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Nintendo DS Review: New Super Mario Bros.

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Do you remember the first time you played Super Mario Bros? I can picture it now. My brother and I each got a NES for Christmas. It is good to be back, 20 years later, to the original. That’s the thing that sticks out the most in New Super Mario Bros., it truly feels like the original.

And what a present this game is, adding single-cart download mini-games, and a versus mode to a very classically trained Mario romp through the Mushroom Kingdom. It has been far too long since we have seen Nintendo’s main man staring in his own platformer, and even longer since Mario was in a side-scroller. You would have to go back all the way to the SNES and Super Mario World, in fact, to find the last one.

Everything in New Super Mario Bros. is rooted in the original 1985 classic, but subtly updated with some surprising effects and a hybrid 2D/3D engine that shines on the DS. You see this first in the title screen, which seconds as the only story in the game. But we all know the story by now, right?

Mario and Peach are taking a walk when Mario spots the palace getting hit by lightning. When he runs to help, Bowser Jr. snags Peach, and thus you once again must save her. Bowser Jr. has taken the princess to the nearest tower, which becomes your new objective.

New Super Mario Bros. is setup in the very traditional eight worlds akin to Super Mario Bros. 3 and Super Mario World, including an overworld map, towers, ghost houses, Toad houses, and of course castles to finish a world.

There are even nods such as jumping on the flagpole to end a stage, Bowser at the end of the first castle, and the same puzzle/maze like ending to Bowser’s castle in World 8. You can even achieve fireworks, again, just like in Super Mario Bros. — but I’m not going to tell you how. The nostalgia is so thick you could cut it with a knife. And this is a very good thing.

Although the Dual Screens are not utilized for anything but space, the layout works great. It means the information is on the bottom screen, keeping the top screen free from clutter. Information such as progress, score, Star Coins, and reserve item box are all displayed on the bottom screen.

While in the game, your progress in a level is shown by a Mario icon in the top portion of the touch screen. When in the overworld map, this section displays all the destinations with icons representing stages, like a flow chart. You can also use L and R to navigate left and right.

Since Mario is no longer a sprite, he can do thing such as turn around, and has a few animation cycles, such as when running fast, or ducking. The lighting, since it is also now 3D, changes too. When in a tower or castle, you will notice the lighting change to a darker mood. You will see ground deform, platforms grow, shrink and rotate, and the camera zoom in and out depending on the situation. They nailed the graphics, while keeping the aesthetics of Super Mario Bros. intact.

These are the type of small details that really make you go “wow,” and that happens a lot in this game. This is mainly due to the strict adherence to the standard 2D platforming grid; the 3D flares here and there pop nicely. The 3D elements are not over the top; the designers took a “just enough” approach.

Mario has some new moves and power-ups to help him in this quest, some of which would not be possible without this hybrid engine. Wall jumping is a welcome addition, and in some cases, a requirement. A number of hard to get Star Coins require some tricky jumping. Mario also has a butt-stomp that comes in very handy.

Of course you have the mushroom and fire flower power-ups, but added are a super-sized mushroom that makes Mario the size of the screen. With this you can plow through everything in sight, including pipes, bricks and question mark boxes. On the flip side, there is a micro-sized mushroom that turns Mario really small. In this form you can run across water, and jump and stay in the air longer. Some obstacles and pipes also require a micro-Mario.

Lastly is a blue turtle shell power-up. With this you can ricochet across a level taking out all the Goombas in your path. You are also invincible when ducking under your Koopa shell. All of these new moves help to liven up the series, but keep things rooted closer to Super Mario Bros. than anything else.

The game controls just as you would expect a Mario game to control. That is to say, everything is spot on. No complaints here. You actions feel tight and accurate, with absolutely superb platforming. Everyone can pick up the game and play it without looking at a manual, even for that one person who has never played a Mario platformer before.

Just like the game play and level design, the music from your childhood is back too. All those themes you fondly remember have been remixed and updated for this new generation of game. When you enter World 1-2 you know immediately that you are in an underground level, without even seeing the screen. Likewise the music in the castles brings back memories. Enemies now hop and change attack routine to the rhythm of the tune, which is a nice touch.

