Super Mario Run (Mobile) Review

Super Mario Run (Mobile) Review

Mario’s Mobile Marvel

When Apple held its iPhone 7 event in September 2016, nobody could have guessed that Nintendo’s own Shigeru Miyamoto would come on stage to debut a new Mario game for smartphones. While Miitomo, Fire Emblem Heroes, and Niantic’s Pokémon GO signify visible steps for Nintendo’s mobile movement, witnessing the company’s most popular mascot grace the iPhone screen is still astonishing. Yet here we are with Super Mario Run, Mario’s take on the automatic runner genre.

super-mario-run-overworld
Run Mario Run

If you’ve played an auto-run platformer before, you’ll understand the gameplay immediately. Mario automatically runs through the level, and you tap the screen to make him jump. You can tap multiple times to jump off walls or perform spin-jumps to give Mario extra air time. Otherwise, Mario independently chugs along on his own. Speed-altering blocks spice the game up, and unstompable deathtraps like Fire Bars prevent it from becoming a cakewalk. However, your role is simply to facilitate Mario on his tour to the flagpole. Fans of other sidescroller games may be hesitant based on that description, and their fears are merited. Super Mario Run is not a traditional Mario game in the slightest. If you go into it expecting Super Mario World, you may be disappointed. It’s better to think of it as an arcade game that utilizes traditional Mario elements to guide its direction.

As a huge 2D Mario fan, there were times when I felt that the game missed the mark. While auto-running is the main gameplay tenet, the lack of control is frustrating, especially when you want to go back and explore. There’s an option to go into a bubble to float backwards, but it uses up one of your limited “lives.” Equally disappointing is Mario’s momentum. Although you are always “running,” the pace is slower than a typical Mario title. This game doesn’t have to be Sonic fast, but the exhilarating sense of swiftness is lost here. As a result. Mario veterans may find the game a bit dull. Another unsettling discrepancy is that Mario automatically vaults over enemies when you get close. If you tap while he’s over the enemy, he stomps it and gains air. This design feels counterintuitive because you must resist the natural urge to jump before reaching an enemy.

Super Mario Run Underground.PNG
Wall Kicks Will Work.

You get the picture. This isn’t the traditional experience, but there is beauty to be found in the game’s unmistakable Mario elements. Negatives aside, this is a decent representation of what Mario should feel like on a controller-less platform. The jump physics are familiar and polished. Each hop feels satisfying and bouncing on baddies in succession is oh-so-gratifying. The level design is spot on for this new control style. Stages are more compact, so there’s a lot going on in each screen. There’s also a good variety of level mechanics, such as hitting P-Switches to produce a block path or navigating your way through the puzzling Ghost Houses. The game even somehow fits in vertical levels, a rarity for the auto-runner genre. Part of the series’ appeal comes from making precise movements, and Super Mario Run is all about timing. Making it unscathed through the carefully placed enemies is tougher than it seems. While I ragged on the game’s speed, I praise it for its flow. Mario must have practiced parkour because he hurdles over blocks and grabs ledges like a pro. These alterations to standard Mario mechanics show that the developers understood how to transition to automatic platforming.

super-mario-run-sky
Jumping’s just as fun in an auto-run.

Just as the game ramps up, it suddenly ends. With a scant 24 levels, the main World Tour mode doesn’t last long… unless you collect the special coins. Like the series’ Star/Dragon Coins, there are five pink coins hidden in each stage. You have to search carefully and choose the correct paths to find the collectibles, which can be annoying considering you can’t go backwards (without using up a bubble). Nevertheless, collecting the coins in one run provides a great challenge, and it’s interesting to see how your gameplay changes as a result. Your reward for obtaining every coin is doing it all over again with new coin placements, and then again after that. While I would have preferred more stages to playing each one thrice, the progressively difficult coin challenges were sufficiently entertaining.

