Malik (5/23/06)

New Super Mario Bros. (DS)

From Nintendo

When the DS launched in 2004, one of the most anticipated games was actually based off of only one or two still images. The main image showed a gigantic Mario running through a world similar to 1-1 of the classic Super Mario Bros. Beyond the image, we were only treated to estimated release dates.

After many dates being missed (including the first one of January 2005), and after rounds of new hype, New Super Mario Brothers received a name. Then, a short time later, the game was finally given to the public. However, after so much anticipation, and after a long drought of platformers on the DS, does NSMB live up to the hype? More than that, not counting the hype, is the game any good?


Let's face reality...Mario and plot, with a couple of minor exceptions, don't get along together. The usual theme is that the Princess has been kidnapped. The less usual theme is Mario is on vacation, and then in the end, the Princess is kidnapped. So, does it come as a real surprise that this game is entirely based on the Princess being kidnapped...this time, to keep things slightly fresh, by Bowser Jr., instead of Bowser Sr.

The lack of originality doesn't hurt the game. In fact, I'd say the only plot device that could potentially hurt a Mario game would be the inclusion of a real plot. After all, we are talking about a game that is entirely based on...

Game Play

For nostalgia fans, this is still Mario at it's heart. In fact, this is classic Mario in almost every way. We still have the same familiar mechanics (with a slightly altered physics system), the classic moves, and mainly the classic power ups. Hell, we even still have the same map system of Mario 3.

To break things down, the controls are as sharp as they have always been in a Mario game. You can change the buttons slightly, but you'll have two face buttons to use for jumping, and two to use from dashing and launching fireballs. The d-pad is as sharp as it's always been in moving Mario. Other than that, you have start to pause the game, and you can tap the touch screen to release a stored power up (like you could do with the select button in SMW).

The power ups are mostly familiar. You still have mushrooms, flowers, and stars making the bulk of the abilities you can use. Flowers still allow you to shoot two fireballs at a time that bounce along the ground. The stars are still your invincibility power. However, in addition to the classic red mushrooms (to grow big) and green mushrooms (1-ups), there are now a couple of brand new 'shrooms.

One of the new 'shrooms grants the power of super size. I don't mean the big Mario of classic SMB games...I mean you become nearly the height of the entire screen. While in this form, you can run through almost any object (including pipes, foes, and bricks), and you are completely immune to damage. However, like when you use a star, you still die from pits. This ability is mostly new, but people who played the Bowser stages of Paper Mario (GCN) will remember this power.

The other new 'shroom is the tiny mushroom. This one will turn Mario into an extra light, tiny, and fragile man. While in this form, you can enter smaller areas, which often times will hold bonus treasures, and you can only unlock two of the worlds by using this power. You will also descend from a jump/fall slower than normal, and you will have the power to run across water. The downside is that this is the only ability that leaves you vulnerable to a single hit (instead of reverting to normal Mario when you take damage). That, and you will no longer be able to kill enemies by jumping on them, unless you use a ground pound.

The final new power is the blue shell. If Mario grabs a blue shell, he is treated like his large form, but with a twist. If you run long enough to achieve full speed, you will slide much like a stomped trooper shell. You will bounce off of walls, and you will kill foes that stand in your way. You will even be able to activate or destroy blocks that lie in your path. However, your control will be limited, and you will continue to slide in your shell until you stop holding the dash button.

Beyond the new power ups, some old moves from various Mario games have made their returns. You can triple jump, like we first had in Mario 64 (a very useless move in this game), by jumping three times in succession. You can wall jump, similar to how some characters could in Smash Melee (a very useful and needed power). You can also grab items and shells like you could in SMW. You can also do the classic ground pound (hit down while in the air) to break blocks under you or to inflict extra damage.

While many new abilities are present, the game still plays much like a classic Mario game. You have mostly side-scrolling levels that you must reach the end of to complete. Each level will have 3 hidden special coins that are required to access some of the hidden levels. You also have a timer for each stage you try. You will die if the timer expires before you reach the goal.

Also, like with SMB3, the worlds are made up of maps. Each map contains at least one final level (boss stage), at least one tower (miniboss stage), and a series of normal stages. You can find some hidden routes to use as alternative routes around the worlds. Last of all, each world contains a mess of toadstool houses that will let you each 1-ups or power ups.

In the end, this is all quite like what we've seen in 2D Mario games since the dawn of Nintendo times. While many could argue that there's no innovation in this game, the simple truth is that NSMB does quite well to show that sometimes the best way to make a solid game is to stick with what one knows...or to give more of what everyone wants.

The only downsides of the game play mechanics of NSMB are few and minor. The physics will take a short time to become accustomed to. However, the larger complaint is that many of the levels require the mini-mushroom or the blue shell to fully complete, yet these power ups are a pain in the ass to obtain.


The classical look of Mario games have been retained in NSMB, but with a twist. Much like how the Paper Mario games have taken the simple 2D models of Mario characters and placed them in 3D environments, NSMB takes 3D character models and places them in the class 2D Mario worlds. It's an interesting visual take on Mario, and it is accomplished with the type of skill one would expect from Nintendo.

I think the best way to explain the visuals of NSMB is to say that it's the next logical step in 2D Mario evolution. This approach is just like one would expect from a platform like the DS, that can handle Mario 64 quite well, but it more suited to 2D game play.


We still have many similar elements to what Mario games had previously given us. The music has the same fun and lighthearted sound, the effects are the classics (coins make "tink"ing sounds, 1-ups are awarded with the classic SMB 1-up sound, etc). As I said before, Mario does quite well when he's not re-invented, and the sounds show us that quite well.

The only downside to the audio is found in the music. The music is not bad by any means, but it's just not as memorable or as fun as the original SMB soundtrack. This is not a bad thing, or a good is simply how the game is.


There are some extras to this game. There is a two-player battle mode, which is not even worth a mention. It feels as tacked on as the multiplayer mode of Metroid Prime 2. It feels like this was only thrown on in order to use the WiFi adapter. If anything, this mode should have been replaced somehow with a co-op mode. The idea of hitting each other to obtain stars (similar to the battle game of Mario 64 DS) just feels very played out and worthless.

There are also some mini-games included in this cart. The only problem is that these are the exact same games that were included on Mario 64 DS. The exact same games. You can now play them multiplayer, but it really isn't new or worth trying. If you had Mario 64 DS, then you can skip these games entirely, and if you missed Mario 64's still not really worth more than a casual notice.


While the elements of NSMB are quite firm, the game has one major drawback; replay value. Since the game is mostly linear, and since it is one of the easier Mario games, you will probably not find yourself coming back for more after you've finished each level once. When you throw in how mediocre the multiplayer modes are, and how the mini-games are quite dated (November 2004, to be precise), you really will have no reason to hold on to this game.

However, the 1 player mode is quite fun...while it lasts. This is Mario as it was always meant to be; 2D and simple, yet fully enjoyable and accessible by old-school gamers and casual gamers alike. The visuals are great, sharp, and bright...yet easy on your eyes. Lastly, the audio is pleasant and enjoyable (even if it's forgettable).

So, in the end, NSMB is definitely worth picking up if your looking for a simple and fun way to kill a few hours. However, if you're likely to have any sense of a memory, you will probably find the levels too familiar and easy to give them multiple playings. So, I'd have to say that this game is probably not worth much more than a long rental. Given all of these factors, I'd give New Super Mario Bros. a 7.75 out of 10 (while I'd give SMB3 a 9.0 and SMW a 9.5).