We finally received a new Super Mario Bros. game after years of New Super Mario Bros. (I apologize for having to make that joke). It took far longer than any of us anticipated for them to create the first original 2D Mario game for the Nintendo Switch, but here it is now. Though I believe we have been getting boring and repetitive corporate slime from 2D Mario platformers since the Wii era, I would much rather have a good game that makes me happy given Nintendo’s very open philosophy about trying to crack down on crunch time and experiment with new ideas. Though the 3D games have been amazing, how does Mario’s latest 2D release compare?
In all honesty, this is a strong comeback and a much-needed positive boost for the series. Mario platforms have never been subpar; in fact, Nintendo could have filed a patent on the recipe for creating a profitable 2D platformer. I detest the New Super Mario era because of its cheap look, lack of personality, and incapacity to bring back or rework some concepts for a contemporary audience. Mario now has the opportunity to follow in the footsteps of Nintendo’s other recent franchises, which have shown themselves to be resilient in the face of adversity. Wonder stands apart from other Mario platformers not just because it has the largest cast of playable characters I’ve ever seen, but also because it can accommodate different types of gamers.
The majority of levels begin as typical 2D Mario levels, complete with marching opponents, jumpable blocks, and purple coins to be collected. A fun feature is the variety of power-ups available, such as the drill cap and the now-famous animal-morphing fruit that transforms you into an elephant. You feel like you have more control over the design than ever before, which is a hint that the devs had pleasure creating these levels. When in the elephant mode, you can use your tremendous power to push pipes together or out of the way. Enemies respond to you, so you can take advantage of this by pushing them into a corner. You’ll alternate between the foreground and background in a few 2.5D scenes. The controls are very responsive, and although most characters play pretty much the same, some, like Yoshi and Nabbit, have special moves that make them ideal for new players, like the ability to shrug off enemies so you can speed through a level without worrying about them.
While individual strategy was a cornerstone of past Mario games, the badge system allays any fears that identical character gameplay would be a setback. You may gather badges in Super Mario Bros. Wonder and use them to gain special powers that can alter your gameplay entirely. These badges can change your entire control scheme or help you restart with an instant power-up. You can move through the level design more smoothly, leap higher, and get more coins with the help of badges. Players can choose their favorite character and give them a badge to suit their preferred style of play. There are countless approaches to take on a level with varying degrees of difficulty! Until the boss fights, that is, which are just copies of the Bowser Jr. boss fight with a few minor adjustments made. It’s unfortunate because there’s a lot of variety in the game.
The Wonder Seeds are one of Super Mario Bros. Wonder’s key distinguishing features. Every stage has a minimum of two Wonder Seeds; one is located near the conclusion of the level, while the other two are located somewhere in the middle. Once a Wonder Flower is located, the intermediate seed can be acquired. It has an odd, enigmatic impact that can drastically alter how the level is played. The level’s geometry may change, waves of opponents may appear out of nowhere, or the level itself may adopt an entirely new aesthetic. Without using any gimmicks, you can play a normal Mario level by avoiding these flowers. Even still, these flowers are a fantastic addition to the already enjoyable, although formulaic, Mario action. There is replay potential in the stages you complete since while gathering all the Seeds is required to go to the next level, obtaining them is not required to access other worlds. Additionally, each level has a difficulty indicator so you can adjust your route to suit your preference for difficulty.
Regarding the music, the best way I can characterize it is that it has a charming overall sound design. All of the characters and antagonists have endearing voices, and the soundtrack itself has a beautiful balance of thrilling and reassuring tones. It seems like a soothing ride in a theme park. A Wonder Flower is one of the in-game items that appears to have an impact on the music. To correspond with the style shift, the music may become more frantic and energetic.
While we’re talking about audio, this is the first Mario game in decades to have a new voice actor. Kevin Afghani has replaced Charles Martinet, who has hung up his red plumber’s cap. I think Afghani did a fantastic job in the position. It’s clear that he was told to imitate Martinet to the extent that many, including myself, wondered if Martinet had been replaced before the official announcement was made. But the fact that I was uncertain for such a long time speaks volumes about Afghani’s quality of work. Since Mario’s voice is now so ingrained in most people’s minds, making any significant changes would have alienated more people. However, I like the extra effort Afghani put into Mario and Luigi’s vocals. When you add in the extra tiny hand and facial movements for the characters whenever they perform seemingly innocent actions, like poking their head out of a pipe or waving goodbye to someone, you get a game that is incredibly endearing all around.
Super Mario Bros. Wonder is an excellent game overall and a worthy addition to the Mario legacy. I’m not sure about the pricing point, but I also realize that’s a difficult topic to discuss because, regrettably, Nintendo hardly ever offers its games for sale. Nevertheless, I believe this game accomplishes enough to restore your faith in the Mario franchise if you were a fan of the series or were growing weary of Mario platformers in the past. Although it’s not a very daring step, it is a confident and solid one in the direction that Mario, in my opinion, has always been going. As previously mentioned, Mario consistently seems to have a formula for success, and this game does a fantastic job of reintroducing that concept to us with a fresh look.