When this SPOnG reviewer was but a wee young lad, many more moons ago than I care to remember, I always had some sort of videogames around. From as far back as I can recall we had a Colleco Vision wired to our steam-powered television. Then at some point I began to see this NES thing start to appear in stores, on commercials, and even (worst of all) at my friends’ homes. I was seven at the time and we weren’t terribly well to do (sob! - Ed), so I didn't pay it much heed, but it did intrigue me quite thoroughly. Enough so that I started asking for one on a somewhat regular basis, around three to five times a day to be more exact. It wasn't until the system had been out for a couple of years that the constant begging paid off and I finally managed to secure one for my birthday, along with a game by the name of "Super Mario Bros." On that fateful day my life was forever altered. This was the moment when games became more than a hobby. They became a passion.
I was a bright child, leading the class in most subjects, and was always told wishful things like "someday you could be a doctor or a scientist." The usual parent/teacher guff. Then, Mario happened. In that one afternoon I went from a point of pride and hope in the family to a still reasonably promising but seriously tarnished couch potato with so-so grades and a chubby physique. This single game sealed my obsession. The graphics, the sense of momentum, the different power ups, the multiple worlds to explore, all sent my mind reeling with thoughts of the future of games and I was instantly hooked.
This is the power of Super Mario Brothers. In a time when games usually consisted of a static background and a few simple sprites interacting, Shigeru Miyamoto transported us into a fantastical world with amazing lands to explore and bizarre enemies to step on. It is with these most precious memories stirring in my near senile mind that I undertake reviewing "New Super Mario Bros." for Nintendo DS. The task of determining the proper standards by which to judge this game was not an easy one. Compare it to more recent 2D platformers (of which there are shamefully few)? Judge it against it's own lineage? Or just try and give it as close to an unbiased opinion as possible in comparison to all other games in general? Since we are unable to really decide which is "the" way to go (the “debate” nearly escalated to poop-flinging proportions) we shall instead venture to cover all three of the base's as fairly and succinctly as possible.
First is the story. You (Mario) and the princess (Peach) are out for a stroll one day when suddenly, in the distance, an ominous cloud appears over the castle and rains down some hurt. Being the ever-watchful hero that he is, Mario dashes towards the castle to get a closer look, at which point Baby Bowser (no not one of the Koopa Kids like many had hoped for) of Mario Kart fame runs in and snatches peach up. A cross kingdom chase ensues. That's it. No clever scheme, no interesting twists. Just a bad guy snatching the hero’s girl out from under his nose and then leaving a trail of underlings and booby traps to block his path.
For those of you who, like SPOnG, cut your proverbial teeth on Mario games, this is as good a story as we could ever want. Mario games have never been about story and at this point the cheesiness of them is actually a plus. However, if you are either too young to remember 2D Mario games fondly or are perhaps of the more-embittered GTA generation, you will most likely immediately dismiss this as child’s play. In comparison to other 2D games of today, or any day for that matter, it holds up fairly well. Most good 2D platformers, after all, have been all about, well, platforming. Not telling a story. You play Mario games over and over again because the game is sublime in its design, not because you want to learn about the deep-seated root of Bowser’s anti social behaviors.
Which leads us to our next area of interest. Are the controls magically perfect enough to make us want to play the same levels incessantly till we collect every possible item, only to still go yet another time just to do it faster? Read on dear reader to find out.