Today I’m going to write a short review for Super Mario Wii U. I’ve completed the main story and am missing a few coins to go check out the “star world”. Maybe there is an entire secret game attached to this one that I’ve already played but I’m going to assume that I’ve experienced what there is to experience.
Normally I’d be worried to make such an assumption but I think it is pretty clear that this game is predictable.
That’s not to say that you shouldn’t play it. This is one of the most solid and well designed platformers that I’ve experienced in years. Also as a social experience it is delightful to play with your friends or family (my experience being with my wife which was grade A, would play again). In fact if I had to just come out and say it right now I’d say on my grading scale this is a solid “good”.
So if that’s all you want to take away from this you will not be less for it. But I do want to discuss the problem with this game that I find somewhat alarming. I’m not sure if it was a matter of turnover, maybe a lot of the visionaries involved have quit and moved on, or perhaps the superiors at Nintendo have started putting in more input where they shouldn’t, but it is painfully obvious that Nintendo doesn’t know why Mario is popular anymore.
Allow me for a moment to take you through my personal history of the Mario Brothers.
There you are playing Super Mario Bros, possibly the most amazing feat of video gaming platforming that has existed up until this point. You are experiencing something surreal, something visceral, you are experiencing something that hasn’t been perfected quite like this in your lifetime. This game admittedly has lost a bit of its strength in modern times, the controls are a bit floaty but if you can get passed that you will find yourself genuinely impressed with how well this game was designed.
The foundation was set for the future. Each villain had their place and each location had memorable music and visuals to enthrall you. Hell if you look you’ll notice that bush up there is the same sprite as the cloud in the top left. Crazy stuff? Never noticed that before I imagine.
So you thought there is no way that there could be a genuine improvement on this, Nintendo is in for a hard time. Then the next genuine release in the US hit and if you are anything like me it blew your mind.
What was this game?! It’s almost vulgar how damn good this game is! They took literally everything about the first game and they made it explode in front of you! The game looked gorgeous, the characters all fit. Each location was memorable and fantastic. The music was even better! The villains were fantastic and the Koopa Kids were each delightful and captured your heart. Nintendo was so baller that Mario had become more well known in the US than Mickey Mouse.
So obviously, this was it. This was the pinnacle. They understood how to do this, they knew what people loved and what a true experience was. They knew how to make you feel like this lost plumber in an epic adventure to save a beautiful and innocent princess. Games of this quality destroyed my young grades, this is still a masterpiece. Go download it or get out your NES, it still handles like a dream and is a genuinely wonderful experience that nobody should miss. This isn’t nostalgia, I ran through this game in the last 6 months. And I’m experiencing, once again, the next grand step in the Mario Journey. Nintendo looked at Mario 3 and said.
Sure that’s cool.
I mean yeah, we did pretty darn good guys. Back rubs and hookers all around.
But follow me here, what if we took all this and we cranked the awesome up to 9 trillion?
Done. Send me my check I’ll be at the Villa.
Super Mario is, speaking as someone who was just playing it in December, a masterpiece. A work of art in every sense of the word. The secrets, the gameplay, the music, the controls, the characters, the story, the every single gosh darn thing. There is so much to this game that you almost feel like Nintendo just said “You know what?! Fuck it, lets just make the best game and then we’ll never have to work again.”
They understood where things went. Each time you saw a boo, each time you saw a koopa, or a goomba, or a bullet bill it felt organic. You understood and it all felt right. You never found yourself stumbling over two awkwardly matched up villains, each experience was carefully crafted by artisans.
You probably had to consult your doctor because the response you had to this certainly lasted longer than 4 hours.
I remember watching my parents hook up the SNES and sit down and get locked into this thing. They never play games, or at least rarely did then, and this was the complete focus of their attention. I tried to sneak my food to the dog so that I could join them and got caught. I remember this clearly, I remember watching my mother try and learn the cap bounce with Mario and having the grandest time of her life.
This was no casual nonsense, this was a genuine experience that any person could enjoy. This was not patronizing nonsense, there was no clapping of children or cheers. You were Mario, you started your adventure at a Hut and you’ll be damned if you will experience anything but immersion. Bowser is going to feel your boot up his ass by the end of this, and the princess is going to give you a smooch on the forehead.
Shit. is. going. down.
So what do you do? What do you do when you’ve conquered the two dimensional world. You’ve shown people how an adventure game is done, how to make secrets copious and exciting. How to make putting a key into a hole a moment to celebrate. Well you look at all those people doing three dimensional games and say.
Yeah, cute, but you know.
I mean, not to be smug, but I was just thinking.
How about we make the most baller ass experience to be felt yet in three dimensions?
That’s cool, I don’t need this many groupies. Some of you will need to come back for the next segment.
Super Mario 64 did things nobody else had done and it did them incredibly well. They took risk after risk and the entire experience was so dense it threatened to create a black hole in your living room. I took to this game like a fish to water and my father was dumbfounded at how well I was able to move around in this three dimensional world.
But it felt organic, I felt like the controller was an extension of my body. I’ve heard recently some people badmouth the controls as feeling floaty now but for the life of me this feels game still feels much easier to control than Super Mario 3D on the 3DS. I loved every second of this game. The same comments from every previous game were true here, by todays standards it might not be “beautiful” but for the time it was a breathrough in every sense of the word.
