When the DS was released it was pretty much a given that the plumber and his trusty friends and foes would make an appearance on the system. It took a while but the appearance is finally here in an interesting format which features both old and new content. Titled New Super Mario Brothers, Nintendo has taken what we love about the series, reworked it a little and have come up with a brand new original game, which has many influences from success of the previous games. There has not been many system selling games for the DS yet, but this is one of them.
As you would expect Mario has to rescue the princess from Bowser and travel across mystical worlds. Now this is cliche, surem but lets be honest, if Nintendo changes the formula too much it won't seem like a Mario, and considering they were going for a updated retro game, it should surprise no one that 'our princess is in another castle. There has been one small change and that is you fight Bowser Jr instead of Bowser although the traditional foe has made an appearance. So Mario sets off on his way to rescue his ever present girlfriend and make the Mushroom Kingdom a happy place again.
Gameplay is nothing new, but it continues the Mario tradition of ultra addictive platform gaming with some cute characters and challenging puzzles. In fact one of the coolest parts of the game appears right from the get go with some parts first level being an entire recreation of the original Mario brothers level, first seen twenty years ago. From there Mario has to jump, swim, bounce and smash his way through many worlds to get his love back.
That's not to say there have been no changes though. There have been a few but Nintendo was obviously very careful to keep the addictive nature of the series in tact. Everything which has changed fits well in the universe such as the small mushroom which makes Mario tiny, allowing him to find secret passages and Koopa Mario, where he wears a big shell to help bash enemies. However the biggest change is Giant Mario where Mario becomes huge, and can smash most things in his path, it can be used to excellent effect in boss fights. There has also been one negative change in that the game seems much shorter than previous Marios, with around eight hours of game time on offer.
Aside from the single player game, Nintendo has also included many mini games which use the stylus a lot more than the main game. They are split into four sections and range from shooting catapults, to a sort of Mario style poker game. It is here the power of the DS shines as well with more advanced graphics than that on display in the single player side of the game. Interestingly, these are all unlocked from the start with progress in the single player not required.
The locations of the worlds are wide and varied but we can't help but feel we've seen it all before, and that's because we have. There is the typical ice world, rock world and underwater world but the levels have been redesigned. Also the fact that this is not much of a detriment to the game shows how strong the single player side of the title is and how, as always gameplay, conquers graphics.
The visuals to be honest are quite lackluster. The single player game is really a GBA game with a little more polish but there are a few features which distinguish the DS game. Obviously the stylus is one, but as well as this a small aesthetic feature is present and that is, when Mario heads underground the action switches to the bottom screen. This can stop your neck getting sore which is a big advantage to those playing for extended times.
New Super Mario Brothers is one of the best, if not the best game on the DS right now. Nintendo has really captured the essence and features of what makes the series so popular and why it is one of the most revered and well recognized game series ever made. If you own a DS you must own this game, and if you don't own one, well it's almost good enough to enforce a purchase.