New Super Mario Bros U; Looking better than Super Mario World Ever Was

When it comes to comparisons, many gamers like to compare New Super Mario Bros U to its inspiration and claim it’s a less interesting game.  Maybe they consider the map too ‘piecemeal’ or the music boring or have stupidly high nostalgia driven standards brought about by poor memory of the level design, but the usual arguments are always about New Super Mario Bros doesn’t ‘compare’ to the classics.  But I think differently.  In fact, I think New Super Mario Bros U might well be the true and even better sequel to Super Mario World, and here’s why:

Technically, New Super Mario Bros U is better for the time

Yes, I know it’s not exactly fair to compare SNES graphics to HD ones, but I’d like to point out that compared to other games of the time, New Super Mario Bros U is arguably at least as good as Super Mario World was. Heck, you could even say it’s quite a bit better.

Why?  Because if you compare it to contemporary games, Super Mario World looks pretty lazily designed.  There are few colours, not a whole lot more detail in the tilesets and generally the whole thing wasn’t too far beyond what a NES could probably handle on a graphical level.  Okay, that’s a bit too far, but it hardly compares to other SNES platformers on a technical level, with Yoshi’s Island, Donkey Kong Country 1-3 and other such games blowing it out the water by miles.

Above: Great game, but it’s graphics weren’t exactly impressive even for the time.

But New Super Mario Bros U doesn’t.  Yes it’s not as artistically ‘original’ as say Rayman Legends might be, but it does arguably stack up pretty damn well to other games in a similar style from the same generation.

Not to mention, New Super Mario Bros U (and all the NSMB games before it) actually have variation in their designs.  Super Mario World?  Has about ten tilesets if you’re generous, and about fourteen backgrounds. If you honestly think Nintendo are being lazy on a graphical level, keep this in mind:

The entire GAME of Super Mario World had about eight foregrounds total, and about fourteen backgrounds.

In just about four worlds of NSMB U, we’ve already seen double that.  That’s not exactly a terrible number, considering how little variety most 2D platformers have in their foreground tilesets and backgrounds.

Painting level

Above: New Super Mario Bros U looks fantastic for both a 2D platformer and HD game.

New Super Mario Bros U’s graphics also generally look to be great in general, with certain levels like the Van Gogh style ghost swamp level looking to be some of the best of all.

As for the music, I’d say New Super Mario Bros U looks like it’ll give Super Mario World a good run for its money in that respect to.  Yes some tunes are recycled.  But is that really that bad?  Hell, it’s better than having all new music but less songs in total, right?  And with the potential exception of certain sound effects, I’d say the new music stacks up fairly well to the old stuff.  Is this:

really that much worse than this?

And even for the recycled music, the recycled stuff is good.  Sure the New Super Mario Bros Wii castle theme returns, but I wouldn’t call it bad music.

I think people really do seem to make a mountain out of a molehill when it comes to the music in New Super Mario Bros.  Yes it’s not Galaxy standard or orchestrated, but not all music needs to be.  And the newer tracks do just as good a job as the older ones in the memorability stakes.

New Super Mario Bros U looks to be designed better gameplay wise

Here however’s the big point.  Basically, New Super Mario Bros U seems to be a better designed game on a gameplay level.  Why is this?

Well for one thing, you get most of the benefits of a cape with Squirrel Mario without completely breaking the game’s difficulty level.  Like it or not, the cape and flight absolutely killed any real challenge Super Mario World had to offer, and with the P Acorn being a collectible item usable in one level at a time and the normal Super Acorn letting you glide and double jump rather than fly, it means you get the gameplay benefits of a flying power up without the complete challenge removing aspect of full cape flight.

Above: How most people played Super Mario World, from the sky

The level design looks more interesting in general too.  One reason for this is because the game can actually handle more than about five enemies on screen this time around (which was a big, big limitation of Super Mario World, the sprite limits were tiny)  This means that levels don’t have to be sparse or lacking in enemies as some of the older games were, and that the developers can come up with new and more interesting ways to challenge the player.

But other level design things look more interesting as well.  The crazy layer shenanigans from New Super Mario Bros Wii are back, another thing not possible in any pre Gamecube/Wii era titles.  There’s more of a variety in levels this time around, with both standard levels and world themes (Super Mario World’s lack of world themes kind of made quite a few levels feel rather samey, like how two worlds were basically both caves).

And from what I see, the levels that have equivalents in older Mario games just plain look better here.  Like the sunken ghost ship, which actually looks like a fun level rather than a swimming based exercise in tedium like the Super Mario World one.

Above: The ghost ship looks fun this time around.

Not to mention the boss battles.  How can anyone seriously not think the boss battles in this game are more interesting than in any other 2D Mario game?  Iggy running on the ceiling and shooting from all angles and Roy holding a rocket launcher to attack are a lot more interesting than just having the former fight on a tilting platform and the latter march forward and up the walls (and die before he gets to the first wall).

Above: Of all those, every one bar Bowser pales to every NSMB boss to date, including those in the Wii U game.

Above: Now though, the Koopalings have unique patterns and even weapons!

And hey, Boom Boom may be a boring mini boss, but having him in different arenas, maybe Pom Pom, Bowser Jr in different machines and maybe Kamek as bosses is more interesting and enjoyable than just having four fights with the same Reznors and a Big Boo who can’t even hurt Mario.

Finally, there’s the map.  Some say it looks a bit like random worlds stuck together, but personally I think it looks like the best Mario map in years:

It’s got a lot of decoration, variation in landmasses and height and various other things, which is more than you can say about the Super Mario World one.  And come on, this ghost submap is so much nicer than the Forest of Illusion ever was:

Contrast with:

Above: The most exciting Mario map in history [/sarcasm]

So while Super Mario World is still a great game, I do think people New Super Mario Bros U looks like it’ll be good enough to top it.  The level design looks better, the graphics and music seem better (even compared to how they were received at the time) and the bosses and world map look much better.  Drop the nostalgia goggles, forget about all your childhood memories of the NES and SNES for a minute, and consider this, New Super Mario Bros U is a perfectly worthy successor and even perhaps better.

 

 

 

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