How fantastic is Mario? Really, really, really fantastic is the answer. If you think about all the stone cold classic games that Mario and his chums have been a part of; Super Mario Bros, Super Mario Bros 3, Super Mario World, Yoshi’s Island, Super Mario 64, Mario Kart 64, Mario Golf… The list could go on. Mario was a defining element of my youth. It’s strange to think of it now, but back then I actually liked Mario over Sonic. But then my father hit me with a claw hammer and I saw sense. But I digress…
With Mario 64 came an obvious shift into 3D. The Mario of my youth was left behind in favor of the fancy-pants likes of Mario Sunshine, Luigi’s Mansion and Mario Galaxy. The relentless march of technology is all well and good but I longed for the simplicity of the old-school 2D Mario games. That’s why I’d always go back and replay Super Mario World in favor of Mario Galaxy. With the event of the DS and Wii, however, Nintendo finally relented and gave us what we wanted.
“Rejoice!” we sang “The good times are back again and they are never going away!”
Well, we were half right. ‘New’ Super Mario Bros certainly isn’t going away anytime soon, as it is a humungous fucking cash cow. But it’s also the most blatant manifestation of Nintendo’s stagnation. Not to mention a shit game to boot. Nintendo are obviously unassailable legends within gaming. Where would we be without the likes of Mario, Zelda or Metroid? Still stuck in the great videogame crash of the 80’s, most likely. But the fact is that Nintendo hasn’t moved with the times. What was the last major new Nintendo IP? Pikmin on the Gamecube, maybe? Sure, Mario has made some incremental steps since the release of Mario 64 (although Galaxy is not exactly a million miles away, is it) but Zelda has been truly trapped Groundhog Day style in the same mechanics since Ocarina of Time. And as for Metroid, who knows what the fuck is happening with that franchise.
So yeah. There is nothing new about ‘New’ Super Mario Bros. Nintendo should be shaking off the rust and sprinting toward the future, not leaning on their laurels. Now, I’m not saying that there isn’t room for new 2D Mario games, certainly not. But let’s have something other than a bunch of rehashed ideas thrown to together in the shape of a cash-grab. Change up the visual aesthetic. Give us some some funny banter on the over-world screen. Or how about new characters or bosses other than Bowser? Surely something interesting can be done with Wario? There are a million ways that the company could spruce up the 2D Mario market but they don’t, either through lack of direction or laziness.
“This is all very well” I hear you say “But you mentioned that New Super Mario Bros was a shit game!”
So I did and so it is. there just isn’t anything special about New Super Mario Bros. It’s like Nintendo took the most cookie-cutter, bland elements from the previous titles and jumbled them together. But they totally left out that essential pinch of magic dust that the old games had. Almost all the stages are uniformly standard. I struggle to remember a single individual stage from the game, yet I can remember a great many from the likes of Super Mario Bros 3 or Super Mario World. The multiplayer has also been bastardized. The simple, clean turn-based mechanic of old has been replaced by a hectic, near-unplayable 4 man muddle, with no options to revert back to the original format! Then there is the movement. Mario runs like he’s moving through treacle! He’s… just… so… slow. I know he’s a fat bastard and all, but come on… And the game is way too difficult. Since when did the Mario games want to totally beast your ass like New Super Mario Bros Wii does?! Parents buying this game for their young children are going to get fucked in the butt. Literally.
So yeah. New Super Mario Bros Wii; lazy, slapdash, money-grubbing, nostalgia-soiling, overly difficult and extremely boring. Who ever thought that Mario would turn out to be such a lazy git?