New Super Luigi U
During the “Year of Luigi” marketing campaign by Nintendo, Mario’s brother became the protagonist in a number of Luigi-inspired games.
These games were far from being simple palette swaps however, as the long-neglected plumber got some serious attention. One of those games is an expansion on New Super Mario Bros. U titled New Super Luigi U.
At first glance, you’d dismiss this as being a swap. The game is near identical in audiovisual presentation and mechanics as its source material. The genius of Nintendo shines once again, as NSLU plays like a speed run alternate to NSMBU.
While the story is identical, sans Mario being included, and all of the same power-ups exist in NSLU. However, each level is considerably shortened, with paths cut, enemies placed in other areas, and 100 seconds to complete each stage.
This creates a fast-paced, frantic version of the Super Mario Bros. formula, much like those YouTube videos we’ve all seen and tried – or the Super Mario Maker created speed run levels. This time though, the game play is forced instead of done for fun, and it’s a clever gimmick that I feel Nintendo must revisit again in the future when the opportunity presents itself.
Four-player multiplayer still exists, as does the select screen with four characters: Luigi, two different colored Toads, and Nabbit, who was previously an NPC you had to race to catch in the original version of the game. (Nabbit cannot be hurt, but balances out by not being able to use power-ups.)
I imagine this is what the original Super Mario Bros. 2 (i.e. “Lost Levels”) could’ve been like. (Rather than the incredibly stupid difficult game that skipped the United States.) While Super Luigi U ramped up the difficulty over Mario U, it did so in such a way that it’s not cheap and is beatable.
The end result is a really fun game that presents a challenge but is far from impossible to conquer.
I would recommend playing this even over the source material. The game was so solid, it even received a physical release and was eventually packaged together with NSMBU too.
It’s a hidden gem from the short-lived Wii U that deserves its time in the spotlight, especially if you’re a Mario fan.
Super Mario 3D World
I have so many reactions to this game that I’m not sure where to begin. Let’s start with this: I’m stoked that Nintendo finally re-released Super Mario 3D World for the Nintendo Switch.
Because it was easily the Wii U’s best kept secret.
Darn near the entire world witnessed Super Mario Odyssey rise to greatness, hailed as the best Mario game ever created. However, anyone that SM3W had to be skeptical, as I was, that any game could top the Wii U’s offering.
Among many of the great games offered for the Wii U, SM3W encapsulates everything the Mario universe ever threw onto a screen. In fact, many of the ideas we saw in Odyssey were actually introduced in SM3W… or in its predecessor on the 3DS, Super Mario 3D Land!
Regardless, 3D World is a tremendous Mario title and if not for Odyssey going so far above and beyond, would hold my personal acclaim as the greatest Mario game of all time.
Somehow, SM3W captures the spirit of the 2D NES Mario titles better than Super Mario 64, Super Mario Sunshine, or Super Mario Galaxy ever did.
3D Land was described by game designer Shigeru Miyamoto as a “3D Mario that plays as a 2D Mario game”. 3D World tops it by a country mile.
The game begins with introduction of clear pipes, one of the critical elements added to SM3W. The plot is different from other Mario games, where Bowser captures Sprixies, and you travel to the Sprixie Kingdom to rescue them over the span several worlds – some which have to be unlocked.
Levels are open, yet linear. Mario can move in three dimensions a la Mario 64, but levels play out like the original Super Mario Bros., complete with a flag pole at the end of each.
Traditional powerups, such as super mushrooms, fire flowers, and the starman return, as well as the Tanooki suit, which was featured first in Super Mario Bros. 3, but included in 3D Land – as well as the Boomerang suit which was introduced in the latter.
Other inclusions are propeller, cannon, and coin blocks, all worn as “helmets” with various powers, plus the Mega Mushroom from New Super Mario Bros., which creates a Godzilla-sized character on-screen that can smash through most of level.
The big tease, and major addition other than the clear pipes, is the cat suit. Once equipped, Mario and the gang run around on all fours and gain the able to charge at enemies and climb walls for a short period of time. A variation exists later in the game which also mimics the “statue” power from SMB3’s Tanooki suit too.
Another added feature is the Double Cherry powerup, which creates an on-screen clone of Mario that moves, jumps and reacts simultaneously with the others on-screen. It’s possible to get as many as five Mario’s going at the same time, which are then used to unlock otherwise inaccessible areas or help topple foes more quickly.
Honestly, the fan service here is second-to-none. Save screens bring back 8-bit NES Mario running on the screen as a timer, and you can also shrink smaller, near-death, rather than worry about hearts or coins for health, just like the original.
