SPOnG recently had the extreme pleasure of getting to spend some brief yet quality time with the latest and, we think, perhaps the greatest instalment in Nintendo's much-loved Super Mario Brothers series, New Super Mario Brothers (NSMB) for the DS. While our time with the game was limited to the first few levels (Nintendo has to keep some secrets back for launch time!) it was more than enough to completely and hopelessly whet our long Mario-deprived appetite.
For those of you who are completely and shamelessly unaware, the game is an incredible amalgam of all past Mario outings. Presented in classic 2D but made up of 3D models, it's possibly the best of all worlds. Some of the sprite faithful may sneer at the idea but it lends it self so well to the new game play additions (those revealed so far) that we here at SPOnG can now hardly imagine it any other way.
Said additions include the Mario 64 style butt-drop and Ninja Gaiden-like wall-jumping. These originally 3D-based additions to the series translate incredibly well to the 2D space and add a remarkable amount of freshness to levels that feel very much like the original Super Mario Brothers. The spiky blue shell originally seen in the Mario Kart games has also been included and actually turns Mario into a whirling Gammara-like destructive blue blur that tears through enemies.
Since its release and some initial scepticism towards the console, Nintendo has gone to great lengths to ensure that its games take as much advantage of the DS's special features as possible, and NSMB is no exception. In the brief time we got to spend with the game, we saw just a few examples of this and they - it has to be said - were less than overwhelming. Warp pipes lead to the bottom screen and the touch screen houses a graphical button of one extra power-up that you have stored in inventory, but other than that, very little of real note seems to be done with the bottom/touch screen.
A scaled down version of the level is present to provide an idea of where you are in each board and a few other HUD elements are present, but what was on show thus far had done nothing to wow us in the DS-specific category. While this may seem like a bit of a downer in what was shaping up to be a glowing preview, let's make sure we are absolutely clear; we don't care! We don't need excess gimmicks to help us enjoy a Mario game. A D-pad, a screen and two buttons is all we need to love Mario. Anything above and beyond that is just icing on a deliciously classic cake.
And speaking of classic, any fears you may be harbouring that this game might be something other than the Mario we all know and love should be put to rest here and now. This is exactly what it should be; the first time you put your hands on this game, everything will feel as natural - or even more so - than any game you have ever played. Mario's genre-defining mid-air jump control and momentum have been carried over perfectly and the new butt-drop and wall-jump moves feel so natural you'll wonder why they never appeared in any previous 2D outings.
Other features include the much anticipated addition of wireless multiplayer, with two players controlling Mario and Luigi on the same level at the same time, and several unlockable mini-games. We were sadly unable to try out any of these, but we can safely say that the prospect of simultaneous cooperative multiplayer Mario has truly sent our Excite-ometer into the red more than any single feature in any game in a very long time.
Having only gotten to spend the briefest time with the game, we almost wish we hadn't had the chance to play it at all. As if the wait until May wasn't already long enough, the recently announced delay 'til May 15 in the US has us aching for more.
Be sure to stay tuned to SPOnG for any and all Mario news and be sure to discuss this story in the forum below. Perhaps you have some ideas about the as-yet unrevealed power-ups and features sure to be riddled through out the game?