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He is the most recognizable figure in video games and Nintendo is celebrating his 25th anniversary (23rd in the US) by releasing an old-school side-scroller that pays homage to his decorated lineage. Of course I am talking about Mario and speaking of that lineage, Nintendo threw a party at the Nintendo World Store in Rockefeller Center for Mario's anniversary and I was lucky enough to attend. Take a look at the video!
The new game is New Super Mario Bros. Wii and it takes elements from the greatest of Mario's titles from over the years (mostly Super Mario Bros. 3 and Super Mario World, with hints of the original Super Mario Bros., Super Mario World 2: Yoshi's Island and Super Mario 64 sprinkled in). Princess Peach has been kidnapped by Bowser for the millionth time and it is up to Mario to traverse eight worlds (inspired by Super Mario Bros. 3 and Super Mario World) broken up into 69 different stages.
To make matters more difficult, Bowser has pulled out all the stops. After their 18-year hiatus, the seven Koopalings (again from Super Mario Bros. 3 and Super Mario World) Larry, Morton Jr., Wendy O., Iggy, Lemmy, Ludwig von, and Roy are back along with Bowser Jr. to defend the castles at the end of each world. Bowser Jr. is also traveling in style since Bowser's old airship has been rebuilt and will continue to pester Mario on his quest. Also brought back into the mix are the many varieties of brothers who used to pester Mario way back in Super Mario Bros. 3. Hammer, Boomerang, Giant Hammer, Fire, and Wrench brothers are back along with the all-new Ice brothers, and always seem to pop up in Mario's path at the worst possible moments.
To help combat the largest roster of baddies Mario has ever had to face, Mario has been given several brand new powers along with his payload of Invincibility Stars, Fire Flowers, and Super and Mini-Mushrooms.
The first is the Propeller Mushroom that gives Mario limited flight abilities (anyone remember the Tanooki Suit, Raccoon Leaf, or Cape Feather?) as well as increases his spin attack. The next item is the Ice Flower. Similar to the Fire Flower, Mario throws snowballs now that freeze his opponents in huge blocks of ice that he can then use as stepping stones to make it to higher ground or to pick up and throw at other enemies. The final new item, the Penguin Suit, is a multi-purpose tool. It not only allows you to walk on ice with minimal slipping, but you can throw snowballs like with the Ice Flower and swim better as well (memories of the Frog Suit come flooding back to me now). They even brought Yoshi back, but unfortunately, he can only be used on the stages you find him in, he can't travel with Mario anymore.
This game is the ultimate shot of nostalgia for any gamer who grew up with the Mario Bros. franchise. There may be a few new additions to the franchise like new items and the 4-player co-op gameplay, but aside from that this is just plain old-school Mario Bros. (they even brought back item reserves that you can access from the world map like in Super Mario Bros. 3).
The graphics are crisp, clean, and make this probably the best looking side-scroller I've ever seen. Mix that with the classic Mario music, SFX, and Charles Martinet as Mario and the peripherals for this game don't come much better.
The plot is the same as it is in every other Mario Bros. game, but we wouldn't have it any other way and with 4-player co-op adding new levels of fun and intensity, this could be the greatest Mario game ever. Along with the 4-player co-op adding tons of replay value and a new level of difficulty to the game, there are also three special star coins on each stage that unlock something special at the end of the game if you collect them all...
The only real knock I have with this game is the single-player difficulty. I beat the entire game with 50-plus lives in just under 6 hours and was left wanting more. With an abundance of items and 1UP chances available, there is no reason why you should die repeatedly on any stage or against any boss (all you need is to jump on all their heads three times, works every time). I think Nintendo was worried about trying to cram in every single obscure reference to previous Mario incarnations that they forgot to add a little more difficulty to some of these levels.
New Super Mario Bros. Wii is available now and looks to stack up as the greatest Mario side-scroller of all-time.