If you like something about a 3D video game you are playing now, this game probably should be thanked for it. Super Mario 64 was one of the boldest experiences in my life. I would even find Super Mario Sunshine to be an excellent polishing of a superb first attempt.
And so we reach the crescendo, the moment where the quality of Mario collided with my literal emotional feeling towards the series.
What was this? Who made this? Certainly not the current Mario teams. You see how badass he looks up there? There is a reason, because he was in a badass game. Super Mario Galaxy was an experience and not one that I’ll ever regret having been a part of. It was the final chapter on a series of games that truly made my life happier. I had seen time and again moments of excellence that far shadowed all the competition.
The moment I became worried was when I played Super Mario Galaxy 2 and something felt off. There was something about the game that was less interesting, less enjoyable. It felt more like they were just going off a checklist. A lot of the experience felt more linear than Galaxy and I was wondering who they were catering to. I ended up getting every single star in Super Mario Galaxy 1, I couldn’t even finish 2.
You might think it is a matter of nothing feeling as grand as space, but I still love every previous title I’ve mentioned. They are all fairly timeless and I could easily list another 6-10 spinoffs that are excellent. In fact if you haven’t played Luigi’s Mansion or Super Mario RPG, buy them now, lock yourself in your room, and if anyone tries to stop you from experiencing these games you need to take them out with orbital strikes. It’s the only way to be sure.
After Super Mario Galaxy 2 I played New Super Mario Bros on the DS and it felt so dry. So boring, it also was the beginning of a warning sign for me. This fetish for collecting coins. Do you know why people collected coins in older Mario games? They did it to gain extra lives, because Mario could be fucking hard sometimes. It was an experience that had no problems shoving a bomb up your little overall’d ass if you got too complacent.
But now the games are so easy most of the time that you’ll be stuck at 99 lives from a very early point. So then what? Every single secret is either a big ugly coin or little regular ones now. Once you realize this you realize there is nothing to see. Just make your motions through the level and finish it. Stars felt like they made sense, they were a part of the universe and had incredible power. Stars made you invincible, something many children dream of being, what do coins do? They get you an extra life, maybe, if you aren’t already maxed or at some silly high amount.
Coins are fucking boring.
So next came Super Mario 3D and I saw the Tanuki advertisements. “Hey guys look we have old Mario! You liked that right?! LOL!” Followed by “Coins, Coins, Coins! You like coins!” The game handled like snail turds, I often found myself uncomfortable and not confident in my actions. The long jump, the back flip, and other staples of Mario’s Repertoire since Mario 64 were gone.
The levels to had begun to feel uninspired. I felt like if you took the game and replaced all Mario assets with literally anything else it wouldn’t feel wrong or out of place. Mario was more a fixture and his enemies and items gimmicks than actual parts of the world. They had no genuine connection.
New Super Mario Bros for the Wii carried this on further. The worlds were linear and dry, the over map was tired, and the entire thing felt like they were just designing a standard platformer and throwing Mario in it. I can’t quite put my finger on it but it just feels so design by committee. They are excellent games in their own right, had I not played the previous games I would be far more kind to them.
But I have played the previous games, I know what Nintendo is capable of, worse I know what Mario is capable of. So when I see this “average” quality it really bothers me because I know deep down there is a genuinely genius IP there. There is power behind Mario and genuinely incredible experiences can be delivered through him and its been proven the same can be said about Luigi.
Now we return to Super Mario Bros Wii U. I enjoyed myself, I finished the game, but otherwise I don’t think about it. It is not even a case of me just being “too old” to feel that way about a video game anymore, my love for Batman: Arkham City is likely quite unhealthy. It doesn’t take a lot for a game to capture me and carry me along a journey of joy.
But so many times I found myself playing Mario on the Wii U and thinking “Why are these bad guys here? What is that guy doing there? Why is this level here?” Constantly the game has content from the old games nearly copy and paste, it doesn’t know what to do so it just copies the previous titles. The introduction from Super Mario 1, levels from 3 and world. I’m sure if they had made the game have three dimensional portions they’d have just bitten off of the newer titles.
Why are the Koopa Kids on airships but I just go straight to the boss fight? If you are going to take the air ship story and bring it back why gimp it? Why are all the secrets either coins or coins? What happened to hidden levels? Why is the star world just a “new game +” mechanic instead of a fantastic secret hiding in the wings?
Why are the statues from Super Mario 3 just alive, what is the purpose of the wizard enchanting them if they are already alive?
Why are the third and fourth players toads?
Who likes toad?
Why not a Toad and Daisy? Or perhaps a new character and Daisy? Does Mario really have so few friends that he’s hanging out with two pallet swaps?
What joy can I find in collecting coins when I’ve literally got 99 lives 3 worlds in? There are another 5 worlds do go…literally thousands of coins that do nothing for me.
The reason I’m upset is not because it was a bad game. Nintendo is so ridiculously good at designing a platform game that they can make them with their eyes closed.
Unfortunately it was obvious they made this one with their eyes closed.
You could literally take 100% of the assets and replace them with a complete new IP and it wouldn’t feel any different. Mario wasn’t the center of this game, he was just the marketing tool. From the very first second you no longer feel like you ARE Mario.
Nope, now you are just playing him.
That, to me, is the tragedy.
PS. The Wii U is pretty cool. Nintendoland is far too good for its own good, I was shocked. Very pleased with my gifts and did enjoy myself with Mario. The promise in the future is that if they can get a hold of context again they will have something for the record books.