Super Mario Bros Wonder is -as anyone could have predicted- a very good video game. Will it stand the test of time? Who knows! But my knee-jerk reaction now that I’ve 100% cleared it is that it’s the best 2D Mario since… Super Mario World, I suppose. It’s almost definitely one that I’ll be replaying on a semi-regular basis.
One of the new gimmicks in SMBWonder are badges. You’ll collect these over the course of the game and equipping them will grant your character some kind of special ability. You can only use one at a time, but you’re free to swap it out at any time on the world map, or if you lose a life in a stage. The abilities that badges grant range from allowing you to hold R to deploy a parachute, to hinting at secrets, to giving you a Super Mario Galaxy-esque spin-jump, to giving you a free super mushroom at the start of every course.
Most of the badges have some kind of practical use, but one stuck out to me as totally weird: the invisibility badge. All that this badge does is make your character invisible. Which makes the game way harder to play, being a platformer that requires a certain amount of precision. I guess maybe it also makes you immune to enemy attacks? I honestly don’t know; I never used the thing outside the two short challenge stages that force you to equip it.
While SMBWonder eschews many long-standing 2D Mario traditions, one of the things it keeps intact is the super-tough final stage. These final stages are typically so difficult that they are the single biggest reason that I never play a Mario game to 100% more than once. SMBWonder is likely going to be the same, because it took me at least two hours and countless lives to finish its final stage.
The Final-Final Test: Badge Marathon is a stage made up of ten distinct challenges, each one with obstacles themed around a different badge. While most of the rooms aren’t necessarily that difficult on their own, managing to get through all of them sequentially is a brutal gauntlet. Nintendo decided to very graciously add checkpoints at the beginning of the fourth and seventh rooms, which were an absolute necessity for me. If they hadn’t been there, I would have given up on the stage entirely, like I did with the final stage in Super Mario 3D World.
My gripe with this level is, logically enough, the last section of four rooms. The first of them is actually very easy, then the second and third are a little more challenging, but not terribly hard if you’re paying attention. But the very last room is the absolute worst, because it forces the invisibility badge on you again and tasks you to leap across two chasms of moving platforms. While your character is invisible. There are clouds scattered about to give you a rough idea of when you are, but they aren’t enough!
So only once I’d completed 99.9% of everything that SMBWonder has to offer did I finally realize the true purpose of the invisibility badge: to troll players with an unfair challenge. Keep in mind that the checkpoint is three rooms before this one, so ever single time you die (and you will die many, many times), you have to slog through all three of the previous rooms before you get a chance to even attempt the stupid invisibility room again. Suffice it to say, I got really good at those three rooms by the time I finally managed to clear the stage. In retrospect, having to repeat those other rooms over and over and over was the worst part of it, and I don’t think that I would have been anywhere near as frustrated if there had been a checkpoint at the beginning of the invisibility room.
To boil it all down to one cohesive thought: The final room in this stage is unfair, as it takes away your ability to see your character in a stage that demands high-precision play. It’s true that the room would be very easy if you could see your character, but I don’t think that’s a good excuse. There are a hundred other ways to make a difficult platforming challenge without effectively disabling the player.
And so that’s really my only complaint about Super Mario Bros Wonder. The last room of the last stage is bad. Not too shabby overall then, eh?