As you might have guessed from my first article on here, and now this one, I am a large Nintendo fan. For me, there’s little better in gaming than sitting down with a healthy dose of Mario, Zelda or one of the other Nintendo franchises. There is just something about Nintendo that always keeps me coming back for more, and in the world of Nintendo, the Mario games are the perfect balance of familiarity and creativity that I often crave. Yes I may want something new and fresh like most gamers, but sometimes (more often than I would like to admit) I just want something familiar that I can have fun with.
New Super Mario Bros U is the latest iteration of the continued sub-franchise of 2D ‘back-to-basics’ Mario platforming. The reason I say sub-franchise is simply because I see the NSMB games as their own series now. Especially now that, with the Wii U version, we are on the fourth title and the ‘New’ is still there. Having played on NSMBU myself recently, I can safely say that, in my opinion, it is shaping up to be one of the best 2D Mario games since the good old SNES days.
To begin with, the step up to high definition is noticeable right from the start. Everything from the design of Mario, Luigi and the Toads, to the enemies and backgrounds looks absolutely gorgeous in HD. Every scene is brimming with more intricate and stunning detail than I even saw in the staggeringly beautiful Super Mario Galaxy on Wii. There was one particular moment that when I noticed it, I could barely contain a smile. When Mario and his friends were running over a bunch of rotating stars, the characters light up with the glow coming from the stars themselves.
The game handles like a dream, settling for either the same control system that NSMBWii used (Wii Remotes held on their side), or the Wii U GamePad. Also, due to the additional power that Wii U as a console, there is a consistent high frame rate. This makes the action, although still hectic in multi-player, a lot easier to follow. In short, this game is shaping up to be another must-buy for me personally. There may be a lot of people against the NSMB games, but I am most definitely not one of them.
However, for those who are, there is one more Mario title on the horizon. This title is a little different, in more ways than one, the latest Paper Mario. For the uninitiated, the Paper Mario series started on Nintendo 64, with our favourite plumber (and his entire world for that matter) changed into an elaborate paper-based diorama. The game, and subsequent titles in the series, quickly built up a large fanbase.
The games in the series weren’t afraid to poke fun at themselves with some genuine humour injected throughout the script, and the departure from typical Mario fare to platforming combined with role-playing game elements was a breath of fresh air. For the first two games in the series, there was even a turn-based combat system, which was replaced with a real-time one in the last title Super Paper Mario on Wii.
This leads to Paper Mario: Sticker Star on 3DS. I was very fortunate to have the opportunity to play this game briefly at the London MCM Expo, and instantly fell in love with it. The turn-based battles of the first two titles of the series make a very welcome return, with a new twist of the attacks being completely related to stickers. These stickers represent attacks, healing moves, and even screen filling attacks (as seen by a ludicrous Goat attack, which is exactly as bizarre as it sounds) and have to be used quite strategically in battle. If you use the wrong sticker at the wrong time, it could spell game over.
As much as this sounds like an outrageous concept (and it is a little), it works incredibly well. Something that I personally looked at and thought would take hours to work out, actually has been made intuitive enough to be easily understood in a matter of minutes. The graphical style, incorporating layered paper models (like all of the previous titles) works very well using the stereoscopic 3D. In fact, with the new additions to the graphics, it actually looks like a real life diorama in your hands that you can manipulate and change using stickers! Needless to say, Paper Mario: Sticker Star is a day one purchase for me.
But what of the future of Mario? The above titles I have mentioned are what we know, however there is one important blank not filled in yet … What will Nintendo do for the next 3D Mario title? There are arguments everywhere for Nintendo to make Super Mario Galaxy 3 for Wii U, and I think there are good reasons both for and against this idea.
It is undeniable that a third instalment in the ‘Galaxy’ series would be incredible and shift a lot of units. The biggest plus being that the high definition graphical output of the Wii U will bring the already incredible visuals of the previous instalments to the next level. Next thing to think about is how the increase in processing power could create some of the most amazing set-pieces ever seen in a 3D Mario title, the adventures you could have in the ‘Galaxy’ setting with this added power could be some of the best in gaming.
However, on the other side of the coin, I personally wouldn’t want to see another ‘Galaxy’ game. Don’t get me wrong, I love the Super Mario Galaxy games, but if we’re onto a new console, I want something fresh. Sure, I can’t think of where a 3D Mario title could go from ‘Galaxy’ (that’s why I leave such things to Miyamoto), but I hope that Nintendo try something new with him. We have had the classic of Mario at Peach’s Castle, the holiday to Isle Defino and a couple of trips into space, surely that isn’t all that Nintendo have up their sleeve? I really hope not, if only for the sake of everyone’s favourite Italian plumber.