Not that new.
Finally, the iconic plumber is in crisp, colorful, glorious HD—visually stunning in every way. You really have to see it in action for yourself to fully appreciate what HD can do for Nintendo franchises. The jump from Super Mario Galaxy to New Super Mario Bros. U is as noticeable as the jump from Super Mario World to Super Mario 64.
Unfortunately, the gameplay hasn’t been improved upon to as large a degree, and if anything, feels like a step backward. It’s familiar and simple side-scrolling platforming, and not much else. A few new power-ups, such as the Flying Squirrel Suit and the Tiny Bubble Yoshi, have been added but didn’t feel fresh enough. This was a three-level demo, however, so admittedly this was only scratching the surface of what the game has in store.
Collecting coins slows down the gameplay a lot, especially after playing a game like Rayman: Legends, which has infinitely more satisfying platforming at high speeds. Hopefully, Nintendo takes the months they have left until the Wii U launch to push the envelope further with New Super Mario Bros. U. That’s not to say I didn’t have a blast playing; I’ve never once had a boring or bad time playing a Mario game. I just expect more from the first entry on a new console.
The biggest step in innovation comes from co-operative play using either a Wii-mote and a Gamepad, or two Gamepads. Oddly, if you choose to use the Wii-mote, it’s Player 1 that’s stuck with the has-been controller, while Player 2 gets to assist in attacking enemies and creating blocks for sometimes game-saving platforming by way of the Gamepad’s touchscreen. At first, I didn’t understand what Player 2 was doing for me as Player 1 aside from the blocks, until I realized that Koopa Troopas would magically pop upside-down as I neared.
The game should release alongside the Wii U, or some time shortly after, Nintendo has said. I can’t say it was the best experience, not even the best platformer at Nintendo’s booth. But my love for the franchise, my expectations, and Nintendo’s resolve in making gaming excellence out of every game bearing the Mario name, I have no doubts that it’ll be a must-buy for the Wii U when it launches.