Nintendo is continuing their strategy of bringing quality first-party Wii U titles to a much wider audience by porting them to the Nintendo Switch, their desperately needed shot in the arm in terms of their console market share. But is the port actually worth double dipping if you’ve played the original release and is it a worthy continuation of the 2D Mario legacy?
First things first. New Super Mario Bros. U Deluxe is a port of the latest entry in the New Super Mario Bros. Series, which actually isn’t that new anymore. Why the U? It originally came out on the Wii U back in 2012. As such it follows in the footsteps of enhanced Wii U ports for the Switch like Donkey Kong Country Tropical Freeze and Mario Kart 8 Deluxe. In this case, we are treated to the New Super Luigi U DLC as well as additional new content.
As part of the New Super Mario Bros. series, it features a gameplay style reminiscent of the first five Super Mario games. That means 2D platforming of the highest order, with the typical Super Mario World moveset of running, jumping and spin jumping, with power ups old and new. If you’ve ever played a Super Mario Bros. game this should all sound very familiar to you.
In terms of presentation, New Super Mario Bros. U Deluxe follows the revival series’ typical approach of showing us the world as a two-dimensional space filled with three-dimensional characters, sceneries, and items. Everything is very colorful and has an almost candy-like quality to it, add to that the varied settings in the different worlds and visual boredom should be kept at bay for you. Though I have to say it lacks that certain creative spark the original Super Mario games brought to the table, here a lot is just kind of shiny, overpolished and a tiny bit soulless. The performance has constantly been great, in handheld mode as well as on the TV screen.
Just after a few seconds of playing New Super Mario Bros. U Deluxe a familiar feeling should set in. It is the feeling of the 2D platforming gold standard Nintendo have established an odd 30 years ago. The typical momentum based movement from ages past has stayed intact, which in turn means that if you couldn’t handle it back in the day, chances are you still can’t.
The controls in New Super Mario Bros. U Deluxe feel as responsive as ever, completely putting the player in charge of their success or demise. I am also happy to report that there are no motion controls forced upon players, you can spin jump with a flick, but the R button will do just fine. A bit of an annoyance was death. Each time you lose a life you are thrown back onto the map screen and have to choose the level again, instead of just instantly letting you start over, testing my patience pretty quickly although it was always only a matter of seconds.
The sound design is the pretty usual fare when it comes to the New Super Mario Bros. series where the tracks are just so inoffensive and fluffy they could almost be elevator music. In that way, they fit the whole game perfectly and it never distracts from the gameplay. As is usual for the series, a lot of what’s on screen reacts to accents in the music, i.e. giving the jazz hands in time with the singing bursts or actually singing along. It’s a neat little detail and it makes this plasticky world seem a bit more alive. The sound effects themselves are mostly throwbacks to the old school Mario games, which is again very inoffensive. They’ve worked decades ago and why fix what’s not broken, am I right?
So what does New Super Mario Bros. U Deluxe actually do to differentiate itself from the classics? There is, of course, the possibility of local multiplayer (sadly no online). For that sake, you can choose from a couple of characters, where Mario, Luigi, and Toad control the same. Additionally, you have the option to play as Toadette, who can stop and go a bit quicker and in underwater levels, you are able to control her movement directly via the analog stick or directional buttons, as opposed to having to press the jump button repeatedly to gain height and so on. Toadette can also solely make use of the Super Crown, which transforms her into Peachette, giving her the abilities to double jump and float around. And that is all you can do with the Super Crown.
This time around Nabbit is also playable in the base game, representing the easiest character to play, as he cannot be hurt by enemies at all. If you’ve completed a level with Nabbit, it’ll be marked accordingly. With his addition to the game, you are able to have fun, even if you can’t play platformers at all, expanding the accessibility greatly.
Other elements within New Super Mario Bros. U Deluxe to change up the standard gameplay loop of running and jumping are the presence of Yoshi, Baby Yoshis with different abilities, boss fights, the aforementioned power-ups, Toad houses with mini-games and of course, among a bunch of more stuff… Underwater levels. I’ll refrain from further comment. You’re generally getting a lot of 2D platformer bang for your buck.
Content-wise you’ll be busy for ages. In addition to a big main story packed with levels and environments, there are additional challenges putting your platformer skills to the test. Even here multiplayer is an option. In even further addition you are treated to the DLC pack New Super Luigi U, putting the green and lanky brother to Mario in the spotlight. Here the difficulty is ramped up, where the movement of all of the playable characters is more in line with his classic traits of higher jumps, floatiness, and less traction. The level design is adjusted accordingly and the timer on the levels is significantly smaller, with only 100 seconds time per level.
Again, you are getting a lot, lot, lot of content in New Super Mario Bros. U Deluxe, if you are a fan of classic Mario games this should be right up your alley. Artistically it might be a bit less appealing and the gameplay is missing that special nudge of creativity, that just made games like Super Mario World the absolutely timeless gems they are but New Super Mario Bros. U Deluxe is still a very good game nonetheless.
A common criticism of the Super Mario Bros. series is the very low difficulty. Even when I was only at about 2 hours into the game I had already racked up 20+ deaths and there is definitely a good difficulty curve. Taking the addition of New Super Luigi U into consideration the whole package should present a challenge to all kinds of players. Should it all be too hard for you, just grab Toadette or even Nabbit and go hog wild on the levels. It’s all about having fun.
Of course the multiplayer in New Super Mario Bros. U Deluxe also deserves a mention, turning the false promises of a two-player mode from the old Mario games into a reality and it kind of represents the cherry on top. With up to four players you can enjoy the ensuing chaos together. If you move too far apart the camera will zoom out a bit and multiple power-ups will spawn from blocks. You can also endlessly annoy your partners by jumping on their heads or simply standing in their way. All great fun and a nice change of pace to the usually competitive multiplayer fare Nintendo has to offer.
New Super Mario Bros. U Deluxe is a bit like a Minions movie, some elements get on my nerves, but all in all, it’s harmless fun. It won’t win any prizes, but that’s not the idea here. It’s just a good time, plain and simple, and with the addition of Nabbit, it can actually be a great experience for the whole family, no matter what your skill level or prior experience is. Really wholesome. Now I feel all fuzzy inside. I’m gonna go play some DOOM.