In case the title alone isn’t enough to warrant your preorder, TYP gives hands-on impressions of GDC’s near-final game.
New Super Mario Bros. just keeps getting better. At E3 2005 the two-player racing demo attracted longer lines with each passing day, and everyone is excited about the near-finished version on display at GDC.
Quite a bit has changed since E3. The refined controls most closely mimic the original Super Mario Bros’ floaty-yet-precise feel. NSMB includes the butt stomp (down in the air) and wall jump maneuvers found in more recent games, but Nintendo has removed the unnecessary 180-flip found in last year’s E3 build. Mario can store a single item, much like in Super Mario World, which is activated by touching the screen. The button mapping is configurable, but I was more than satisfied with the default controls of running with Y and jumping with B. L and R scroll.
Nintendo is finally showcasing New SMB’s single player adventure. From what I’ve played and seen, it is full of classic references and old-school action. Many levels have secondary exits leading to secret areas—the world map suggests that even the worlds branch, with world 2 leading to either 3 or 4, both of which lead to world 5. Mario fans will love other little touches: running over level 1-2 will bring you to a secret exit and the pulley platforms, virtually ignored since the original SMB, also return. Clever gamers will find coin heaven and will have to time their jump to collect the three final coins hovering over the exit. Trampolines induce a spin jump, allowing Mario to either float slowly to the ground or drill-dive by pushing down. Other playful touches include dancing toadstools and baddies that hop to the music.
I also encountered a new power-up. Sometimes a flying block will appear on the world map over a level. If Mario hits the block found within that level he can don the blue koopa shell, which allows him to slide in his shell once he is up to speed. This can be very powerful, as Mario is invincible, but players must avoid pits with well-timed jumps. Also notable are the eight red coins found in some levels as well as larger coins, the latter of which are used to purchase new levels and other goodies (including mushroom houses).
Multiplayer has also been overhauled. Instead of the unbalanced racing game seen at E3, Mario and Luigi compete for five stars in one of five short areas, whose ends are connected via warp pipes. The mode is similar to the competitive mode found in Super Mario 64 DS: a star will appear and both players will scramble for it. If one of the brothers attacks the other with a fireball or jump, the victim will drop a star. The resulting competitions are unpredictable and thoroughly enjoyable.
Curiously, New Super Mario Bros also includes many of the mini-games found in Super Mario Bros 64 DS as well as a few new ones in the same style. They aren’t simply recycled, though: in NSMB all of the games may be played competitively with up to four players, turning New Super Mario Bros. into an excellent party game.