New Super Mario Bros. U Deluxe Review

Poor New Super Mario Bros. U. As far as the “New Super Mario” games go, it was a marked improvement over the DS, Wii and 3DS titles that came before it. But due to its status as the fourth entry in the sub-series, and being released mere months after the uneventful New Super Mario Bros. 2, fans were a bit New Super Mario Bros-ed out. Being released on the ill-fated Wii U probably didn’t help it in the long run, either.

While the Super Mario series as a whole is known for innovation and reinventing itself, the ‘New’ sub-series was a throwback to Mario’s early side-scrolling years. The 2006 DS original was a nice nostalgic experience, and the Wii sequel added four-player co-op into the equation. By the time New Super Mario Bros. 2 on 3DS rolled around, and offered little to nothing in the realms of newness, gamers were burnt out on the retrograde sub-series. That really is a shame, because New Super Mario Bros. U felt like a refinement for the ‘NSMB’ series, even if the “New” in the title was increasingly ironic by this point.

NSMBU, like many Wii U titles before it, has been given a second life on Nintendo Switch (complete with the New Super Luigi U DLC intact). While it would be hard to argue that the title is one of Mario’s finest, hopefully its presence on Switch will allow a wider audience to see what an improvement it was over its NSMB predecessors.

Like the other NSMB titles, ‘U‘ was more interested in recreating Mario’s past than it was in paving the way for his future. It’s still a side scroller that sees players try to conquer obstacle course-like stages by reaching the flagpole at the end. With that said, however, this fourth New installment had a much more playful and intricate sense of level design. Though it may not stack up to classics like Super Mario Bros. 3 or Super Mario World, the depth and creativity of the level design was stronger here than it had been in any other 2D Mario title since those games (unless we’re counting Yoshi’s Island, of course).

“The Van Gogh “Starry Night” inspired stage is the one instance when the New Super Mario Bros. games decided to do something visually different.”

Sadly, the visuals and music, while not technically bad, leave a lot to be desired. It’s almost humorous that this game – not Super Mario 3D World or Mario Kart 8 – was the first Mario game to be released in HD. It looks great from a technical standpoint, but while the 2D Mario games of old were visually and aesthetically distinct from one another, the New Super Mario Bros. games all used the same visual style. Sure, the graphics are certainly better now than the previous games, but from an artistic standpoint, New Super Mario Bros. U – like the other NSMB games – is Mario at its most vanilla.

At least the world of Super Mario is colorful and vibrant enough that, even in this vanilla state, it still has its charm. The music, sadly, suffers considerably more. The music isn’t bad per se, but it’s more or less the same as it was in the previous NSMB games. It can be fun and catchy, but this is far from Mario music at its best.

When you consider that the classic 2D Marios such as Super Mario Bros. 3 and Super Mario World all looked stylistically unique to the point that you could identify them from a single character sprite, and provided some of the most iconic video game tunes of all time, it was more than a little disappointing that New Super Mario Bros. U simply provided more of the same in terms of visuals and audio.

Still, it’s the gameplay and level design that are the stars of the show, and that’s where New Super Mario Bros. U always shined brightly over the preceding ‘New’ Super Mario games. The four player co-operative mayhem of New Super Mario Bros. Wii made its return here, with level design that just feels better suited for the additional players this time around, while also having enough to them that they don’t feel empty when going it solo.

As in the original Wii U release, New Super Mario Bros. U Deluxe can be played as Mario, Luigi and Toad. Unlike the original version, however, Toad isn’t separated into two characters, with the yellow and blue variants merely being pallet swaps for the same character this time. The Switch release fills the void of the fourth character by bringing in the addition of Toadette, as well as Nabbit’s inclusion in the main game this time around, as he only appeared in the DLC in the original release.

“Using the Super Crown on a character other than Toadette…what could possibly go wrong?”

While Mario, Luigi and Toad all play identically in the main game, Nabbit is tailor-made for beginners, as he is unharmed by enemies. Toadette is somewhere in between, as playing as her will turn 1-Up Mushrooms into 3-Up Moons, and many of the usual power-ups are replaced with the ‘Super Crown.’ The Super Crown can only be used by Toadette, and transforms her into Peachette, a suspiciously Princess Peach-esque character who gains a double jump, in addition to Peach’s magic gliding abilities (essentially, she plays like the other characters when they get the flying squirrel suit).

