New Super Mario Bros. U Deluxe Review
2D Mario games are the playbook with which every other entry in the genre is written. Yet, the New Super Mario Bros. series often feels less than innovative. Playing the Wii version, I got a sense like water was being tread while we waited for the next big thing. Depending on what you want out of Mario games, that either ended up being New Super Mario Bros. U, or all those delightful 3D games. For what it’s worth, New Super Mario Bros. U Deluxe still represents the pinnacle of the 2D platforming journey Mario has taken over the last 30 or so years. There isn’t a ton of new content on display, but at least there’s a lot of it.
Two disclaimers up front: I never played either of these games on the Wii U. All of this is pretty new to me, even if NSMBU came out six years ago. Second, the name of this game is like a slowly-softening brick of bubblegum, so it’s NSMBUD, or Enesembud from now on. With that in mind, I’m a little torn. Aesthetically, these games feel a bit sterile. It’s like all the edges have been sandblasted off, and everything that’s left is perfectly inoffensive, with maximum appeal. The ghost house levels look great, but most everything else is rather bland. More than the graphics, the music in these games is like a neuralyzer on full blast. I can’t remember a single track, expect for the standard castle music. There’s something about that ‘hammer vs pipe organ’ opening that sucks the life out of me. The gameplay is a different story.
A Bevy Of Brilliant Ideas
Every stage introduces something new. Whether it’s a level obstacle, a move, an enemy or an item, there’s always something else being grafted into the mix to keep you on your toes. My first playthrough had me skipping a couple of worlds with a shortcut, which I loved. It felt like Super Mario World all over again. Plus the midboss fights are a fresh slice of Mario 3. Certain musical cues are lifted from previous games, which come in sneakily enough that I’m just elated by their presence. Even the boss fights blend familiar faces with unexpected strategies. At one point I was swimming through hovering globes of water to climb a tower. Another stage had platforms that wouldn’t move if enough weight was on top of them. In spite of the vanilla ice cream graphics, I was never bored.
Rather than difficulty settings, Enesembud uses characters to divide up the challenge level. Mario and Toad are pretty standard, while Luigi makes things just slightly harder. Toadette is a bit easier, while Nabbit is just straight up cheating. Regular enemies can’t harm him, and every item he collects is transformed into extra lives at the end of every stage. I went with Toadette/Peachette since she floats. Never mind the wingsuit with all the swooping and diving, just give me a double jump and slowfall. Toadette feels less overpowered, since her moves are connected to the Super Crown. Yes, it only works with Toadette. No, the fan art will never, ever stop.
If you’ve played both of these games on the Wii U, I’m not sure you’ve much incentive to make this purchase. Yes, there’s a ton of content here, but not much of it is new. For me, Enesembud is a massive adventure I’ll spend weeks on, devouring every bit of it with all my spare time. But all my investigation suggests that this is a pretty standard port of two last-generation games. There’s two new characters to mess around with, but not a whole lot else. On the other hand, having these games on a portable system just might be the impetus you need to play through them for a second time. Like most games on Earth, Enesembud blooms in this format. Pick it up, play a couple levels, whatever you’ve the appetite for, really.
A Port Nonetheless
Nintendo has been in this platforming business for so long, a little stagnation would be expected. In fact, for several years this was absolutely the case. The first two New Super Mario Bros. games felt obligatory. Fun, but lacking in innovation. The Wii U games thankfully broke this mold, bringing in a ton of wacky mechanics and crazy ideas. Enesembud is a perfect chance for anyone who missed out on the Wii U to dive into some of Mario’s best 2D adventures in years. Regardless of your latent skill level, there’s a ton of content here that’s sure to keep you hooked for quite some time. If you’re one of the many Wii U diehards out there, these games might not pique your interest in the same way. The portable element is lovely and the bundle is super convenient, but I recognize that might not be enough. Either way, New Super Mario Bros. U Deluxe (god, it’s like a mouth full of marshmallows) would be a worthy addition to any respectable Switch collection.
***A Nintendo Switch code was provided by the publisher***
- Tons of content to play through
- Clever level design
- All the characters feel distinct
- Music never hooked me
- Graphics are a mixed bag
- Little incentive for double dipping