As a game critic, I continuously look forward to what’s coming down the road of releases. Even now, my mind wonders about games like DmC, Tomb Raider, BioShock Infinite, and South Park: The Stick of Truth. It’s a necessary mindset, as I need to keep abreast of what to expect.
The problem with constantly looking ahead, however, is that the core gamer inside me lies dormant, very rarely waking up because of what I’m currently playing. I’ve shot my fair share of Covenant. I’ve sat through more than enough matchmaking lobbies in Call of Duty. These experiences were becoming old hat; by extension, the medium itself was as well. Video games continue to grow in ways that should knock my damn socks off, but for whatever reason, they were not getting the job done.
I needed a game to tap into my dormant core gamer; the guy who played Assassin’s Creed until the very last possible second before he had to leave for work, rushed to get there, and got pulled over for speeding. (I don’t condone this behavior, by the way). I missed that guy… and I’ve been wondering where he went. This holiday release season could have been a turning point in my life, a time when I changed from “hardcore gamer” to “play whenever I can.” I needed games to win me back, as soon as possible.
It’s only fitting that the company that would bring that core gamer back out of me is the same one that laid the foundation for him in the first place. Nintendo, with New Super Mario Bros U, you’ve done it again.
New Super Mario Bros U is nothing new. It is classic, 2D platforming through and through, the kind of game I’ve been playing since I was a boy. Running to the right, jumping to gather coins, landing on enemies to defeat them; it’s all here just as it’s been for over 25 years. This should have been yet another game I’ve played before, yet another game that failed to light a fire in my core-gamer body.
Yet, everything about New Super Mario Bros U feels so… MAGICAL. As I plow through the levels and conquer the bosses, I can’t help but feel like my old (young) self again. I get that “just one more level” mentality where I can’t put it down unless I absolutely have to. I NEED to beat the boss and I NEED to get the Star Coins, or else I don’t feel like I’m doing a proper job. I haven’t felt this way since Super Mario World, the game I consider to be the best 2D Mario title ever (sorry, Mario 3).
Perhaps this magic comes from the levels themselves, which are some of the most beautiful Mario levels I’ve ever seen. 2D Mario in full 1080p HD is a sight to behold; from the cheery green fields of Acorn Plains to the Van Gogh-esque art style of Painted Swampland, every scene pops with color and pleases the eye. I like the castle levels in particular, where the fiery glow of the lava underneath Mario can be seen reflecting on the rest of the stage.
Even though it’s technically not a brand new feature, playing this game with four friends in the same room is an absolute joy. One of the five holds the GamePad and becomes a support player, dropping platforms to help the four on-screen players maneuver through the levels. The other four control Mario, Luigi, and two Toads as they try to save the Princess while not getting in each other’s way. I can’t describe how humiliating it is for me to jump toward a ledge, only to have another player jump on my head and send me into a pit. Not cool, guys.
It’s not a stretch to say that a brand new system needs a flagship game to show off what the new hardware can do. The Wii U’s version is supposed to be Nintendo Land, but I’m convinced that New Super Mario Bros U is a more fitting example. While Nintendo Land shows off the Wii U GamePad’s functionality, New Super Mario Bros U tells me something more important: that Nintendo’s beloved franchises are still in very capable hands, starting with this 2D Mario romp.
New Super Mario Bros. U is everything I love about video games rolled into one experience: it’s a fun game that’s easy to pick up and hard to put back down. Every second I played was like Mario himself asking “Remember this? Remember how you used to play? Here I am! I’m back!” Most importantly, it’s the game that brought out the gamer in me; a long-dormant side of me that I missed dearly.
Hot damn, it’s good to be back!