So, for no better reason than “Mar.10” resembling Mario’s name, March 10th is widely regarded as being “Mario Day”, a day to celebrate Nintendo’s portly plumber, an overalls-wearing mascot who literally changed the videogame industry forever and shaped the home console market of the nineties.
Released: 11 January 2019
Originally Released: 18 November 2012
Developer: Nintendo EPD
Original Developer: Nintendo EAD
Also Available For: Nintendo Wii U (Standard Edition)
After the videogame industry crumbled following an influx of numerous overpriced consoles and mediocre titles, Nintendo pretty much single-handedly saved the industry with the runaway success of Super Mario Bros. (Nintendo EAD, 1985) and, following the “Console Wars” of the mid-nineties, Nintendo and their famous mascot continued to be an innovative and reliable staple of the videogame industry. After a successful venture into the third dimension resulted in some of Mario’s most beloved titles, Nintendo decided to return Mario to his roots with the release of New Super Mario Bros. (Nintendo EAD, 2006) on the Nintendo DS, a 2.5D title that spruced up the platformer’s classic sidescrolling gameplay with new features and modes and which proved to be a hit. Two follow-ups soon followed, one for the Nintendo Wii and one for the 3DS, with both receiving high praise for their multiplayer functionality and addictive gameplay mechanics, and the development of a further follow-up for Nintendo’s unfortunate Wii U console soon began. The first Super Mario title to feature high-definition graphics, New Super Mario Bros. U was designed specifically with the Wii U GamePad in mind and emphasised single-player vertical exploration. The game was highly praised and sold over 4.8 million units; as part of the 2013 to 2014 “Year of Luigi” campaign, an expansion pack was created as both a separate physical release and downloadable content which featured shorter, tougher levels and focused on Luigi’s unique playstyle. After Nintendo bounced back in the home console market with the Nintendo Switch and achieved great success with Super Mario Odyssey (Nintendo EPD, 2017), this enhanced port of the game was developed for the console; containing all previously released material, and some additional features, New Super Mario Bros. U Deluxe was also met with positive reviews and become one of the best-selling games for the Switch.
Bowser, King of the Koopas, and his children (Bowser Jr. and the Koopalings) invade Princess Peach’s castle and hold her hostage, flinging Mario, Luigi, and two Toads far away. The portly plumber and his friends then resolve to travel across the land, defeating Bowser’s minions along the way, in order to rescue Peach and restore her castle to normal.
Like the classic Super Mario games of the bygone 8- and 16-bit days, New Super Mario Bros. U Deluxe is a sidescrolling platformer but, in the style of the New Super Mario Bros. subseries, it’s a 2.5D title. The game allows up to four players to team up and travel across eight colourful, whimsical Worlds, hopping across platforms and on enemy’s heads in their quest to defeat Bowser’s minions. Each of the five playable characters controls a little differently and has slightly different power-ups and mechanics tied to them, meaning that the game’s difficulty is directly tied to which character you pick (Mario is an all-rounder, for example, while Luigi has poor traction, and Nabbit cannot be harmed by any enemies, making him the default “Very Easy” mode of the game). Each character has their own set of lives, but shares any collectibles they find along the way, and you can easily revisit and replay previous Worlds with whichever character you like from the overworld screen and the submenu. As is also the style of these kinds of Super Mario games, the controls are as simple as you could want: by default, the A and B buttons allow you to jump and you can hold the X and Y buttons to run, though you can swap these two sets of controls around if you like. Jumping three times in succession, especially while running, will allow you to pull off a triple jump to reach higher areas. When jumping, you can kick off walls to wall jump higher or potentially save yourself from falling down a pit (though you’re just as likely to accidentally wall jump off a platform or block and die if you’re not careful), press down to perform a block-smashing butt stomp, or press A, B, L, or R to perform a little twirl for a bit of extra height. You can also climb up and down ladders, press down when on a slope to slide down and kick any enemies out of your path, and tap the jump buttons when underwater to swim along. X and Y can also be used to hold certain items or characters, such as a Koopa shell or a Baby Yoshi, and you can release the button to throw these at enemies or to collect out of reach Coins.
