Renewing New Super Mario Bros.
Why Nintendo's divisive series deserves respect
Here, wasn't I just going on about New Super Mario Bros.? I suppose I was. But I'm on one now. I've got a mission. I've got a renewed focus. See, New Super Mario Bros. is a series that I feel is often mischaracterised as lazy, its existence as a throwback being used as a criticism in what I feel is a spurious, misguided and frankly cruel reception. Yes, cruel. But New Super Mario Bros. need fear no more, as I - Stuart Gipp - am here to champion it, to put my misshapen bald head on the line and brave the slings and arrows of people who I sincerely believe are stupid and wrong. Shove this up your arse, you twats. I mean that in the nice British way, not the horrible American "twot". Please stop using our swear words, Americans. Twat and the C-word, those are ours. You wield them without grace or panache. Anyway, yes. Mario.
Of course New Super Mario Bros. was a throwback. It's a concerted, stated effort to provide a similar experience to the one you remember from classic NES and SNES Mario titles, and it does an outstanding job of this. Mix and matching various tropes and styles from preceding Mario titles while adding its own tweaks. You know, stuff like the Mini Mushroom, the Giant Mushroom. That stuff originated here, and presents novel new ways to play the game.
The level design here is peerless, and one of the most interesting things about the New Super Mario Bros. series is that it displays two very different approaches to said level design whether you are playing on handheld or console. See, New Super Mario Bros. and New Super Mario Bros. 2 keep things tight, small - much like the handhelds they were designed for. Rewards are given to the player who explores the nooks and crannies of each stage, but it's surprising just how different it is from the big console games; New Super Mario Bros. Wii and New Super Mario Bros. U make use of their sprawling, widescreen stages to necessarily accomodate four potential players, meaning that secrets tend to be hidden within false walls rather than hidden pipes, wall jumps and the like; it keeps the game's flow moving, meaning a more inquisitive player can check out potential hidden area while the others continue to bop around.
A lot has been written making fun of New Super Mario Bros. 2's heavy focus on coin collecting. I think it's great; it gives you a fun, compelling reason to do what I assumed people did anyway; collect blinkin' coins. And those coins are stuffed everywhere, with the level designers going into absolute overdrive in order to make sure you have fun with coins. And people whinged about it! They whinged because the coins were "pointless". Of course they're pointless, dum-dums! Something doesn't have to have a point to be enjoyable! It's fun to collect coins in and of itself; Nintendo here just enhanced that, built around it, expanding on something that had been there since the start and was taken for granted.
Complaints of New Super Mario Bros. being "uninspired" baffle me given the status of the series. The reason New Super Mario Bros. even exists is because other, newer kinds of gameplay were already there and consumers wanted a return to Mario's 2D roots. To say one needs Mario to branch out, explore new styles, evolve - it's already doing that elsewhere. The job of the New Super Mario Bros. series is to be what it is - solace for the gamer who just wants to collect coins and jump on Goombas.