Nintendo is the perfect company to produce DLC for their games, which makes it all the more frustrating that they have not fully embraced this idea. New tracks for Mario Kart, new characters for Smash Bros, there is so many perfect opportunities for them to release extra content. Yet aside from some extra Coin Rush courses for New Super Mario Bros. 2, there has been little to nothing from them in this regard. That’s what made the announcement of New Super Luigi U exciting. It would act as the first true test of Nintendo’s DLC capabilities. Would it be a clear cash-in? Or would they put forth the effort and really release a piece of content that was worthwhile?
New Super Luigi U certainly sounds ambitious on paper. Nintendo has taken every single level from last year’s New Super Mario U, and retooled them in order to suit Luigi. The character has completely different physics from Mario, with a floatier jump and a lot more sliding along the ground. It’s not a slight change, Luigi feels 100% different than controlling Mario, and it will take some getting used to. Later levels do give you the option of reverting back to the Mario centric controls, but I found it near impossible to make the change after growing accustomed to Luigi’s play style.
The levels themselves are considerably shorter than those found in the main game. You only have 100 seconds to complete each one, with the familiar “you’re almost out of time!” music kicking off each level. The only situation where you can get extra time is a boss fight, which adds an additional 100 seconds to the clock when you enter the bosses’ door.
What these stages lack in length, they make up for in difficulty. These stages are remarkably more difficult than those found in the main game. By the final batch of stages, I was averaging 20 deaths per level, minimum. Nothing ever feels cheap or impossible though. It’s a fair, and welcome, challenge. With possibly the exception of the late game level that consists of nothing but rotating wheels of fire. Kind of fuck that level.
The stages are tailored to suit the way that Luigi handles. If you get a good run going, you can complete many of the stages in 10-20 seconds. Pulling off a fast and flawless run through a level can be quite satisfying, and I found myself actually restarting a level not because I died, but because my momentum through the level was broken. I realize I’m probably going to be in the vast minority on this one, but at the very least it shows how fantastic the level design is.
Nintendo catches a lot of shit about releasing the same games over and over again and I’ve never completely understood why that is. Yes they do release a fair number of Mario games, but it’s only the bankable framework for a consistent display of genius level design. Sure there are the occasional missteps (New Super Mario Bros 2) but for the most part Nintendo is unparalleled when it comes to putting a stage together, and this is another shining example. The stages in Luigi U are top notch, each one having it’s own theme or mechanic to make it stand apart from all the others. The stages may be shorter, but there was no slacking with their set-up.
Since this is a Luigi focused endeavor, some character needed to step in and replace Mario. I never expected them to go too far and all of a sudden include Wario or Peach or something. Here we instead have Nabbit, the rabbit thief thing that you have to catch throughout the game. He isn’t able to use power-ups, instead getting a 1-up for each item you grab in a level, but he is also completely invulnerable to enemy damage. The only way Nabbit can die is by falling down a pit. Other than that, you’re good to go. It’s a nice workaround if you’re absolutely stuck in a level, but I could see one player in a four-person match being bummed they got stuck with what could be classified as the “boring” character. Though the idea of tackling this game with four people is pretty ridiculous, so you likely want that one person who is untouchable.
For $20 ($30 if you wait until August to buy the standalone version), New Super Luigi U is an easy recommendation. Over 80 new stages (the boss fights are the same, suppose I should throw that out there since that is a slight bummer), along with coins and exits to find, and a main character who feels completely different from the main game, add up to make for a solid package at a reasonable price. It’s a great piece of content and I hope that’s a sign of more things to come in the world of DLC from Nintendo.