Jumping, however, remains your primary method of attacking enemies; with well-timed jumps, you can clear gaps and entire sections of the game using the triple jump and gaining extra height by bouncing off an enemy’s head, but it pays to not be too complacent as some enemies either can’t be defeated by jumping on them or will hurt you if you try. Similarly, other enemies can only be dispatched by jumping at the blocks or platforms beneath them to either knock them off or tip them over, and you’ll also want to make use of the game’s many different power-ups and suits to help take out enemies faster. By default, each character begins the game with five lives and in their base form; this means that one hit will kill you, so be sure to search out a Super Mushroom or similar power-up as soon as possible to gain an extra hit point. When playing as Toadette, the Super Crown will transform her into “Peachette”, allowing her to float and double jump just like Princess Peach is known to do, while Nabbit doesn’t actually power-up from any of the items (but is immune to damage to compensate). When playing, you’re battling against a time limit, which alerts you when it counts down to the last 100 seconds and speeds the game’s music up accordingly to help push you forward. As if this, and the high number of hazards and projectiles you’ll eventually face, wasn’t bad enough, you also have to keep an eye out for the bevy of bottomless pits, which eventually expand to cover the majority of the ground in later Worlds. Handy checkpoints placed within Worlds will power you up and allow for a respawn point, but you still get kicked out of the World and have to manually re-enter, in your base form, to try again. Fail enough times and a “Super Guide” block will appear to help show you how to succeed, but the World will be flagged as incomplete until you finally reach that flagpole unassisted by this mechanic. Your main objective, unsurprisingly, is to head to the right of the screen, jumping over pits, hopping to platforms and blocks, and taking out any enemies in your way to reach the flagpole. Along the way, you’ll contend with such hazards as fog-spewing clouds, rising and falling platforms, swaying mushrooms, giant toppling heads, cannons, temporary platforms, and plumes of both water and sand.
While gameplay is, by the nature of its presentation, quite linear, there are opportunities for exploration; paths are hidden behind the background, leading to Coins and blocks, you can spawn vines to reach upper platforms, and you can enter pipes to explore underground areas, again usually for Coins or to find one of the three Star Coins hidden in each World. Sometimes, you can wall jump beyond the boundaries of the screen to take shortcuts or reach Secret Exits, which create new paths (or bypass Worlds entirely) on the overworld map so you can reach the Koopaling’s castle for that World. Some Worlds feature autoscrolling sections, either horizontally or vertically, that force you to stay on the move to keep from being crushed or boiled by rising lava, and, after clearing World 2, the game will ask you to choose a path to tackle either World 3 or World 4 (though you can, and absolutely should, backtrack to play both of these Worlds regardless). These Worlds add a new wrinkle to the overworld map in the form of the haunted locations (usually mansions, but there’s a shipwreck, too) infested with Boos. Boos will only advance towards you when your back is turned, and these stages tend to feature confusing door mazes, temporary platforms formed by hitting P Switches to turn Coins into blocks, and light-based mechanics where you need to carry a Baby Yoshi to light the way and scare off Boos. Other Worlds favour tilting platforms, slippery ground, an abundance of pits and crushing hazards, and you’ll even find yourself jumping to and swimming in bubbles when progressing vertically through World 7. You’ll also have to watch out for bigger enemy variants, instant-death lava and poison, and weighted platforms that either require you to jump to keep them moving or will stop if too many enemies and items drift onto them. There’s a lot of fun, colourful variety on offer and your platforming and jumping skills will be progressively put to the test as you clear each World, with more and more hazards and gimmicks being thrown in your path; thankfully, the controls are tight and responsive enough to manage these, but it’s true that the jumping can tend to be a bit spotty at times and you can easily find yourself slipping off a platform or falling to your death when you didn’t mean to.
