Editorial: DLC Done Right

It helps that I've always been partial to Mario's lazier, more pathetic brother.
They don’t warn you, but goddamn this DLC is hard.

I am a little surprised to conclude that Nintendo is far too late to the DLC game, because it turns out that they are the best suited to it. Or they are at least if New Super Luigi U is any indication. Nintendo has recently had the problem of having incredibly capable teams that are bogged down with the task of maintaining a plethora of franchises that do not go away because every entry is almost always well-designed. It is a strange combination of stagnation and excellence that causes most people to know exactly how Mario Kart 8 is going to play a full year before it is released. Nintendo appears to be far more obsessed with bringing new young gamers into the fold as opposed to pleasing their initial fans who have grown older and want something new.

Enter New Super Luigi U. Nintendo has finally realized that with DLC, they have an opportunity to try new things and give proper challenge to their games without putting a flagship series at risk. I quite enjoyed New Super Mario Bros U, but because of the (excellent) challenge mode, the main game’s difficulty became watered down in comparison to New Super Mario Bros Wii. Having just played through both in quick concession, my girlfriend and I were lamenting this fact when we realized that the Luigi DLC was available for download. We got right on that.

In Nintendo’s biggest fault of the content’s launch, we were initially taken aback by the format of the DLC. Every level begins with only one hundred seconds and therefore players are greeted with the intense “you got no time left, suckah” musical queue the moment they begin. This sets the tone. The DLC is nail-biting challenge from start to finish (assuming I get to the finish). Beating a level without dying on the first try – commonplace in the main content – is an achievement worth celebrating in New Super Luigi U. The levels are shorter to make up for the chopped down time, but each one stands as its own mountain to climb.

To compare, I completed New Super Mario Bros U with maxed out lives and no continues used. In New Super Luigi U, I have not completed it, have rarely gathered more than ten lives, and am closing in on using twenty continues. However, the challenge is satisfying and beating a level means something now. Now that we are aware of the game’s philosophies, we are reveling in the challenge and gear up every day to press forward with Luigi and Toad and their new, slipperier friction.

I cannot imagine four players trying out this DLC together.
The easiest part of all the levels, I’m guessing.

There is also the addition of Nabbit in multiplayer (and singleplayer if one is so inclined to cheat) which I imagine would make things easier (Nabbit is immune to damage from most enemies), but the fact remains that releasing this content as DLC proves to me that Nintendo not only is able to create challenging content, but actually wants to do so. The price is about a third of the original and while it may seem expensive in the sense that it uses the original’s overworld and level motifs while making the levels themselves a third of the length, playing the game for just one world makes it clear that the content is not a cheap cash-in.

I am confident that Nintendo would have never released gameplay like the type available in New Super Luigi U as a standalone title; not unless it were packaged specially as in the challenge mode in the original. So despite the company’s unfamiliar-at-best relationship with the internet over the years, DLC seems to be a snug fit for them. They can continue to release excellent – although very familiar – content in the form of their flagship titles, but take more risks and cater to their older fans through DLC. If it is well-received, I hope it will further translate into taking more risks with new IPs or taking old franchises in impressive new directions (see: Metroid Prime), but it is certainly the right step for the little card company that could.

DLC in most games can feel like content that should have been included in the original. New Super Luigi U is able to feel wholly different from the original, yet is such that it also could not exist without the first game. Nintendo is taking fewer risks at a time when they should be taking more, but an optimist can see great things in the way they have chosen to handle this content. The Wii U is a console with far more potential than the original Wii, so one can only hope that eventually the limitation of sales will inspire continued creativity like the type seen with New Super Luigi U.

While I did not at first, I have obviously grown to love this DLC. How about you, LusiNabbits? Tried it out yet? Do you also feel like totally rearranging gameplay expectations is a better way to handle DLC, or would you have preferred a new batch of more traditional levels? COMMENT!

8 comments

  1. I, too, have found NSMBU to be very unchallenging on the whole. Seldom does even the most challenging coin or stage delay me for more than a handful of attempts, and with 99 lives at all times, that hardly matters. So, I am very glad to year that NSLU delivers on the promised challenge.

    As for doing DLC ‘right’, I don’t know if I can agree. They have decided to release NSLU as both DLC (for $20), and as a stand-alone physical game (for $30). That’s fine, but the disc version isn’t out until the end of August–fully two months later! Rather than saying, ‘Nintendo has figured DLC out!’ as you suggest, this looks a lot more like Nintendo doesn’t quite know how DLC works, so they are continuing to try physical releases as well. But releasing the physical version two months late seems practically criminal to those of us who want that disc version (two months!?).

  2. No, that is very true. It was like releasing Twilight Princess for GCN a month after the Wii port. No reason except profit optimization. I suppose I meant it more as a positive way to approach how content is created in DLC rather than the way it is released.

  3. Ahh– alright. SN and I were speaking about this last night or the night before, and the weird release schedule they adopt with their multi-phase releases was a source of much consternation for us. Another example is virtual console: they trickled games out over five years on the Wii, and now that there is a Wii U, rather than convert those and release them all, they’ve started from square one again. It is stupid and infuriating. If I were Nintendo, needing to sell Wii Us, I’d put my whole backlog of NES, SNES, and N64 games up on VC and say, “Here is the console with all of the games you remember, available for purchase, from the moment you take it home.”

    I’m still waffling back and forth about whether to buy NSLU as DLC or whether to pick up the disc version. I desperately want a physical release (that green box looks pretty swanky), but at the same time I think it may simply be more convenient to have it *in* the NSMBU game so that I can quickly switch back and forth between the two modes.

    Could you comment as to how the DLC is integrated into the game? I’d like to know the actual nuts and bolts of it–how do you access NSLU, can you get back to NSMBU after you switch, how long does it take, are they completely independent of each other, and so on.

  4. The box DOES look swanky. The DLC is well-integrated, but it is quite separate. The splash page changes to say New Super Mario Bros U + New Super Luigi U and from the file select screen, there is a little green button that says “Play Super Luigi U”. Doing so makes an instant switch to the file select screen for Super Luigi U with three new save slots available (and you can swap back and forth just as quickly. But once in the game, you must save and quit back to the main menu to go back to SNMBU (I’m sure quicksave is fine, but I haven’t tested it)(parentheses)).
    So it is a separate game, but not so separate that you must restart one game to access the other (as in ICO/SotC and other such collections).

  5. And yes, Nintendo’s release strategy seems similar to Disney’s strategy with “The Vault”. I suppose it makes people excited for particular releases, but more often it seems like it stops people from giving up their money when they would like to give it!

  6. @Ethos: Thanks for the info. Bought it this afternoon. It’s *much* more challenging than NSMBU, which is welcome!

  7. Lusipurr, is NSMBU the one that you said you liked almost as much as Mario World?

    It sounds like NSLU is my type of game.

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