I’m really struggling in New Super Mario Bros. U. I wouldn’t say it’s a bad thing – I’m still enjoying the game, of course – but I’m definitely struggling with it, and that’s leaving me with questions about my gaming skills.
I’m not a Nintendo gamer. When I say that, I mean I grew up without a Nintendo console in my household. My Gameboy existed only for Pokemon. I went to friends’ places to play Melee on the Gamecube. I never properly touched a real Mario game until Super Mario Galaxy. That means I’ve missed a lot, an incredible amount, years worth of experiences and a better understanding of how the Mario games play. I’ve since gone back a few times, but whether due to the game’s age or my own abilities, I’ve usually found the games difficult.
In that regard, Super Mario Galaxy and its sequel are the odd ones out. I wouldn’t say they were easy, but they were manageable. There’s a difference in the difficulty I’m facing here. It’s not something like the Grandmaster Galaxy in Super Mario Galaxy 2, which is designed to be the most challenging level of the game (the completion of which has become one of my proudest gaming accomplishments). These are ordinary levels, random ones along the path towards Bowser, that have me stuck for a good while. As an example, there was a level that involved rotating stars in the snowy region of the map, and I wasted a fair amount of lives completing it. A lot of lives. Many, many lives. There are entire sections of this game where I am failing spectacularly from one level to the next. I’ve received prompts from the game, asking me if I essentially want to let off some steam in the Miiverse, more times than I should admit, and I’ve refused most of them on the grounds that I don’t want my friends to see images of a stick figure me flipping tables every second level.
It’s an entirely different beast. In the Galaxy games, I could complete a dozen levels in the time it takes me to finish three here.
I decided to consult the Miiverse. Between some impressive drawings I found a few comments like ‘that level took forever’ or ‘I finally cleared it’, but not many. There were no flipped tables. Maybe I really am alone here.
It’s just something I’ve come to notice in this game. It’s really hard.
This guy puts me to shame.
At first I thought it might have something to do with the game being a side-scroller, 2D sort of game. And that made sense for a while, because I never struggled this badly with the Super Mario Galaxy games, which are full 3D platformers. But then I think to the 3DS, and Super Mario 3D Land, which is essentially a handheld Galaxy game but still sits incomplete on my shelf. I failed the final Bowser fight so many times the game threw me a super tanuki suit out of pity.
I can pinpoint one of the differences between these games that is surely giving me problems: star coins. For the uninitiated, there are three star coins in every level (boss levels included) and, at least in Super Mario 3D Land, they’re used to progress and unlock bonus levels. I’m actually not sure what they do in New Super Mario Bros U. yet. But there’s always a compulsion to get them, particularly in the Wii U game, where collecting all three in one go can earn you bragging rights in the Miiverse.
Star coins are often hidden, or they require a certain Mario powerup to reach, or they involve pulling off daring and risky stunts. It’s that last one that gets me most of all. I’ve charged towards giant walls of lava repeatedly just for one star coin. They’re a huge part of the game it seems, but more often than not now I find myself skipping over them. Maybe the point is that they exist as an added difficulty for the more experienced, or just the better, player. So maybe I’m just making things more difficult for myself.
There’s probably something else I’m missing: the multiplayer aspect of it all. Surely some of these levels are going to be easier with other people by your side? Ignoring the possibility of griefing each other, if four people came together to really complete the game, I’d have a much better time with it. But I haven’t had a chance to try it out in multiplayer, so I’ve slowly made progress on my lonesome, and times have been tough indeed.
Maybe I’m in a gaming slump. Dark Souls, yeah of course that one is difficult, but I’ve been struggling everywhere these days. I was abysmal at stealth in Dishonored, I’ve had to lower the difficulty in Ni No Kuni, and lately I’ve been absolutely rubbish at Halo. Mario is just another game on the list. That’s a lot of self-deprecation, but it’s not like I’m hating any of these games. It’s just that whenever I get around to talking about these games lately, the first thing out of my mouth is some variation of ‘damn, it’s hard’.
I was talking with a friend the other day. He said he was playing through Super Mario Sunshine. The next thing he said was ‘it’s actually really difficult’. A-ha! So it’s not just me, right? Mario games really are challenging!
Basically, what I’m saying is, some of you need to come over so we can all play Mario together.