No Nintendo console release would be complete without an appearance from Mario and crew, and while we will no doubt see a new 3D Mario appear at some point in the future, this time around the soprano plumber is returning (re-returning?) to his 2D roots. Of course, this isn't his first time back, rather this could accurately be called a sequel to Super Mario Bros Wii, so is this just a rehashing of the last one, or, like Super Mario 3/Super Mario World, a game in its own right? Yes, to both. For those of you who played Super Mario Bros Wii, this is clearly an iteration, but does enough to improve the experience that it deserves a lot of praise.
Though his 3D counterparts have reigned supreme since the days of the nintendo 64, Super Mario Bros has long been a byword for platforming excellence. Indeed for folks in and around my age bracket, Super Mario Bros was our first experience with console gaming, forever tied to gaming in general, and at the heart of all 2D platformers released since. The Wii version was a fun return, filled with nostalgia, and with the addition of multiplayer that while hilarious, could also strain relationships. It was criticized by some as lacking the challenge that is integral to the 2d platformer... the same can't be said of its Wii U sibling. Starting off casually enough, SMB U builds your confidence before gradually making a return to a level of difficulty that should be expected of all platformers, but Mario in particular. There's a generous helping of old and new combined in this title, bridging the gap between its earlier incarnations and this newest console. Long time fan's of the series will be pleased to see the return of elements of old, like Yoshi, the tanooki suit, ample secret areas, a wonderful seamless overworld and so on, and thrilled to see that the level design is an excellent return to the standards of old, while newer players will simply reap the benefits.
Multiplayer returns, in all its frustrating glory, but with an added feature/player. Yes, it can be a five player experience this time around, with the touchpad available as a helper/hindrance. A player manning the Wii U's proprietary controller can lay down platforms and mess with enemies (or their fellow players). Challenge modes are a new addition to the series, and a separate experience from the story mode. Distilling the timing and skill of platforming and presenting it in a series of challenges, like, speed runs, stomping on things, avoiding fireballs, they're isolated and entertaining, and sure to be a highlight, particularly for sort of people who complained the last Super Mario Bros wasn't challenging enough.
Super Mario Bros U is a great launch title for Nintendo's newest console. It does enough with the old and adds enough of the new to bring ensure the experience (that has been with us nearly 30 years) maintains the level of charm, difficulty and, well, Mario, that it can be rightfully called a Mario Bros game, rather than a sad, watered down version of something we used to love. It's also so thoroughly Nintendo that it's a fitting title to release out of the gate. While I'm sure there will be a host of new ideas and innovation to come before very long, I'm glad this experience, the Mario platformer, has received the HD current gen treatment it deserves.