Graphics and Sound:
I’d played New Super Mario Bros. before, so I was well aware of how great Mario and his Worlds look in 2.5D but New Super Mario Bros. U Deluxe is absolutely gorgeous to behold; Mario, Luigi, and their friends have never looked better in 2.5D thanks to the Switch’s high-definition graphics, with each of them sporting cute idle animations and victory poses when finishing a World. This emphasis on adorable character models and animations even carries through to the enemies, who still hop and dance to the jaunty themes playing in the Worlds to not only give you an opening to attack but also to allow you to better time your jumps or anticipate enemy movements. As is often the case, there’s no spoken dialogue in the game and the characters largely rely on gibberish and pantomime and simple cries of “Yahoo!” and “Oh, no!” to make their point, which is fine by me, though you will encounter non-playable Toads who will offer encouragement, power-ups, and challenge you to mini games in their houses. There can often be a lot happening on the screen at any one time, between the enemies, moving platforms, obscured paths, and projectiles, but everything pops out and has a discernible pattern and it’s simply a matter of skill and timing to overcome the obstacles in your way.
Similarly, the Worlds on offer here are just as vibrant and visually interesting as the character models; there’s a lot to see in the background and foreground, often to tease you into taking a risk on a hidden path or entice you into trying a different power-up to make a tricky jump. While the Worlds are pretty standard Super Mario fare, ranging from colourful fields to snowy landscapes and lava-ridden castles, there’s also some fun throwbacks to previous Mario games, like Soda Jungle (which features retracting vines, rotating logs over poisonous water, and enlarged enemies and blocks), and the haunted houses. You’ll also traverse a desert full of quicksand, shifting sand, and statues to jump from, a beach-front and coral reef where jets of water blast you along underwater, tricky jumps to chains and up and across the rocky landscape of the mines, and a whimsical but taxing trip through the clouds. Every World also features two castles, which adopt an ominous stone-and-magma aesthetic and feature crushing blocks, buzzsaws, and rotating platforms, and you’ll also have to endure a cannonball and Bob-omb filled obstacle course when whisked onto Bowser’s battleship.
Enemies and Bosses:
The vast majority of the enemies you’ll encounter in New Super Mario Bros. U Deluxe are returning baddies from previous other Super Mario videogames, such as the mushroom-like Goombas, green and red Koopas, Boos, Thwomps, Chain Chomps, Bullet and Banzai Bills (which are frequently invulnerable), Piranha Plants, and Monty Moles. Most of these are pretty harmless, wandering back and forth or in easily recognisable patterns, but they quickly fill up the screen in larger numbers and some of the more annoying enemies, like the Hammer Bros (and their fire, ice, and boomerang variants) and Dry Bones, can cause headaches with their arching projectiles and ability to respawn, respectively. Naturally, there are also some new enemies in the game as well, such as the squirrel-like Waddlewings (which often carry Super Acorns for your consumption), walrus-like Flipruses, the screen-filling Dragoneel, homing Targeting Teds, and the mischievous Nabbit, who steals Toad’s items and must be captured in a race against the clock in previous Worlds.
