I remember getting the first New Super Mario Bros. eight years ago on my birthday. (Or Christmas, time gets hazy as the years go by.) It was a lot of fun, and very significant. It brought back the classic side-scrolling action for a new generation. It was beautifully crafted with exciting levels and good music. Then three years later Nintendo blew everyone away with New Super Mario Bros. Wii. It was a great sequel, it grabbed the previous game and made it better. (With two-player co-op!) Unfortunately, the series started to show its wear with the release of New Super Mario Bros. 2. two years ago. It was a complete rehash of the previous two, it used a lot of the same music and had a virtually identical story. It wasn't a bad game, but it didn't seem like Nintendo tried to do anything new. That's why I was a bit worried for New Super Mario Bros. U. After playing through it, I can say two things. One, it's a rehash but to a much lesser extent. Two, it's time to retire the 'New' series because it has gotten old.
The story sadly is virtually a remake of the Wii game. Bowser and his kids besiege Princess Peach's Castle. They throw Mario, Luigi, and two Toads far away. So the heroes will have to journey back to the Castle. Now to be fair, as you can see the story takes a more interesting turn. Instead of us having to travel to Bowser Castle, it pulls a Mario 64 where Bowser takes control of Peach's Castle. If it wasn't for that, the story would have been almost unbearable since it would have been too similar to the Wii one. Of course, with these Mario games you can't expect a really engaging plot. (Isn't that sad?) Can the gameplay make up for it?
The 'new' thing is the Super Acorn power-up. It's pretty cool, but isn't too different from the Super Leaf. There's not much else to say about about the gameplay, it's the same as previous installments, which isn't a horrible thing. It was cool how Baby Yoshis appeared and you used their abilities to get through some obstacles. It's a shame they weren't more utilized. The stage backgrounds I gotta say are some of the most impressive in the series. I was absolutely floored at the background to Painted Swampland. They fully realize the Wii U's HD capabilities.
Once again, sadly most of the soundtrack is lifted from previous games. Yes, you'll hear the same fortress and castle theme once again over and over. And yes, you will get tired of hearing that Ghost House one. I'm sorry but every video game should have an original soundtrack. It's fine if it borrows a couple of themes, but too many are rehashed. Perhaps the best part of the game is the final level and boss, appropriately titled, 'The Final Battle.' The big Bowser fight at the end ranks as one of the finest for the franchise, easily beating the lackluster final 'battle' in 3D World. Sure, the fight becomes simple once you know what to do, but those first few minutes of Bowser roaring like a true monster shooting fire while Mario runs around will never be forgotten.
Overall, New Super Mario Bros. U is an improvement over the second DS game. It's not amazing however, since it rehashes a lot of things from previous installments. It's still fun, though it's quite easy to rack up 50 lives in under six worlds, so you'll never truly be in danger. It seems Nintendo is in a rehashing stage with Mario, hopefully this won't continue. Regardless, NSMBU is not a bad starter for the system. It has great replay value thanks to the Star Coins and bonus modes.