Let’s talk turkey. It’s Thanksgiving, after all, so why not talk about the delicious bird served up alongside bread stuffing, sweet potatoes with tiny marshmallows on them and hard liquor (either on the potatoes or in your stomach)? Why not throw in a few games to hold you over while your needy relatives shop Black Thursday? You may never know the pleasure of shopping at midnight on Thanksgiving, but you’ll come to know the sheer joy of ignoring it all as you become lost in a world of digital make-believe.
If you haven’t spent most of your week living it up in Microsoft’s Halo 4, then you’ve clearly been living it up elsewhere, as those are the only two options. Halo is to Microsoft as Super Mario Bros. is to Nintendo: a cash cow, incapable of not selling a bajillion copies.
In Halo 4, Master Chief is back, this time to face new, more terrifying alien villains in the form of the Prometheans and Master Chief’s longtime friends the Covenant. Both are out to kill the Chief and his AI friend, Cortana. Hijinks ensue and this rom-com turned sci-fi mishmash plunders through a few hours’ worth of shoot-em-up glory just as well as the previous installments. Seeing as how this one is the first made sans developer Bungie, 343 Studios (a subsidiary of Microsoft) managed to keep the unique Halo feel that fans and others who may have played Halo once or twice on their brother’s original Xbox remember.
But let’s say that revisiting a very familiar franchise on a familiar console isn’t your cup of tea. Let’s assume that if you’re going to be revisiting a familiar franchise, you’d prefer to do so on a new console altogether. As luck would have it, the Wii U can deliver.
Nintendo’s latest console, the Wii U, is one that brings tablet technology to the world of the video game. With a control pad similar to that of an iPad, players will never have to pull up an inventory list or a map on their television again. Now the Wii U remote will act as a personal PDA in information, keeping, or, better, as an integral part of the game.
In Wii U’s minigame frenzy, Nintendo Land acts more as an instruction manual than as a stand-alone experience. Several minigames, such as Animal Crossing: Sweet Day and Luigi’s Ghost Mansion, challenge up to four players to outwit a fifth player. That’s right — for the first time since PC gaming was invented, a console can host five players comfortably with the Wii U remote acting as the “master” player. In Luigi’s Ghost Mansion, for instance, the Wii U remote is for the ghost; the other four, your standard-issue Wiimotes, are the ghost hunters.
New Super Mario Bros. U is also a launch title, offering up an experience much like the 2D original that substituted for your parents. Rather than the choppy NES graphics, this new iteration takes advantage of the technology; colors pop, enemies are animated and lively, and when you stomp something to death you really stomp something to death.
New Super Mario Bros. plays in much the same way Super Mario Bros. 3 played: gigantic map, connect the dots, water levels, desert levels, etc. You may ask yourself, “Gee, why don’t I just pull out the SNES and play Super Mario Bros. 3, then?” Well, I suppose you could, but then you’d be missing out on the first Mario-related game in a long while to capture the spirit of the originals while simultaneously bringing Mario into the future.
What are you thankful for? The food you’ve devoured or the games you’ll play in a comatose state immediately afterward? I’m thankful for innovation and originality, but you can’t always get what you want. I’ll settle for the former.
New Super Mario Bros. is available now for Nintendo’s Wii U, $59.99. Halo 4 is available for the Xbox 360, $59.99.
Chris O’Neal can’t get enough of that Cookie Crisp. Follow him on Twitter @agentoneal.