News Article

New Super Mario Bros. U's High-Definition Credentials Tested

Posted by Thomas Whitehead

Up-scaled Wii engine, or genuine leap in graphical detail?

Now that the dust has settled on Wii U's launch, a number of people have spent extensive time with New Super Mario Bros. U and seen the first ever HD appearance of Mario outside of the Dolphin emulator on Wii. For those that do put a certain stock in visual fidelity as well as simple enjoyment of their games, some have wondered whether Nintendo customised its "New" Super Mario Bros. engine to make use of Wii U's greater horsepower, or whether it simply up-scaled existing assets and, therefore, did what an emulator had done years before.

As always, the Digital Foundry team has taken up the challenge to answer that very question. It directly compared New Super Mario Bros. Wii running at an equivalent emulated resolution with the new game and came up with a mixed set of results, with some assets clearly being recycled and others showing greater care and optimisation. Basic character models and animations appear to be re-used, yet significant visual enhancements can be seen in lighting effects, such as that from fire, as well as new effects for dust from Mario's running or the burst of flash when an enemy is stomped. It's similarly mixed with enemies and environments, with some examples being up-scaled existing assets but many others showing detailed improvements to influence the overall impact.

Examples of stand-out visual performance include the Painted Swampland stage, with its art-style arriving briefly but memorably, while there's little doubt that some stages have been produced to make greater use of the higher resolution and new technical options. Here's what the Digital Foundry team had to say in its summary.

With the release of New Super Mario Bros. 2 on 3DS just a few months earlier, the concern was that Nintendo may be playing it too safe with its mascot's main-line appearances. Early demo footage of the game, first unveiled at E2 2011 as New Super Mario Bros. Mii, even showed background assets being used from the Wii version's desert stages, such as the pyramids and cacti. Fortunately, the final Wii U release steers clear of rehashing anything to quite that level - though there has been some duplication involved as far as the over-arching structure is concerned.

To summarise, we see Mario and most of his adversaries making the jump practically as-is from the Wii edition released three years ago, with no noticeable rejig in detail. Even so, an effort has clearly been made to push the series forward technically, with dynamic shadows, higher resolution alpha, and lighting making an appearance to subtle effect, and most level assets built completely from the ground upwards. We also appreciate the move towards stylising the backgrounds and some enemies with what appears to be an oil-painted finish, rather than blindly taking advantage of any technical tricks afforded by the stronger hardware for the sake of it.

It's perhaps also a frustration that the visual styles Nintendo are touching on here - such as the Vincent van Gogh-inspired stage - aren't getting more breathing room, and that other styles of that extreme aren't represented in later levels. Nevertheless, modest as it is, New Super Mario Bros. U marks a promising technical leap forward over its predecessor; not just for the resolution boost up to 720p but also for the range of subtle visual tweaks that accompany it.

If you want the nitty gritty details, then we recommend reading the full article. We'd love to read your opinions on the New Super Mario Bros. U visuals; are they a noticeable and enjoyable enhancement, do you think Nintendo should have gone further, or is your view perhaps a mixture of both?


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User Comments (58)



BlueNitrous said:

These "New" Super Mario Bros. games are getting old fast. Give me Super Mario Bros.4, or a true Super Mario World 2!



C-Olimar said:

Super Mario World is Super Mario Bros 4 in Japan, which I think is why we haven't seen Mario 4.



DerpSandwich said:

I'm still a little sad that it's not 1080p. I know it's not a HUGE difference, but I just kind of hoped that we'd be using it as a standard by now. I hates me some jaggies.



NintyMan said:

Mario himself looks much more detailed to me, but they are right about the fire looking more flashy. NSMBU isn't the radical makeover, but it does have a nice tune-up.



Raylax said:

I can't help but notice with recent Mario titles that all too often, the big attention-grabbing screenshots of new-looking stages only ever actually show up for one or two levels. Like the Van Gogh stage up there, and the cannon levels in NSMB2. Really starting to feel like they're only putting the occasional 'unique level' in purely for promotional purposes in order to shift more units; whilst the rest of the game treads the same old waters.

It's equally concerning that they recycled assets, and from not exactly the Wii's most graphically strenuous game - I thought the player models looked pretty ropey in the Wii game, so discovering they've been copy-pasted over into a HD game isn't exactly reassuring. They could have at least pushed a little effort in and used the character models from Galaxy 2. Mario, Luigi and Toad models all exist there, and in much more detail than the NSMB Wii models.



Shiryu said:

You know what looks really amazing in 1080p? "F-Zero GX". Take the hint, Nintendo. Take it!



Link-Hero said:

It's not just better lighting, dynamic shadows, and higher resolution that's better. It performs a lot better with a lot more animated on-screen enemies/objects/coins with full 3D levels/landscapes unlike any of the previous NSMB games.

