#oneaday Day 9: Is New Super Mario Bros. U Innovative?

Why do I ask this? Well, there’s a good reason as to why I’m asking this question, and I’m going to take you with me into the depths of the filing cabinets inside my brain to answer this little question I’ve put forth. I’m about to show you how previous Mario titles’ have not only revolutionized Nintendo platforms, but the entire gaming industry along with it, and why I feel that New Super Mario Bros. U (NSMB U) fails to innovate on Nintendo’s upcoming console: Wii U.

When the original Super Mario Bros. released on the NES way back in 1985, it brought home consoles into the limelight unlike any before it. The 2D side scrolling platformer was intuitively designed, featured pin-point precision controls and offered a great variety throughout its worlds. Shortly afterwards, people started realizing that there were things hidden throughout the game, and then — OMG! Wow! There’s a minus world? Far out! Yes, it’s a game that needs no introduction, which goes for most all the Super Mario Bros. titles’, because they always seem to do something new that revolutionizes the gaming industry in new and creative ways, as well as showing off the potential of its respective system.

Super Mario World (a.k.a Super Mario Bros. 4) brought back the overworld from Super Mario Bros. 3 and added a ton of hidden paths and absolutely fantastic level design. The new 16-bit graphics engine showcased the SNES’ power and became an instant showcase title for the system. I mean, this is where we did learned how to float and use Mario’s spin jump for the first time ever. Then who can forget that epic final Bowser fight where he’s floating around in some sort of half circle… um… thingy… with a propeller. Oh, and there were fireworks too! Yes, all joking aside, it was a different, yet fantastic end to another stellar Super Mario Bros. title.

Then there’s Mario 64. Aside from the fact that this is my personal favourite Mario title, it’s a truly astounding title that successfully moved platform gaming into the 3rd dimension. This was the Mario we all had grown to know and love, but it was so much bigger, and so much better. The idea of using the castle as a level in itself to warp us to all the fantastical levels was an idea of pure genius and I’m just going to stop here. I can seriously write for hours on end about my love for this game and all of its innovations – maybe a Mario 64 One a Day review in the future? If you haven’t played this incredible game, chances are that you have a Wii, so do yourself a favour and connect that bad boy online and download it off of WiiWare for $10. It’s a truly incredible game that showed off the incredible power of the N64, as well as totally revolutionized the Mario franchise at the same time – oh yeah, it kind of changed our perspective on 3D gaming too. Yeah, that’s a big deal!

Super Mario Sunshine took the basics laid before it on N64 and added in new gameplay elements and gimmicky toys to mess around with. While many consider it to be one of the best in the franchise, something about it didn’t feel “Mario” to me, but that in no way stops it from being a great game with ingenious new ideas. Mario’s F.L.U.D.D. system allows him to suck up water into a tank on his back to blast it back out for short jetpack styled flights, or to squirt — water gun style — at the nasty black goo that’s infested the beautiful tropical world we find our chubby plumber in. The game was stunningly beautiful to behold, with the best water physics I’d seen since the days of WaveRace 64, and offered some of the most unique gameplay styles we had seen before in a Mario title, or since Super Mario Bros. 2 on NES to be exact. So even though it didn’t exactly feel like the typical Mario, this is still the shining star on Nintendo’s Gamecube for me.

Then we come to Super Mario Galaxy. I don’t think I even need to really talk about this one much – do I? If you’re a gamer, own a Wii, and haven’t played the Galaxy titles, then you should remove your belt, hand it to the first person you see and politely ask them to beat some sense into you with it. The games’ take everything that’s great about the Mario titles since Mario 64, tosses you into space with quirky spherical gameplay and multiple gravity effects – just go play the games if you haven’t yet done so! Geez!

Super Mario 3D Land landed on 3DS last year and brought back a gameplay style that’s quite similar to Mario 64. Mario 64, in my opinion, is the best in the series (which you obviously already know) and I completely understand why Nintendo hasn’t touched it in so long. It’s hard to follow something that’s so close to gameplay perfection, but they did it and thankfully it turned out to be quite incredible. Creatively using the 3DS’ 3D capabilities and scaling the game down into a gameplay style that perfectly fitting for shorter play sessions, they created an absolutely beautiful game that’s not only a great follow-up to Mario 64, it’s a game that’s singly worth the cost to purchase the 3DS console. Yeah, it’s that good!

Then we come to our next Mario title that’s currently set to (hopefully) become one of the system sellers for Nintendo’s upcoming Wii U: New Super Mario Bros. U. While I didn’t already bring up the NSMB series so far, there’s a reason for this – NSMB DS was a great game on the DS, but it really didn’t do anything new. Instead, it brought back the 2D side scrolling formula that the series’ was founded upon and was a love letter to fans. NSMB Wii brought the same formula to the Wii after the incredible Mario Galaxy release and for me, it didn’t strike the same appeal that NSMB DS did years before it. It was further overshadowed when the absolutely fantastic Mario Galaxy 2 landed on Wii a year later. While it’s definitely still a great game, I dare say that it’s becoming to be a tired formula.

Last year, at Nintendo’s E3 presentation, they prematurely showed off what has now become NSMB U. We thought that it was just a tech demo at the time, but it’s since been revealed to be a full game, and now confirmed as a launch title for Nintendo’s upcoming console, Wii U. But, there’s a potential issue with this: it’s still a tired formula. When Nintendo showed the game at this year’s E3, there was barely any applause, because outside of the implementation of Mii characters and using the touchscreen to create platforms in game, this is basically the same formula that we saw in both NSMB Wii and NSMB DS. If you take a look back at all the previous Mario titles’ that were used to sell a new piece of hardware, they all do something unique, they make you want the game so much that you’ll shell out the price for the console and the game just to play it. But I don’t see any of these traits inside NSMB U. Wii U is a fascinating piece of hardware that has some extreme potential in the gaming industry, but I feel that Nintendo can do better than this – Mario deserves better. This also comes at a time when we’re getting the first Mario oversaturation in history: Mario Kart 7, Super Mario 3D Land, New Super Mario Bros. 2 (3DS), New Super Mario Bros. U and Super Paper Mario 3D will all release in the short span of close to a year’s time — further making the tired NSMB gameplay questionable for Wii U’s launch. There’s no doubt in my mind that NSMB U will be a great game, but I just don’t think it’s the right “Mario” game for Wii U’s launch. To be completely truthful, NSMB U being the first Mario game for Wii U, well, it’s disappointing. Wii U’s tech alone is innovative by design, but NSMB U hasn’t shown us any sort of innovation, or innovative gameplay for that matter – clearly failing to meet the high level set by its previous counterparts.

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