What’s New about New Super Mario Bros. for the DS?

New Super Mario Bros. (or New SMB) was released earlier this month for the DS as part of Nintendo’s new “rope in everybody” strategy. Games like New SMB, Brain Age, and Nintendogs all have easy to register titles and simple gameplay, targeted towards the “non-gamers” in the crowd. This is no remake of the original Super Mario Bros., released in 1985. With emphasis on the “new” part of the title, what is new with this iteration of the Mario franchise?

Now, the first change you’ll notice is the new polygonal graphic style. Everything in the game looks really smooth and the new style gives all of the enemies a fresh look. This “extreme makeover” is a happy one, and I am happy Nintendo kept New SMB to the 2D perspective. In 2D games, you cannot move forward or backward, only left and right. This is a throwback to games of old when systems could not handle the graphical load easily made on newer systems today. Personally, I believe the old games in the series (SMB3 especially) are the best – with the 2D perspective and not the 3D view.

Mario has a lot of new moves in this game, too. My personal favorite is the handy wall jump. Like kung-fu action heroes, Mario can jump back and forth between walls and sometimes save you from death if you have quick enough reflexes. By jumping three times at a full run, you can triple jump. The triple jump serves more as a bonus than a game feature. You can also do a butt-stomp from Super Mario 64, which allows you to crash down (butt first!) into blocks below you. These new moves are interesting and add another flavor of gameplay to the mix.

In addition to new moves there are new power-ups. In addition to standard mushroom and fireflower standards, you have the mega and mini mushroom and the koopa shell. Unfortunately, when compared to series greats like SMB3, the item selection is lacking. SMB3 has a great amount of interesting items for your liking, but New SMB has only a few.

The mega mushroom grows you to stage-crushing size, and the mini mushroom shrinks you so you can fit into tiny pipes. The koopa shell turns you into a spinning koopa shell that destroys enemies. Of all the new power-ups, this one is my favorite. It’s fun to spin across stages destroying all the enemies, but is also difficult to use. You’ll find yourself sticking to the fireflower for most of the game – and who uses that anyway? This is my main gripe with the game, and it should have had more power-ups.

Possibly the “newest” part of New SMB is the wireless multiplayer. In the single-cart multiplayer mode, two players race for five stars on five different stages. You can blast your opponents with the fireflower and stomp them as much as you want, and it’s a lot of fun! I enjoyed playing the multiplayer a lot, and it’s a nice plus.

Another thing that was included were Minigames. Why include them in a game like this? And sure, I wouldn’t be so annoyed if they weren’t rehashes from launch title Super Mario 64 DS. If you have the intended “five minutes on a bus” just play a level and skip the lame minigames.

So, there are some new elements in New SMB, but what about tried and true Mario standards? The levels are all varied and interesting, and there are the traditional eight worlds with the standard themes – ice, desert, sky, etc. You progress the worlds similarly to SMB3, with shortcut paths and item houses. Then, like Super Mario World, there are tons of secret exits in levels, which makes you go back to them over and over to find the secret levels and warp zones.

You’ll find some people who live by “old school” 80’s games. Most games today aren’t as good or as inventive as the old games, but New SMB still has that appeal. You’ll get the feeling of nostalgia when you play through the first level (modeled after the very first Mario level) and that feeling of accomplishment every time you find a carefully hidden secret.

I used to be firm on my opinion of best Mario game – Super Mario 3 held that position without question. But now, with New SMB, I’m not so sure anymore. It’s that good. The control is tight, the graphics look great, and the levels are unique. I’ve given games this rating before, but this time I really mean it. If you’re a fan of the series, there’s no question. In fact, if you’re anyone with a DS, there is no question that you should buy this game! New Super Mario Bros. is an awesome experience anyone will enjoy. It earns a 9 out of 10.

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