In addition to the seven bosses you’ll encounter, you’ll also have to contend with a couple of mini bosses along the way. Not only will your platforming skills be tested if you choose to go back and capture Nabbit (and you really should, if only to get him off the overworld and get his items), but six of the Worlds include a tower guarded by Boom Boom, a muscular Koopa who is afforded new abilities by Kamek as the game progresses. Primarily, Boom Boom will attack by flailing his pythons at you, either in a charge or a jumping, spinning attack, but he also grows in size and sprouts wings to dive down at you. While the arena you battle him in is often altered by cosmetic changes befitting the World (such as water and lava), the area you fight him in is never really a hazard and it’s actually beneficial to use the walls to get better height and bop him on the head three times, which is usually easier to do than with the Koopalings since Boom Boom doesn’t attack while protected by his shell. In World 6, the tower is defended by a Sumo Bro who is enlarged by Kamek; this hulking brute can’t be attacked from above and causes electrical shockwaves by stomping his feet, and can stun you with his jumps. To defeat him, you need to jump into the platform he’s standing on while beneath him to tip him onto his shell and then jump on his exposed belly three times to put him away. World 7’s tower is guarded by Kamek himself, who magically spawns in blocks containing enemies. You can hop around on these to try and jump on his head when he teleports in, but he’ll cause them to rain down and hurt you, or release their captives, and he also flings magical bolts at you that cause the ground to become temporarily unstable. Sticking to a set pattern and staying off the floor is your best chance at winning this battle, and it’s not too difficult to jump on his head when he teleports in nearby. You’ll also battle Bowser Jr. one-on-one twice in the game, once after clearing World 5 and then again after World 7. You need to traverse the cannons of Bowser’s battleship to reach him, and both battles are a little different. In the first, you’re underwater and must lure the Targeting Teds into his craft while avoiding the Bullet Bills that fire horizontally and vertically through the arena. The second battle is much tougher; you’re on a precarious metal-blocked platform and Bowser Jr. floats just out of reach, occasionally tossing Bob-ombs at you. His craft sports boxing gloves which can wreck and temporarily destroy the ground beneath you, or extend to shove you right off edge, but you can quickly hop on his head as he passes by or run up them to bonk him if you’re fast enough. Bowser Jr. also causes trouble in World 8, ramming into you, blocks, and platforms to try and hurt, kill, and force you into lava and also joins his father for the finale.
Before you can reach that climatic battle, however, you have to contend with the seven Koopalings, each of whom awaits after clearing a castle filled with death traps and hazards, and each of them will erratically spin at you in their spiked shells after you land a hit, which can be tricky to avoid. First up is Lemmy Koopa, who tosses progressively larger bombs at you, though you can hop onto these for an extra bit of hang time. Morton Koopa Jr. awaits in World 2 and knocks segments of a giant, caterpillar-like Pokey at you from across the arena that you need to jump over or duck under. This battle’s made a little tougher thanks to Morton shaking the ground with his stomps and the two gaping holes to a bottomless pit at either side of the platform, though you can use the walls to help avoid the Pokey projectiles. After this, you have a choice of your next destination; I chose to visit World 3 first so I battled Larry Koopa next; this pint-sized sucker fires bolts from his magic wand and can be tricky to hit thanks to the three water jets that burst up from the arena floor. The arena is similarly against you when you visit World 4, as Wendy Koopa skates about on the slippery ice and causes icicles to drop from the ceiling. The only way to reach Iggy Koopa is to find the Secret Exit in World 5; this leads you to one of the more troublesome boss battles as Iggy constantly runs away through the pipes, appearing on the floor and the ceiling, and fires bolts at you that can also cause up to two large Magmaarghs to pop up. His shell attack is also a pain as he’ll reverse direction, which can catch you off-guard and result in a hit, but once you figure out which pipe leads him to where you can anticipate his movements and hit him accordingly. Roy Koopa is a pretty simple and enjoyable fight; he fires Bullet Bills from a bazooka and hops up onto the stream of floating platforms to evade you, which means there’s a fall hazard in play here, but I found this the easiest boss of them all as you can just hop on his head, take the high ground, and instantly repeat without him getting off another shot. Finally, there’s Ludwig von Koopa, who hovers at the top of the arena, duplicating himself and filling the screen with diagonal projectiles that can be tough to avoid. Naturally, you need to hop on the head of the real Ludwig to score a hit, and the projectiles only increase with each successful blow.
