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15.01.2016
One of the big highlights of the holidays would undoubtedly be the arrival of Nintendo's Wii U launch title, New Super Mario Bros. Looking at Mario and Yoshi in action in the first stage, it's impossible to pick out any evolution in detail.
To summarise, we see Mario and most of his adversaries making the jump practically as-is from the Wii edition released three years ago, with no noticeable rejig in detail. It's perhaps also a frustration that the visual styles Nintendo are touching on here - such as the Vincent van Gogh-inspired stage - aren't getting more breathing room, and that other styles of that extreme aren't represented in later levels. Follow the games you're interested in and we'll send you an email the instant we publish new articles about them.
Freelance games reviewer, 32-bit era nostalgic and gadget enthusiast, Tom has been docked at Eurogamer's welcome harbours since 2011. This is my HD Let’s Play with live commentary of New Super Mario Bros U for the Nintendo Wii U! Boost your firepower big-time with the Double Cherry power-up, which creates a clone of your character.
U - a reprisal of a familiar formula that now lets us crank the player count up to five, and also play the game solely via the GamePad's LCD.
Wii running at 720p through the Dolphin emulator, as compared to the latest New Super Mario Bros. Character models with higher polygon counts aren't in evidence at all when compared up close and the leading man's running animations appear identical when measured to the frame. 2 on 3DS just a few months earlier, the concern was that Nintendo may be playing it too safe with its mascot's main-line appearances. Even so, an effort has clearly been made to push the series forward technically, with dynamic shadows, higher resolution alpha, and lighting making an appearance to subtle effect, and most level assets built completely from the ground upwards. Players can jump in at any time to lend a hand or help find hidden stars—or compete for the most coins and win the crown at the end of each level.
As if to imply the tussle of the Wii version's multiplayer mode wasn't manic enough already, this new release allows a fifth person to lay down platforms via the touch screen, delay the march of Koopa Troopers, and even reveal secret 3-Up blocks to the other four players. Nevertheless, he does look radically different depending on the nature of the environment; a huge advance in the lighting method is the cause here, which greatly helps to blend characters with the elements of each stage.
Much like its predecessors the emphasis is on gameplay first, and responsive visual feedback plays straight into that approach to game design. We also appreciate the move towards stylising the backgrounds and some enemies with what appears to be an oil-painted finish, rather than blindly taking advantage of any technical tricks afforded by the stronger hardware for the sake of it.


U marks a promising technical leap forward over its predecessor; not just for the resolution boost up to 720p but also for the range of subtle visual tweaks that accompany it.
Scamper up walls to find secrets, pounce from above, and attack enemies with your claws—while looking pawsitively adorable. Of course, there's nothing to stop them abusing their new-found powers, supposing they've just had a rough day at the office.It's a sightly game too, brimming with bright, pastel-coloured stages and with an image quality that has been greatly clarified by the Wii U's digital HDMI output.
We trot through the series' iconic stages to show similar enemies and level building blocks. For example, the plumber's face lights up when stood near lamps in dimly lit mines, while lava forces a red glow to play across his clothes as he passes a rising fireball.
Mii, even showed background assets being used from the Wii version's desert stages, such as the pyramids and cacti.
By comparison, the lack of such lighting in the Wii version can make characters seem much duller. Fortunately, the final Wii U release steers clear of rehashing anything to quite that level - though there has been some duplication involved as far as the over-arching structure is concerned. U also marks the first title in the series to reap the benefits of a bump to 1280x720 native resolution, which, in practical terms, makes it far easier to decipher the on-screen action once the camera pans all the way out.
Also worthy of note is the anti-aliasing situation - the Wii game in its original form possessed no discernable AA (something that can be addressed via emulation though). With that 640x480 resolution barrier removed, we can see Nintendo's worlds and characters in all their splendour - but it also means there's little it can hide.The canon of "New" 2D Mario games takes pride in its simple-but-effective visual design and even running the preceding New Super Mario Bros.
On Wii U, we appear to be seeing an edge-detect solution reserved for characters and objects only, with environmental detail remaining unprocessed.Other improvements include higher resolution alpha for dust clouds, which appear at Mario's feet wherever he runs as opposed to just during sliding and landing animations on Wii.
The sharp-eyed will also spot the spark effects after bopping Goombas bring out a bright bloom effect, which only appears as a simple sparkle animation in the preceding game. However, considering the technological gap between that release and the latest Wii U version, we'd hope that Nintendo has developed the visuals of the game beyond a resolution bump alone - perhaps with an increase in character detail, higher resolution textures, or additional effects.
The detail bump on the static gold coins is also a huge step forward, with the blocky 2D sprites seen on the Wii version being eschewed in favour of the fully polygonal, spinning kind on Wii U. It begs the question: have changes been made this time around, and if not, where might Nintendo have dug its heels in?To answer this, we've put our experimental hats on over the holiday break, and captured stages from New Super Mario Bros. We see the basic appearance of ivy-covered Bramballs and giant Grouper fish holding the same detail levels as before, while the ink-blot-esque Fuzzies have been given a noticeable redesign. In the Wii U version, black, residual drips are flicked in every direction as they wind up and down the skyline of the Meringue Clouds stages.


