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This is a review of the main game. For the DLC Super Luigi U, please see https://backloggd.com/u/RedBackLoggd/review/1808911/


New Super Mario Bros. U caught eyes back in the day for finally moving Mario into the HD era, his gorgeous garish art style aging quite well in 720p. Unfortunately, as a launch title for the Wii U, it tragically fell into obscurity thanks to boneheaded decisions from Nintendo itself, and while an enhanced port was eventually sent to the Switch, I can’t help but wonder how much better its legacy would’ve been had Nintendo not failed the parent console.

Regardless, we have to deal with the cards we’re dealt, and given how the Deluxe edition boosted things to 1080p (amongst other changes+), I decided to play it over its originator, and boy am I glad I did as this is truly one of the most underrated Mario games ever produced. If you’re an Internet peruser like myself, you’re probably aware of the ill repute surrounding the New Super Mario Bros series: how they’re accused of rehashing stages, lacking innovation, and generally being cash grabs thrown together by Nintendo’s EAD division.

Now, I haven’t played any other entry as of the writing of this review, but my controversial opinion has always been that the overall SMB franchise suffers from those same critiques: that their core DNA is only ever mildly altered between entries save the addition of one or two power-ups, as well as the requescent visual upgrades. As such, I didn’t go into this game with any preconceived biases the way other critics may have, but even if I had, I can’t say it would’ve made a difference as New Super Mario Bros. U is a genuinely-creative treat. Yes, you’re still hitting flagpoles at the end of levels & trying to save Princess Peach, but compared to Wonder, which I felt overindulged in X-Y design schemes amidst typical Mario templates, Deluxe shifted things into a decidedly-innovative framework.

For starters, there’s a lot more verticality & diagonality to levels, allowing greater obstacle placement for stage originality. Whereas previous Mario games were content with your typical fire bars, Thwomps, and pokeys (oh my!), I felt New SMBU was always throwing in something fresh every other area, a facet that owes fealty to the fact that the devs actually mixed up the environs: that is to say, typical Mario blueprints of yore have been brought back here albeit with a kind of macro alteration. Ice Worlds, for example, boast spinning wheels, giant stars, and kamikaze penguins; Deserts reign home to looming sand-spouts and collapsing Easter Island Heads; and every single one of Bowser’s Castles come with an assortment of gargantuan contraptions, machinery, and grindy apparati.

That’s not to say there’s nothing fresh here -- au contraire, a Van Gogh-inspired blight world, eye-in-the-sky cloud one, soda pop swamp one, and a plethora of Ghost Houses stand as remarkable design feats in the Marioverse (particularly with regards to their backdrops!). But my point is, even those aforementioned archetypes always had something unique added to them (an aspect that no doubt went underappreciated given Nintendo’s reversion in SM Wonder…).

Bosses, despite the presence of some transformative gimmick, are unfortunately standard stuff, and it’s pretty clear, at this point, that Nintendo simply has no interest in spicing them-up for the Super Mario Bros. subset.

Luckily, the layers surrounding them have been sufficiently diversified, particularly with regards to power-ups: see, compared to a certain acclaimed successor, a few of New SMBU’s goodies were exclusively-concocted for the game(++). First-up is the acorn, a seed that gives Mario the ability to boost-up, glide distances, or cling to walls; next is the p-acorn, a nut enabling infinite flight; and third are the Baby Yoshis, hideous-looking monstrosities that, nonetheless, come with their own assortment of tracts (glow sticks, bubble snares, balloon lifts, and of course an infinite-eating auto-shield).

Graphically, there’s not much that can be said about the game without fundamentally repeating oneself: the 3D Mario-style pioneered since 64 looks as crisp & clear here as you’d expect from an FHD title, with the Wii U hardware enabling additional feats like dynamic lightning, as well as particle effects from such actions as collecting, stepping, and killing. With its bright palette and optimistic fervor, there’s always been something homely about the Mario aesthetic, and Nintendo’s ability to consistently build on it whilst retaining that original imprint is a testament to their work ethic.

SFX is what you’d expect from a Mario game: at this point, it’s not really an aspect one can infringe upon due to the established nature of both the platformer genre and the Mario franchise as a whole. The greatest supplement would definitely be the many capacious dins synced to those aforestated jumbo elements intrinsic to every stage, with the forts, in particular, hosting a greater aural zeal courtesy of their autonomous mechanisms.

Music kind of follows a similar logic in that your quintessential Mario themes are consistently remixed between entries, allowing consistency at the expense of uniqueness, and that’s what’s happened here. Don’t get me wrong, there are some discernible changes, from the incorporation of xylophones (Underwater), muted horns (Bonus), and dark synths (underground/koopaling) to every over-map boasting its own special motif (i.e. Jungle - Whistling), but ultimately Shiho Fujii and Mahito Yokota haven’t deviated-enough from the familiar tracks of the past to warrant labeling New SMBU’s score a must-listen to venture.