Super Mario 2 is on display as you can choose one of several characters to play with, all retaining similar traits from that game. Luigi jumps higher, Toad runs faster, and Princess Peach can float temporarily in mid-air. Since four player multiplayer is also part of the regular campaign, each can be represented at the same time as players dash with one another to complete each level.
Slot machine style bonus levels also harken back to the day of SMB2 also.
Super Mario 3 was mentioned earlier with the Tanooki suit, but Bowser’s armada and mid-level boss Boomer make cameos as well.
Super Mario World contributes Ghost Houses and Kamek. The “New” series the aforementioned Mega Mushroom as well as some of the jumps and moves that have become commonplace with the strictly 3D games too.
Heck, even Super Mario Galaxy is represented with Lumas (star-shaped creatures) and Rosalina.
Gaining 100 coins will net you an extra life still, finding three green stars is critical to unlocking later levels, and the red coin loop, to collect 8 red coins, carries over from the Yoshi’s Island games. (Though it was also adopted in other titles too.)
There’s still even more as SM3W introduced the Toad Treasure Tracker minigames, midlevel “bosses” and toad houses appear on the map much like the moving Hammer Bros. did in SMB3. Bonus worlds and other surprises await as well.
It’s quite a mouthful attempting to tell anyone about how deep this game is and how much tribute it gives to every other Mario game created.
It’s challenging just to collect all of the stars in each level, but there’s also harder-to-find stamps for a “stamp collection” embedded within each level too, special mystery challenge houses, and overall, just when you think you’ve done it all, the game keeps going… and going… (Just wait, the SMB2 rocket ship also makes an appearance!)
The levels are of such a mixed variety too, with speed runs, water levels, locked overhead perspective levels, the aforementioned multiple-Mario (cherry power-up) levels, auto-scrolling levels… the list goes on and on. (My only true complaint are the few times the Wii U gamepad is required for touch controls or to blow into the mic – an unnecessary gimmick.)
My last note is that this game seems to feel different too because it went away from the “save the princess” and “beat Bowser’s kids” theme prevalent in the previous. SM3W offers just about everything a Mario fan could want and more.
If you haven’t had the pleasure of playing this, I highly encourage you to find a copy – I even hear the Switch version adds more to the original Wii U game too! It’s really that good and definitely worth owning in your library.
Yoshi’s Woolly World
The first impression anyone will get from Yoshi’s Woolly World is that it’s a child’s game: and you’d be correct.
Nintendo has positioned the Yoshi games as platformers for younger children for several iterations now. It really began with this title for the Wii U, which also has a “Mellow Mode” to make the game even simpler for those smaller tykes who may be playing alongside their parents.
Mellow Mode makes this game almost too boring to want to play, unfortunately. The regular mode may bring it back to speed with the “Island” series of games (which offer a far greater challenge) but the repetitiveness of Woolly World can, and likely will, get to more mature gamers.
With that said upfront, this is still an enjoyable game with superb art direction, graphics, audio, and controls. The style of the game is at the forefront, as noted in the title, everything is geared toward yarn – think grandma’s knitting – as Yoshi creates “yarn eggs” now, and unravels enemies and secret areas like kittens playing with a ball of yarn on YouTube.
Throwing yarn balls at “invisible” outlined targets covers them in yarn to complete necessary platforms or unlock areas of the level.
It’s a really cool mechanic that fits well within the Yoshi genre – so well, that I think this game is underrated and overlooked due to being too simple at times (and ignored by more serious gamers).
Yoshi, himself, operates in the same manner as Island games, however, there’s no babies on Yoshi’s back anymore – your life is a circular heart meter similar to the timing mechanism in previous games when a baby was knocked off of Yoshi’s back.
The game is geared toward completionists, with plenty of replay value… if you want to actually grind through and replay it.
I found collecting every flower, piece of yarn, rubber stamp and more to be monotonous. However, some of it may be necessary to proceed later in the game.
Collecting everything will unlock a different color or “themed” Yoshi which you can swap to play as – a pretty cool reward if you ask me.
Poochie also makes a cameo appearance along with some other familiar Mario characters. (The various types of Shy Guys are especially cool.)
In all, Woolly World is an enjoyable, but super easy romp. Like most Wii U games it’s lost to time for a console that didn’t sell well. Unlike some of the best Wii U games, this one wasn’t reissued for the Nintendo Switch, instead getting a port to the 3DS which doesn’t hold up as well graphically (but is aimed at a better, young target audience of that handheld console.)
