to draw messages or write snappy one-liners. Why does every level have to include subtle pressure to passively interact with every other NSMBU gamer out there? Please stop!
Luckily, NSMBU manages to overcome the fatigue and the peer pressure to become a welcome launch game. Mario typically owns the Nintendo platform from start to finish, and that's no different here. If you've been following along, you won't find enough new to turn your head, but our mustachioed hero is just as capable as he was when the Nintendo Entertainment System launched over 25 years ago.