After such an amazing, awe-inspiring game like Super Mario Galaxy, Nintendo put it's self and the developers of the Mario games into quite a pickle. On one hand, they completely exceeded everyone's expectations for what a 3D Mario game on the Wii console could be, and they should be commemorated and congratulated for that tenfold. What they pulled off with that title is nothing short of amazing, and thankfully, the critics around the world universally agreed how amazing it was, thus rewarding the team for their accomplishments with the game. On the other hand, however, they raised the bar so high for themselves for any future Mario games, it almost seemed impossible for any Mario game to get better, or even equal, of what Galaxy accomplished.
So when they announced New Super Mario Bros. Wii as the next Mario title, which wasn't a follow up or successor to Galaxy at all, fans everywhere balked at the news and immediately started judging the game for not being as good or as creative as Galaxy. Gamers seemed to adore Galaxy so much, that no matter what Nintendo revealed, it wasn't going to be enough to satisfy the craving that Nintendo themselves established in the first place. It felt like a no-win situation for the company, and the criticism and negativity started right back up.
The thing is, however, that Nintendo never claimed to want to make another Galaxy game, or a game similar to it. Remember, they like to shake things up, keep things creative and new and fresh feeling, and not dwell too heavily on one style of gameplay, despite how successful it might be, I mean think about it, how often does Nintendo put out back to back Mario games of the similar style? Exactly. Yet everyone, even to this day, continues to say that Nintendo just recycles the same old, tired formula over and over again. Weird how perspective and assumptions can differ so greatly from reality some times.
Anyway, with New Super Mario Bros. Wii, they went back to the successful formula that the DS game established, providing the classic 2D side-scrolling gameplay in a very stylish, modern style of design. With Galaxy, the clear focus was on adventure and 3D exploration of the worlds traveled to, and while it was an amazing experience from start to finish, I can totally see why it isn't a game for everyone. Remember that the Wii was a household staple all across the country, and not just in the living rooms or bedrooms of "hardcore" gamers. The install base had branched out into casual and first-time gamers, and for those not used to controlling video game characters around a 3D axis, it could surely prove to be difficult without the proper hand-eye coordination or years of practice. And just because Galaxy was so successful didn't mean that Nintendo would be complacent and just be satisfied with Mario reaching out to some of their customers, but not all.
With that idea in mind, New Super Mario Bros. Wii was born, hoping to reach out to that audience that was turned off by the complex game play of Galaxy. NSMBW was developed with families in mind, hoping to bring everyone together on the couch for game play sessions in a Mario co-op experience like no other. At first, it's easy to label Mario as a family game, but in reality, no Mario game was ever truly developed with multiple gamers in mind. Sure, they would have a second player option in some of them, allowing two players to take turns playing levels, which are really just two individual gaming experiences, instead of one shared experience. With this game, however, they wanted to change all that, and allow four players at once to share one gaming experience, however hectic it may be.
And when thinking about this game, my first memories are always how chaotic and hectic it was playing with my three kids. We would sit around and play it together, because we could, and because they loved it. Sure, it was as frustrating as you could imagine for a gamer like me, but when you sit back and just experience the game as nothing but fun times with your kids and not worry about collecting everything, or doing the best as possible, it really is a blast. It's pure madness, but it's fun nonetheless.
Playing with my daughter on this Christmas day afternoon, all I could think about was all those times I got to play it with them, and how I may have taken that time for granted. Hindsight is dangerous if you let it get to you, but I wish I could go back and appreciate all those moments I had with my kids while playing games, especially now that my time with them is far more limited, especially for playing games with them.
I remember the younger ones always "bubbling up" on the tough parts of each level, which just encapsulated their character in a bubble that would follow the other players through the level, until popped. This prevented them from dying or getting stuck on jumps they couldn't make, and really made the game playable for everyone of all ages. It prevented frustration from my end, and it kept them entertained and in the game without worry of them getting bored due to difficulties.
It's not the best looking Nintendo game, or the most creative. It's not the most ground breaking game, or at the top of the list within the franchise. But it will always be remembered and appreciated for opening doors to everyone who wanted to experience a Mario game, that wasn't just satisfied watching or playing as a second player, alone. It brought people together on the couch for a full game experience, and while online gaming was climbing higher and higher in popularity, it was refreshing to see a company still value in-person human interaction.
Of course, maybe it was this game that made Nintendo remember that loneliness is tough thing to handle, even for video game characters. I mean, space is a pretty lonely place if you don't have a companion by your side, don't you think?
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Games played for project : 365