Stomping step stone
New Super Mario Bros. DS a good trial run
Now, y’all know I love me some Mario. I’m a Mario girl and have been for a long time. A whole issue devoted to him and his exploits aside, there are few mainline Mario games that I haven’t played and enjoyed. As a connoisseur on all things Mario, his leap to 3D was not one of my favorite things to experience because of the surprise condition of motion sickness. So, imagine my happiness when the series took the sidestep to start producing 2D games again. Nintendo’s first entry, New Super Mario Bros., was a warm-up if not a practice session for something greater.
The story starts pleasantly enough with Bowser kidnapping Princess Peach for the millionth time. It’s standard fare for Mario games at this point and it’s serviceable enough because that’s what you’re supposed to do in Mario games: save the princess. But there’s something different here: a newer style of graphics and play mechanics to whet your appetite for that “new” in the title. The game looks cleaner and brighter as compared to the last 2D outing — Super Mario World for the SNES — and Mario is more defined. Yes, you’re still in the Mushroom Kingdom but it looks newer. The way you play is also new. Mario’s getting around a lot better in modern times and it started here with a new butt stomp, wall jump, triple jump and new power-ups in the Mini Mushroom, Mega Mushroom and the Blue Koopa Shell. These power-ups are welcome additions to the Mario repertoire and are fun to use.
My main gripe comes from the new mechanics, however. While I love that Mario moves well, sometimes he moves almost too well. I had the same issue here as I did with the later Wii version: Mario slides around entirely too much. I have to keep in the back of my mind to undercompensate and overcorrect with running and jumping movements constantly, and it’s a bit much to keep up with while trying to play well. When I want Mario to stop running, it should be instantly. There shouldn’t be extra frames of stopping. Also, some of the jumps don’t feel as clean as they should if we’re basing it on the known Mario standard. It’s all a little too loosey-goosey for my liking and makes clean play a little bit more of a chore than I’d care to do. Later entries have cleaned this up, but it’s obvious here and I can cut it some slack because it has been fixed. Just know that it’s part of the “new” experience.
New Super Mario Bros. has the Mario charm the series is known for as well. It’s fun to play and discover new secrets and see the new concepts work out in a series that puts in the work to innovate and stay relevant. This first game was the stepping stone for the phenomenal New Super Mario Bros. Wii, and you can clearly see where it’s going in terms of the total package. It’s not an insult to say this was the practice run and that practice makes perfect, especially if you’re New Super Mario Bros., and you’re compared to other mainline Mario games, and you sell 30 million copies as the best-selling DS game of all-time. Clearly, this is a mega Mario hit and good starting point for the 2D throwback of the franchise.