The Year of Luigi is more than halfway through at this point, and the green plumber’s time in the limelight has finally arrived with the release of New Super Luigi U, at least in DLC form. The retail box release doesn’t come to store shelves until August 25th, for those of you who must have the collector’s item or for whatever reason you are averse to Mario.
So you may be wondering what Nintendo’s first piece of major downloadable content to their flagship franchise has in store for you. Yes, New Super Mario Bros. 2 on the 3DS has its own set of DLC, but that was limited to simple challenge stages, not really part of the actual game. Unfortunately, Nintendo did not take the opportunity to really remake the game with this additional content. Instead, you are sent to the same overworld as Mario, to defeat the same bosses. The only difference is found in the levels you play along the way, and the way Luigi controls, which borrows a bit from the original Super Mario Bros. 2 (the Doki Doki Panic reskin) in that he can float quite a bit longer with each jump if you hold it, making some things easier and others a bit difficult.
Poor Luigi though, the trials he must pass in order to save the day in his game are orders of magnitude more difficult than what his older brother had to go through in his romp through the Mushroom Kingdom. The difficulty is below the heights found in the Lost Levels or the insane Super Mario World hacks you’ll find on YouTube, but it’s still an affair for only the expert platforming enthusiasts among us. Don’t get this game for a kid unless you’re certain they can handle the challenge, that’s for sure, the fact that they added the invulnerable Nabbit to the multiplayer notwithstanding, the levels just aren’t designed for it really. My Luigi died many a cruel death as the levels turn everything you know about the Mario U universe on its head. Normally I don’t like harsh games like this, but at the same time nothing feels really cheap or unfair, it just comes down to a mastery of combining speed and skill. Speaking of speed, Nintendo decided to pile on and start the clock at 100 seconds for each level, automatically triggering the accelerated soundtrack from the start, so no dilly dallying allowed! Needless to say, grabbing all the star coins is quite the accomplishment. Another downside to this design choice is that all feels like you’re getting less of a game having to rush through it. Many of the levels are smaller in scale, too.
Much like the reuse of the overworld, bosses, and cutscenes, there’s absolutely nothing new graphically in Luigi U. No new enemies or level tiles, just the same ones placed more deviously. The soundtrack is recycled as well of course, if only sped up more than you’re used to because of the overbearing time limits. That’s not to say that any of this is bad, just don’t expect any new content in that sense. It would have been nice to see a new world and a couple new enemies, but I’m guessing Nintendo didn’t plan for that degree of modification in the engine. As it is, there’s little to complain about.
All in all, New Super Luigi U is for the hardcore Mario gamers who lament the steep drop in difficulty the series has suffered in comparison to its previous 2D incarnations like the gold standard of Super Mario Bros. 3. Finally there’s have a serious challenge that doesn’t allow you to stockpile 99 lives. I just wish it wasn’t wrapped up in the sameness of extending an already existing game. New Super Luigi U makes a great purchase as a DLC, but I wouldn’t recommend it as a standalone game as it’s just not strong enough on its own merits.