A console without the plummer leading the charge has to fail, they say. Then the Wii came, launching without Mario and became Nintendo's most successful home console.
It was a brave step and bought Nintendo the time to work on Super Mario Galaxy, one of the best platformers ever made. With the Wii U Nintendo is playing the safe card, launching it together with New Super Mario Bros. U. Have the Japanese lost their courage?
It's the same old story, but with a slightly different approach. The Princess is kidnapped, Mario has to save her. But Bowser hasn't just kidnapped our beloved, but seized control of the whole castle as well, tossing Mario, Luigi and the Toads to the other end of the Kingdom, forcing the foursome to run and leap their way back. The basics remain the same however, as we charge through 2D worlds and head towards the finish flag.
In summer 2006 New Super Mario Bros. was released for the Nintendo DS. The game was a revelation, combining the compelling concept of the classic series with modern elements.
Nintendo needed some time to realize what they had created, so it wasn't until the fall of 2009 that New Super Mario Bros. Wii followed with its funky multiplayer mode. Now it is 2012 and New Super Mario Bros. 2 is available for Nintendo 3DS and New Super Mario Bros. U releases alongside the Wii U. And as much as the handheld versions resembled each other, so does the Wii U version resemble its predecessor.
The New Super Mario Bros. franchise is doing something we aren't used from the other adventures of the little plummer. It's repeating itself. There are few new gameplay elements, and of those there's nothing truly extraordinary.
It's a nagging issue, these repetitive elements. But New Super Mario Bros. U isn't poorly served for offering so little in the way of new mechanics.
Multiplayer delivers a lot of fun. Mario gets a new flying squirrel costume, with which we glide through levels and hold on to walls. The baby Yoshis from Super Mario World reappear, each colour offering new special abilities. Blues blow bubbles, Yellows glow and stun enemies, Pinks expand and float.
The level design is great and superior to other games - the ghost mansions alone offer so many intelligent solutions that it's easier to ignore the fact that everything strikes us as a mite too familiar.
The franchise also benefits from the new controller, in two ways.
Obviously, the added value is in the multiplayer: as the fifth person you can intervene from outside, tapping the controller's touch screen to create platforms, saving players from falling or helping them reach difficult areas. (Of course you could also be mean and place platforms unfavourably). New Super Mario Bros. U will destroy friendships...and we're looking forward to it.