Game: New Super Mario Bros.
Platform: Nintendo DS
Developer: Nintendo
Publisher: Nintendo
Release Date: EU: 06/30/06, JP: 05/25/06, NA: 05/15/06
Genre: platformer
Players: 1

Make sure the TV is on channel 3. Insert the cartridge. Remove and blow in cartridge. Repeat ad nauseum, and eventually you are greeted with a familiar tune while Mario and Luigi quest through a world of size-changing mushrooms locale-changine pipes, and a fire-breathing dragon.

The game is Super Mario Bros., and it debuted for the Nintendo Entertainment System in 1985. The video gaming world would never be the same, for they had been introduced to the greatest platform adventure in video game history. Shigeru Miyamoto would go on to create other favorites as well, but he will forever be remembered as the man who gave us Mario.

Now, 21 years after the original was released and 11 years after his last 2-D adventure, Mario is back, in the aptly-named New Super Mario Bros. for the Nintendo DS. New Super Mario Bros. is equal parts remake and sequel. As in the original there are eight distinct worlds to explore and conquer, a variety of levels on which to test your skill (underwater, subterranean, mushroom-platform hopping, ice, etc.), and until the end, the princess is always in another castle. This time, however, it is Bowser Jr. who has kidnapped Princess Peach, and he has assembled quite a team of bosses to protect his hostage. Mario will battle Bowser, a giant pirahna plant, Rocky Wrench, and many more!

Mario has a few tricks up his sleeve. Returning from the original game are the mushroom, fire flower, and star man. The mushroom makes Mario grow to twice his size, the fire flower allows him to hurl fireballs at his foes, and star man makes him invincible for a few seconds. New power-ups this time around are the koopa suit, the mini-mushroom, and the mega-mushroom. The koopa suit allows Mario to slide around in a turtle shell to vanquish Bowser Jr.'s plans, the mini-mushroom shrinks Mario to miniscule proportion and allows him access to previously unreachable areas, and the mega-mushroom makes Mario so large that he is as tall as the DS screen and crushes everything in his path (warp pipes included). And if all else fails, most enemies are easily dispatched by jumping on their head.

In addition to the nostalgia, New Super Mario Bros. adds quite a bit to the traditional gameplay and is worthy of continued play even after clearing the final castle in World 8. First, each level is home to three star coins. Collect enough star coins, and you can open up gates on the world map. These gates usually lead to toad houses or alternate routes through the level. Some levels contain secondary exits that allow the player to progress through the level in a whole new way. Two such exits are the only way to access worlds 4 and 7.

No game is perfect so there's bound to be one thing I don't like about New Super Mario Bros., and that's the save system. Until you clear the final castle you can only save after clearing a tower or castle or unlocking a star coin gate. One, it's a portable game; sometimes I only have 10 minutes to play. Second, save anywhere can and has been implemented in the game after clearing the final castle. Why the developers chose the keep it from us until then, I'm unsure, but I don't like it. That one negative mark aside, if you fondly remember sitting in your basement playing Super Mario Bros. on an old television set or just like platformers then New Super Mario Bros. will definitely make a great addition to your DS library. Pick this one up. You won't regret it.

My REVIEW of New Super Mario Bros. for Nintendo DS

This past week I have been playing the New Super Mario Bros. I must say it is rather superbly crafted, but it seems a bit short overall. Some of the stages seem too short, but there are plenty of stages. An interesting game that is an excellent homage to most of the Marios in the series; not just a rehash of been-there done-that gameplay, though.

The game is beautiful overall, and not just from a graphical standpoint. The game uses 3D modeled sprites in a 2D setting (So Mario and other characters are made of polygons, while the background are standard, 2D backgrounds). This makes for some very interesting effects, and I like how the programmers actually incorporated the flexibility of the sprites when making gameplay (e.g. Gigantic Mario, giant versions of some enemies, more flexibility in the way characters are modeled, making logs roll, &c.) It's a rather interesting design, and it's not so much a gimmick as it is essential to some of the gameplay. I really liked how they used the graphical capabilities of the DS to actually enhance the gameplay, instead of ONLY making things pretty.

The gameplay, again, is very much that of a Mario game, and the difficulty is definitely there, especially in the latter areas of the game. Finding all the Star Coins in every level, as well as all the alternate routes, is really what makes this game fun. Albeit, I found this not as fun at times because of the way one could save at almost any point. While Mario has no abilities to fly (except grabbing a Lakitu cloud), the new powerups make for interesting effects. Shell Mario seems primarily a defensive power-up, as he is impervious while crouched (in his shell). Likewise, he can spin like a koopa shell on the ground, but controlling him is difficult. Gigantic Mario is an interesting power-up that's fun to play with in more closed areas: Mario plows through his surroundings without hindrance, but the effect lasts temporarily; afterwards, Mario is awarded so many 1-Ups based on how much he destroyed. Finally, Mini-Mario is an interesting form. I've found navigating stages much more fun using Mini Mario, but he's super-vulnerable in this form, and attacking enemies requires a correctly timed ground-pound. The fact that using mini mario for a few areas in the game is necessary made the experience more interesting. I msut say that NIntendo has done a fine job keeping the nostalgia factor in tact. You can kill most bosses with enough fireballs from a Fire Flower.

The biggest complaint I have with this game is length. It's way too short. Some levels seem short, and that may be due to the marker which shows how far in the level the player has progressed. While there were some themed levels, sometimes they seemed uninspired because of the length. It also became difficult to remember what World a particular level was in. This wasn't so much a problem in the original Super Mario Bros. where there were 32 levels; in SMW, I can still remember the locations of specific levels and what they were like, even though I played it last a few years ago.

The game's overall length was further hindered by the fact that, when all was said and done, and you completed everything, you weren't rewarded much. I would have liked something akin to SMW's Special World.

Something that also hurts the game's replay value is the ease of gameplay. After beating the final boss (and this feat isn't too hard at all), you can save at any time on the world map. Whenever you exit a level you've completed, you lose any additional power-ups you've gained, don't lose a life, and basically it's like you never visited the level. As such, the game can easily feel like I'm playing an emulator, which definitely detracts some enjoyment from the game. It seems easier because of this.

Though there are over 80 stages, sometimes it feels like you're only playing them JUST to play them. The existence of alternate routes made reaching and beating the final boss a really easy feat (I did it in the first night of playing). After that, it was just playing through levels. The fact that two of the Worlds in the game are optional (found only by a certain trick) also makes playing through the levels seem a bit forced.

Likewise, the alternate routes seemed too easy to find, as opposed to the cleverness in SMB3 (where they were things on the world map) or the subtlety in SMW (such as the keyholes, or weird paths and feats. Think of that one stage in the Chocolate world with the time limits). These alternate routes frequently led to Mushroom Houses. And sometimes, getting to alternate routes was a matter of ponying up some Star Coins! Come on, Nintendo, that seems a bit cheap when you could have hidden paths or whatnot.

Overall, this game is fun, but really lacks some depth and breadth that I would have liked to see in it. I give the game a 7.5/10 (with 5/10 being an "average" game).

EDIT FROM JANUARY 2007: I'd like to say that most of what I said about NSMB, all the negative things, I retract. It definitely FEELS like the VERY classic Mario (now that I've beaten the original Super Mario Bros...). And it definitely has replayability. I'll go back to it every once in a while and still enjoy it. So this is definitely a must-have game for the DS and an amazing and welcome addition to the family of Mario games.

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