If you are going to run strait through it, New Super Mario Bros. can be completed in about five hours. Alas, if you do this you will be missing at least half of the game, including two entire worlds, as these are not unlocked if you are just blazing a path to Bowser’s castle at the end of World 8. A number of levels in each world will not be immediately accessible either, often needing a hidden exit to get to them. In all, you get over 80 levels to venture though. This should keep you captivated for another five or more hours, especially if you are looking for the Star Coins in each level (which are required to unlock levels, and Toad houses, in the game).

Thanks to the abundance of 1UP mushrooms, you will not have a problem finishing without breaking a sweat. There are tricky spots for sure, but nothing as frustrating as Super Mario Bros. 3’s World 8 airship. The last couple of levels, especially most of World 8, are complicated in New Super Mario Bros. — as they should be. In the end, I would have liked something a little harder, but this game is built for a wider audience than Super Mario Bros. was.

To be quite honest, the single-player game was enough. But the mini-games add loads of replay. At first glance these touch screen games seem ripped strait from Super Mario 64 DS. In fact, about half of them are directly from Super Mario 64 DS, albeit with enhanced graphics. Then you realize you can play these versus someone else, all with a single copy of the game.

While the versus mini-games are entertaining, the Mario vs. Luigi game is just frantic fun. Reminiscent of Mario Bros., you will be fighting against one another — not to kill turtles, crabs, and flies, but to capture the most Big Stars.

There are five levels to chose from, plus configurable options for how many lives each player has, as well as how many Big Stars need to be collected to win. These stages wrap around the screen as well, just like in the original Mario Bros. As in the mini-games, Mario vs. Luigi is also available as single-cart download play.

These single-cart games on the DS are really great, and add so much to the value and experience.

New Super Mario Bros. is the quintessential platformer that you should not hesitate adding to your DS library. With a classic single-player, over a dozen mini-games, and the addicting Mario vs. Luigi mode, it is very easy to feel like a kid at Christmas, again.

Also read what other Blogcritics had to say about New Super Mario Bros.:

Nintendo DS Review: New Super Mario Bros. — Matt Paprocki

New Super Mario Bros. is rated E (Everyone) by the ESRB for Comic Mischief.

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About Ken Edwards

  • Buying a DS crossed my mind briefly. Is it worth the price of admission?

  • Hey Suss, it sure is. But wait until after the US release of the DS Lite. It will be the same price, and is a much better console. The DS Lite launches June 11 with a much brighter screen, sleeker design, and a smaller form factor.

    There are a number of “must have” games for the DS already. New Super Mario Bros. is surely high on the list, but so is Super Princess Peach, True Swing Golf, Sonic Rush, Mario Kart DS, Castlevania: Dawn of Sorrow, Nintendogs, Kirby Canvas Curse, Meteos, Feel the Magic, The Rub Rabbits, Metroid Prime: Hunters, Tetris DS, Animal Crossing Wild World.

    At least those are the top reasons to own the system off the top of my head. The DS games from E3 are also rather impressive, including Starfox DS and Yoshi’s Island 2, Castlevania: Portrait of Ruin, Diddy Kong Racing DS, Final Fantasy III DS, Final Fantasy Crystal Chronicles DS, and a lot more I can’t think of right now.

    So yea, you should get a DS, but get a DS Lite.

  • Well. Might have to put that on the spoil-myself wish list.


  • cool dude

    I dont think you can make up a pretty much a whole new game when the original is the best. What I am saying is that the original is to good to make a new one

  • super mario gamer

    The new super mario not that impresive, for starters their isn’t even one yoshi, except in the original their is the green,red,blue,and other yoshi’s. The next problem is the thing that every body LOVED in super mario is the cape that was one of the best things about super mario ,and you took it away.So the next time you make a super mario please let it have the yoshi’s and the cape. P.S I do like the idea of mega and tiny mushrooms.

  • Man, I’d love to be in the alternate universe you live in. I mean, your original Mario had Yoshi’s and a cape? Wow!

    All we got in this dimension were mushrooms and fire flowers.


  • Dynamo of Eternia

    super mario gamer,

    I don’t know how familiar you are with Mario’s history, but the game that you are refering to, Super Mario World, was actually the 4th in the primary ‘Super Mario’ series, released in 1991, six years after the first ‘Super Mario’ title was introduced.

