It’s All About The Bling – New Super Mario Bros. 2 Review
This game was reviewed on the Nintendo 3DS
Fans of the Mario series will be bouncing like their favourite plumber with joy, as New Super Mario Bros. 2 has released for the 3DS. Taking the series’ classic formula and giving it a greedy thirst for coins, the title hopes to put fresh polish on an old dollar. The question is: does it come out all shiny, or will that joyous bouncing turn quickly into a frustrated fit? Grab yourself a Fire Flower and let’s go find out!
In keeping with tradition, the game opens with Princess Peach once again being kidnapped by series villain Bowser, this time while Mario and Luigi are out collecting coins (probably so they could pay the outrageous costs of living in the Mushroom Kingdom). As is their duty, they set off on a journey to save her and put an end to Bowser’s plan. To do so, they must travel across six treacherous 2D side-scrolling worlds, full to the brim with Bowser’s minions.
All the elements of a classic Mario game are here: start at the leftmost side of a 2D plane with the goal of reaching a flag or boss at the rightmost end, don’t get hurt or fall in pits along the way, grab power-ups to help stop enemies and stay alive, and reach the goal before the time limit expires. What makes New Super Mario Bros. 2 a little different, however, is the massive focus on coins. Just about everywhere, for any reason, a plethora of coins are available to grab at any time. From 10 or more popping out for landing in certain places, to switches turning structures into a mountain of shiny gold pieces, you’ll be able to find coins anywhere you look.
To further bolster your gold tally, you’re able to create coins using power-ups. Basic items return, including the standard Mushroom, Fire Flower, and Raccoon Leaf, but a couple of special ones adopt the new love for the colour yellow. Should players come into contact with a Gold Flower, then Mario will be transformed into a full-gold version of himself and can shoot giant golden fireballs (silver for Luigi), in a similar fashion to the standard Fire Flower. These shimmering death-balls will turn any foes or destroyable blocks into coins, greatly increasing your money count by the end of the round. In some cases, if players hit a Coin Block enough times, a Gold Block will appear. Jumping into these blocks will cause your character to wear it on his head, where it will continuously produce coins until it runs out or the player is hit, and running and jumping results in gold coming out at a quicker pace.
While one can’t help but applaud NSMB2 for stepping outside the normal set-up a bit, it ends up hurting gameplay like a slap across the face from a bag full of quarters. First off, it drops the pacing considerably and suffers from repetitiveness. The classic Mario formula gives players a sense of urgency in attempting to reach the end of the level: you always move from left to right as fast as you can, with as little backtracking as possible. Giving this setup back to players, then asking them to take their time and collect every single coin possible leads to a somewhat boring experience – one that gamers could relate to collectables from other games. Doing so for every single level (and every single world) becomes more like a chore mid-way through the game. Players may find themselves ignoring the new feature to just play the title the traditional Mario way.
Secondly, this new emphasis on shiny things makes the game remarkably easy. As with most Mario games, collecting 100 coins leads to a 1-up, giving you an extra life should you fail a level. In previous games, this only occurred here and there, and if players weren’t careful in their mission, they would lose all their lives and reach a premature game over. This is not nearly the case with NSMB2, as the massive scatter of gold ensures that you will never be without more than a fair share of lives. On average, players should achieve about 100 or more coins a level from just grabbing what they see as they dash through – that’s one life or more per level. If gamers take their time, numbers over 300 are much more likely, especially if they’re skilled veterans (I personally had over 30 lives by the end of the first world). This leads to a broken overabundance of continues, guaranteeing that no player will fail before they beat the game. While it’s obvious that Mario games have a very wide target audience of gamers, with varying ages and skill levels, even a remote chance of failure would have given the title some drive to it. In fact, while maintaining this new mechanism, the developer could have bumped up the coin requirements for an extra life to keep it challenging.
Some of you might be asking yourselves: “What if we choose to ignore the coins, only collecting ones right in our way?” Well, if that’s the case, then what you’re left with is your core, standard Mario game that is still a lot of fun. All the classic aspects are there, and if you’re a fan of the original style of play, then you’re probably going to get lost in it. However, without the coin aspect it is just another Mario game that uses all the same bells and whistles as before: the princess is captured, travel worlds to save her. This makes the title a bit of a double-edged sword: on one edge we have a fresh yet poorly delivered mechanic, and on the other we have more or less the same gameplay that we’ve gone through for 20 years. While both present some entertainment when mixed together, there simply isn’t anything special or phenomenal here – just another title.
As seen in previous Mario titles, between levels players are brought to the world map, where they can either progress on to the next level or replay completed ones. Each world has multiple paths to take, which can either be unlocked by Star Coins or secret paths – both can be found throughout different levels. Also littered around the map are Toad Houses, which present you with assists like power-ups or 1-ups. These can only be visited once, however, so they should be used sparingly.
Should you find yourself stuck on a certain level, and have died five or more times in a row, then an assist block can be found at the start of that area. In it is an Invincibility Leaf, which turns the player into White Raccoon Mario/Luigi, and, as you may have guessed, makes your character immune to any and all damage from enemies. Pitfalls will still kill you, but you’re able to run into any foe to kick them off the map – making the level that much easier for you to complete.
Got a friend with a 3DS and NSMB2? If so, then you can play co-op! Player one takes control of Mario, and the other plays Luigi. Both players take the field at the same time, with all the usual rules applying. However, one character is the leader and if the second strays too far from him, they enter a bubble. This sphere can also be entered by being hit by an enemy or falling in a pit. Should the leader blunder, or the second player enter a pipe or door before the leader, they will now become the head honcho. To bring either player out of their floating prison, the other must make contact with them thereby popping the bubble. While it sounds a little confusing at first, it ends up being brilliantly fun. If you have the opportunity to try it out, it cannot be recommended enough.
After completing the first world, players will also have access to Coin Rush. In this mode, gamers run through three random levels in an attempt to set the highest coin record. Players can compete either against themselves, or globally via StreetPass. This mode extends the life of the title a fair bit, giving gamers something to do after finishing the main game.
In terms of visuals and audio, everything is pretty standard for a Mario title. While the game may play in 2D, it still uses 3D models for both characters and the environment – all of which have been developed with care. For a 3DS title, graphics are quite impressive with a level of polish and detail not usually seen on the device. Musically, NSMB2 isn’t anything overly special, delivering the exact performance one would expect from a Mario title. You have your usual upbeat syncopated tunes, and remixed versions of classic Mario songs placed in key locations here and there. While well composed, with a nice mix of new and familiar, it’s nothing we really weren’t expecting.
Once the princess is saved, and Bowser’s plot has been foiled again, New Super Mario Bros. 2 is a bit of a mixed bag. While the abundance of coins puts a fresh spin on an old game, it ends up losing its edge fairly quickly. If you’re a fan of Mario and his adventures, then chances are you’ll love it, but don’t expect anything you haven’t seen before.
Final score: 4.25 / 5.0 and a golden Mario statue!
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