Super Mario Run Toad Rally Airship.PNG
Toad Rally (a.k.a. New Super Mario Bros. 2 VS. Mode)

Toad Rally and Kingdom Builder round out the package but aren’t as fun or developed. In Toad Rally, you “compete” against random opponents or friends to collect coins in looping versions of the levels. I use “compete” loosely because you don’t actually play in real-time. Rather, you’re playing against an AI-controlled ghost of your opponent as you would in Mario Kart’s Time Trials. When you collect a certain threshold of coins, you enter Coin Rush, a blazing event in which many more coins suddenly appear for a limited time. By chaining enemy kills and stylishly navigating the level, you also gain support from Toads who cheer you on and give you more coins. Whomever obtains the most coins by the end wins and gains Toads.

Super Mario Run Kingdom Builder.PNG
My Kingdom is stuck in a perpetual Christmas.

Toads are important for the game’s Kingdom Builder, in which you purchase and place buildings in your custom field. Some buildings offer great bonuses, like special levels and characters with desirable abilities. However, to get facilities, you must have a certain amount of coins and Toads, so winning Toad Rallies is crucial. This sounds like a fun loop until you realize how many Toads/coins you need. It’s not exorbitant, but with only 24 levels to choose from, you’ll be grinding the same levels over and over. Mario and grinding should never mix. It’s worth noting that you need tickets from the main game to attempt Toad Rally, though it’s easy to reach the maximum 99.

The graphics are fair, to say the least, reusing assets from the New Super Mario Bros. (NSMB) series. The music, on the other hand, consists of nicely remixed tunes from NSMB, which sound well-suited for a game in constant motion. As a final note, the app requires you to be online to play. It’s a bit silly, but as long as you have a connection, you should be fine.

Super Mario Run Cover 2.jpg
Poor Goomba… Even the game’s logo hurts him.

Super Mario Run is a pleasant surprise. It thankfully lacks the microtransactions that plague other mobile affairs, and instead has a fixed, fairly low price tag. The amount of content is somewhat low but justifies the cost as long as you don’t mind playing through levels repeatedly. It’s not the Mario you grew up with, but it’s a great example on how to translate a game that still relishes in its roots. If anything, Super Mario Run shows Nintendo’s ability to adapt one of its core franchises to a new genre and platform.

Score: 7/10

Note: The iOS Version 1.0.2 was used for this review.

What are your thoughts on Super Mario Run? What would you like to see in Nintendo’s mobile games? Please share what you think in the comments below! Thanks for reading!

Nintendo’s Switch Presentation: My Roller Coaster of Highlights

Nintendo’s Switch Presentation: My Roller Coaster of Highlights

Merry Switchmas

Nintendo finally held its long awaited press conference for its upcoming console/handheld hybrid, the Nintendo Switch. The company revealed the system’s $299.99 price tag and its March 3 release date. Nintendo also announced quite a few games. Here are my strongest positive and negative reactions to the Switch Presentation.

HIGHS

Super Mario Odyssey

Imagine a modern urban setting with your typical skyscraper, a theater, a store called “Crazy Cap,” and a street sign for Dixie St. The only indication of which game world you’re in are the words, “New Donk City.” Pan down to the streets where a taxi passes by. Suddenly, a manhole cover begins to shake and out pops… Mario? This is how the new Super Mario Odyssey trailer started, and I love it!

The game will feature an large open sandbox world akin to Super Mario 64 and Super Mario Sunshine. I adore Super Mario Galaxy and its inventive worlds and mechanics. However, most levels were distinctly more linear than the rich, explorative areas of the former two. Super Mario Odyssey is a return to form, and it looks more amazing than I could have imagined based on the initial Switch video. The theme is “jumping to an unknown world,” and the world looks spectacular. I wanted to roll around in that Mexican-themed town, run across magical leaves that form in midair, ride a lion through an inverse-pyramid desert expanse, and dance with robots in a lush jungle. I’d even cook myself in that giant crystallized vegetable soup area. The world looks somewhat parallel to our own, yet it oozes with such creativity.

Bowser's Royal Wedding.jpg
I hope I’m invited!