    The Cape and Yoshi were not in any game prior to Mario World. And since that time, the only other game that the cape has appeared in was in the Gameboy Advance re-release of “Super Mario Bros. 3” which donned the new additonal title of “Super Mario Advance 4” (Nintendo really loves making the numbering and order of their games difficult to follow, and changing it upon releases doesn’t help). And, in that game, the cape was only accessable through use of the E-Reader and a special card that went with it (this required access to two GameBoy Advance Systems, or one GameBoy Advance and the GBA Player for Gamecube, and a connetion wire). And since the whole E-Reader thing failed to take off, I think the majority of those who even played the GBA version of that game probably never even accessed that cape (its not hard to see why the E-Reader failed, it just was too complicated for its own good. But speaking as an owner of one, and as someone who has all of the SMB3 E-Reader cards, it is a lot of fun to use).

    As for Yoshi, after Super Mario World, he had a small cameo in Super Mario 64 for the N64. He did not become available to ride in a mainstream Mario title again until Mario Sunshine. He is, of course, a playable character on the DS version of Mario 64, but that’s not quite the same thing as he is not used as something that Mario can ride on to get around.

    I’m not saying that I would have objected to including Yoshi in New Super Mario Bros., but I’m not going to kick and scream over his absense, since he wasn’t in the original NES games. The cape was kind of cool, but I’m a much bigger fan of the SMB3 Racoon Tail as a means of flying. It’s just so random and arbitrary that it’s fun.

    As for things that I would have liked to have seen in New Super Mario Bros., I wish the Koopa Kids from Mario 3 and Mario World had been in it. Instead of just having Bowser’s son from Mario Sunshine over and over, they could have a different Koopa kid in each of the mini-Castles (they still could have inlcuded the new kid from Sunshine in it, but in addition to the previous 7).

    I also wish Mario had more power ups and an inventory system like he did in Mario 3. I’m not saying that they would have to be all of the exact same powers from 3, but I liked how Mario had all of the different suits that he could wear to get different powers.
    As cool as the new mushrooms to make him really huge and really small are, they just don’t quite cut it on the same level. And the Turtle Shell that he wears in this one is more of a pain in the ass than anything else (sometimes I’ll just want to run and stop, but then he goes into the shell and starts bouncing all over the place when I don’t want him to).

    All in all though, I do love New Super Mario Bros.
    I hope that they do another one soon, and I would like to see the things that I mentioned earlier in it. Yoshi would be cool to have, as well, but he’s lower on the todem pole for me.

    What I’d really like to see, but won’t likely happen, is to have a new game with many of the enemies from Super Mario Bros. 2 in it, including Wort as the boss (or at least as one of the bosses). I know that the American SMB2 was actually a separate non-Mario game in Japan originally (with their Mario 2 being more similar to the original with some newer difficult features, and was eventually released on the SNES Super Mario All-Stars multi-game pak under the title of “The Lost Levels” in America), but it would be sweet to have those characters return. It would be even cooler if they mixed them in with the typcial Mario villains. I’d love to see Bowser and Wort Team up. But, this is all wishful thinking on my part.

    Anyway, sorry for the tangent there, but I just was giving a little Mario history along with my opinions on things.

  • chris snyder

    I love mario bros 64 Ds. I would like to get some cheats. I looked around and the only 1’s I can find are bad! Does any 1 know where I can find some?

  • Kev

    This game is the best cause you get a lot of levels!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  • Chantel

    have to go bye

  • h

    you know i want to get yoshi but i dont know how to but a second grader does and i am 6 yers older then him i just need to know

  • cool me

    this is a cheat to get lugi on they old mario bro’s turn ur DS on and put that game in then when it get’s to the front page hold L and R then hold it and go on mario game then the level thing will come up keep holding L and R and click on the level thing holding L and Rand you’ll be lugi when it go’s on

  • cool me

    By the way I’t does work i’ve tried it and now I can be him when ever I want

  • cool me

    And I don’t no how to unlock yoshi yet because I hasve’t whent on old super mario bro’s how to be yoshi

    so that’s all I can tell u

  • cool me

    ok BYE peace I’m out. I’m gonna go on club penguin B Y E spelles u can say the rest

  • h

    yo yo yo

  • h

    oh by the way just before i go. new super mario bro’s, if u have an R4 card u can download cheats.now i’m out

  • cool me

    oh them h’s i brended to be someone els and I’m never coming on this ever again so bye forever and my enishales are CG

  • Jordan Richardson

    …the hell?