Just look at the world map and you can tell it would be impossible to do on the Wii without some watering down.



hiptanaka said:

Does this even matter? It's a fun game. I'm sure other games will push the hardware more.



Mahe said:

HD graphics are useless. Wii U won't be a good console until it delivers a wide variety of gameplay experiences, HD graphics are inferior to gameplay. So far, the Wii U is failing to live up to the standard set up by its SD predecessor, the original Wii.



EvilLucario said:

@Mahe During that same time, the only good games to play on a Wii was Twilight Princess and (to a lesser extent) Wii Sports. The number of games I would have recommended at that time would be counted on one hand.

On the Wii U, I can count on at least two hands the number of good games there are.



Kirk said:



They're not bad games but they just feel a bit cookie-cutter and safe.

I genuinely believe that if Nintendo simply made Super Mario World in 2.5D (so all the assets were made in full 3D but the camera and gameplay were still 2D) and full HD that it would still be a better game than these New Super Mario games, or at the very least it would show that Nintendo really hasn't moved forward much since then.

If Nintendo did similarly with Yoshi's Island, same game but 2.5D and full HD and still retaining it's stunning visual style, that it would absolutely p*ss all over any of the New Super Mario Bros games imo.

The New Super Mario games are just "off" a little bit graphically/stylistically/visually imo and also lack a little bit of that magic that the best 2D Mario games have in abundance.



Pichuka97 said:

Anybody notice that they recycle voice samples in recent games? All recent NSMB games and 3D Land do this.



BlueNitrous said:

@Kirk I couldn't agree more. To add something, I personally dislike the music used in the NSMB games. All the "wahs" and "doos" doesnt sound good as an entire sountrack. As a few songs maybe, but every freakin song in the game?! (sorry if I'm getting off topic, sometimes I cant help but rant'n'ramble.)



AgentAPE said:

I'd rather see a full attempt at hand drawn HD sprites and tight old school gameplay, very little 3d outside effects and lighting. The NSMB series always seems slapped together to me so I rarely ever bothered..



aaronsullivan said:

Huh. I found it be a huge improvement whether some of the assets were the same or not. The overall effects are very cool too not just a little better. I especially like the water surface projected on everything. Also nice is that it zooms further out with multiple players because you can actually make out what's going on better.

Actual side by side screens make the difference even more apparent but if you skim the article you are only seeing scaled down pictures and low res YouTube video which is pretty misleading. Just saying..



rjejr said:

It's a 2D side scrolling sequel to a game that's basically been out forever, graphics are not what this game is about. That said, Trine 2 looks amazing. If they want to compare this game to something they should be comparing it to a $15 downloadable Wii U launch game. Only a blind man could tell me Mario looks better than Trine.



Ichiban said:

I enjoyed Mario U once I got past the first few worlds & the difficulty ramped up a bit. As far as graphics go, some stages were incredibly bland, where others were goregous.
But i gotta say that the 3 level demo of Rayman Legends beats Mario U in everyway, and thats only 3 levels!!



Klunk23 said:

I dont really pay much attention to the graphics. The games really fun and quite hard at many parts. I find that the actual layout of the levels kind of does remind me a bit of super Mario world.



luminalace said:

Honestly I don't buy the Mario games for graphics but having said that Nintendo certainy could have taken more time to improve the graphics.



Yosher said:

I usually don't really care for graphics, but now that Nintendo does have an HD console it would be nice if they'd actually use the HD capabilities. I'm pretty sure 3D Mario on Wii U will have wonderful HD graphics though. It'll look amazing, seen as how they made Super Mario Galaxy look as amazing as it did on the Wii. 2D Mario isn't a game where I expected them to make true HD graphics with.



SamsonCat said:

It's sad to expect a "New" Super Mario Bros. game on future Nintendo consoles. But luckily Nintendo is developing a new 3D Mario game soon, which is another reason I bought my Wii U in the first place.



Lan said:

Please stop throwing around the words "high definition" like they mean so much. It's misleading



DarkNinja9 said:

yeah i agree wish they would of used those nice art painting backgrounds more even if it wasnt fully 1080p it still felt new and different but i do get the feeling that they add those staged for advertising and getting the attention till you get the game your like .... oh... so another mario...

oh well i guess its still fun to play so i guess thats the main part why i got the game



allav866 said:

@Yosher I honestly hope for a SMG3, but I hope if it's actually done that you can still use a Wii remote and Nunchuk.



DarkLloyd said:


now you see heres nothing at least what i think so far that really even need wiimote except if you want to collect starbits without actually reaching that area

but props to smg3 i hope theres that or something like that visually i mean



JebbyDeringer said:

The problem isn't the resolution, it's the care and attention put into the art. Compare this to something like Rayman Origins, or Trine 2, or many other modern platformers and you'll see NSMB has a really safe, almost lazy art style. It looks like a 2D game converted into 3D. Almost like a fan tribute. The biggest jump I've seen lately is games managing to drop the obvious "3D" look and make a convincing game that happens to be 3D but just looks good and even as good or better than hand-drawn.

