The mysteries about Nintendo's experimental helper-mode (aka the "kind code") are no more, as today Kotaku was finally able to see the innovative feature in action in New Super Mario Bros. Wii.
The assistance mode will be introduced in Nintendo's marquee November title for the Wii and is officially called the Super Guide. Using it, players who struggle with the classic side-scrolling action in New Super Mario Bros. Wii will be able to let the Wii run through a level on its own, automatically playing through the content without the gamer's input. Players will have the option to re-assume control at any time.
Nintendo's attempt to introduce a special helper mode in Wii games was first reported by Kotaku in January when it came to be known, informally on this site, as the "kind code." In June, Nintendo's development director, Shigeru Miyamoto, confirmed the mode's inclusion in New Super Mario Bros., though the company seemed conflicted at the time about spilling the beans.
Any hesitation about revealing the mode ended this morning when, in a hotel demo suite in New York, Kotaku was shown how the Super Guide works. Nintendo is using this new help option to offer an unprecedented amount of in-game assistance, but it will only be available to players using the game's single-player mode who have failed at a level eight times. Nintendo's intent is to offer Super Guide as a helper for its less skilled customers and to allow its designers to make some of the game's levels devilishly difficult.
New Super Mario Bros. gives a starting player of the game five lives. So, to activate the Super Guide option this morning, a Nintendo representative had to sacrifice her Mario character five times, then use a Continue option to replenish her lives before losing the rest needed to enable the help. Once she did that, a floating green box appeared at the start of the level she had repeatedly failed at. Hitting it with Mario — the only available playable character in single-player — will restart the level in Super Guide mode. Mario is replaced with a computer-controlled Luigi, who then proceeds through the level on his own.
The recorded Luigi playthroughs are run in-engine, not as pre-recorded video. They are, essentially, the equivalent of "ghost modes" commonly available in racing games, though the player can only watch Luigi do his thing, not play alongside him with Mario.
The Nintendo rep showed Kotaku two Luigi super-guide runs. She explained that these would be simple zips through the game's levels and would not reveal shortcuts and secrets. The runs were definitely not the perfect playthroughs that a gamer might find if they searched YouTube for an expertly played Mario Bros. speed run. A more faulty human hand was evident. In fact, in this pre-release version of the game, the first Luigi run that I was shown ended prematurely when Super Guide Luigi died halfway through the level. That's not supposed to happen in the final build, Kotaku was told. In the second Luigi run, the Mario brother got through the level on his own without any trouble.
What separates Super Guide from traditional video-based playthroughs of game levels is that the player can assume control during the Luigi run. At any moment, the player can press a button and cancel the computer control of Luigi. An indicator showing that that game is in Super Guide mode stays on screen, and the player assumes control of Luigi, rather than switching to Mario. But the breakthrough in the feature is that the player is not starting the level from the beginning. They are taking control in the midst of the Super Guide run. Thanks to this, players who repeatedly struggle with a tough part of a level in New Super Mario Bros. Wii will be able to let Super Guide Luigi get past that tough part for them. Even though a player takes over as Luigi using this help system, the completion of the level counts and they can play deeper into the game.
(UPDATE: Word from Nintendo is that players will not be able to revert to Super Guide in the middle of a level, once they've taken control of Luigi for themselves. The Super Guide can only be turned on at the beginning of a level.)
The levels of New Super Mario Bros. Wii I saw today seemed harder than those of the last side-scrolling Mario platformer, New Super Mario Bros. on the DS. Super Guide does appear to have given Nintendo license to make the new game tougher and may provide the relief some players need to get to the end of the latest Mario world-hopping adventure.