New Super Mario Bros. U will be one of two first party Wii U launch titles when Nintendo’s new console finally becomes available to buy - the other of course being Nintendo Land - and it has been revealed in the latest edition of Iwata Asks that the game has been in the works ever since its predecessor New Super Mario Bros. Wii was released.
This of course meant that the development team didn't have a whole lot of access to the Wii U hardware needed to make the game, so they began by doing the basic things first, like making the courses while thinking about new gamplay techniques they could incorporate.
The team was then shown the Wii U GamePad and a whole host of ideas surged through them, one of which was to make good use of that beautiful touch screen to enable an additional player to drop in and out to help their friends get through a level. Although the team had to think hard about how to implement this as similar touch screen gameplay in New Super Mario Bros. had been "underwhelming”.
The game’s director Takemoto said his main desire was to make a game that needed no instructions, something someone could pick up and start playing right away:
I wanted to make something with responses for even a child who doesn't understand language. Then I considered how we could use the touchscreen on the Wii U GamePad for a Super Mario action game. If you just used it to move Mario, touch controls would be inferior to the Wii Remote controller… But touching it to have blocks appear is easy to understand, and when I tried it, I saw that it was fun. Then I decided to pack in more gameplay like that.
Naturally, this block placing gameplay may make the game seem a little simple to get through - after all, if getting over a particular pitfall is becoming too taxing you can simply place a few blocks to help you over stress free. Iwata was quick to bring up this issue of difficulty but the development team were just as quick to assure him this new Mario Bros. game is by no means easy.
Step forward challenge mode, something the Japanese development team are very proud of indeed. The new mode is not something you simply unlock by finishing the game - it is there from the beginning, introducing a new way to play right away. The team wanted to create a game that was more difficult than usual but had to balance it out so less experienced players could enjoy the mode as well, so they made three difficulty levels: bronze, silver, and gold:
I wanted all kinds of people to play the Challenge Mode, so we prepared a mode that advanced players could enjoy, as well as a slightly easier mode that you can progress with little by little for people who can play about halfway through the story mode.
Less experienced gamers can build up their experience in challenge mode by working their way through the medals and improving themselves as a result. So if you were looking for something to boost your Mario skills, it looks like the development team has had you in mind. However it does appear the game is a tad difficult, as many of the game's testers have reported back to the team that the game is more challenging than previous versions. The team even sent out the game to Nintendo of America who emailed them back wondering if there was an error in the game design as they could not attain a gold medal.
There is also a two-player boost challenge mode that requires two people to get along and help each other to the finish with one controlling with a Wii Remote and the other frantically placing blocks to help out along the way. The team were worried that the game would isolate those without a second player until they saw a programmer on the team playing by himself with the Wii Remote in both hands and a stray finger being used to tap the GamePad screen when needed. Now that does sound a challenge.
The team also spoke about the new map which sees the return of the connected world seen in Super Mario World on the Super Nintendo. The board game style world map in Super Mario Bros. 3 on the NES - something Iwata referred to as “shocking” - did not appeal to the team, so Takemoto made the move to create a vast and connected world map to plough through:
I wanted to take that thrilling map from over 20 years ago and use the latest Wii U technology to take it a giant step further.
The team also confirmed that DLC for the game will be on the way involving some additional courses.
What do you think of all this new information? Are you looking forward to getting stuck into challenge mode? Think you can get all those gold medals Nintendo of America struggled with? Fire away in the comments section.