Review: New Super Mario Bros. U Deluxe (Switch)

The definitive version of an excellent, if formulaic, Mario game.

By Robert Marrujo. Posted 01/23/2019 06:00 Comment on this     ShareThis
The Final Grade
grade/score info
1-Up Mushroom for...
The best version of these games; additions of Toadette/Peachette and Nabbit add something new for returning players and rookie players alike; better visual fidelity; some creative graphical flourishes
Poison Mushroom for...
Too many recycled graphical and auditory elements from previous NSMB games; plays it safe with the Mario formula; terrible mapping of the air twirl to the jump button results in involuntary use of the move

When we reviewed New Super Mario Bros. U back in 2012, we were quite smitten with the title, remarking that it was “the pinnacle of 2D Mario games.” Almost seven years later, Nintendo has returned to the well, taking the Wii U game and its DLC expansion New Super Luigi U and merging them onto a single cartridge. Rechristened New Super Mario Bros. U Deluxe, this compilation also brings with it a duo of new playable characters in Toadette and Nabbit. The pair of heroes help to soften up the difficulty level as well as diversify the gameplay. Altogether, Deluxe is a truly wonderful experience, but there are some cracks in the foundation that have become noticeable in the time since both games originally launched on Wii U.

It’s always felt like the New Super Mario Bros. series is merely a concession to fans and not a true pillar of the franchise in its own right. Nintendo tried for years after releasing Super Mario 64 to get people as excited about the plumber’s 3D adventures as they were his 2D ones, but the developer was never quite able to pull off that hefty feat. There’s a simplicity to side-scrolling platformers that just doesn’t translate when the leap is made to the third-dimension. Even Nintendo, the king of making games inclusive to as wide an audience as possible, hasn’t been able to replicate the level of approachability in its 3D offerings as that of the original 2D trilogy of Super Mario Bros. titles.

Enter New Super Mario Bros., which launched on DS back in 2006. It was a monster success and, despite the continued devotion to the original games that carried through to their myriad ports on Game Boy Advance, the final push Nintendo needed to admit that perhaps the world was big enough for both 2D and 3D Mario to live in harmony. Yet, as much fun as the New Super Mario Bros. series can be, there’s no denying that it never takes any real risks. Outside of introducing four-player co-op back in New Super Mario Bros. Wii, this subset of the franchise is usually rather paint-by-numbers in its execution. It’s a characteristic that, sadly, New Super Mario Bros. U didn’t entirely shed.

We stand by our review from 2012, but after all these years and coming back to the game with fresh eyes, there’s no way of skirting the fact that New Super Mario Bros. U plays things too safe. Honestly, it’s been a long time now since it’s felt like there was anything “new” about this series. The world and enemy design, alongside the soundtrack, is unreasonably formulaic. Even attempting to evoke the spirit of Super Mario World isn’t enough to elevate the proceedings here because it’s all dumbed down by the woefully cookie cutter presentation. Everything looks too familiar, sounds too familiar, and feels too familiar. New Super Mario Bros. hit like a jolt of lightning when it debuted because it was legitimately fresh and exciting after years of nothing other than re-releases of old 2D Mario games. Three sequels in and it’s clear that Nintendo has become complacent with the brand. Copy and paste, rinse and repeat, make lots of money.

Still with me? Let’s clear the air a bit. New Super Mario Bros. U is undeniably an exceptionally well-made and fun game regardless of these drawbacks. My objections right now are specifically being directed towards what I feel is a lack of ingenuity and innovation, not a dearth of quality. For less discerning and casual fans of the series, there’s everything to love about New Super Mario Bros. U. For longtime devotees of Super Mario, however, stepping into this version of the Mushroom Kingdom becomes practically indistinguishable between New Super Mario Bros. 2 and New Super Mario Bros. Wii. If you’ve read my reviews for long enough, you’ll know that I’m fine with getting more of a good thing, but in the case of New Super Mario Bros. U, it’s uncomfortably straddling the fine line between recycling and photocopying. Nintendo needs to put a period at the end of this installment and start fresh with the New Super Mario Bros. series moving forward.

