A Classic Style Made Contemporary: Celebrating New Super Mario Bros DS
Sometimes when a series has run the gamut on variety and spent years trying new things, it’s best to return to the roots with all of the new lessons learned and take some new chances with the old formula. Such is the case of New Super Mario Bros. Nintendo had spent four years away from using their star attraction in his own games, but when they brought Mario back, they did it in sheer style. New Super Mario Bros. was the first Mario game since Mario Sunshine and the first 2D Mario game since Super Mario Land 2: 6 Golden Coins, but it brought prominence back to the series in a big way with its use of new ideas laid atop the old-school formula. Today, we celebrate its initial launch on the Nintendo DS in 2006.
Much of the hype around New Super Mario Bros. came out of the fact that it represented Nintendo’s 20th anniversary with the character since the release of the original Super Mario Bros. in 1985. As such, the design is a marriage of Mario’s 2D roots with some new novelties and many of the successful elements from Mario’s many 3D games. New Super Mario Bros. is a 2.5D game. That is to say the game plays in a 2D platforming style, but with 3D models and backgrounds. In this way, the developers were able to build levels around the classic eight-world formula of the first Mario games while using tools from games like Mario 64 such as the ground pound.
In addition to the mechanics, using 3D models instead of hand-drawn sprites and backgrounds allowed the developers much more time to try out new things with the series. The larger part of this was the addition of new power-ups like the Super Mushroom that would make Mario a lumbering giant that could charge through levels, but there were smaller nuances as well. Physics was heavily tampered with in New Super Mario Bros., as the developers explored the weight of Mario and his effect on objects in the worlds he traversed. Jumping onto a tree and making it waver, swinging on ropes, and walking on wires that bend under his weight were just a few of the additions brought in. Music was another big part of the game. Not only did the game feature music created under the direction of Koji Kondo, the creator of the main theme in the original Super Mario Bros., but the entire world is affected by the music. Enemies would actually move, dance, and jump in time to the background music going on and if the player realized this, they could exploit enemies to get to secret bonus areas in the game.
New Super Mario Bros. is a game that oozes nostalgia with a fresh coat of paint. From the very beginning, it hits those familiar notes of Mario or Luigi having to rescue Princess Peach from Bowser, this time chasing the kidnapper, Bowser Jr. across eight worlds. Familiar enemies from all over the franchise appear and Koji Kondo’s influence on the musical design is heavily apparent. In an absolutely awesome homage, players even face off with Bowser upon a bridge, just as in the classic Super Mario Bros. Inasmuch as they changed the game over the years, the developers thoughtfully employed the series’ roots in a new and fun way.
New Super Mario Bros. reignited something with the franchise. It rekindled the fire within old-school players with its employment of the old mechanics and themes while also changing it enough to make it far more than a simple rehash, bringing lasting enjoyment to a new generation of players around the world. This can be seen in the fact that it sold nearly close to 31 million units worldwide, making it far-and-away the highest selling Nintendo DS game of all time and one of the highest selling games of any system. With these numbers, it also rekindled Nintendo’s interest in creating games starring the plumber and ensured for years to come that we’d never go too long without a new game starring the world’s favorite plumber.