I don’t mind that these characters are made with first-time gamers and young children in mind. That’s perfectly fair, as those audiences need to start somewhere. And these characters will probably make learning the ropes that much easier. What’s less tolerable, however, is now that the yellow and blue Toad are the same character, and two players can’t pick the same character, if you’re playing with a whole group of four, someone is going to have to play as one of the beginner characters whether they want to or not. What’s even worse, Mario isn’t present in the New Super Luigi U campaign, meaning that two players will have to play as Toadette and Nabbit no matter their skill level. Somehow, Nintendo has made the four player mode less appealing on Switch than it was on Wii U as a side effect of this.

Again, I have no issues with Nintendo including easier characters with new players in mind, but the fact that one or two players will have to play as them if you have a full group seems like a glaring oversight. Couldn’t the Switch version have added a few other characters who play like the standard ones in addition to the beginner characters?

The other big issue that’s plagued NSMBU since its Wii U release are the lackluster boss fights. Mario games may not be known for difficult boss battles, but the series has always done a great job at making them creative. Even the first New Super Mario Bros. on DS had a good variety of boss fights. But in New Super Mario Bros. U, not only are all the end-bosses of each world merely the Koopalings, but their battles don’t feel very different from what they were way back in Super Mario Bros. 3. And the mid-bosses of each world are mostly comprised of different fights against (the insultingly easy) Boom-Boom. Only in the late game does NSMBU throw different mid-bosses at you. And by that point, it feels like too little, too late.

As negative as I may be sounding by this point, New Super Mario Bros. U was always a great platformer, and a proper step up from its similarly-named precursors. Simply making it to the end of each stage is a joy to experience, but completionists will really have their work cut out for them by tracking down the three star coins hidden in every stage, as well as the secret exits found in select stages. And despite the unfortunate character limitations in the Switch re-release, New Super Mario Bros. U Deluxe is still a good time with multiple players.

For those seeking a bit more of a challenge, the New Super Luigi U campaign provides just that. Not only does Luigi regain his slippery physics that originated in Super Mario Bros. 2 in this mode, but the stages themselves – though shorter – feature a steeper difficulty. Though the world map is identical in both games, the stages of New Super Luigi U are entirely different than those of New Super Mario Bros. U. The downside to this is that, by nature of sharing an identical overworld, the levels with secret exits in Luigi’s adventure are found in the same exact spots as those in the base game, which is an unfortunate limitation that takes away a bit of distinction in Luigi’s titular mode.

Having both games together, as well as returning challenge modes, means New Super Mario Bros. U Deluxe certainly provides a good amount of content for platforming enthusiasts. Of course, even with its status as the best “New Super Mario Bros.” game, U Deluxe still falls drastically short if compared to Donkey Kong Country: Tropical Freeze, which is unquestionably the better option for 2D platforming fans. And unlike the Wii U releases, Tropical Freeze was released first this time. So if you’re only going to get one first-party 2D platformer on Switch, stick with DK.

New Super Mario Bros. U Summation

Consistently fun level design and fluid character control made this the best New Super Mario title. The levels feel more tailor-made for multiple players than previous entries. And like any great Mario game, it’s held up strong over the years. But the game is ultimately held back by flavorless aesthetics and poor boss fights.

7

 

New Super Luigi U Summation

“I just find the hidden Luigis of NSLU to be a hoot.”

The briefer, tougher levels make the Luigi-centric campaign something of the “hard mode” of NSMBU. A fun, steeper challenge for platforming veterans. But the multiplayer option is less fun now that half of a full group are required to play as the “easy mode” characters. And the fact it’s confined to the overworld of the base game prevents it from branching out more into its own beast.

 

7

 

Overall Summation

“Okay, this level is beautiful. Why can’t more of the game look like this?!”

