Luigi is determined to step out from behind his brother's shadow.
Nintendo have in the past been somewhat hesitant to release downloadable content for their titles but in the past year or so we have seen the company experiment more with digital additions to retail games, even with their biggest franchises. With New Super Mario Bros. 2 on the 3DS Nintendo experimented with smaller Coin Rush packs, but now for New Super Mario Bros. U they have attempted something far more ambitious as they create basically a whole new campaign to play through. Players have the option of either downloading the extra content or buying it completely separately from the core game on disc.
The opening cut scene is presented almost entirely identically to New Super Mario Bros. U with the only difference being that Mario is absent from the tea party that Princess Peach is hosting. Bowser rigidly sticks to his kidnapping schedule and promptly disposes of Luigi and two Toad people before imprisoning Peach in her own home for the second time in less than a year.
Once you take control of Luigi on the overworld map you will instantly notice that everything is the same as in the original game, with even the hidden exits paving the same routes as before. While it’s only a map and the levels themselves are brand new it would have been nice for some alterations or additions to have been made to at least give the impression that the journey is different from before.
Instantly after initiating the first level a familiar jingle plays that in past Mario games would be the cue to get yourself into gear and reach the flagpole at the end. In past New Super Mario Bros. games levels the time limit is very generous, allowing players to take their time approaching each enemy and obstacle which isn’t the case now as too much dawdling will greet Luigi with an untimely death. Thankfully the level design is much more compact to accommodate for the reduced time limit but that doesn’t mean there are fewer obstacles and hidden areas to find. Completionists will more than likely need to revisit levels to collect all of the Star Coins and locate all of the hidden locations, as collecting all of the coins and finishing the level in a single run will prove very difficult without knowing in advance where to look.
Nabbit allows players to not have to worry so much about enemies.
Despite the levels themselves being all new it is disappointing that the boss battles remain unaltered. Castles and towers this time around are far more challenging than anything that has been seen in more recent Mario games but the encounters with Bowser’s children are as simple as they were in Super Mario Bros 3. with only minor gimmicks being included in each battle. The battles are also as easily broken as before as once the first hit is landed it’s possible to simply stomp on them again as they attempt to get back up leading to some very unsatisfying encounters until the excellent final showdown with Bowser.
Playing as Luigi feels a little different compared to how he plays in previous New Super Mario Bros. In the past he simply retained his shorter brother’s agility and jumping distances but in Luigi U he controls a lot more similarly to how he did in Super Mario Bros. 2 as he jumps higher and farther but at the expense of not being able to halt his momentum as quickly as Mario. Early on you will notice that some jumps that seem a little far for what the last few games have conditioned you into thinking are unreachable are in fact little trouble for Luigi.
For players finding the levels a little too difficult can play as Nabbit, the rabbit who players could chase and retrieve items off in New Super Mario Bros. U. Playing as Nabbit can alleviate any frustration you may have clearing certain areas where Bullet Bills fire themselves into awkward patterns in between platforms but simply running through the entire game as him does defeat the point in having the increased challenge of the game in the first place.
Like New Super Mario Bros. U up to five players can help or hinder each other in their attempts to finish each level. Less experienced players can take on the role of Nabbit in order to shed the need to worry about enemies so much while players on the GamePad can once again create blocks that save or impede everyone else’s progress. Thanks to the rise in difficulty of these levels, uncoordinated teams will find themselves falling with greater frequency than before.
Multiplayer is still a lot of fun although a lot more challenging thanks to the hike in difficulty as with playing solo.
As before there are a number of control methods allowing players to choose whatever device is most comfortable for them. The Wii U GamePad is comfortable but still seems rather pointless when playing on the TV as all it really offers is a mirrored display, although when playing without a television it is very useful. The Wii Remote can be used but holding it horizontally can be a little awkward, as has always been the case. Thanks to a recent patch the Wii U Pro controller can now be used and does offer the greater comfort for TV play, although obviously you will be switching to the GamePad whenever you want to boast or vent on Miiverse.
Being primarily extra downloadable content it should come as no surprise that the audiovisual presentation of New Super Luigi U is unchanged from the base game, featuring the same environmental designs, character models and annoying music tracks. Its simple, clean art direction is still a little lifeless but functional. Miiverse integration is also exactly the same as the base game with the player being asked to post messages, artwork and screenshots of their experiences to the community or to the world map should they achieve certain goals such as collecting all three star coins, clearing the course in under a set time or venting their frustration after dying a few times.
New Super Luigi U offers a far greater challenge than any of the previous entries in the New Super Mario Bros. series but little else new beyond the altered physics. With this being essentially the third entry in the series in less than a year some players could very easily feel burned out playing a game where in fact very little has changed besides the protagonist. For the hardcore Mario players however this will provide another eighty levels of the most challenging platforming action the series has seen since the NES days.