Sailing the Blue Skies since 2001.
New Super Mario Bros. (DS)
Pub: Nintendo/Dev: EAD
Rating: E/Players: 1 - 2/Wi-Fi - No
W- I've unofficially beaten the game. By that I mean I beat the Bowser Koopa/Bowser Jr. duo at the end. I still have a level or two to get through and several star coins and alternate exits to find. However, I will say that my playtime was 90% positive. I love the feel of the controls, the way the game looks, and the solid level designs that Nintendo put together here.
There's a lot of levels to play (80 or so), which, while short, are well designed and quite fun to run through. The new elements that Nintendo put in to change up the gameplay are awesome - mushroom platforms that work like elevators, bounce you around or bop and weave as you stand on them. The towers and castles are full of various dangers old and new, the return of Boo houses (and the usual tricks and traps that you'd expect), switches that change around the environment, and the new powerups. The old fire flower is still your #1 choice by a long shot, but the new powerups do add some new challenges to the game, but aren't really useful outside of finding exits and star coins. The mini mushroom is the most used of the three new ones - it's used to unlock two of the worlds, and there's several small pipes that only Mini Mario can enter or high places that only Mini Mario's floaty jump can reach that you'll need this for. The Koopa shell is used sparingly in puzzles, and while it's the most powerful powerup outside of the Starman, it is very limited in its other uses. It's also quite hard to control once you get rolling. The Mega Mushroom is the most fun powerup, but it doesn't work everywhere and its main purpose is to stock up on 1-Ups. Still, they're fun, but compared to the Super Leaf, Frog Suit or Cape Feather, they aren't the same by any means.
Another shortcoming is the seeming lack of portability this game gives you. And by that I mean lack of save points. The only way you can save is either a) beat a tower or a castle or b) purchase a path via star coin signs. If this was a console title, I'd understand this setup. All of the Super Mario games on the NES didn't let you save at all! But this is on the DS. A portable handheld. On batteries. Sure, the system came with an AC adapter. But on long trips, at school or at work, you're not likely to either have the adapter or be able to use it. So what happens if you run out of juice? You get to replay all of the levels you just beat because you couldn't reach a castle/tower and/or used up all your old sign saves. Also, the game opens up an anytime save feature AFTER you beat the game. So why couldn't this be there BEFORE you beat it? Oy. Bad design choice.
Outside of the powerups not impressing and the save feature conundrum, Mario is in fine form here. The music is pretty good, but not up to some of the classic Mario tunes of the past (but the enemies dance to it in a clever touch). The controls wonderfully implement some of Mario's 3D moves into 2D form with much success. The game's graphics are some of the best 3D visuals on the system. And it gives you a nice, retro feel that Mario platformers create that makes you feel all fuzzy inside. Nintendo crafted a beauty here, and while it has faults, it's a solid return to 2D and another excellent Mario game.
Spoiling Sidenote - What was up with the Bowser corpse resurrection, btw? Bowser turns to bones at the end of World 1 if you use the bridge (which was kind of graphic for a Mario game...and why now? Bowser’s never been burnt by lava before...), you get to fight Bowser’s corpse in World 8, and Bowser Jr. plops the bones into a voodoo pot and out pops a bigger, badder, reborn Bowser for the final battle...quite strange. Let's keep the necromancy out of future Mario titles, eh Nintendo? (despite it being a solid Super Metroid homage! Crocomire's lava-fueled end was quite similar to this :p )