The Basics: Mario returns to 2D-styled platforming at long, long last with New Super Mario Bros. There are blocks to break, goombas to stomp, themed worlds with all sorts of clever obstacles, multiple types of mushrooms, and all the other bells and whistles one used to expect from Mario back when he spent more time rescuing princesses than playing various sports.
The abilities of the DS will be used primarily to keep the action screen uncluttered. Time limit, score, and coins will all be displayed on the bottom screen while Mario runs around up top. In addition, Mario can hold up to three items at a time for later use, and touching one will send it up to the top screen. An interesting new addition to the status screen is a distance bar, showing how far into the level Mario is and how much is left to go.
There will also be multiplayer modes, the main version being a race to the end of the level. Mario and Luigi compete against each other, fighting it out for powerups and coins, and generally getting in each other's way as much as possible. It's unknown as yet what qualifies for a win, whether it be time, coins, score, or some equation involving all three.
What do we think? I think I've been wanting this game since I finally completed Super Mario World on the SNES. Mario 64 was an excellent game, and Mario Sunshine isn't really as bad as it's cracked up to be, but what I miss is classic Mario gaming. New Super Mario Bros. promises a return to form, with all the goodies that made Mario so popular in the first place.
I especially like the addition of the distance meter. Too many games seem to have levels that are completely arbitrary in size, with the end showing up seemingly at random. The distance meter fixes this, quickly letting us know if the level is a short little thing or an epic affair. Finally killing the question of "How much longer is this going to be?" can only be a good thing.
I managed a small amount of hands-on time with Mario at E3, and everything felt just right. Platforms that wobble depending on where Mario is standing on them, mushrooms that make Mario grow into a giant who punches through walls of bricks, and all the old stuff mixed with the new made me feel nostalgic for a game I hadn't played yet.
So come on Mario (and hurry up Nintendo), this is one of the big anticipated titles for the DS. And the quicker we get a release date, the happier I'll be.