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WiiWare Review: Dr. Mario Online Rx

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Perhaps the most anticipated WiiWare title in the service's short existence, Dr. Mario Online Rx had a lot to live up to. After all, it was a remastering of a classic Nintendo title, and the first WiiWare title to make extensive use of the Nintendo WiFi Connection.

The good news is that it lives up to every expectation. Dr. Mario Online Rx is the right mix of old-school and new and is, for now, the crown jewel of the WiiWare service. While LostWinds is a should-own title, Dr. Mario Online Rx is a must-own title for every Wii owner.

The game is really two separate games bundled together: the original-style Dr. Mario and a variant called Virus Buster from Brain Age 2 on the DS. The original plays out just like the old Game Boy and NES versions do. In fact, to play both, you'll need to hold the Wii remote sideways, recreating the same button layout as you'll find on the Game Boy or NES controller. It not only makes it easy for Dr. Mario pros to become comfortable, but the limited button set-up won't overwhelm non-gamers or new gamers, either.

The core gameplay of the Dr. Mario half is still the same: drop colored pills onto similarly-colored viruses to remove them from the board. Kill them all and you move on to the next, slightly harder level. All the same customizations from the original game (level, music, speed) are there this time around, too. Flash mode shows up from Dr. Mario 64 in which you have to clear three specific flashing viruses to beat the level, not the entire field.

Virus Buster, the other half of this duo, plays similarly to its Brain Age 2 counterpart, as it is chaotic, yet fun. Using the Wii remote, you flip and drag the pills down on top of the viruses, replacing the DS' stylus in this regard. It can be a bit tricky to master, as the pills snap into place once they're close enough, but it's also pretty fun once you get the hang of it.

The graphics and sound have been touched up a bit, turning some characters 3-D while keeping the virus battlefield itself in its original 2-D form. You also now have the option of choosing a Mii to play as instead of Dr. Mario. The soundtrack and in-game sounds are all updated versions of the classics, with a few new tunes thrown into the mix as well. These are small touches, but nice ones that add to the games' enjoyment. Best of all, I haven't run into a single audio or visual issue while playing these games online or offline, unlike Final Fantasy Crystal Chronicles: My Life as a King and it's lack of door animations when you enter buildings.

Getting online with Dr. Mario isn't much of a pain at all. You can only do it through the Dr. Mario portion, but the set-up is pretty similar to that of Super Smash Bros. Brawl. Except with a much, much better connection. But here's where things get even better: you can play against friends online with only one of you having a copy, exactly like the DS Download play service. It's not only a wonderful marketing scheme to introduce more people to the game, but it's something I hope more WiiWare games include in the future. Believe it or not, the DS version of this has swayed me to pick up some games I would have otherwise skipped. Offline play is two players only.

If you're looking for something bad about Dr. Mario Online Rx, I can say with clarity that you might be looking for a while. Sure, I'm sure you can nitpick if you want, but there's not much of a point to it. It might not break ground with the Wii like other WiiWare titles do, but with Dr. Mario Online Rx, you get a balanced game that every gamer of every age and skill level can enjoy without problem.

Pros: Visual makeover is minimal, but welcome. Online play is great. Reasonably priced. Accessible for hardcore and casual gamers alike.

Cons: None, really.

Dr. Mario Online Rx is rated E (Everyone) by the ESRB.

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About Brian Szabelski