Shiny But More of the Same
Several years ago, Nintendo revived the Mario platformer with New Super Mario Bros on the original DS. While it was exciting to explore a new 2D Mario world, the title was somewhat lacking due to the complete absence of flight, no Yoshi, and a minimal use of the new features like the turtle suit, mini mushroom, and super mushroom. New Super Mario Bros 2 is definitely a better game than the original but still isn’t the complete package that Mario 3 or Mario World was.
The main gimmick of this sequel is to collect as many coins as possible. The ultimate goal of rescuing the Princess from Bowser and his Koopa kids is merely an excuse to explore these new 2D stages and pocket gold coins. The counter at the bottom of the screen constantly tallies up every coin you collected throughout the entire adventure and notifications pop up when you hit significant milestones. It will take many hours to reach the coveted one million coin mark. I actually only had about 20,000 when I finished the quest.
Because collecting coins is so important in NSMB2, the player will experience things never found in a Mario title. First, the gold flower acts similarly to the standard fire flower that first appeared in the original NES title but turns everything to coins instead of burning things to a crisp. The blast radius of each gold fireball makes this super suit one of the biggest highlights of the entire game as bricks and enemies turn into multiple gold coins. Mario can even wear a new gold coin block as a hat that spews out coins the more he moves and acts as another layer of defense. Gold rings can also turn enemies into trails of gold, gold can spray from pipes like water from a fountain, and fireballs can be tossed into pipes to yield more gold. The developers clearly put collecting gold coins at the creative forefront.
Unlike the original New Super Mario Bros, Mario can now gain the ability of flight thanks to the Mario 3 raccoon tail. Unlike the Tanooki suit that only let Mario gently glide to the ground in Mario 3D Land, raccoon Mario can actually take to the air after a running start just like in Mario 3. Unfortunately, the level design does not fully embrace flight as most levels have a static camera that will not even scroll upwards, leaving the gameplay experience somewhat disappointing. Instead, the developers would rather have you chucking fireballs instead of reaching for the heavens.
NSMB2 uses elements from pretty much every Mario platformer that came before it. The Koopa kids from Mario 3 return and offer some new types of boss battles even though it is the same jump-on-their-heads-3-times technique. The fireball spitting mini-boss dinosaurs from Mario World return but are entirely too easy and can be defeated in seconds. The overworld map, complete with 1-Up houses, return from Mario 3. Enemies and abilities, like the concrete slab enemies that need to be defeated by ground pounding their backside and the triple jump return from Mario 64. And the final boss battle against Bowser is a throwback to the original Mario NES game with a combination of Yoshi’s Island. There surely is a great sense of nostalgia inside NSMB2.
Like the raccoon tail, Mario will rarely get the chance to use the Super Mushroom, which makes him grow as tall as the screen and can plow through pretty much everything, and the mini mushroom which turns Mario tiny but grants additional jump height and the ability to run on water; it is a disappointment that these moments are much too far and in-between… just like the Kurbio Shoe.
I was able to reach the end credits, which had a surprisingly entertaining interactive element to it, in about 5-6 hours. However, going back and collecting every star coin, unlocking the hidden worlds, and gathering 1 million coins will take many more hours. But there are no pointless mini games to mindlessly draw your attention away like the ones found in Mario 64 DS. Instead, Nintendo is banking on Coin Rush mode which challenges the player to finish three stages without dying, in the shortest amount of time, while collecting the most coins. High scores are then saved and can be shared via StreetPass.
StreetPass… Ughhh! Which leads into the most frustrating part of most Nintendo developed games – the complete lack on online support. The game supports co-op multiplayer throughout the entire campaign but via local wireless connection only. Not having online support means that most gamers will be left to play alone. This, however, isn’t necessarily the end of the world as each stage was not really designed for two players. In fact, playing with a buddy could actually make gameplay more difficult as the camera might not scroll in desirable ways and your buddy can easily knock you to your doom. But for the full price of $40, gamers should expect online co-op as well as online leaderboard for Coin Rush mode. Nintendo is so far behind in embracing online play that it has become embarrassing.
Like Mario 3D Land, NSMB2 makes decent use of the 3D effect but also plays well in standard 2D. One cool visual effect that I have not seen anywhere else is how the background actually integrates a blur effect when the 3D effect is turned up. While this might sound negative, it actually creates and even greater sense of depth especially when sliding the 3D slider bar. It is subtle but something that viewers with a close eye will appreciate. And like all other Mario games, environments are bright and colorful and the musical score is composed tunes all gamers have become accustomed to throughout the years. It would have been nice to hear some new tracks or some new voice quips, but like online play, that would be asking for too much coming from Nintendo.
New Super Mario Bros 2 is definitely one of the better 3DS titles but does not reinvent the platformer in any way. The focus on collecting coins is more of a distraction from the typical Point A to Point B platforming, albeit a welcoming one. Most levels have been creatively designed but never offer frustrating difficult circumstances (except for one ghost house towards the end of the quest). Nintendo choosing to once again completely omit online functionality is a slap in a face of gamers everywhere especially since this title sells for a full price of $40. Coin Rush mode is the game’s biggest form of replayability but loses its charm when you cannot compete against players from around the world.
Although it is better than the original NSMB, Nintendo should start thinking about NEW aspect of New Super Mario Bros. And the name is also confusing as it has no staying power. Years from now, can we really reference to this game as New?
*Pro Tip for Nintendo – add online functionality to your games! That would be considered a NEW addition for a Nintendo game.
Not As Good As: Mario World or Yoshi’s Island
Also Try: Super Mario Land on original Gameboy
Wait For It: Mario on WiiU
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