Furthemore, I must end this review on a slightly-negative note as any individual interested in this title must be made aware of several quality-of-life issues latent in the game, beginning with the friendly fire code. In plainspeak, if you’re doing co-op, there are hitboxes between you and your partner(s) that prevent bypassment without constantly pushing or bumping the other, and while this is useful when wanting to thump someone up towards the heavens, the vast majority of the time it is a nuisance to deal with due to the inherent lack of synchronicity each of us possesses. So yeah, expect tons of unintentional deaths via colliding in midair or getting accidentally shoved into the abyss below (the sole alleviant being the ability to turn into an invincible bubble poppable by your partner).

In addition, dying kicks you back to the map rather than the start of your respective level; manual saves send you back to the title screen over keeping you in-game; and, lastly, Nintendo has once again retained their outdated lives system that literally serves no purpose other than to annoy players with an elongated “game over” screen.

Still, regardless of those qualms, I have no problem calling New SMBU to be one of the stronger entries in the Mario canon in light of its many positives. Just keep in mind there are growing pains in certain respects.


NOTES
+Per Wikipedia, there’s HD Rumble support, the ability to pick from multiple characters besides Mario; and the addition of Nabbit & Toadette for easier circumvention.

++To be fair, the Baby Yoshis first appeared in Super Mario World, though their abilities have obviously been significantly expanded upon here.

-Speaking of Baby Yoshis, one of the most adorable things you’ll ever witness are them singing to whatever background beat is going on. This facet was extended to a few of the NPCs within the game, including Piranha Plants & Koopas.

-Fast versions of each track were composed and appear to be handcrafted over standard fast forward edits.

-I caught a number of references to either Yoshi’s Island or Super Mario World: the giant red boss doors, the Piranha Plant KO noise, lunging lava blarggs, and Kamek power-dusting bosses pre-battle.

My last experience with a golf game was Golf Magazine: 36 Great Holes Starring Ted Couples, which didn't emulate so well. Not that it matters, because I am notoriously bad at golf both in and out of video games, and at this point it's pretty rare for me to pick up a club and try. Yet, Mario Golf has been calling to me lately, and I figure hey, it's Mario so it's probably designed for children, which is exactly where my skill level is at.

I spent the better part of my Saturday morning on hole 2 of Koopa Park smacking the ball too hard out of the rough and watching it whizz right by the hole as I knocked it between opposite ends of the green over and over again. I was 20 over par, Mario fucking killed himself.

Seeing as the biggest barrier here is the terrible misfortune of being me, Mario Golf is otherwise pretty good! Maybe the best golf game I've ever played bearing in mind my fairly limited exposure to the genre. The presentation is fantastic and gets by on a lot of that Mario charm, and the controls feel good and intuitive without babying you so much that I can place higher than 30th in a tournament, so you know... the skill ceiling is set high enough to give you some overhead! I also played this with a N64 controller that I placed an 8bitdo hall effect joystick in, and it made finessing the position of my putts and swings feel much better than it does on a stock analog stick.

I've seen quite a few people complain about how tedious and demanding course and character unlocks are, and I think that's a very fair criticism, but you can also plug in a code at the title screen and unlock almost everything. After being humbled several times by Luigi, that's what I did. I have no pride, there's nothing I hold sacred about this sport. I don't need to participate in an agonizing unlock system, I have nothing to prove to you, Mario Golf, or God.

BUT IS IT A SUMMAH GAME?

I hope your feet are kicked up under the cabana, a cool fruity beverage in hand, because I'm about to rain some Summah philosophy down upon you. Golf is a year-round sport, which makes it both Summah and Not Summah at the same time.

How can that be? Is it possible that Summah and Winter can co-exist? This is a question that has baffled Summah science for centuries! But perhaps we can get closer to the truth by examining Mario Golf and extract, separate, and measure its seasonal essence. To carry out this experiment, I put my copy of Mario Golf into an Amazon Basics juicer and it broke immediately.

Testing Mario Golf against the Summah Index Scale also yielded poor results, leaving much needed answers out of our grasp, like a parasol carried by Summah winds towards open waters. But maybe we're thinking of it all wrong. Why should the seasons co-exist when we have the means of making Summah eternal? Once it's 90 degrees in December, you'll be havin' a Summah forever.

This game with it’s “old cartoonish” designs and challenging bosses, I’m bound to fall in love with it. I’ve played this back in February but then stopped for a reason that I don’t know, but I’ve recently came back and finished the game with 300% including the DLC, and I’m proud to say that this is one of my favorite Indie games of all time.

In many ways, this game is the mirror image of Kena - Bridge of Spirits. A spiritual sister piece, in a way.
Where Kena feels just like playing a Disney/Pixar game, Lost in Random is very much like playing a Tim Burton game. The aesthetics, design, music, dialogue and characters all scream Burton. It wears its inspiration on its sleeve. As a Tim Burton fan, I fell in love with it completely.
And also very much like Kena, the only bad thing about the game is that the combat is bland and boring. At least Kena had real-time combat, so it felt more in your control, which is why I gave that game an 8 and this a 7. The weird card-based combat of this game feels so shallow and takes way too long. Having to spend the first 30 seconds of every single encounter gathering crystals to roll your first hand already does not feel great.
Overall, I enjoyed the story and exploration aspects a lot and wish the game had been more of that instead of combat arenas.