New Donk City, an area with realistic humans walking about, will be a fitting playground for our Brooklyn-born plumber. In the trailer, Mario triple-jumps on a cab, spins on a traffic pole, and wall-jumps up skyscrapers. Sure, it’s odd to see Mario in a city setting with regularly-proportioned people, but Sonic did it in his first 3D adventure… Actually, that’s probably not the best example. Sorry, Sonic! Regardless, it’s endearing to see Mario jump rope with two ladies in a park. Even Bowser is dressed for the occasion, looking more debonair than ever before in his white top hat and suave suit. Seriously, Peach, give him a chance!

Super Mario Odyssey Hat.jpg
That hair though.

The last major point changes up the gameplay significantly. Mario can throw his signature red cap as a boomerang. While the hat is in midair, Mario can then bounce on it, leading to what will likely be a huge platforming game-changer. Nintendo even borrowed a page from Rare’s old-school collectathons like Banjo-Kazooie and put googly eyes on the hat. Super Mario 64 is one of my favorite games of all time, and if SMO can replicate and improve upon that style, then I will have a fantastic time next holiday season. There are other great games to come to the Switch, but Super Mario Odyssey was quite easily my game of the show.

Zelda: Breath of the Wild at Launch

The latest trailer for The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild is gorgeous. Watch it if you haven’t already. I fell in love with the new open-air gameplay that Nintendo showed off during their 2016 E3 presentation, and the newest trailer cements it as my most anticipated game this year. Zelda herself looks like she jumped out of a Ghibli movie, and I adore the personality she displays this time around. It’s especially powerful when she cries into Link’s arms. To that point, Nintendo is really making an effort to finally use voice acting to its finest. With what appears to be a fascinating cast of characters and an intriguing plot with 100 years of history, Breath of the Wild will hopefully be one of the finest titles to grace the Switch. And the best part? It’s a launch game, coming out on the same day as the Switch!

Fire Emblem Warriors

I spent over a hundred hours playing the content-rich Hyrule Warriors Legends, and Fire Emblem Fates was one of my favorite games of 2016. Enter Fire Emblem Warriors, a fusion of the Fire Emblem franchise and Koei Tecmo’s Dynasty Warriors gameplay. Excuse me while I salivate. The very prospect of running around the field slicing and dicing enemies as Marth, Ike, Lucina, and Corrin has me giddy inside. Unfortunately, we didn’t see much and can’t tell exactly who will be in the game. But if it’s anything like the fanservice celebrations of Hyrule Warriors and Dragon Quest Heroes (which is now coming to Switch!), we will have a star-studded cast of the series’ lords.

RPGs

Next to platfomers, one of my favorite genres is the role-playing game, particularly Japanese ones (JRPGs). The Wii U unfortunately lacked RPGs, only having a few (great ones!) near the end of its life cycle. During the presentation, Nintendo announced a handful of RPGs. If they all came out within the next year, I’d be set until their next system. I’m most hyped for Xenoblade Chronicles 2, which appears to be a truer sequel to the Wii original than Wii U’s Xenoblade Chronicles X was. The game looks great so far, with stunning visuals, a vast world, and cute anime characters. That game on its own would be meaty enough, but there were more surprises during the show. Atlus teased a new Shin Megami Tensei, a classic RPG series that has since spun off into Persona and Tokyo Mirage Sessions #FE. Square Enix also revealed a new “Project Octopath Traveler,” made by the same team who worked on (and named) the Bravely Default games. Though we didn’t see much, the game had a distinct Super Nintendo or early PlayStation sprite artstyle, which speaks to the 16-bit lover in me. Finally, we got announcements of Dragon Quest X and XI, though it’s up in the air whether those will make it to the West.