Well, that was cheery, wasn’t it? I’m speaking from the heart, though. I love 2D Mario games and do genuinely have affection for the New Super Mario Bros. titles. Besides, in case anyone missed it, I was very intentionally calling out New Super Mario Bros. U… not Deluxe. Deluxe is its own beast and although it does continue to be plagued with the problems I just outlined, it has some wholly unique pieces bolted on that make this the definitive and superior way to experience U. The most obvious change Deluxe brings to the table is the inclusion of Toadette and Nabbit as playable characters. What they represent is a softening of the difficulty level for New Super Mario Bros. U without altering the gameplay itself. The same enemies and obstacles are in Deluxe, but by selecting Nabbit or Toadette players are able to utilize their unique talents in order to tackle the game’s toughest segments.

Playing as both Peachette/Toadette and Nabbit is a real joy. It breathed new life into New Super Mario Bros. U and I found myself sucked right back in as though it was 2012 all over again. The same was true for the other half of Deluxe, New Super Luigi U; its remixed courses and higher difficulty level remain as compelling as ever. With less time to complete each stage, there’s an urgency to New Super Luigi U that gives the title its own distinct flavor. I complained about the New Super Mario Bros. series being overly safe in its design, but that’s not a problem New Super Luigi U has. I don’t much care for Luigi’s higher jump and slippery footing in this sequel, but it’s part of the challenge and helps to spice up the action. What’s more, Toadette and Peachette have been incorporated into New Super Luigi U as well, so there’s yet another chance for returning players to see things unfold from a new perspective.

In terms of presentation, while I won’t budge on my assertion that the New Super Mario Bros. series suffers from same-y visuals in each installment, at the very least U makes some effort to distinguish itself from its brethren. There are some cool flourishes on display, from a gorgeous impressionistic starry sky backdrop to the large, interconnected world map. What’s more, on Switch everything is clearer than it was even on Wii U. The game would have benefited from some upgrades to things like textures, lighting, and so on, but New Super Mario Bros. U remains the graphical pinnacle of the series. It might not hold a candle to Super Mario Odyssey’s cornucopia of visual styles, but it’s definitely similar in ambition. The soundtrack is good, but not very memorable beyond its abundance of “wah-wahs” that pepper every tune.

There’s one technical quirk that I was utterly floored Nintendo would allow to exist in a Mario game, and that was the asinine mapping of the midair twirl maneuver to the jump button. Fans might recall that in New Super Mario Bros. Wii, Nintendo introduced this aerial move that grants Mario and friends a small burst of extra propulsion with a shake of a Wii Remote. The twirl carried over to New Super Mario Bros. U in much the same way, but for players using the GamePad, it could also be executed by tapping the shoulder button. So far, so good. For some unfathomable reason, though, it’s now possible to initiate the twirl by shaking the controller, tapping the shoulder button… and pressing the jump button a second time while airborne! This strange, unchangeable addition means multiple unintentional air twirls during gameplay that are beyond aggravating. This cumbersome mistake needs to be patched out ASAP.

Outside of that rare control hiccup on the part of Nintendo, Deluxe is excellent. Two great games on one cartridge with improved graphical fidelity, new characters to experiment with, and the ability to play anywhere, all making this the best version of both New Super Mario Bros. U and New Super Luigi U. Lack of innovation notwithstanding, there are going to be many an hour spent either solo or with friends adventuring through the Mushroom Kingdom all over again. Hopefully, if Nintendo elects to bring fans a new installment in the New Super Mario Bros. series, the developer will play things less safe while maintaining the smooth gameplay and accessibility that have become its hallmark.

Leave a Reply

You must be logged in to post a comment.

Log In 0 points Log in or register to grow your Ninja Score while interacting with our site.
Nintendojo's RSS Feeds

All Updates Podcast
News Comments
Like and follow usFacebookTwitter Friend Code Exchange + Game with Us Join the Team!