While we were all burnt out on New Super Mario Bros. back in 2012, revisiting the Wii U installment on its shiny 2019 Switch release, and being reminded of how much of an improvement it was over its predecessors, makes you wonder what Nintendo could have done with a 2D Mario game in the seven years since. With NSMBU, Nintendo finally began to get their groove for 2D Mario back, which made it a fitting ‘finale’ to the New Super Mario Bros. sub-series. Hopefully this re-release inspires Nintendo to test where they can take the formula next (fingers crossed it comes with more distinct visuals and better music though).

 

7

Author: themancalledscott

Born of cold and winter air and mountain rain combining, the man called Scott is an ancient sorcerer from a long-forgotten realm. He’s more machine now than man, twisted and evil. Or, you know, he could just be some guy who loves video games, animations and cinema who just wanted to write about such things.

6 thoughts on “New Super Mario Bros. U Deluxe Review”

  1. I just don’t understand why this exists when Mario Maker 2 was anounced what…a month later? It even has its own campaign for those that want something made by the pros.
    The price is a flat out ripoff too, Nintendo just has a bad habit on porting older games at base price when older HD collections include more and often for 10 or 20 less. Lets compare this to something like the Uncharted trilogy, 3 generally beloved PS3 games versus one of Marios least memorable platformers, or even just the Metroid Prime Trilogy about 10 years ago, this just feels like a bad deal overall. If it at least included the other NSMB games or at least NSMBW it could be a decent idea, but nope, it’s just NSMBU with questionable additions and some cut content due to the lack of the WiiU gamepad feature, so it can’t even be called the definitive edition of the game. If they had to port a Mario game from their biggest commercial failure of a console, it should have been SM3DW, no questions about it.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. In all fairness, we’re looking at this through the eyes of fans who more thoroughly compare and contrast the different Mario games. From a business standpoint, I can understand the re-release. Of course Mario Maker 2 looks to blow this out of the water, but given the lull of new releases at the start of the new year, porting an older game in the interim makes sense. It fills the gap, and there will always be an audience for it (to use an example that hits home how old we’re getting, kids who were born around NSMBU’s original release wouldn’t have been able to play it then, but would now be old enough to play it on Switch).

      With that said, I definitely agree about the price though. Charging full retail price for a re-release of a seven-year old 2D platformer is ridiculous. If I hadn’t had so much store credit saved up, I might have passed on it, fun as it is. And yeah, if they were going to port a Wii U Mario platformer, it should have been 3D World, which is insurmountably better.

      Like

  2. I am of the very unpopular opinion that, as far as level design goes, this game challenges even the likes of Super Mario Bros. 3 and Super Mario World. Surely, it does not feel as refreshing as those games did, as – as you mentioned – by the time of its release everyone was a bit tired of the New Super Mario Bros. games. But to me it is that awesome.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. I feel New Super Mario Bros. U to be a rare example of a token sequel that manages to be the best installment in the series. As I’ve said in the past, what I find strange about the New Super Mario Bros. series is that each one has one concept I like I wished the other games implemented. New Super Mario Bros. Wii had an amazingly challenging World 8, but the others didn’t. New Super Mario Bros. 2 had a bonus boss at the end of World Star, which is a logical way to end extra content, yet the other World 9s didn’t do this. And New Super Mario Bros. U understood what made Super Mario World so great, yet its endgame was slightly lacking. Nonetheless, 7/10 is a highly fitting grade for this game and I agree it is better than its three predecessors. It doesn’t recapture the magic of Super Mario Bros. 3 or Super Mario World, but it’s a solid game in its own right.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Yeah, NSMBU actually is a very good game. It’s just that, like Zelda, “very good” is below the series’ standard. It’s been seven years now (?!), so I’d like to see how Nintendo could improve the 2D Mario formula, since they finally seemed to get the hang of things again here. With that said, it’d probably be for the best to omit the “New SMB” name so that it, ironically enough, feels new. Also, it needs to have more unique visuals and better music. I can’t stress that enough.

      Also, what did you think of my approach to this review, with the brief summations for both campaigns and then one for the overall game? I’m kind of used this as a test for how I might do TV reviews, with summations of each episode of a season (albeit those summations will be longer than those here). I also might use it for my upcoming review of Mario & Luigi: Superstar Saga + Bowser’s Minions and other games that have multiple campaigns (but aren’t simply compilation releases).

      Liked by 1 person

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