You see screenshots of "New Super Mario Bros." on the Wii and you scoff. You've played dozens of Mario games in the past. You've rocked the whole "All-Stars" collection, you mastered the Japanese "Super Mario Bros. 2," you think you can handle just about everything. Well "New Super Mario Bros." on the Wii is going to teach you a lesson in humility. It's really hard.
At a demo in New York City this week, Nintendo was showing off some of the new levels from the game. The first they dropped me in was level 8-7 and very near the end of the game. And it showed. You remember those ghost house levels from "Super Mario World" where you had to stay on the moving platform and it slowly chugged past ghosts and other obstacles? Ok, imagine that, but turn the platform into a slavering bone dragon and speed it up by about 3 times. Oh, and throw on three other homicidal friends who would rather jump on your head than let you make a perfectly timed jump. I went in expecting instant success, I left with zero lives and a lower sense of self worth.
Apart from the multiplayer, the difficulty seems to be the most striking thing about "New Super Mario Bros." on the Wii. Completing some of the later levels on your first try is nearly impossible, and you'll probably end up blowing a large cache of lives on a single tricky jump.
And that's where the "Super Guide" comes in. Again, go ahead and scoff. I did. But with such a ramped up difficulty, it makes a lot of sense to let the computer handle the tricky bits for folks. After all, nothing makes you put down a game faster than dying 10 times on the same section. It seems like Nintendo has found a way around that issue.
It's because of the Super Guide that the developers were able to crank up the difficulty, knowing that they no longer needed to make the game for the lowest-skilled player. So you're left with what's arguably the most hardcore Mario game you've ever played. Starting to scoff a little less now, aren't you?
The game's set to drop in the middle of November (a mere week away from another super hardcore title: "Modern Warfare 2), but as far as same-system multiplayer experiences go this holiday season, "New Super Mario Bros." on the Wii is the most promising I've seen.