By comparison, the implementation on Wii looks decidedly more geometric in design and as a result flatter and more solid. The centre images shows the changes made to the gooey Fuzzies, with a their new splatter animation, while the bottom images show subtle upgrades made to simple background objects like castle and flags.
Click on the thumbnails for full resolution, lossless PNGs.New Super Mario U's oil-painted look exaggerates the further you push through the game, starting subtly with the blotted green leaves in the Acorn Plains, but coming to a dramatic head during the Painted Swampland stage in the Soda Jungle. The hypnotic, dark-coloured swirls of the background brings to mind a very specific visual reference point - arguably an idea that could have been applied to equal extremes for each of the game's eight worlds, with each their own inspiration.
Even so, the level represents a welcome flash of visual flair that brings to light Nintendo's preference for art direction over any technical gimmickry.In this sense, the game is very conservative in its structure but tries to find freshness within its own parameters. Both it and its predecessor stubbornly hold to the same world progression, each running through the gamut of plains, deserts, icy glaciers, jungles, and mountain stages in much the same order.
However, the interpretations of these themes can be unrecognisable at times with the Wii U version's backgrounds revealing fully animated waterfalls, flying enemy airships, and giant acorn trees surrounded by rolling clouds. A stronger sense of depth to the world is created behind Mario this time around, largely due to the more regular use of fully polygonal elements - such as the airships - which blend in convincingly with the other scrolling layers.As far as interactive foreground elements are concerned, it's a mixed bag. The destructible blocks, green pipes and empty castles of the Mushroom Kingdom are as simplistic as ever, but are noticeably sharper than the emulated Wii version's.
Other elements, such as the lava and water transparencies bubbling at the bottom of the screen, are carried over directly to the new version with only minor alterations. We now have a bumped up polygon count with several giant Piranha Plants on-screen at once, and also far more stylised backgrounds with more 3D elements.On the plus side, we see traversable 2D terrain like grass plains, sand pillars, ice sheets and mineral blocks being designed with more of a pastel-style "pop" to them. It's eye-catching, though may not necessarily always be strictly higher in detail; these can on occasion appear simpler than before to achieve an eye-catching two-tone effect, fitting in with the game's punchier colour scheme.
It's here that we also get to strip Mario from his usual 2D plane and plant him in a more dynamic environment, with green pipes blasting him all the way across the map as a means of fast travel. Unlike the Wii version, which gets by with a simple black circle beneath the character to represent a shadow, we now have a more precise method that casts the throw of his hands and feet as he runs from dot to dot. As with the lighting changes, these are enhancements we've already experienced on Wii before in Mario Galaxy and will hopefully be expanded on once again for the next fully 3D Mario title.The seamless nature of travel between each world translates to the game's sound design as well.



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