Last night in New York City, Nintendo treated two of our CNET editors to some lengthy hands-on demos of major upcoming titles for the Wii and DS. We'll have impressions of our time with Wii Sports Resort and other games later on, but first we wanted to talk about New Super Mario Bros. Wii. Here's our first take of the game:
After just 10 minutes with New Super Mario Bros. Wii, my opinion of the game has been completely altered. It's clear that the E3 press conference demo failed to capture the true competitiveness that the new 2D Mario game is capable of igniting. During our four-player demo, Team Nintendo literally beat-up on CNET editor Scott Stein and me, throwing us into lava or right into the path of an oncoming enemy. The level design is occasionally outright brutal, and there's inevitably going to be some frustrating multiplayer moments in game. All that aside, the game looks gorgeous and it's refreshing to have 2D Mario back, especially this time in wide screen.
The game has some characteristics that made us think of Super Smash Bros. At the end of each level, you're ranked on points--die enough times and your character does not even get to cross the flagpole finish line. The player with the most points, coins, and stars collected wins the level. You're then presented with a results screen, reminiscent of Mario Kart.
Presentation-wise, you'll definitely notice some similarities to the DS game of the same name. Some of the levels we played even grabbed the same music from the hand-held title.
There's no support for Wii MotionPlus in New Super Mario Bros. Wii. The only motion control apparent in the game is for the "P" power-up (propeller suit) that enables you to fly. You can also hold the "1" button and shake to pick up a teammate. We also saw a Nintendo rep using the Wii remote to control the direction of headlights on a boat.
We alluded to the difficulties with playing a game horizontally with MotionPlus attached, and we wish our time spent with New Super Mario Bros. Wii was without the accessory. It confirmed our suspicion about having that extra inch bulging out from the right side. Luckily, you won't need to have it attached to play the new Mario game.
I think that as Jeff and I sat down to some four-player New Super Mario Bros. Wii at Nintendo's W suite (after some pretty serious Wii Sports Resort competition) we were lulled into thinking we'd be in for some day-glow, relaxing, comfort gaming. Instead, an ass-whupping courtesy of Nintendo's gleeful staff was administered while I struggled to catch my breath.
New Super Mario Bros. Wii may look like the Nintendo DS smash hit, but the multiplayer gameplay is far from friendly and cooperative. As we ran through each level, frantically grabbing coins, I realized: Mario, Luigi and the other Toad are trying to sabotage me. And indeed they were.
I was the last into a bonus room full of coins, and no one saved any for me. Back above ground, no one waited. This game made Left 4 Dead look like a sunny, altruistic trip to Disneyland. Dying by being thrown in a frozen lake while on an underground boat, I came back trapped in a floating bubble like General Zod in the Phantom Zone. As I flew by, no one rescued me by popping my bubble. They rushed onwards to the flag, ending the stage and leaving me for dead. It was almost like Miyamoto himself was laughing sinisterly from above, mocking those who dared say Nintendo wasn't hardcore.
As the game continued, I was beaten, pounded, thrown in holes, left behind, knocked away from coins, and generally humiliated. And yes, I was Yellow Toad, to boot. While I'd like to check out the 2D levels from a more single-player platformer objective, the multiplayer was clearly the spiritual sequel to Super Smash Bros. And that's a pretty good thing, indeed...even though it sucker-punched the hell out of me.