If you have the ability to check this game out, as a fan of Yoshi games or simple platformers – or have a kid that’s getting into gaming, this one is highly recommended. Hardcore gamers can safely bypass this as it won’t be their cup of tea.
New Super Mario Bros. U
Traditional 2-D side scrolling Mario games took a hiatus following the stellar entries of Super Mario Bros. 3 and Super Mario World into the series. Those games launched, respectively, on the NES and Super Nintendo in the early 90’s.
Entering the new millennium, 3-D graphics were all the rage. Super Mario 64 took the famous plumber into an open world of three dimensions and the old platformer we all grew up with was all but a forgotten genre with no new entries.
Then, in 2006, Nintendo unleashed a “New” update to the original formula with the Nintendo DS’s “New” Super Mario Bros. The update brought the traditional gameplay into the 2000’s and sparked sequels on the Wii, 3DS, and this one, on the Wii U.
Some of that spark flamed out by the time we get to this “U” iteration, but there’s enough meat left on the bone here for Mario fans to pick clean regardless. It’s also the first Super Mario Bros. (platformer) title to get the full High Definition treatment on the Wii U.
The formula is familiar: Princess Peach is captured, Bowser (and his usual array of henchmen) are responsible. This part of the game will make those familiar recall Super Mario 3, which could be a good or bad thing when it comes to being repetitive.
Mario navigates a world map, which has hidden levels, mushroom houses and the like.
The usual fire flower and starman power-ups are present, as is the ice flower from the Wii predecessor. Yoshi (and baby Yoshis) also make an appearance.
As with any Mario game, there is a new special item, this time a squirrel suit which allows you to glide in the air and stick to surfaces.
At times this new suit can be a hindrance and oftentimes you may find yourself better off with a different approach. While it’s novel, it takes some getting used to and can feel out of place with some of the more time-tested and tightly woven power-ups found throughout the game.
Multiplayer was a big selling point for this Wii U exclusive (since ported as a “Deluxe” edition to the Switch). I didn’t give it a try, so I cannot give an opinion on its elements or effectiveness.
There is another mode with a new “antagonist” named Nabbit, who you must chase and catch for a prize from Toad. This was actually a refreshing entry to the game and one that makes some levels much more appealing to play back through.
In all, everything here should look somewhat familiar. There was definitely a push in this game to make the levels less “blocky” than in previous games. My hunch is that Nintendo made this decision to differentiate Mario U from the upcoming Super Mario Maker: and make sure users couldn’t just recreate the U levels.
This small touch, along with your usual 100 coins for a 1-Up, star coins to unlock other areas, and a few Mario jokes and surprises makes it worth playing, but could end up being a monotonous playthrough for some of the older or hardcore fans of the series.
Splatoon for the Wii U will go down as one of the most overlooked and often forgotten titles of the console’s life cycle. Due to the low sales of the system, and no re-release for the newer Nintendo Switch (which received the sequel) I feel as if most people will never realize how great this first game in the series truly is.
Granted, the big sell of this title is online play, something that Nintendo was never strong at but excelled with Splatoon. But there’s also a charming 27-level single player mode which deserves a lot of credit as well.
The game starts in a plaza where you choose which modes you want to play, including the online or offline options. It also includes some other interactive modes, with a customization shop that features ways to change the appearance of your “inkling”.
From there it’s the inklings versus the squids in a bright, colorful game that I can only describe as Goldeneye meets paintball – yes, 007 had a paintball mode, but the goal if this game is completely “splat” your opponents while covering each world with brightly colored paint.
Naturally, your opponents want to do the same, turning each skater-style park into a turf war of two colors.
A number of painting weapons are at your disposal and each operates in such a strategical way that you’ll end up with a style unique to yourself. You can hone a simple ink gun or go with a giant paint roller – or perhaps you like different bombs which can explode upon impact or on a timed interval.
No matter the way you go about the campaign mode, each level builds upon different skills you learn to master the game. Even the motion controls of the Wii U gamepad (which can also be disabled) feel natural over time.
By the time you get to the final boss, which is one of the longer battles I’ve encountered in a game of this style, you must nail everything – and it never feels too frustrating either. Rather, you will be on the edge of your seat as the adrenaline rush kicks in and a sense of accomplishment upon completing the game.
If you have access to a Wii U, Splatoon is something I highly recommend. The Switch sequel is in much of the same vein, but you’re doing yourself a disservice if you don’t check out the original. It’s an absolutely gorgeous game with bright visuals and a thumping soundtrack that’s easy to get addicted to.