Super Mario Bros. Wonder | Review | Switch - Japan-based Nintendo Podcasts, Videos & Reviews!


Monday, November 13, 2023

Super Mario Bros. Wonder | Review | Switch

It’s about time. Nintendo is back for the first time in over a decade with a brand new 2D Mario with Super Mario Bros. Wonder. Is this the side scrolling Mario that you’ve been waiting for, or is this just a 2D Mario that you can skip out on? Slight spoilers - the game is awesome and this review is going to tell you why. Let’s get into it. 

Story & Gameplay
Mario and his friends start out in the Flower Kingdom, having a get together of sorts with the leader of the land, Prince Florian. Of course, it wouldn’t be a Mario game without Bowser and his cretins coming to spoil the fun. Bowser takes the power of a Wonder Flower and fuses himself with a nearby castle to become…a talking Bowser castle. It’s all a bit wacky, but perfectly in line with what you have come to expect from a Mario title. From here, players are tasked with tracking down Wonder Seeds and taking out Bowser.
Fans who have played Mario titles for the past few decades pretty much know what to expect when it comes to 2D Mario. Although Wonder will feel very familiar, some improvements to the overall game world and structure freshen things up a bit. Accessing levels can be done via a 3D / 2D overworld map that players are free to traverse. Stages can also be accessed via a menu. One of my favorite parts of the game was something simple - not every stage is a race to the flag pole. While this has been done in past Mario games to some extent, it’s more prevalent here. This helps to put some nice stop gaps between the action, giving the player(s) a chance to use a different set of skills or to just relax. For example, Search Party has players scouring a condensed level in search of hidden medals. Another stage type has players simply taking out levels of enemies as quickly as possible. Simply put, there is a decent amount of variety.

Controls overall feel tight and responsive. All of the characters also play the same, which I really think was a great idea. While it can be fun to try out different characters for different gameplay styles, Nintendo threw that out the window with the addition of badges (more on that later). Regardless of how you feel about that, Nintendo has crafted an extremely competent side-scroller that feels great and is fun to play. 

Power-ups & Badges
Several new power-ups appear throughout the adventure. The most well known from the marketing is the new elephant transformation. The special “Elephant Fruit” turns Mario and his friends into large, hulking versions of themselves that are capable of more powerful attacks and the ability to collect water in via the trunk. This water can be used to repel enemies or to uncover light secrets. 
The Drill Mushroom also makes its debut in Wonder. Once powered up, players will have a drill that they can use to dig into the ground and ceiling. Not only this, but the drill allows the Mushroom gang to break through a variety of blocks that they otherwise are unable to get through.

The Bubble Flower was also a nice addition. Aesthetically for Mario, this transformation looks similar to Fire Mario, giving him red overalls, but a pink shirt in lieu of a white one. Instead of shooting deadly fireballs, bubbles can be used to take out enemies. The bubbles can also work to help players reach new heights as they can also be bounced off of to get to places that would normally be out of reach. 

I really enjoyed all of the new power-ups here. They’re all unique and give players different things to do with the characters that they really couldn’t do in the past. My favorite out of all of these has got to be the Elephant transformation. It may not be the most versatile, but it’s hilarious seeing the characters as huge elephants. It also feels very powerful and it’s just fun to use. 
Wonder Flowers are sprinkled throughout the game world in Wonder. When activated in levels, they turn on what is known as “Wonder Effects” which change the visuals, enemies, gameplay and more. These segments give the game some very memorable moments. Not only that, but they offer some gameplay elements that can only be found once these are activated. They are really fun and help set the game apart from all of the other Mario games thematically. 

Badges are another new feature found in Super Mario Bros. Wonder. These give Mario and his friends a variety of different moves at their disposal. These can be chosen before levels and range from things such as a Floating High Jump, Parachute Cap, Dolphin Kick (for boosts underwater), Auto Mushroom (at the beginning of each stage when worn), Sensor Badge (for finding purple coins and secrets) and more. Equipping the right one before entering a stage is paramount for success. While you can go through any stage with any badge you like, certain badges will likely make things easier. Overall, this system is a nice addition to the game. Past Mario titles did similar things by offering similar kind of handling for separate characters, so it’s nice to be able to play through the stages as your character of choice with these. 

Online Play
Super Mario Bros. Wonder features pretty robust online features. While it is possible to team up directly with friends, Wonder has an excellent, passive online feature. Once initiated, you will be able to see players traveling around the map and through stages in real time. Not only this, but the players directly and indirectly help out others. If a players dies in a level, they turn into a ghost that can scramble the stage looking for another player to revive them. Similarly, players can also place Standees in the stages that can be used to both resuscitate and warn other players of danger. Additionally, four emotes are also available for limited, but useful communication in real time. This was completely awesome and it works flawlessly. In terms of traditional online play, unfortunately that is something that I really didn’t try out. While I can’t comment on that directly, the more passive forms of online are fantastic. Hats off to Nintendo for adding such a useful feature.

Visuals, Audio & Performance
Super Mario Bros. Wonder sports a clean look and smooth performance. It doesn’t do anything drastically different visually, but it is mostly in line with what you would expect from a Mario title. The character models themselves are 3D on a 2D plane. The best part of the playable character and enemies is the range of expressions and keen attention to detail. Little things, like Mario’s hat flying off when he goes into pipes (which he then turns to grab), to the trunk full of water in elephant form or look on Mario’s face when he gets hit - these are all very nicely done.
Music and overall audio performance is great here, too. One of may favorite aspects of this is the inclusion of the talking flowers that appear throughout the levels. At first glance, they might seem to be a little bit annoying, however, they really grew on me through the game. It was great to see positivity (and bits of comedy) reinforced throughout the adventure, making this truly something that people of all ages can enjoy. 

Overall, I am satisfied with the look, sound and performance in Wonder. On the other hand, I would have loved to see the team do something drastically different. For example, craft a 2D Mario game that matches that look of their promotional images for Mario and crew. Perhaps that is something that the team will do sometime down the line. In the meantime, Wonder does offer enough of a difference from previous titles that make the game feel fresh.

The wait for a new 2D Mario has been long, but it has definitely been worth it. Wonder feels very fresh in terms of gameplay, visuals and modern online components. The new power-ups are fun to tinker around with and the level and enemy design is great. Obviously, if you’re a Mario fan, you need to have this game. If you’re a lapsed Mario gamer or are looking for something fun with the family, you really can’t go wrong here. 

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