One game that E3 2005 that I could not walk away from for very long was the Nintendo DS's New Super Mario Bros. The fact that it's the first Super Mario 2D side-scrolling platformer game in thirteen years may have had something to do with that. I was raised on 2D Mushroom Kingdom adventures and when 3D appeared and rocked the gaming world the lonely 'ol 2D titles were dumped to the backburner. Now Mario comes full circle with his latest adventure.
New Super Mario Bros. may well be a valentine to classic Nintendo fans. The version playable at E3 contained classic power-ups such as the Super Mushroom, Fire Flower, and Starman. Fiery Mario's colors are the 1985 red and white. Goombas and Koopa Troopas are everywhere. Even the flagpole at the end of the levels returns. Some of Mario's new tricks also appear, such as the wall kick, ground pound, and backflip that originated in Super Mario 64. Thwomps from Super Mario Bros. 3 appear in places as well as the large towering Thwomps from Super Mario 64 that fall forward to try and crush our hero. It's as if Nintendo took the best aspects of Mario's career and blended them into a single game.
Something new to the Super Mario world is a competitive multiplayer mode. Mario and Luigi must race to the end of the level, and while this may sound straightforward there are plenty of ways to slow down one's opponent. There are lightning bolts for shrinking the other brother, fireballs for roasting him, and a special blue block that, when hit, warps the brother in the lead back across the level to the same location as the brother who was trailing. Let me assure you that there are few things more annoying than leaping for the flagpole and suddenly finding yourself warped back to the start of the level by one of those blue blocks.
The E3 demo featured three playable levels: "Field", "Desert", and "Fortress". Here's hoping that the final version features many more levels that are packed with nostalgia and new elements. New Super Mario Bros. is poised to prove that 2D gaming can still be a lot of fun in this age of 3D camera angles and photorealism.