Hardcore players need only apply.
When Nintendo announced in February that it was creating 2013 as 'The Year of Luigi' they were applauded. Luigi is an under appreciated character that deserves more than living in his brother Mario's shadow. Luigi's Mansion 2 came first, as a solid 3DS title. Then recently, as of June 20th, Nintendo unloaded a DLC that would add New Super Luigi U into your New Super Mario Bros. U game. New Super Luigi U promised 80 more levels, a new character to play and new challenges.
Well, they got the challenges part right.
You get is 80 new levels, forcefully shortened (you only get 100 seconds to complete each level) and so dastardly difficult that you might think that Dark Souls direct Hidetaka Miyazaki had snuck in to make some of the game darn right impossible. And trust me when I say this, I'm no n00b to impossible games or to this series, and I was having a heckuva time with Luigi U stages. With that said, let's talk about Luigi first.
Luigi's year has finally started to fully bloom. With our new main character, you get someone who has to fill the shoes of a missing Mario (he's got to take a break eventually, right?). Everything you would expect from Luigi's character movement is in the game (jumping, moving, good personality, etc)…plus a slide. If you are familiar with the Mario Brothers at all (go back to the early 80s, if you want) then you know the brothers generally slide on icy levels. There is no ice with this slide. When you try to stop Luigi from moving forward, he slides. This isn't a slide that you perform by pushing down on the directional pad and using B/A combo, rather this is a slide that is purposely included into his movement. This movement makes the game more challenging and, sadly this movement isn't one that can't directly be turned off. And trust me, gamers, this slide will irritate the heck out of you. This is the first obstacle you must get used to in the game. The slide will demand you to adjust your trajectory and timing of Luigi's jumps. This isn't easy, especially when the entire kitchen sink of enemies is being thrown at you. You'll find more times than not that Luigi will simply slide off an obstacle to his doom. Again, it's incredibly irritating, but it's something you will have to adjust to in the game because it ain't going nowhere.
Now, having said that, the length of the levels in the game is incredibly short due to the difficulty, which is fine by you because you'll thank your lucky stars they are short. Anytime a game can make you want to 'just get it over with' qualifies the title as incredibly difficult. For example, in the Layer-Cake Desert level, specifically Morton's Lava-Block Castle, you have to run across ascending and descending blocks. When I say 'run' I mean RUN across them. The problem with this is that the slide that Luigi has attached to him won't allow you to slow down for a jump one bit because you run the risk of the 'A' button not responding due to Luigi wanting to slide. The result? Luigi mostly slides right off of a block and into the lava. I perished about 10-15 times on this level alone.
That's not to say that you won't have a handful of levels that are entertaining to watch and enjoy. For example, the Sparkling Waters stage is probably the most innocent of all the maps, as you get some very creative and relaxing levels to cruise through. One of my favorite from the bunch is The Great Geysers, which is a beautifully designed level featuring geysers springing out of tropical area for you to jump and move on. This particular level features palm trees and plenty of relaxing moments to catch you breath (and enjoy the scenery). There are a fair amount of levels like this, but for the most part Nintendo seemed to want to stick to the 'go-go-go!' mentality with their level design, so enjoy them while you can.
There are quite a bit of levels where you'll be impossibly challenged. Below, you'll find a ghost mansion level from the Soda Jungle called Boo's Favorite Haunt. As you can tell by the video below, you literally have to watch yourself and time your jumps carefully as it's near impossible just to whip through it all. By the way, this isn't even close to being the most challenging level.
Simply put, Nintendo doesn't let up in terms of enemy count or near impossible level design. They want you to sweat in this game and you have to commend them a bit for stepping out of their usual design scheme. When you play Galaxy or just about any Mario game, there is always a level of comfort and times where you can roll down the gaming window to enjoy the view. This is not that type of game, which might be why it's a DLC. Testing the waters to see how a hardcore Mario game would do is a smart move, though I'm not entirely sure that was the purpose of Luigi U. it feels that way a bit, though.
Having said that, my big worry with New Super Luigi U isn't so much that hardcore gamers like myself will be affected by this shift in difficulty, rather the younger gamers who aren't used to the Dark Souls or the Super Meat Boy's of the world may not fully enjoy what Luigi U dishes up to them. There are going to be some parents who think they're extending the life of the New Super Mario Bros. U for their younger kids only to watch them erupt in frustration. That will happen with this game, even with some hardcore gamers.
The saving grace to this potential situation with younger gamers is the multiplayer aspect of the title. Bringing in three other gamers to extend the life of the game will help out (and one schmoe manning the Wii U gamepad) might help out some of the frustrating moments of the DLC. Although, whoever mans the Wii U gamepad has the potential of getting decked if they're being mean during the game. I think the single player experience isn't as strong as having a group of friends together for this game. Again, this might be the saving grace and best way to go with the game. The less frustration is always better, and even having a good laugh at the lack of progression in the game could really help it out quite a bit and defuse the frustration.
Shifting gears just a bit, one big thing that is new with the DLC is the ability to play as Nabbit. If you're not familiar with Nabbit, he is a thief that tends to steal from Toads. During the story mode, you can chase him when he makes off with the loot. Catching him is tricky, though sometimes easy with the right equipment. You can choose him during multiplayer and he's pretty strong in comparison to the others.
Presentation-wise, New Super Luigi U is picture perfect with its host. Lots of gorgeous colors, models and everything you want to give you some hope that someday Nintendo is going to make Super Mario 64 - 2. Can you imagine with this much power what that game would look like? You know what? Let's see Galaxy 3 first and then we'll come back to 64 -2's daydream. Anyway, you get a very good looking game with New Super Luigi U, so you won't be disappointed on that end of things. It's visually stunning and it truly shows off some of the strong capabilities that the Wii U has in terms of presentation and audio.
At the end of the day you just need to ask yourself if you want to go through this type of game or not. For me, it has been a task and a half. It has felt like more work than pleasure, but at the same time when I end up losing, I just want more of it. It's what you get with sadistic gamers like myself. Again, my only concern for this type of game is that the younger gaming audience might not take too kindly to the upped ante in difficulty. Although the game is only $19.99 ($29.99 when it's a stand alone in August) if you own the original New Super Mario Bros. U, you should really know what you're getting into before springing that sort of coinage. I already know quite a few people who are excited about the difficulty possibilities, but at the same time my son, who loves Mario games -- especially Luigi's character, played this title with me for about 15 minutes before not returning to it again.