You can find this review in full at GBAtemp.net:
Originally released in 2012 as a launch title for the Wii U, the aptly named New Super Mario Bros U served as Nintendo’s flagship title to get the system off to a good start. While this may not have gone as well as they originally planned, the game stood out to me at the time. Almost seven years later, how does it hold up, and exactly what’s changed for it to earn its Deluxe title?
The Princess is Kidnapped!?
The plot of a Mario game has never really had much substance, nor has it ever really needed to. You have your standard “Bowser has the princess, go save her!” motivation, before setting out on your merry way. While it might standard, I’ve always appreciated the slight twist in this title in throwing Mario and friends out of the castle, in oppose to the princess being taken away. It’s a small thing, but it makes this otherwise predictable opening sequence a little more enjoyable.
In traditional form, you need to work your way through eight worlds: a grassy world, a desert world, an ice world, a water world, a forest world, a rocky world, a cloudy world, and finally a lava world. They’re all things you’ve seen before, and to some extent, they’re all things you’d expect to see. While much of this is your standard Mario, one thing I feel deserving of attention is the single branching point in the world. Ignoring secret exits to skip levels, you progress through World 1 and 2, where you then get to pick whether to venture into World 3 or 4. At the end of these worlds, the path joins together to finish the game in an otherwise largely linear fashion. What makes this small choice so brilliant is the two worlds you’re picking between: the ice world and the water world. To me, these are two evils of the series, but necessary evils. To not have them in a modern Mario game would quite frankly be odd, and despite my reservations I would miss them. Nintendo addressed this by giving the player the ability to do one or the other, and if they wanted to go back, do both. It goes to show the level of understanding the company has towards its userbase, and these details are what make Nintendo games shine to me. This understanding is shown beyond just the world design, including some of the new content in this version.
The most significant addition for me is the inclusion of Toadette, or more significantly, Peachette, her unique powerup. Toadette as a character is designed to make the game easier. Selecting her will grant you an additional 100 seconds in each level, transform every 1-Up mushroom into a 3-Up moon, and provide access to the aforementioned transformation. On top of this, she gains additional mobility underwater, and slides less on ice. Again, water and ice. Nintendo’s way of addressing these is in my opinion perfect for the kind of game it is. To many, the game isn’t exactly difficult, it possible to rush through in a matter of hours. Instead of simplifying mechanics or jeopardising an already brilliant overall experience, they added a new character. Toadette is a character to make it easier for parents to play with their children, or for somebody to be eased into this famous franchise, but that’s not all she is. She is a way for people like me who have already seen and experienced everything to do so again.
The Peachette transformation is largely the same as an Acorn Suit: you glide when holding jump and you get upward mobility for hitting the spin button in the air. The biggest difference is her ability is a jump to propel her upwards when falling into a pit, or any substance that might take a life such as lava or poisonous water. It’s a relatively small tweak to make the game easier without necessarily removing the consequence or possibility of losing a life. While I never really felt I needed it, I can’t deny the thrill and satisfaction that comes from a near-death recovery, as well as the frustration this extra jump has saved. On top of this, she’s generally a floatier character that just feels better to play as. It’s hard to pinpoint exactly what made her so fun or game-changing, but I can say with certainty she made my playthrough feel completely fresh.
A few of these changes have also been carried over to Nabbit, a character previously only playable in New Super Luigi U. Now available in both modes, the purple item thief presents the easiest way to enjoy the game in his complete invulnerability to enemies. Featuring Toadette’s additional 100 seconds on the timer, as well as her updated ice and water mechanics, he is the best way for somebody to take their very first step into platforming. The trade-off for his immunity to enemies is his inability to use powerups. This in itself gives players who tried and enjoyed playing as him an entirely new experience when moving to a more standard character. An interesting addition to his arsenal is how he interacts with items. Despite not being able to use them, the item thief can still put them to good use, transforming each item into a 1-Up at the end of the level. It’s a small addition, but it’s nice to see the items not entirely wasted, especially when your Nabbit-playing friend takes it upon themselves to steal them before you get a chance to power up.
Largely intact from the original release, four player local multiplayer is supported in both docked and handheld mode, and I strongly recommend you try it out if you have any Mario-loving friends nearby. Everything is how you might expect, each player controlling a character independently on-screen and frantically running and fighting through a level at a time. Sadly, the option for the fifth player is no longer present. In the Wii U version, playing with multiple people gave you the ability to place blocks on-screen to jump off by tapping on the gamepad. The reason for its lack of inclusion is fairly clear: the Switch simply doesn’t lend itself to this kind of control scheme. Yes, there’s still a touch screen, but when you think about this as something only available when playing multiplayer, you have to consider how much of a hassle it would be to be obscuring everybody’s view of the game just to place a block. It’s a shame they couldn’t rework this in some way, but I can’t say I’m entirely surprised. With many not even knowing it existed in the original release, I doubt it’ll be missed too much.
This being the deluxe release, I’m happy to see Luigi’s adventure included as well. Originally launching as DLC, New Super Luigi U was an interesting idea. Featuring Luigi as the hero and 164 completely new and notably harder levels, it served as an impressive expansion. With only 100 seconds on the clock for each level, you’re pushed to go fast and sometimes play a little riskier than you might have in the base game. Paired with Luigi’s more slippery controls, it’s an enjoyable and different experience. While I’m definitely glad to see it included and have enjoyed playing through it, I couldn’t help but feel a little underwhelmed. The levels are all still fun, but feel more like unfinished ideas when compared to the polished and precise nature of their base game counterparts. When seeing the goal flag at the end of the level I often found myself disappointed, too often ending before the level could really shine. To some extent, it is a shame, but the challenges present and the sheer amount of levels go a long way in making up for it. They’re fun, but I can’t help but think they could have been better.
Looking at it visually, New Super Mario Bros U Deluxe is stunning. Each world’s theme is put across in such an overtly ‘Nintendo’ way, exploding with vibrant colour and detail. While it might not push the boat out as the 3D titles have been known to, it knows what it wants to do and executes it well. Also worth mentioning here is how the game’s resolution has been updated from its Wii U release. Previously locked 720p, we now are treated to a cleaner 1080p image docked, and a native 720p when in handheld mode. On top of this, the game retains its locked 60 FPS gameplay regardless of whether you’re at home or on the go, even with four players on-screen fighting for supremacy.
This is a game I can recommend to any Switch owner. Though a thoroughly enjoyable experience with friends, the game still stands tall when played alone. Whether it’s worth the double dip is as it usually is something a little more difficult to address. The biggest draw to a Switch port lies in its portability. Pair this with the new character Toadette, cleaner visuals, and a few tweaks here and there, and whether you can justify the purchase becomes tough to say. What I can say with certainty is that this is a fantastic port and despite not necessarily adding much to the base Wii U package, does well in earning its Deluxe moniker.