Finally, after beating all the other Worlds and crashing Bower’s airship, you’ll dispel the dark cloud surrounding Peach’s Castle and tackle the final, most aggravating World of the game. The once lush and verdant castle has been transformed into a stony, lava-filled hellhole; flaming meteors fall from the sky, lava rises and falls beneath your feet, and you must not only cross the sea of burning magma on a raft but also watch out for Bowser Jr.’s attempts to crush and boil you alive. Succeed, and you’ll reach the final battle, which begins familiarly enough with you ducking under and jumping over fireballs spat by the Koopa King himself. When faced with Bowser, you’ll need to jump over or duck under his fireballs and quickly run underneath him to hit the switch and cause the bridge beneath him to collapse, but this is only the appetiser to the game’s true finale. Enlarged by Kamek’s magic and joined by Bowser Jr., Bowser battles you to the end on the castle rooftop, again spitting high and low fireballs and jumping about the place. To defeat him, you need to dodge Bowser Jr.’s Bob-ombs and hop on his head after avoiding his craft slam; you can then commandeer the Junior Clown Car with B, tapping B to hover over Bowser’s head, and then hit R to crash onto him. Like his kids, Bowser becomes a spinning dervish after he’s hurt and you’ll need to run under his shell when you get the chance to avoid being hurt or killed, and then dodge the rain of fireballs he spits into the air to repeat the same cycle over, dodging more Bob-ombs and fireballs as you go but, as long as you have at least a Super Mushroom and are mindful of your jumps and hit box, this shouldn’t be too difficult to do.
Power-Ups and Bonuses:
Many of Mario’s most famous power-ups are here for the taking, including the Super Mushroom, 1-Up Mushroom (with extra lives also awarded with every 100 Coins you collect), Super Stars, and Fire and Ice Flowers. Super Stars are rare in the Worlds themselves but endlessly helpful as they make you invincible for a short time (and speed you up and add a nifty somersault to your jump) and successfully defeating a bunch of enemies in a row in this state will net you an extra life, but it won’t protect you from instant death hazards, unfortunately. The Fire and Ice Flowers let you shoot off a bouncing projectile with X or Y, with the iceballs temporarily freezing enemies to create platforms or allow you to throw them. Other power-ups include the Mini Mushroom, which grants you a moon jump, the ability to run up walls and enter tiny pipes, but costs you your ability to actually defeat enemies. POW Blocks will defeat all onscreen enemies, the aforementioned Super Crown lets Toadette become Peachette, and you can also hover through the sky with the Propeller Mushroom or slide along the ground or water (and fire off iceballs) with the Penguin Suit.
If you can knock Lakitu out of the sky, you can briefly take control of his cloud to fly over stages, and you’ll also come across the new Super Acorn power-up, which transforms you into a flying squirrel and allows you to glide, cling to walls, and perform an arch to gain a little extra height. You can also win P-Acorns from the various mini games which allow you to mid-air jump indefinitely, and you’ll find Yoshi eggs hidden in blocks throughout the game. Yoshis come in four styles, the regular green (which you ride as normal, using his tongue to eat and spit out enemies, chow down fruit for power-ups, and make use of his flutter jump to reach higher areas), and three Baby Yoshis: magenta (which swells up into a balloon to help you bypass hazards), blue (which spits out bubbles), and yellow (which can light up dark and/or haunted areas). Each of these baby Yoshis will also automatically eat up any enemies or projectiles that come your way and can be throw, but it’s usually better to keep them in hand. Every now and then, a Toad will offer you a power-up at the end of a World, and you can play mini games in their houses to collect Coins and earn more power-ups (though you’ll lose out if you get a Bowser tile), and you’ll also find power-ups on the overworld on occasion, too.
There are 246 Star Coins to find in New Super Mario Bros. U Deluxe, three in every World, and collecting them will really test your patience and platforming skills as they can be well hidden or hanging in precarious positions. When you finish the game as any character, you’ll unlock the ability to save at any time on the overworld (previously, the game saved after towers and castles and you could only create a one-time save point), the Secret Island (a kind of pointless overworld inclusion that lets you view the credits and various other in-game records, and the Superstar Road. This is where those Star Coins will come into play as you can unlock eight new challenge stages by collecting every Star Coin in each of the game’s other worlds, which is easier said than done. Accomplishing all this adds another Star Stamp to your save file, which allows you to brag that you’ve finished the game to 100%, though finishing the game as the other characters doesn’t factor into this achievement. There are also some alternative paths on the overworld beyond the Secret Exits where moving to certain points causes you to collide with enemies and be warped to a special challenge (usually involving the Super Star) or be automatically taken to different Worlds.
