It's fair to say that even the most hardcore Mario fans haven't played every game starring the Italian plumber. Even discounting the numerous sports games, the racing excursions, and the nightmare fuel, he's had a whole lot of platforming adventures. Each one is a classic, but some are more regarded than others. No one's arguing about Super Mario Bros. 3's classic status, but what about New Super Mario Bros. U? It's got a lot of what made the NES entries amazing, but it came out on an unpopular platform among a lot of stiff competition. Nintendo has seen fit to re-release the last Mario 2D adventure, rescuing it from its Wii U oblivion. Is New Super Mario Bros. U Deluxe just a mouthful, or is it truly a hidden gem worthy of re-release?
As is the case with every Mario adventure, Bowser is out to kidnap Princess Peach. Only this time, he takes over Peach's castle and throws Mario and his pals into the woods. Mario, Luigi, and a Toad team up with the new-to-Switch Toadette to evict Bowser from his new castle. Along the way, you'll fight the Koopalings, Boom Boom, Kamek and all manner of other members of the Koopa Troop. There's a world map to take you from place to place, secret levels to unlock, Toad Houses to visit, and everything else you'd expect from a 2D Mario experience.
What you might not expect is the difficulty, at least if you're playing solo. The majority of U Deluxe feels like a game designed for players venturing through the New Super Mario Bros. series back in 2012. It's the fourth game in a string of titles that got progressively harder, which doesn't translate well when it's plucked out of time like this. It also feels like some of the levels and secrets came about with Multiplayer in mind, which make them all the more challenging for a single plumber.
Thankfully, this Switch edition includes both Toadette and Nabbit as playable characters to ease the difficulty for newer players. Toadette acts as a much needed easy mode for newer players. She gets more time to complete levels and access to the ridiculous floating powers of Peachette. Nabbit feels designed for children, as he can't be hurt by enemy attacks at all. It's worth noting that one player will always be using one of these two easier characters in a four-player scenario. This is a bizarre change from the Wii U version, especially since both Toads from that game are selectable here.
New Super Mario Bros. U Deluxe has plenty more than a couple of characters. It includes the entirety of New Super Luigi U, an expansion to the original game featuring more difficult timed levels. It also has a slew of challenge modes to choose from. There are regular challenges with more difficult stages, and there is Boost Mode. This time attack puts you into several stages in a row looking for coins to speed you up. If you're with friends, you can also play Coin Battle, which has you marching through regular stages trying to procure the most gold.
Once reacclimated to this particular subseries, players will have a whole lot of fun. The level theming is easily the best of the New Super Mario Bros. series, with bizarre abstract touches throughout the adventure. Sure, the giant enemies in Soda Jungle pale in comparison to their pixelated counterparts, but there are plenty of new tricks on display. Particular standouts include the Van Gogh inspired backgrounds of Painted Swamplands and the unique spin on airships seen before your boss fight with Bowser Jr.
However, for every one glimpse at the Nintendo magic, there are two factors holding the game back. The fact that U Deluxe doesn't save after every level is madness in 2019, as is the archaic lives system. In addition, the worlds tend to bleed together, making me remember individual moments rather than strong thematic locations. There's the everpresent "Wah Wah" theming that makes every New Super Mario Bros. game generic, but that's not the only reason.
The biggest issue with New Super Mario Bros. U is how many "bonus" levels litter each world. There are two castles in each kingdom as well as Toad Houses and constant Ghost Houses that show up in later worlds. These levels are momentum killers and look the same every time you enter them. Worse still, because this is a "World Map" situation, it's easy to end up skipping levels and worlds without meaning to. It all contributes to the feeling that every world just flows together. The moment to moment gameplay is still tight and enjoyable, but it's the little things that suffer. This is another case where Nintendo is needlessly sticking to a tradition that has outworn its welcome.
2012 was a long time ago. It was two years before the release of Shovel Knight, my own personal pick for king of the genre. There have been significant advances in 2D platforming on the indie level, and replaying New Super Mario Bros. U makes them all the more apparent. Looking forward, it's likely that we'll see a new Super Mario Maker before we see another real 2D Mario. I hope that game gives us a hint at a possible future. The levels of U Deluxe hold just enough promise that I want to see them freed from the dancing turtles and standard look. I want to see another weird, experimental 2D Mario, one with the same playful spirit as Odyssey. Until that day comes, U Deluxe will hold you over, even as it begins to show its age.
TechRaptor reviewed New Super Mario Bros. U Deluxe on Nintendo Switch with a copy provided by the publisher.
As a carefree way to fritter away a few hours with friends, New Super Mario Bros. U Deluxe fits the bill. As an entry in one of the premier franchises in gaming, the adherence to tradition and generic "New" theming leave this one missing the mark.
- Tight 2D Platforming
- Flashes of Brilliant Design
- Full Package of Modes
- Fun Multiplayer
- Archaic Lives and Continue Systems
- Abundance of Samey Bonus Levels
- Worlds That Blend Together
- The Curse of The Wah Wah