New Super Mario Bros. 2 is a direct sequel to New Super Mario Bros. on the Nintendo DS, and a follow-up to the Wii title, New Super Mario Bros. Wii. Like most Mario games, the plot involves Mario trekking across the Mushroom Kingdom to save Princess Peach, who has been kidnapped by Bowser. This is tradition, and no-one really cares about the plots in 2D Mario platformers. Gameplay is very much like the other 2D Mario platformers. You run, jump, stomp on enemies, go through warp pipes, become bigger after grabbing a Super Mushroom and shooting fireballs after picking up a fire flower. The goal is to reach the end of the level. There are a number of worlds with many levels in each, with the last level in a world ending with a boss battle. If you’ve played a 2D Mario platformer before, this will instantly feel familiar.
New Super Mario Bros. 2 looks, feels and plays exactly the same way as the previous games in the New Super Mario Bros. series. The game places a huge emphasis on coin collecting, much more so than previous games. So much emphasis in fact, that all the levels have much more coins than usual and are designed to allow as much coin collecting as possible. You can jump through a gold ring which will temporarily turn your surroundings into gold. So kicking Koopa Troopa shells with this effect on, for example, leaves a trail of coins for you to collect, and stomping on Goombas gives you a bunch of coins. There’s also a gold block that goes on Mario’s head that generates coins as he progresses through the level until it runs dry. The only real new power-up in this game is the Gold Flower that essentially turns Mario into the Golden Child for the rest of the level (unless he takes damage). He fires golden fireballs that turn blocks and enemies into more gold for him to collect. Every coin you collect, even if you die (but not if you quit), will add to a grand total that you can see on the main menu and level select screen. The game’s ultimate goal is for the player to collect one million coins. At least Super Mario 3D Land had the decency to explain why there were so many Super Leaves, whereas this game doesn’t even give a hint to why there’s so much gold. With so many coins around, isn’t the Mushroom Kingdom going to experience a hyperinflation crisis that will easily surpass the Hungarian pengo in the 1940s?
A new mode in the game, known as Coin Rush, is one way the player can collect a plethora of coins quickly and easily. The mode picks three random levels, and the player has to guide Mario through them without time running out and collecting as many coins as possible. The records will be exchanged through the 3DS’s Streetpass feature. Having Spotpass on allows your personal coin total to be added to a worldwide grand total. The Coin Rush was fun the first few times I did it, as well as provided a challenge the rest of the game lacked, but the novelty wore off fairly quickly.
In fact the novelty wore off the entire game fairly quickly. New Super Mario Bros. 1 came out six years ago, and nothing has changed besides a 3D effect and a Coin Rush mode. Oh, and I completely forgot to talk about the 3D effect. I know this is a 2D game with 2.5D graphics, but it could’ve done a lot better, especially as it’s a first-party Nintendo game. All it does is make the foreground three-dimensional and blur out the background. I left it off most of the game to save battery-time. The game is also way too easy. You still get extra lives every time you collect 100 coins, so with the extra emphasis on coin collecting, I had over 100 lives when I beat Bowser. That world was the only time the challenge ramped up, but only a little bit. There wasn’t even a point in having lives at all.
There’s multiplayer too, just like the Wii title but with half the players. You can co-op with a friend for the entire game and have the coins collected added to both your totals. And it really restricts you to following one player, which is strange when players have their own screen! I missed the competitiveness of DS title’s multiplayer. I must admit I enjoyed this game’s co-op a lot more than I thought I would, because it’s for everyone. You can work together just fine, but you can also muck around just fine too (with so many lives there’s no issue there…). It depends on what kind of friends you have. When I played with my friend, we worked together at times but killed each other to get power-ups and it was actually quite fun. Having it online would be cool though, I don’t see why they don’t do it, because then I would have more reason to play the co-op.