Being as it’s the most complete version of the game available, New Super Mario Bros. U Deluxe also features the New Super Luigi U content, which excises Mario from the playable roster, expands upon Luigi’s controls and physics to make him slippery and light as all hell, and reduces both the length and time limit of each World. Worlds are also full of references to Luigi, from statues to sprite work and silhouettes and an abundance of green, as well as being restructured into bite-size obstacle courses that will offer the greatest challenge of the game by far. With checkpoints gone and hazards everywhere, it’ll take every bit of skill and precision jumping to best this mode, which pushes you to use your triple jump, loose physics, and the game’s power-ups in new ways to bop off enemies, avoid death traps and hazards, and reach the goal flag. The game also offers a few additional challenge modes, including time trials and speed runs, Coin collections, and 1-Up collections, all of which deny you the use of power-ups, put you against a tough time limit and meeting criteria (like not touching the floor), and award you either a Bronze, Silver, or Gold Medal depending how well you do. Boost Rush allows you to take on rejigged versions of the World’s according to certain criteria (such as focusing on the balloon Yoshi, Penguin Suit, or Squirrel Suit) to nab Coins and speed up the tempo of the game and the enemies. Finally, you can go head-to-head against other players in Coin Battle, or put together your own courses using Coin Edit to challenge your friends, and all of the game’s modes can be played with other players, who will respawn in bubbles after losing lives.
Although I’ve never had the greatest relationship with Super Mario titles since I notoriously struggle with his classic titles and only really got into the franchise once it moved into 3D, I really enjoy these 2.5D throwback games and New Super Mario Bros. U Deluxe truly is an exemplary title that showcases the very best of this side of the franchise. Colourful, visually appealing, and bolstered by jaunty music and cute, cartoony attention to detail, the game impresses with its tight controls and a fantastic implementation of some of Mario’s 3D skills (such as the triple jump and wall jump). While it can be frustrating at times because of the precise nature of its platforming and how inconsistent the physics and wall jumps can be with some characters, this is purposely implemented as part of the game’s difficulty curve and, more often than not, any mistakes you make will be because of you rather than the game being unfair. Every enemy, challenge, and obstacle can be overcome with skill and patience, and you’ll find yourself using Mario’s power-ups (especially the new Squirrel Suit) to take risks that invariably pay off to launch you off enemies and towards the coveted flagpole. The inclusion of four additional playable characters, each with their own strengths and weaknesses, really helps to add some variety to the gameplay (though I would’ve preferred there only being one Toad and to have Peach be playable by default, no matter how little sense that makes) so that anyone of any skill level can pick this up and enjoy it, and the boss battles, while simple, were pretty fun thanks to the challenging castles you have to go through beforehand. Super Luigi U was a much-appreciated additional feature, if one I found far more harrowing and frustrating, and I enjoyed all the extra challenges and features to help extend the game beyond the main story. Overall, this is easily my favourite 2.5D Super Mario adventure by far; it takes everything that worked so well in Mario’s better 16-bit titles and infuses them with the Switch’s high-definition graphics and mechanics, and it was an extremely fun and challenging gameplay experience from start to finish.
Did you enjoy Super Mario Bros. U Deluxe? How do you feel it compares other Mario titles, specifically the previous Super Mario Bros. games? Which of the playable characters was your favourite and why? Did you enjoy the new power-ups and the challenge offered by collecting the Star Coins? Which of the boss battles did you struggle with, and did you ever get all of the Star Stamps on your save file? What did you think to Super Luigi U? Which of Mario’s Switch games was your favourite and how are you celebrating Mario’s birthday this year? Whatever your thoughts on Super Mario Bros. U Deluxe, feel free to share them below or drop a comment on my social media and be sure to check back in for more Mario content throughout March!
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