New Super Mario Bros. U on Wii U: But don't call it a throwback

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New Super Mario Bros. U reviewNew Super Mario Bros. U (NSMBU) is the first Super Mario game to launch with a home Nintendo console since Super Mario 64 on the Nintendo 64. In 1996, we were warmly welcomed into a whole new world of 3D gaming. In 2012, we revisit a Mushroom Kingdom that feels familiar, perhaps even nostalgic, but presented in ways that are very much in line with modern trends.

From start to finish, NSMBU spurs rosy-colored memories of sitting on the floor, mere inches away from the TV with Super Nintendo controller in hand. Like the most beloved entries in the series, players traverse each stage from left to right. While NSMBU foregoes teaching players complex maneuvers explored in Mario's 3D not possible in 1985, it rewards players that master subtle tricks (like the midair spin jump) with special Star Coins. This blend of modern and classic influence spans the entirety of Mario's first journey on the Wii U.
New Super Mario Bros. U on Wii U: But don't call it a throwback
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Gorgeous HD environments--like a poisonous swamp filled with hand-painted backdrops and platforms--aside, the most modern aspects of NSMBU are absolutely its multiplayer and the integration of the Wii U's social network, Miiverse. However, both features come with positives that signal a bright future for the Wii U, as well as negatives that Nintendo may struggle to overcome with the console moving forward.

Just as the original New Super Mario Bros. Wii offered, up to four players can join a game at once to tackle Bowser and his Koopalings in NSMBU using Wii Remotes. But with the GamePad, a fifth player can join in on the fun ... sort of. Even with just two players, whomever is in control of the GamePad is restricted to creating blocks in their fellow players' world to help them reach far away platforms or avoid harmful baddies.
New Super Mario Bros. U screensThe GamePad is certainly useful, especially in the increasingly challenging Boost Rush Mode, but is it engaging for the player? For this editor, not so much. It's simply baffling that the GamePad player can't choose whether to create blocks or play as, say, Mario in multiplayer. One can only hope that this limitation isn't indicative of future multiplayer games from Nintendo on Wii U.

NSMBU is also one of the first Wii U games to incorporate Miiverse directly. If players so choose to activate it, Miiverse turns Mario Bros. into a social game, allowing players to share their experiences in short and sweet posts for the community at large to digest. It's a brilliant feature, really, letting players communicate in an asynchronous way, but it's missing something. Players aren't motivated beyond the joy of sharing to post their thoughts. If even a few coins or a mushroom were offered for sharing, the Miiverse community for NSMBU would explode.
New Super Mario Bros. U screen shotsThose would be especially helpful in the later levels of Mario's latest adventure, which grow to become blisteringly difficult by the sixth world. Like its intense challenges, there's a lot to NSMBU that will feel refreshing to players, a return to form of sorts. This is the most "classic" that Mario has felt in years. That said, don't expect the console-defining experience that Mario has ushered in with games past, but a reminder of what grabbed you 20 years ago.

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