There's almost no atmosphere in NSMB, it does NOT feel like a real world (fantasy or otherwise), it feels like a game world with strategically places blocks.



hiptanaka said:

You've got to be kidding. Graphics may be simplistic, but it's not a "minimum effort" game by any means. On the contrary, I found the attention to detail striking at some points.



Mandoble said:

@hiptanaka, really? For a 60€ game which is an slight conversion of a Wii version? No, I'm not kidding at all, this is how Nintendo works.



hiptanaka said:

Didn't realize it was a pricing discussion. I just mean it's a highly polished and fun game with some really good level design. What if they reuses some assets? Sure it could've been cheaper, but it doesn't look bad for what it's trying to do. A bit soulless for my tastes, but that's more the art style than any polygon count or whatever.



Furealz said:

Oh come on guys!I bought the game digitally and loved the new challenge, boost modes that they used to differentiate between the titles. Even though both games are similar, Mario U has a nice feel to it and also DLC! I'm a Mario fanatic and happy that I bought Mario 2 DLC so if anybody has a problem....fugget about it!



UnseatingKDawg said:

The way I see it, as long as a game looks great without the high-definition (I see HD as more of a bonus as opposed to a necessity when it comes to graphics), and it controls very well, and has top-notch gameplay with enough of a challenge, then it's a game worth playing. So what if they recycled some assets? It probably saved them some time down the long road.



element187 said:

@Kirk if I only played the first half of NSMBU I would agree with you, but the game really opens up and starts to shine in the second half. Its easily the best 2D Mario experience.... I'm waiting on Mario Galaxy U. It will need to leap frog Galaxy 2 to keep its fanbase happy.



duskao said:

@DerpSandwich most games for consoles arent 1080p. most run in 720p. I realise that doesnt make it any better, but trine2 is one of the few games to run in 1080p, and the only 1080p version on a console. pc of course is not a console. tests have shown that most people can't tell the difference between 720p and 1080p anyway, plus with newer anti ailiasing technologies its almost to the point of moot.



Moshugan said:

While I kind of dig the "New" style, I would love to see a Mario platformer with old school "low rez" sprite graphics and some creative use of pixel art.



DrSlump said:

@Mahe You're damn true. I want the next mario in 8 bit flawour with 16 colors graphics in glorius 280x188 resolution.



DrSlump said:

@Mandoble I agree with you. The "new super mario bros wii u" has the same level design of the previous games, with some graphics enhancements. Playing it on DS, then Wii and now Wii U... is enough for me.



XD375 said:

"first ever HD appearance of Mario outside of the Dolphin emulator on Wii"

...But I was playing Super Mario 64 in HD many years ago!



StarDust4Ever said:

I warped to the swamp world early on by taking a secret exit. I must say, the Vincent Van Ghough stages are truly the only thing I've encountered so far that really "WOW"ed me. For once, Mario stopped hopping around to stare at the scenery. I sincerely wished Nintendo had put this much effort into all the levels. That said, Nintendo still needs to put a little more effort in the audio/visual department. Seriously, just about every music track in the game is recycled or remixed except for the 1-1 music. At least I don't have to listen to the "Mushroom Waltz" from the original DS game anymore.



Araknie said:

Sincerly it's a launch game, if it was gonna be blasting beatiful he probably wouldn't make it for launch.



GameLord08 said:

I hear that this game was originally in development for the Wii before being upscaled to debut on the Wii U. It has a strong possibility of being true IMO, but rumours.



LittleIrves said:

@JebbyDeringer I agree that Rayman Origins/Legends and Trine 2 look more beautiful than NSMBU... that being said, I've had WAAY more fun with Mario U than I did playing Trine 2 on XBox360. The floaty feel of that game just completely turned me off, whereas 2D Mario has always been about tighter, super-responsive gameplay and level design, and U has that in spades. Plus the new Challenge Modes are addictive and tough. The discussion of assets by Digital Foundry is neat, but in my mind a completely separate conversation than whether the game is any good or not.



JebbyDeringer said:

@LittleIrves I agree, Nintendo is still Nintendo and it is obvious they play test their games to death to make sure the game play is flawless. They obviously factor in tweaking a game's balance as a big part of their development time and it shows I just wish they put a little more love into the art assets, it really wouldn't take much.



krunchykhaos said:

Let the real first party games (yes mario has been run to the ground and unfairly overexposed) like zelda and metroid to really show next gen. Considering what ive read about the new LoZ nothing until that game comes out will push this system.



TreesenHauser said:

I remembered being very excited for this when I had read a rumor saying this was gonna be called "New Super Mario World." While the game arguably does play like it could be called that, I can't help but feel like the game was generally more of the same. Some stages did look much better in HD, but for the most part it doesn't feel "new."

With that being said, bring on the next 3D Mario title.

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