NS Review – New Super Mario Bros. U Deluxe (Switch)

The Switch is entering its third calendar year, and Nintendo has opened 2019 with another port of a Wii U classic. This time, it’s one of the launch titles featuring the famous plumbers: New Super Mario Bros U Deluxe is a port that comes seven years after the original Wii U launch. Wow, has it really been that long since the Wii U was launched?

It’s probably safe to say a lot of things have changed for Nintendo in those seven years – mostly for the better – but how much has New Super Mario Bros U changed in seven years? Evidently, not a lot. This port follows the way of Donkey Kong Country: Tropical Freeze, which is to say it’s almost the same game besides a few tweaks. There are no new levels to play, although it’s worth noting that New Super Luigi U comes with the game too, which can essentially be described as “Mario Bros. U but harder”.

So for those who have never played the original Super Mario Bros U, it offers a crisp and polished platforming experience, albeit a somewhat dry one. The New Super Mario Bros series – besides using increasingly complicated titles – has always struggled to be as visually interesting as its contemporaries, nor has the gameplay evolved over time. Besides new power-ups, each game is the same deal. Next to series like Donkey Kong Country and Rayman, New Super Mario Bros takes a ‘safe’ approach with its art direction and design. It’s clean, but somewhat bland. This is emphasised by an easygoing soundtrack that takes no risks and stays well in the background. Nevertheless, this title is perhaps the best entry in the New Super Mario Bros series.

Multiplayer mode remains a big draw for the game, as up to four players can team up (hopefully) to rescue Princess Peach from Bowser and the Koopalings. As the physics allow for players to bounce off each other, it can be chaotic and hilarious playing through the game with friends. The big new power-up is the flying squirrel suit, which is a slight enhancement on the propellor suit seen in New Super Mario Bros. Wii.

It’s all stuff we’ve seen before, and the bonus challenge levels also carry over from the Wii U version. So, what new content does the Switch update bring to the table?

For starters there’s Toadette, now playable instead of Blue Toad. Toadette is slightly easier to control particularly on icy surfaces, and she also has an exclusive power-up that transforms her into a Princess Peach doppelgänger called Peachette. Peachette works much like the squirrel suit, with an extra perk: if she falls into a pit or deadly terrain (e.g. lava) she propels herself upward, so the player can save themselves from death as long as they can land on a platform after this is used. It’s an extra safety barrier against the game’s more turbulent levels, which don’t rise much in difficulty until the end.

There’s been an intriguing change to the control system: the mid-air spin that offers more airtime during a jump has been remapped to the B button – the same button as jumping. It’s still mapped to ZR as per the original. Playing through the game I found this change uncomfortable, as I’m used to pressing B to prepare to bounce higher off an enemy. Instead it would spin my character and make them travel further, causing me to miss the enemy. It’s a minor gripe but I’m not sure why the button needed remapping when ZR works fine. With a single Joy Con, the R button would be adequate too.

The next improvement is the visuals of various menus and graphics, which look crisper this time around . Beyond that of course, you can now take the game with you on your travels. This isn’t quite the advantage with Mario Bros U Deluxe as it was with Tropical Freeze as the DS and 3DS systems weren’t lacking in Mario Bros games. And besides that, Tropical Freeze is simply a much more entertaining game than Mario Bros U, so it’s perhaps to its detriment that Tropical Freeze – along with Rayman Legends – has already been ported to the Switch.

With all this considered, New Super Mario Bros U Deluxe is recommended if you haven’t played the original and have a keen interest in Nintendo’s main character. Despite the Super Mario rep, there are plenty of more interesting platformers out there, across both of Nintendo’s previous home consoles. It’s the most definitive New Mario Bros game, but still unlikely to stick long in your memory.

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