Just a little over 20 years ago, Nintendo released their Nintendo Entertainment System onto the US gaming market and packaged with it, a game that would forever change the landscape of video games. This game was the original Super Mario Bros. and it single-handedly sold millions of NES systems. Over the next five years Nintendo released 3 sequels to the game, including Super Mario World for their new Super NES system. Unfortunately, Super Mario World would be the last true 2-D rendition of Super Mario Bros. we'd see for almost a decade. Fast-forward ten years to 2006 where we've just recently seen the release of New Super Mario Bros. for the Nintendo DS system. One thing is for certain: Super Mario Bros. fans can finally enjoy a game that's been a very long time coming. So how exactly does this game stack up against not only the classic Super Mario Bros. games, but also many of the modern platformers of today?
Those familiar with any previous Super Mario Bros. game should have a good idea of what to expect with this game. Mario retains most of the moves he's had over the years, but Nintendo has also given our favorite plumber a few new moves to make things a little more interesting. Mario can still run, jump, and shoot fireballs, but now he can also grab onto walls and ledges and jump from them. This new move plays a key role in some of the later levels. Nintendo's also thrown in a few new mushrooms which include the Mega and Mini Mushrooms. The Mega Mushroom does pretty much what it sounds like and allows Mario to grow to nearly the size of the entire screen and run over pretty much anything that gets in his way. This is a great way to rack up a few extra lives as well. The Mini Mushroom also does what its' name implies and shrinks Mario down to the size of a peanut allowing him access to tiny areas which he normally couldn't reach. There's even a Blue Koopa Shell that Mario can wear on his back that he can tuck up into in order to fly at enemies or bust bricks. When all is said and done, however, it's still the classic Super Mario Bros. run, jump, and shoot your way through each level and then do battle with Bowser at his castle at the end of each world.
The control of the game will feel very familiar to fans of this series, but the new moves and mushrooms do add a nice new layer of gameplay to the mix. Mario is as responsive as ever, and learning to successfully use the wall grab and twirling spin into the air will give you something new to learn while playing through the early levels. The Mega and Mini Mushrooms were a great idea, but they're not used nearly enough throughout the game, in fact most of their use is early on in the first world. The castle levels feel more like those found in Super Mario World than any of the previous Super Mario games, and feature the wire fence climbing throughout many of them in which Mario can even flip the fence doors around and be on the opposite side. Each world has its' own look and feel to it, but the level designs are still extremely similar to the previous levels, which might not offer newer fans of the game as much variety as they're commonly used to in many of the recent platformers. Make no mistake, this is one extremely fun game to play and it plays exactly like you'd want a Super Mario game to play.
The game tends to feel a bit on the easy side, especially early on in the first few worlds, but this doesn't make it any less fun to play. It's obvious that Nintendo was going for a more widely appealing game this time around, but let's face it, the Super Mario Bros. games were never that difficult anyway, unless you count the Japanese Super Mario Bros. 2 game which was tough as nails. If you're a veteran platforming fan, you might end up breezing through this game in just a few hours, but the fun doesn't end with the main part of the game. There's quite a bit of hidden stuff, not to mention 3 gold coins per level to collect, so luckily once you finish the game itself, there's still plenty to go back and do. That's one of the things that's always made the Super Mario Bros. games so much fun and this one's certainly no exception.
New Super Mario Bros. also offers up some nice multiplayer action with the Mario & Luigi games. In these games you get to go head to head with another player in a race to collect stars in different levels. You can also take stars away from an opponent by hitting the bricks underneath where they're standing, or hitting them with a well-placed fireball shot. The player that reaches the end of the level with the most stars wins. Players can also compete against each other in some of the mini-games, though many of these seem like they were taken straight from the Super Mario 64 DS game. It's not what you'd call outstanding multiplayer gaming, but it is a nice little bonus to an already amazing single-player experience.
Visually, Nintendo has really given this new game a nice, colorful look that brings the Mushroom Kingdom to life on the DS screens. What will amaze long-time fans of the series is just how smoothly everything moves throughout the game. Nintendo has chosen to use 3-D graphics for the game in order to pull off many of the special effects used throughout the game, and the result is some of the smoothest animation you'll likely see in a 2-D game. Even when Mario grows to the size of the screen and begins mowing everything in front of him down, the action always maintains a steady frame rate. Even Bowser himself has never looked so large and detailed in both look and movement. It's fairly obvious from the moment you begin playing the game that Nintendo made a concerted effort to really bring the classic look and feel of the Super Mario Bros. games up to today's visual standards. It might not be the best looking DS game out there, but it's definitely the best looking 2-D Super Mario Bros. game.
While Nintendo obviously put a lot of time and effort into the visuals of New Super Mario Bros., the sound and music didn't get quite as much attention. It's all here, including many of the classic sound effects and musical tracks, but they all sound a little too much like the originals. Now maybe that was done purposely to keep with the classic styling of the game, but Nintendo could have at least made the sound effects and music sound as up-to-date as they did the visual presentation in the game. Super Mario Bros. purists should be quite happy as you'll swear at times that you're actually playing one of the original Super Mario Bros. games. The voices in the game are one of the highlights in that they have a very clear and distinct quality to them. When Bowser growls, it sounds just as menacing as it should. It would have been nice to have a more updated sound to the visual masterpiece Nintendo's created, but it's hard not to love that classic Super Mario sound just the same.
Let's face it, 15 years is a long time to wait for a new 2-D Super Mario Bros. game, but the wait was obviously well worth it. Nintendo has managed to take everything great and fun from the previous Super Mario Bros. games, roll it all together, add a fresh coat of paint onto the whole thing and come out with one of the best platformers we've seen released in years, not to mention a game easily worthy of the Super Mario Bros. name. This could be the best Nintendo DS game to date, and one that should have no trouble doing what its' predecessors did, and that's selling a lot of Nintendo game systems.