Mr. Hands-On: New New Super Mario Bros. Double Feature
Following up on my hardware impressions, it is time to dig into the actual games (and, later, one non-game) I played at the Nintendo Gaming Lounge, which was located in the hotel ballroom next to the convention center and Comic-Con proper. What better place to start than with the soon-to-come one-two punch of New Super Mario Bros. 2 for the 3DS and New Super Mario Bros. U for
the Nintendo Vs. Arcade System Wii U?
Anyone who has watched the trailers or other footage of the games from E3 or the Nintendo Channel (and so on), or who has played the previous two NSMB games, should have a pretty accurate idea of what to expect from both of these titles. They aren’t without their unique hooks, however.
The New Super Mario Bros. 2 demo consisted of the new Coin Rush mode wherein the player is tasked with collecting as many coins as possible across three randomly selected stages with one life. (The demo, being a demo, appeared to consist of three pre-selected stages.) With that goal in mind, suddenly coins seem to have a higher purpose beyond “ooo, shiny!” and boosting the extra life counter to absurd levels. There are lots of temporary opportunities to grab coins that have you scrambling to grab them all before they leave the screen due to their motion, or your motion, or the expiring timer of a P-switch; an unlikely or perhaps even impossible outcome, thus motivating you to better your effort the next go ’round. For example, on the first stage, a sort of beach level, passing through a golden ring temporarily turned golden the cheep cheeps jumping from the shallow water, making them worth 5 coins each to defeat, and also causing them to trail another 5 coins behind them as they arced through the air. Deciding how to best make use of this opportunity as the fish bounced around had me a bit frantic.
Another new method of coin delivery was a block that featured a number on it randomly cycling through a handful of values, with 50 being the largest, and hitting the block (naturally) yielded the displayed number of coins (for the values 10 or larger, big coins worth 10 each were dispensed as appropriate.) The coolest way to grab coins, and the focus of several of the videos and images to date, is the golden fire flower. Picking this up turns Mario golden and lets him spew golden fireballs that cause defeated enemies to yield coins, but more spectacular is their effect of turning bricks into coins. It’s rather gleeful to plow through the terrain and be rewarded for it in this way, and also a bit of a throwback to Super Mario Land 2, where a special type of block was vulnerable only to fireballs from Fiery Mario. Of course in New Super Mario Bros 2 bricks are also vulnerable to shells and the triumphantly returning Raccoon Mario, which I did not have much of an opportunity to play around with in the demo. In the final stage of the demo, one of the vertical fortress/castle stages, I managed to find a secret exit, and upon jumping to the top of the flagpole my entire coin total for the session was doubled. I’m uncertain if the 2x bonus was for finding a secret exit or reaching the top of the flagpole, or both, or neither. My final total was 2010 coins, which if typical seems to indicate that the over-arching goal of getting one million coins is not so far out of reach as to be absurd.
Other observations: the 3D effect is present but, as expected given the game’s nature, rather limited, chiefly making the parallax backgrounds more separated from the foreground. Coin Rush mode displays a four digit coin counter as opposed to the usual two digit one, and of course no extra lives are gained in this mode. Reaching the secret exit in the third stage means I missed out on the returning-from-Super-Mario-World Reznor battle, though I did observe someone else playing it. This particular one featured only two Reznors, and the floor didn’t start to collapse at any point, which seems to indicate these battles start easy and will increase in difficulty through the game, leading me to wonder if there will be any brand new tricks to them. New Super Mario Bros. 2 comes out next month on the 19th, day and date with the 3DS XL, and will also be the first retail 3DS game simultaneously released as a digital download.
New Super Mario Bros. U has as its new hook the ability of a second (or third, or fourth, or fifth) player to use the Wii U Gamepad to assist the other player(s) by placing up to four temporary platforms on screen, each one labeled with a playing card suit in a cute touch. Displaying a complete lack of foresight, I didn’t take the opportunity to play this one on the Gamepad, instead playing as everyone’s favorite Mario character- the Blue Toad- using a Wii Remote, with another player also using a Wii Remote and a third on the Gamepad. There were two new gameplay elements in the demo: the flying squirrel suit and pink Baby Yoshis, which served pretty similar functions to, and seem to replace, the propeller suit from New Super Mario Bros. Wii. Both give you a boost in the air with a shake of the Wii Remote and let you float gently downwards thereafter. The squirrel suit lets you cling to walls, which wasn’t terribly useful in the demo but which I can certainly see the game making great use of at some point as I recall World 9 from NSMB Wii. The pink Yoshis suck in air and balloon up when the remote is shaken. The chief differentiations between them and the squirrel suit seem to be the huge hitbox provided by the inflated Yoshi, letting you grab large patterns of coins with relative ease, and the fact that you had to hold on to the Yoshi by holding down the 1 button. Other color Yoshis with different powers are promised in media for the game but were not part of this demo. The only other new gameplay element I saw was a green ring, similar to the red rings in previous games, passing through which made five clusters of three green coins temporarily appear in an area instead of eight red coins, and similarly collecting all of them made a power-up appear.
So far, so good, though it seems to be more “more of the same” than NSMB2. The biggest changes seem to be graphical, with rather nice new backgrounds on the stages, some lovely lighting on rotating star platforms featured in the third stage of the demo, and most notably the resolution bump to 1080p. Playing the game on a huge screen without any of the jagged edges present in New Super Mario Bros. Wii was a pleasure. It’s nothing jaw-dropping at this point, but it is pretty, and will make playing NSMB Wii a much harder experience to revisit. New Super Mario Bros. U is slated for a “Holiday 2012″ release, which thus marks the first time in quite a while that a new Mario platformer will be available at or around the launch of new Nintendo hardware.