Eighteen years. You might not believe it, but that's how long it's been since the last 'proper' side-scrolling Mario game (Super Mario World) was released on a home console. Once Super Mario 64 arrived (we're not counting Yoshi's Island because it was essentially a Yoshi game, not a Mario one), everything went 3D and any 2D adventures Mario was to have were reserved solely for handhelds. We were sure we would never see the portly plumber legging it from left to right on our telly in a new game again. Until now.
There seems to be an unwritten rule that if enough people say something on the internet, no matter how wrong it is, most people end up believing it. Because of this, we'd forgive you for being led to believe that New Super Mario Bros. Wii is a 'straight port' of the similarly-named DS game. After all, the first trailer and screens didn't show enough to prove it was a different game except for the addition of a four-player multiplayer mode.
Let us clear this up right away then. New Super Mario Bros. Wii is a completely new game, and not an enhanced version of the DS title at all. You have never played a single one of the 76 stages in this game before. It might as well have been called New Super Mario Bros. 2 (and we actually wish that it had been, to avoid the confusion).
There are no prizes for correctly guessing the game's plot. It's Peach's birthday and Mario, Luigi and a couple of Toads are at the castle celebrating. A mysteriously large cake is wheeled into the room (you can probably tell where this is going) and everyone is pleasantly surprised. Suddenly, Bowser Jr and the seven Koopa Kids burst out of the cake, grab Peachy and leg it to their airship, flying away with her. Naturally Mario gives chase.
At its core, New Super Mario Bros. Wii plays like the DS game in so much as it has a similar appearance (though greatly enhanced, of course), similar music, a similar feel and a similar general structure. However, there have been many new additions, tweaks and improvements that make this a much more enjoyable game in many ways.
A Peach Of A Story
Some of these changes are large. The map screens are now much more like those in Super Mario Bros. 3, with mushroom houses giving you the classic 'pick two matching cards' mini-game and Toads giving you items in treasure chests. In fact, there are SMB3 vibes throughout the whole game, from the way each world is inhabited by a certain Koopa Kid, to the ever-present airship, to the way you battle enemies who bump into you on the map, right down to the numerous familiar enemies who return for the first time since that game. There are also various nods to Super Mario World too, such as the obvious inclusion of Yoshi (more on that in a bit) and the addition of a spin-jump move.
Then there are the more subtle additions. The flowers spinning as Mario walks past them, the way you hear power-up and 1-Up noises in the Remote as you play, the way the penguin suit acts just like the Super Mario Bros. 3 frog suit when you use it underwater, the way Mario's feet change position depending on how steep the slope he's standing on is... the level of attention given to the tiniest little details in this game is very impressive.
There are some small annoyances. It's great that Yoshi's been added to the game, which is why we're disappointed that when you finish a level with him Mario jumps off and leaves while Yoshi waves goodbye. You can't take him with you to any of the game's levels, meaning he's only available in a handful of stages. It would also have been nice to have had a different character as a fourth player instead of just another Toad, or even a selection of characters (Toadette, Wario, Daisy) to choose from. And online multiplayer with WiiSpeak could have been fun too. These are minor quibbles though, and the good so greatly outweighs the bad that it seems churlish complaining about such trivial issues.