I think Mario is officially being milked now. Why now, you ask? And hasn’t Nintendo been milking their mascot since games such as Super Mario Kart, Dr. Mario and Mario’s Time Machine? Well, those games were spinoffs that had their own distinct gameplay from the main series of Mario games, and with the exception of the latter, they were good games. Mario is not just the mascot of Nintendo; he’s not just the most recognisable video game character in history; Mario is the pinnacle of Nintendo’s innovation.
When you think back to the first Mario game, the arcade hit Donkey Kong in 1981 that was revolutionary as one of the earliest platformers, and featured one of the first instances of cutscenes to advance the game’s story. Then 1985 saw the release of one of the best-selling video games of all time, and one of the most revolutionary too, Super Mario Bros., saved the video game industry from certain death. It also had precise controls, huge cast of characters, and was one of the first games to have an ending, instead of just being about how high the score can go. It changed video games forever. Later on, Nintendo revolutionised three-dimensional video games with Super Mario 64 in 1996 and motion controlled action games with Super Mario Galaxy in 2010.
It wasn’t just the main Super Mario series that saw the portly plumber bring innovative, intuitive and accessible gameplay. Guinness World Records crowns Super Mario Kart, the first in the Mario Kart series, as the best game ever (based on initial impact and lasting appeal, apparently). While I wouldn’t place Mario Kart as the best series ever, the series is definitely groundbreaking in its own right. Many of the Mario sports titles, such as my favourite, Mario Tennis, are just really good games. The Mario RPGs made the genre a lot more accessible as well as introducing a number of gameplay innovations that made them so much fun to play. All these games injected Mario flavour to a great extent. The New Super Mario Bros. sub-series has overstayed its welcome however.
New Super Mario Bros. came out in 2006 with a clear purpose, to give the fans a new 2D Mario platformer. It was the first 2D Mario platformer since 1992’s Super Mario Land 2: 6 Golden Coins on the Game Boy. It did leave a big impression on me and the rest of the gaming community, and it deserved all its praise. Sure, it had more of the same general gameplay introduced in the original Super Mario Bros. game, but it had a bunch of new features too, such as a head-to-head battle mode. It didn’t feel like the sequel to Super Mario World, but felt like a tribute to all the 2D Mario platformers released on consoles, by incorporating many from these into the game. It even had some elements from Super Mario 64, such as wall jumping and triple jumping. There were some new power-ups too. The blue shell didn’t add much, but at least it was something we hadn’t seen before. The Mini and the Mega Mushroom were game changers, and I think it’s what that game is remembered for the most. My point is, it was a great game with excellent design that introduced 2D Mario platformers to a new audience and reminded the veteran Mario gamers why we loved these games in the first place.
Then the Wii title came out, I haven’t played much of it, but I do believe it had a reason to exist. Obviously the most significant thing is for the first time you could play a 2D Mario game with 3 other people at the same time. It also brought back Yoshi and introduced a few new power-ups. Other than that, it was really similar to DS game, but it had a good reason to exist as it broke new grounds for the Mario series. The 3DS follow up on the other hand, has failed to convince me it needed to be made.
New Super Mario Bros. 2 is a great game with excellent controls and level design. The problem is that the core gameplay hasn’t evolved at all. The minor adjustments made it fun for a while, but after 8 or so hours of game-time, I just had enough, with my coin tally sitting at 60,000. C’mon Nintendo, give us something original! I’m not buying the upcoming New Super Mario Bros. U, because it looks just like the Wii title, just with more levels…In the meantime I give New Super Mario Bros. 2, a score of 3/5 because it feels more like a level pack than a fully-fledged sequel and I got tired of playing this game as I’ve played it before. If you haven’t played Mario 2D platformers to death, just for you I’ll give this game 4/5…4.5/5 if you’ve never played one ever and I’ll heartily make a recommendation.
For those interested, here’s my review for the previous Mario platformer on the 3DS, Super Mario 3D Land https://stefanb33.wordpress.com/2012/08/25/super-mario-3d-land/