The Return of Bomberman and Puyo Puyo Tetris

There was a sizzle reel at the end that showed nearly every other game publicly scheduled for the Switch. I saw some good-looking games in the reel such as Dragon Ball Xenoverse 2, Ultra Street Fighter II, and Sonic Mania. But honestly, no other games caught my eye more than Super Bomberman R and Puyo Puyo Tetris. For Konami to actually release a new Hudson game, and for it to be Bomberman, is nothing short of amazing. I was actually moved by the Bomberman 33rd anniversary logo in the corner of the game box. Bomberman hasn’t had a proper console game in years, and yet here he is, gracing the Switch with his adorable presence. Playing eight-player local and online battles will probably be a launch highlight. I’m happy this beloved gaming mascot is back. Similarly, I’m excited for the return of Puyo Puyo Tetris and the chance to play two different puzzle games with cute anime characters. I wish these games had a bigger presence during the actual presentation rather than being relegated to bits in a sizzle reel and post-presentation YouTube uploads.

LOWS

Presentation

This brings me to my lowlights: The presentation itself wasn’t that great. Make no mistake. The games look fabulous, but perhaps the presenters could have spent more time showing them off, particularly the ones that actually had trailers. For instance, they could have easily talked about their new Mario Kart 8 Deluxe update which has a revamped Battle Mode and new characters and tracks from Splatoon. They could have also shown us why we should be interested in a game called Snipperclips, which I knew nothing about until Treehouse Live did a hilarious playthrough the following day. Instead, we had a long explanation about the Switch’s Joy-Con controllers. I understand that the mini Wiimote-like devices that snap onto a bigger controller deserve explanation. However, it was unnecessary to talk about them for a fourth of the conference, especially when they began showing off the Joy-Con’s ability to read hand signals.

1-2 Switch

It didn’t help that the first game they showed off was this eccentric party game called 1-2 Switch. I was fine with Wii Sports, stuck with Wii Play, and even enjoyed Nintendo Land. I’m not sure what the appeal of 1-2 Switch is. The game revolves around a series of minigames where two players face each other and perform random motion-controlled actions, completely ignoring the screen. The first example was “Quick Draw,” a wild-west style gun duel where the first one to pull their Joy-Con out on the mark wins. Other examples include mock-eating contests, air guitar, wizard duels, swordplay, and milking a cow. I suppose it allows you to reach into your imagination, but then why would you need a $300 machine to do it? Perhaps it’s for children, but it’s primarily an older crowd playing in the trailer. I’d understand if it were a launch game, in which case, I would certainly play it and would love to be pleasantly surprised. Otherwise, I’m not sure whom this game is for. I don’t generally hate on things either. I’m genuinely confused what’s fun about 1-2 Switch.

launch-lineup
Launch Lineup 2017

Launch Day Lineup

On launch day, we will at least have Breath of the Wild, Super Bomberman R, and 1-2 Switch. We also have Skylanders Imaginators and Just Dance at launch, with more games to come in the year. While Breath of the Wild will hopefully be enough as a launch game, it’s also coming out on Wii U the same day. As alluring as Bomberman is, Nintendo has an uphill battle to climb if they want to attract people to their system. To be fair, most consoles have had poor launch days. Even some of my favorite systems only had a single remarkable game. Although it’s still a low point that the launch is weak, the launch year looks like it will be strong overall, with hits like Super Mario Odyssey, Splatoon 2, and Xenoblade Chronicles 2 coming soon.

nintendo-switch
March 3, 2017

Conclusion

There were other assorted highs and lows during the presentation. I’m very excited about the system being region free, the HD rumble technology (as weird as that sounds), and the Switch’s capacitive touch screen – making it closer to a smartphone than a 3DS. I’m also glad that EA and Bethesda are supporting the Switch at this stage and hope that they stick with it. I’m not fond of the new paid online, though I hope this leads to a better online infrastructure. I’m fine with the system’s price, but don’t like the expensive costs of each additional controller and accessory. Overall, I’m still as excited as ever for the system. The excitement isn’t as mind-blowing yet, but there’s enough great games in the pipeline to have convinced me to preorder. This will be an interesting year for Nintendo, and I hope to cover my own journey with the Switch when it ships on March 3!

What did you think about the Nintendo Switch Presentation? What are your highlights and lowlights regarding the new system? What do you want to see for the system? Are you getting a Switch? Please share any thoughts in the comments section below! Thank you for reading!