When New Super Mario Bros. was released on the Nintendo DS in 2006, it showed that Nintendo was still very interested in the historical roots of their famous mascot. It wasn't because the company doubted the old-school style, but it was because gamers were treated to excessive rehashes featuring the plumber–especially that of Mario Party. But since 2006, superb flagship Mario titles such as Super Mario Galaxy, Super Mario Galaxy 2, New Super Mario Bros. Wii, and Super Mario 3D Land soon followed. Now New Super Mario Bros. 2 marks the plumber's second adventure on the 3DS, but does it do enough to keep the warp pipes fresh?
What Is It About?
Anybody who has ever muttered the name Mario should know what it's all about. Princess Peach got kidnapped by Bowser with the help of his children, also known as the Koopalings, who have each made their name in Super Mario Bros. 3 and enjoyed a renaissance in New Super Mario Bros. Wii.
As enraged and as adventurous as he always is, Mario (and Luigi if you're playing with a buddy) gives chase defeating each Koopaling one by one, while they continuously exchange possession of Peach in different worlds until she ends up in the clutches of Bowser himself.
Why Should I Care?
Nintendo has made a big deal that it's all about going for gold in this one. How so? Each level in the game was designed so that the player can gather as many gold coins as possible, issuing gamers everywhere the challenge of collecting one million coins.
And what happens if you collect that number of coins? Well, you unlock something. That's about it. Nothing special happens, and it doesn't change the game in any way nor does it inspire you to keep playing. So for gamers out there thinking about various strategies to collect gargantuan amounts of coins, just stop. Your life isn't going to change once you get a million coins. It's pretty much the equivalent to catching all 151 Pokémon (yeah, there's more than 400 now, I know), it doesn't matter in the slightest bit.
If anything, this coin challenge is simply a mask to hide how lame Mario's new power-ups are. Among the new items is a golden block that Mario wears on his head to continuously accumulate gold with the distance he travels, and a golden fire flower that shoots golden fireballs that turn everything they touch into gold.
Other than that, it's your typical Super Mario sidescroller. You start off small, eat a mushroom and grow, and you can eat a plant to throw fireballs. Also, to show respect to its 3D cousin, Super Mario 3D Land, the Tanooki leaf makes a return. If you haven't played that game or Super Mario Bros. 3, it basically gives Mario a raccoon's ears and tail, somehow giving Mario the ability to fly. Also making a return from the original New Super Mario Bros. are the mini mushroom, which allows Mario to become even tinier than his small self; the mega mushroom, which makes Mario a temporary giant; and the superstar, which gives Mario temporary invincibility.
To go along with those items, in the common occasion where you die five times in the same level, a special golden leaf can be used, which gives Mario the qualities of the Tanooki suit while also making him invincible, except you can still die by falling in a hole or a pit of lava.
Also in respect to its Wii counterpart, the game supports two-player cooperative play if you have a friend who also has a 3DS and a copy of the game. But because it only allows for two players, it's not as fun as the more hectic Wii version with its support for four-player cooperative play.
All this isn't to say that this is a bad game by any means. It's as fun as you'd expect from a Super Mario game, and there's also increased challenge due to both the focus in coin collecting as well as the stage design with enemy placement. Of course, as challenging as the game is, it's even more challenging to reach the Game Over screen because with the hundreds of coins there are to collect, 1-Ups are that much easier to come by.
The problem with the game is that everything is far too familiar with the rest of the "New Super Mario Bros." series. Not only does it follow the exact same formula, but the ideas and themes with the level design damn near mirror one another. The first world always features the green pasteurs of the Mushroom Kingdom. The second world is always the sandy Desert Kingdom. There's always the water world, there's always the lava world, and there's always the sky theme.
All these ideas have already been used, and there really isn't much to show for it. In fact, every midboss in the game requires you to knock off dinosaur statues from question mark blocks, and they require almost no skill to defeat. That's really the only new thing about the game other than the coin rush mode that forces you to play three random levels with only one life–and while it's enjoyable, it doesn't really add anything to the game.
What Makes It Worth My Time And Money?
Hardcore Super Mario fans are going to get the game anyway, and there's really nothing wrong with that. As dry and unoriginal as it is, it's still incredibly fun. It's Mario. He's the guy responsible for pretty much every platformer we have today. But if you're buying this game expecting be wowed the same way the Mario Galaxy games did on the Wii, you'll be wowed with disappointment.
Then again, there's still a glimmer of hope. Not only was this Nintendo's first big release as a digital download, but there'll be premium stages available as DLC that Nintendo promised to keep adding over the calendar year. We wouldn't expect anything groundbreaking, but there's nothing wrong with additional content. Then again, you have to pay for it, and this game was already $20 too expensive with it's $39.99 price tag.
As a standalone title, New Super Mario Bros. 2 will be a solid addition to any 3DS owner's library. The production values are what you'd expect from a first party title, and the game is simple and fun enough to enjoy in short and long spurts. But for a franchise that has paved the way for other franchises to succeed and has made revolutionary steps in the gaming world, one can't help but feel a lack of inspiration with the game.