New Super Mario Bros. U
Enjoy it folks. It and Lego City are pretty much the only worthwhile Wii U games until September.
Vivid, colourful and creative. Same old same old. That's not a bad thing, but it's certainly nothing revolutionary. Everything is well-polished and it looks very good in high definition.
I have noticed some areas of jagged geometry on the world map though; nothing you'd spot if you weren't looking for it but at the same time rather lazy for a game on this hardware.
There are some pretty neat in-level effects, such as fog clouds and whatnot. Particularly noticeable is the rim lighting that turns up on the walls/floors whenever something luminescent is near them (for instance a fireball, or a Star-powered Mario). It's an appreciable effect.
The game looks good. It won't blow your mind visually but it's still quite pretty.
A lot of the staple tunes of the 'New' series return here and...some I feel have overstayed their welcome a bit. Some of the new tracks are quite wonderful though. A particular standout is the world map music for Peach's Castle, which is a sinister-sounding remix of the castle's background music in Mario 64.
Just like the graphics, the music is exactly what you'd expect to find. It's good, but aside from one particular track, it's not super memorable.
Yoshi appears in this game and, a la Super Mario World, hitching a ride adds percussion to the music. In a nice added bonus, there are Baby Yoshis in the game as well who, when held, add harmonious choir to the music.
The sound effects are the exact same as the previous 'New' titles.
I will say that finishing a world made me smile every time because it ends with a dramatic off-screen explosion of the boss's airship followed by a simple, goofy "YAY!" from Mario.
The same super basic story of all traditional Mario games. Bowser kidnaps Princess, Mario must save Princess by traversing multiple lands.
There's a bit of very slight formula alteration such as the final castle being Peach's own castle after being seized and altered by Bowser and the koopalings (as opposed to it being a castle that already belonged to them). Additionally, the final boss of each world is fought on their own airship which you board after completing their respective castle. These have no effect on the gameplay, but it's nice to seem some minor alterations to how things are approached in what is admittedly a very tired series.
Once again, we're given the Mario 3-style World Map, but certain hidden levels allow for considerable sequence breaking.
Presentation is all around appropriate and pleasing.
New Super Mario Bros. U, of course, plays just like all of the games in the New Super Mario Bros. series. No drastic controls or physics alterations (none at all, really), and no real surprises.
The new Flying Squirrel Suit is neat and a welcome addition. It's a well-balanced power-up that's fun to use. I miss when a new Mario game meant more than just 1 new power-up though. Several of the power-ups from the previous titles (such as the Penguin Suit and Propeller Hat) return after completing the game as they can be obtained in the secret Star Road world.
The game's overall flow is highly reminiscent of Super Mario World, even featuring a highly similar world map, if traversed in a different order. The aforementioned hidden levels introduce new paths, and some levels can be completed in interchangeable orders.
One thing you're likely to notice coming into this game if you're familiar with the 'New' series, is that this game is immensely more difficult than its 3 predecessors; and I can't begin to explain how welcome of a change that is. The New Super Mario Bros. games prior to U, especially 2 on the 3DS, seriously suffer from a lack of difficulty curve.
This game also has a very satisfying final boss (New Super Mario Bros. 2, on the other hand, had probably the most disappointing final boss in the entire franchise in my opinion).
The level design is actually some of the best in Mario history. Nintendo's basically thrown every they have at the wall to see what sticks with the 'New' series, and U seems to have gotten just about everything good.
Replay value is found in the same Star Coin gimmick as the previous three games. This isn't a bad gimmick in order to extend the longevity of the game, especially when collecting all the Star Coins in a world unlocks a new, high-difficulty level in Star Road, but I'm still strongly yearning to see some more originality in this series. Maybe something along the lines of certain items that are hidden that help build something to get you to Star Road. Or have just one Star Coin per level and have it be a taxing platformer puzzle to get to. Just...something other than the same trick of 3 of them in, more or less, plain sight per level.
I cannot vouch for the multiplayer as I
have no friends have yet to try it out. I played New Super Mario Bros. Wii multiplayer rather extensively though, so I imagine it's pretty much the same (with the addition of a 5th player who can create platforms on the Gamepad).
New Super Mario Bros. U is the best game in the 'New' series. It plays exactly like the other games, has the best difficulty curve, has the best level design (in fact, the best level design of traditional Mario games since World), and marginally the best soundtrack and graphics.
If you're not sick of Mario, this is a very good game to have. If you have not played any of the 'New' Mario games, or have only played 2*, this game is a must-play.
*Can you tell I'm not happy with NSMB 2 yet? Very bland level design and extremely unsatisfying final boss. All I have to say about that one.