Developer: Nintendo EPD
Medium: Digital/Switch Cart
I consider myself a strange fan of Mario, the last 2D game I’ve sunk ample amount of time in was 2006’s New Super Mario Bros. It’s not that I didn’t think the 2D games weren’t good, far from it, it just seems I wanted to spend my time elsewhere. However when the first trailer for Super Mario Bros. Wonder was released and I saw a pipe come to life and start crawling I decided to clear whatever was on my calendar (Spider-Man 2 for god sake!) to give this title my full attention. Was it worth upending my routine for this title? Let’sa find out!
Super Mario Bros. Wonder takes place in the Flower Kingdom, a realm that isn’t far from the Mushroom King where most of the brother’s adventures tend to originate. Meeting with the realm’s leader Prince Florian, the pow wow is interrupted by a familiar nemesis, King Bowser. The ruler of the Koopas comes in touch with the Wonder Flower and suddenly merges with and absconds with the Flower Kingdom Castle as well as spreading chaos and corruption across the land. Mario and Friends team up with the Prince to gather Wonder Seeds in hopes of reclaiming the castle and restoring peace to the land.
Wonder is your traditional 2D Mario title but there’s actually plenty of refreshing additions and twists. Given the Flower Kingdom is a different realm than the Mushroom Kingdom, the flora and fauna would vary accordingly, yes there’s Goombas and Koopas, but there’s certainly a wide swath of strange and new creatures. From the tricky Hoppycats who mirror your jumps with one of their own, to the spooky Mumsies who can only be defeated by unraveling all of their bandages and even regional variants of old favorites such as the Melon Piranha plants whose projectile of choice are seeds rather than fireballs…the game makes do more than just stomp on the enemies head to vanquish them.
In fact the game’s new power ups give you some interesting options in your fight. The one that is most known is the elephant flower, which transforms you into a bipedal pachyderm. Knock foes away with your mighty tusk, store some water in said tusk to water parched flowers for bonuses or put out flaming enemies or environmental elements. The Bubble Flower allows you to fire bubbles that ensnare foes and if you’re skilled enough can be used to aid you in platforming by giving you a floating platform to do boosted jumps. The Drill Flower gives your character a drill bit hat that allows you to burrow into the ground or even the ceiling, giving you an option to attack from below the enemies who can’t be defeated from your traditional stomp. Each of these are *ahem* a wonderful addition to the franchise and I hope these new plants manage to become an invasive species in the Mushroom Kingdom.
Aside from the brothers Mario, going on this grand adventure are Princess Peach, Daisy, Toad, Toadette, a plethora of colored Yoshis and the mysterious Nabbit. While they look different, their movesets are the same with the exception of the Yoshis and Nabbit. Those characters are geared towards younger or less experienced players, so they do not take damage from enemies, however they cannot utilize power ups. A fair trade off. The game does have a novel approach of customizing gameplay with the badge system.
As you traverse through the Flower Kingdom, you will come across stages where the Poplins (The Flower Kingdom’s equivalent of the Toads) will bequeath badges for Prince Florian to wear. These are what will give you a special ability or a game modifier. The Parachute Cap will let you float gently back to the ground when deployed. Dolphin Kick badge will give you a burst of speed under water. Timed High Jump is just a fancy way of saying Triple Jump, a fixture of 3D Mario games which gives your third jump a boost in height! Safety Bounce lets you get a single mulligan per fall and defy death in pits, lava and poison swamps and finally (cause I’m not gonna rattle off details on all the badges) there are badges that lock all power ups to a certain type. While I wish I had all the tools accessible at all times, this single slot approach forces players to make tough choices, although the game is gracious enough to let you swap badges in between lives so that’s a nice touch.
Stage variety is pretty good, although I did have issues with two stage types. This being Break Time and Search Party. The former are so similar that they are impossible to fail, the latter being a tad esoteric for my liking forcing you to aimlessly jump around hoping to find the hidden element that will give you enough Wonder Tokens to clear the stage. But that said I absolutely loved the KO Arena and the Wriggler Races. The KO Arena forces you to kill a set amount of enemies before advancing while securing a low time will net you the stage’s 3 large flower coins as well as its wonder seed. Wriggler Races have you well…racing a wriggler to the end of the course with the winner getting a wonder seed. If there were more KO Arenas/Wriggler Races than Break Time/Search Party stages I think I would’ve been a lot more enjoyable.
That said, the game’s difficulty in the normal stages isn’t that bad. Harder stages can certainly be mitigated by playing them in multi-player…alas as a friendless person this wasn’t something I could do, but I did endeavor to collect all the large flower coins, touch the top of each flagpole and collect all the wonder seeds in the game’s six main world and hub area. The game’s Special World is where the wheat is separated with the chaff…challenging stages that probably can’t be mitigated with multiple players running through it (although I urge any group of players to prove me wrong on Fluff-Puff Peaks Special Climb to the Beat). These stages certainly help satiated players who thought the main game was too easy.
Before I close out on this review I do want to gush about one of the game’s key features…the Wonder Flower. While its name would make you think this should’ve been in the power up section, this plants that and more! Obtaining one changes the stage temporarily until you obtain the wonder seed tied to it. The number of effects is quite numerous and wild. Turning inanimate objects into moving platforms, turning Mario and friends into enemies (Goombas, Hoppycats, even spike balls!) even flipping the perspective and making you walk on walls. Let’s just say when I see a wonder flower on the horizon I grit my teeth and brace myself what the insanity to follow.
It would be easy to speculate what “substances” the developers were on when they conceived and put this game together, but come on…this is Nintendo we’re talking about here. The only “substance” they have an abundance of is imagination and thank goodness. As Super Mario Bros. Wonder is definitely a timeless classic that will survive the test of time. Let’s hope this isn’t the first time Mario and Co spend time in this foreign land or at least let’s hope the mushroom kingdom imports some of their wares. With that said…Sorry Peter and Miles, I’ve got to finish the Special World before I head back to New York City…looks like this vacation in the Flower Kingdom is gonna last just a bit longer!
Note: Nintendo provided us with a Super Mario Bros. Wonder code for review purposes.