As a younger brother (well, by five minutes—it’s still technically true!), I’ve always identified with Luigi to a certain extent. I may not have investigated a specter-infested mansion with my trusty Poltergust 300, but I did spend a year in a haunted dorm in college, and that’s gotta count for something, right? I’ve also always been partial to green. But the main reason I think I’ve always gravitated toward Luigi is pretty simple: Mario’s always struck me as Nintendo’s Mickey Mouse: a bit too perfect in every way. Luigi, on the other hand, is more like Donald Duck—a flawed, emotional character who’s just a lot more relatable on every level.
That’s why I looked forward to playing through New Super Mario Bros. U (my personal favorite Mario entry in the past five years or so) again as Luigi in New Super Luigi U. After all, this was Luigi’s chance to finally star in his own platforming adventure that also promised to add some old-school, Lost Levels–style challenge to the equation. Unfortunately, what we’ve got here is a literal rush job.
At its core, of course, New Super Luigi U is still an excellent game. But part of why I enjoyed the original so much—the constant exploration to uncover hidden Star Coins or maddeningly well-hidden warp pipes—is slashed apart into an unrecognizable mess here. The original levels are cut in half (though they all feature some clever redesigns that up the challenge), and a 100-tick timer shifts the action to a breakneck pace where you’re simply rushing to complete an area before the doomsday clock strikes midnight. I suspect the motive is to frazzle the player and put them in the frantic mindset of Luigi instead of the calm, cool, and collected Mario, but it completely wrecks the measured, recognizable pacing of a traditional Mario platformer.
You see, there’s a reason I stuck with Mario and Nintendo even after Sega’s infamous “blast processing” commercials featuring Sonic the Hedgehog racing through Green Hill Zone at then-unfathomable speeds—a Mario game is not intended to be rushed through. It’s an impeccable platforming adventure to be savored. I zipped through New Super Luigi U in a matter of hours—not because it was easy, but because the truncated levels chopped the entire experience in half.
And for all of Nintendo’s “Year of Luigi” promotions, New Super Luigi U doesn’t exactly respect the green-clad, part-time ghostbuster. About the only Luigi-specific element on display is his traditional “floaty” jumping mechanic, which can make seemingly easy leaps incredibly maddening (though it does help in reaching the top of the end-of-level flagpoles). He doesn’t even get his own cutscenes, which makes it feel like he’s horning in on Mario’s territory by rescuing Peach while his brother’s off on some business trip with Waluigi. Why not bring in Daisy and at least not make me feel guilty for rescuing a princess? Mario’s replacement, meanwhile, comes in the form of Nabbit, the kleptomaniac lagomorph who’s invincible to enemy attacks here. While his invulnerability does help a little in multiplayer, Nabbit’s presence doesn’t enhance the experience in any meaningful way.
What’s even more frustrating than the minor changes, however, is what’s stayed the same. The boss battles with the eight ’80s-rock-inspired Koopalings remain totally unchanged, including the ultimate confrontation in Peach’s Castle. Sure, the final showdown is still impressive—it’s one of the best in Mario history, after all—but it doesn’t have the same impact the second time around.
New Super Mario Bros. U is one of the strongest entries in the New Super Mario Bros. catalogue, and I can’t deny I still had a good time playing through it here. But New Super Luigi U ultimately feels like so much pared-down, wasted potential. Nintendo can do so much better than this—and considering it may be years before he gets another chance at his own platforming adventure, Luigi deserves better, too.
Luigi deserves better than this truncated take on the Mario platforming formula. While the level-design enhancements are a nice touch, too much remains unchanged when it comes to boss encounters, and the ridiculously short time limit in every level destroys the real draw of a Mario game: patient exploration.
E – Everyone
|New Super Luigi U is available on Wii U. Primary version reviewed was for Wii U. Review code was provided by Nintendo for the benefit of this review. EGM reviews games on a scale of one to five stars.|
A proud Japanese RPG and serial-comma enthusiast, Andrew attended E3 for more than a decade. His least-proud moment? That time in 2004 when, suffering from utter exhaustion, he decided to take a break on the creepy, dilapidated—and possibly cursed—La-Z-Boy at Konami’s Silent Hill booth.