|System: Wii U|
|Release: November 18, 2012|
|Players: 1-4 (With a 5th on GamePad)|
|Screen Resolution: 480p-1080p|
by Josh Wirtanen
Mario's making history again; a brand new Mario title is launching alongside a Nintendo console for the first time since the Nintendo 64 launched back in 1996. Making the event even rarer, this is the first time a new 2D Mario game launched with a Nintendo console since the SNES brought Super Mario World along for the ride in 1990 (actually, 1991 in North America).
The title in question? New Super Mario Bros. U, of course. I recently got to go hands-on with the title while getting some fresh details from a Nintendo rep in a sketchy-looking trailer parked behind the Crowne Plaza Hotel in Plymouth, Minnesota. (No, I'm not making that up.)
After being told to put on the Wiimote's safety wrist strap, and then being briefly scolded about holding the thing improperly (New Super Mario Bros. U requires the "classic style" of control, where you hold the Wiimote sideways instead of pointing it at the screen), I chose Luigi and jumped in.
While I was playing through classic Mario-style 2D platforming stages, the rep helped me through, summoning platforms by tapping the GamePad's touchscreen. For example, if there was a spike pit, he could call in a platform over it so I could cross safely. At the end of each stage, he was able to tap in a stairway so I could hit the top of the flagpole every time.
Now, my immediate concern was that this additional GamePad support could potentially trivialize the difficulty. I was reassured that the game would still be plenty difficult. He even explained a brand new mode called "Boost Rush Mode," which has the player run through a continuously scrolling stage. As the player collects coins, the speed at which the level scrolls increases. It's this high-speed type of gameplay, along with attempts at speed runs, that's ultimately going to be the challenging part of the game.
And to prove it, as I was playing, there were quite a few times when the rep's "help" actually caused me to die. You see, if the players aren't communicating well (or if the GamePad player is especially fond of griefing), it's quite easy for an unexpected platform to appear in the middle of what you thought to be a well-timed jump, sending you ricocheting into a spike pit or some other form of humiliating Mario-style death (complete with that catchy death music we're all familiar with by now).
Oh, and speaking of death, I learned the hard way that the Koopas in the game will pop out of their shells even while you're holding onto them. That's new. And potentially infuriating.
Now, there were only two of us playing, but I was assured that, just like in New Super Mario. Bros Wii, you would be allowed to have four players at once (in addition to the person with the GamePad), making for some intense, chaotic gameplay. This time, though, I was told the screen would zoom out way further than in the Wii version when players get separated, potentially lessening the on-screen "clutter."
I got to toy around with a couple of the new power-ups as well. There's the Flying Squirrel suit, which allows Mario (or Luigi, in my case) to glide long distances. While gliding, you can shake the Wiimote to get a height boost. Then there were Balloon Yoshis, which, once shaken, would inflate and float, carrying you up into the air. Once again, you could get a height boost by shaking the Wiimote, though every time you did this it would cause the Yoshi to deflate a bit.