E3 2012: New Super Mario Bros U – Classic Side-Scrolling, New Power-Ups, Great Visuals
The original Wii was launched in 2005 without a Super Mario title and sales show that Nintendo’s gaming innovation really didn’t need its mascot plumber to get millions of new followers into console gaming. But this time, with a lot riding on the success of the new Wii U home console (it’s been a bad twelve months for Nintendo) and with consumers reacting with some apprehension to the introduction of a HD touchscreen controller, Mario will be dusting off his dungarees for another run around the Mushroom Kingdom. And just as Nintendo of America Boss Reggie Fils-Aime promised in the E3 All-Access Presentation, this is Super Mario Bros. “like it was – but better”.
A new trailer for New Super Mario Bros. U (previously referred to as “New Super Mario Bros. Mii”) reveals the familiar two-dimensional side-scrolling action with Goombas, green pipes and goals posts, all in classic colourful settings, presented in a sharp HD quality which is more visually impressive than anything that’s come before.
Starting off on his adventure, Mario is seen in a typically green setting, presumably one of the earliest stages. The plumber jumps up to punch the familiar question mark mystery box to uncover something new – an acorn! This is one of the new tools in Mario’s plumber belt and by grabbing this item the Nintendo veteran transforms into Flying Squirrel mode. Following a little run up, Mario leaps and extends his arms to reveal wing-like flaps which enable him to glide gently in the air and collect a previously unobtainable big gold coin.
The scene shifts and Mario is joined by his brother Luigi in a free-fall using the Flying Squirrel suits to demonstrate the directional glide of the new suit by gathering up a spiralling chain of coins – all the while dodging a new unknown enemy minion, a series of small side-to-side flying rodents.
We warp forward to a dark forest scenario, with some familiar foes patrolling. Goombas and Koopa Troopers provide an obstacle for Mario but something’s awry. These enemies are HUGE! Mario needs to jump up high to pop a Goomba around four times the normal size, breaking it into a number of regular sized and more easily beatable targets.
What would a Super Mario game be without those troublesome underwater levels? Well that’s what we see next, and it seems the usually testing swimming stages are made even more difficult on the Wii U with the introduction of a massive underwater eel-dragon hybrid. Even after landing a few fireballs on the beast’s bonce, Mario cause to affect as his comrades, Luigi and a pair of Toads scoop up some valuable red coins.
Moving on again to an aerial moving platform level, Mario avoids a series of Goomba which are again not quite as we remember, these have mysterious raised parts to their heads which kind of resemble the head of a LEGO person – the reason for this isn’t shown but we’ll find out for certain when the game comes out!
Another interesting aspect to the gameplay comes as Mario hits up another question box to find a pink egg. Yoshi – You’d think? Not quite. A new small, more rotund pink dino hatches, and when Mario picks it up the creature can gobble up foes like his distant cousin, but can also inflate to offer floatation after a big jump, and with a mid-air twist can provide an additional upward boost.
The new dino, believed to be Baby Yoshi, has a few other surprises that we get to see more of in the next scene, which takes place in a grassy, icy landscape. Here, Mario is reunited with Luigi and the Toads, all of whom carry a blue Baby Yoshi. This little fellow, like his pink sibling, can not only eat enemies but also has a special skill- he can blow out bubbles which capture foes and turn them into gold coins. This will prove handy for a long range offensive on often-troubling minions like the Hammer Bros., who happen to be its target in this sequence. The bubbles appear to be a bit random in their direction and could also prove to be a little unpredictable!
Next up is a ghost-infested level with platforms over a deadly acid lake! Mario must navigate through circling Boos and the background of this level is quite interesting. It’s a night time setting based on Van Gogh-style artwork, like nothing seen in a SMB title before. This, and the shine and texture on the green pipes, really show off the impressive new HD visuals of New Super Mario Bros. U.
We move then to a snowy-peaked star-lit setting with Mario and his multiplayer mates bounding from giant glowing rotating stars to avoid another new enemy waiting below. These enemies resemble a small black Piranha Plant, but combined with the snapping jaws and appetite of a Chomp.
Back to the land of the giants next and we see more of those quadruple sized Goombas and for the first time, an oversized red Koopa Trooper. Mario takes out this massive minion leaving just his shell, which gets hurtled on a path of destruction. We don’t see, however, if the shell can be picked up. It’s unlikely – but we may be yet to see a super-sized Mario like in previous games who can handle such a sizeable weapon!
The Baby Yoshi appears one more time, again in a different colour with a different ability as Mario and pals make their way across wooden platforms. The yellow dino shines brightly like a little sun, illuminating an otherwise darkened setting.
The footage ends as Mario runs through that grassy, icy landscape we saw earlier, and after grabbing some coins the plumber is confronted by an enormous yellow vine which sprouts from the ground and shows off the 2D game’s high definition depth and “3D” perspective. Leaves grow from the stem and quickly turn an autumn brown and drop off, but not before Mario has time to bound from each one, ascending from view as the trailer comes to a close.
The new Super Mario Bros. U looks like great fun and is a serious graphic upgrade on previous titles – and for veteran gamers, another throwback to that classic time-tested appeal of the 2D sidescroller. It can also be played on the main TV screen or switched to be played solo on the smaller GamePad controller with its 6.2-inch screen.
Somewhat disappointly though, and unlike last year’s E3 Wii U unveiling and tease of what was then known as New Super Mario Mii, the “Mii” element which was so hyped seems to be non-existent a year later. With no sign of our personalised Mii’s taking part in the game play, this limits our character selections to Mario, Luigi and various coloured Toads. Nintendo has however promised a social element accessible through the new touchscreen GamePad and using our Miis in the newly announced Miiverse to allow us to share high scores and tips, like where to find secret warp portals with our online Wii U owning pals.