This thing is a sadist. Bear with me.
In this game, you have to find special “star” coins. There are three such coins in every level. Satan decided how difficult they would be to reach. You need these star coins in order to save. So, here you are, bip-bopping along. You’ve passed two stages that were real bitches, and you want to save. It goes something like this: There is a platform. Directly below it is the star coin you need. You can tell already how this is going to end. The platform is going to drop our from under you the second you touch it, so you have to ride it down, palms sweaty, and get the coin, then do a double jump off the wall to reach another platform. If you haven’t fallen to your death. Which you will. Multiple times. And yet….
That must make me the masochist. I go back again and again, because I love this fucking game. I didn’t even own a Nintendo when I was a kid, or a Super NES, for that matter. I was Sega all the way, but somehow I still played each and every Super Mario game. And I loved them as well (except for Yoshi’s Island—that game sucked). Now, you know you love them, but do you know why? I’ll tell you: I bet a hundred bucks that you can hum the opening theme to Super Mario Bros. Can you name another game whose soundtrack you remember? Me neither. But wait until you hear the first song in this new one. It’s a remix of that one you remember so well from your youth. And oh, does it take me back.
I didn’t expect to become obsessed with this game. I bought it on a whim, as the DS in our household belongs to my wife. And quicker than you can say “Man, is Nintendogs even really a game?” I was hooked. This is gaming bliss the likes of which you thought you may never experience again. I played this thing for three solid days. I played until the battery died, then moved next to a wall socket so I could play some more. I played until my fingers cramped (we’ve got the older DS), loving every second of it.
OK, here are some things that blow about this game. The power-ups suck. Badly. Sure, the fire flower is still awesome, but the blue Koopa shell is completely useless. The giant mushroom acts the same as a star, making you basically invincible. And the shrinking mushroom is for specific areas only. Nothing makes you fly, which kinda sucks. Also, every boss up until Bowser is exactly the same.
But man, you know what? This game still kicks ass. I admit the giant mushroom is the same as the star, but it’s so cool looking. You just feel awesomely powerful as you watch little Mario stretch and expand to screen-topping heights, and then he just lets all kinds of hell loose on the level. Bitchin’. All the sound effects are the same as the original. Blocks being broken, power ups, jumping on enemies, the flagpole at the end of each level.
I loved Super Mario 64 back in the day, but now it seems kind of antiquated. Don’t even get me started on Super Mario Sunshine. Mario belongs in 2D, because, dammit, that’s where he belongs. Sure, the games make little to no sense at all, but the discovery of it all. The pure joy in playing. It’s this essence that makes this game so fun.
So what if the retarded princess has been kidnapped again? So what if you have to collect these ridiculously hard to get star coins to save? So what if the platforming nirvana is interrupted by GODDAMN WATER STAGES. Listen: Nobody likes these stupid stages. Nobody liked them on the NES, and nobody likes them now. They are absolutely no fun what-so-ever.
At the end of the day, the game is still a platformer. Like Super Paper Mario on the GameCube, which looks freaking fantastic. You still go from left to right, stomping on enemies and saving the princess. Still, New Super Mario Bros. made me feel all warm and fuzzy inside. For me, it’s like going over to a friend’s house and seeing that their kid has a Transformer. Pick it up, and your hands magically remember how to change it from a train into a dinosaur or what-the-fuck-ever. The point is that playing this game is nothing if not comforting. It’s a warm blanket and cup of hot chocolate on a freezing winter evening. Oh, it’s still an evil sadist bastard mother fucker. But kind of like the way grandma was.