The Mushroom Kingdom is bursting with coins! Gold Flowers, Gold Blocks, and Gold Rings – collecting coins has never been so fun!
How do I review a Mario game without coming off as a nostalgia-biased fanboy…? With the same flair I exude from every review, of course. But, seriously though…
New Super Mario Bros. 2 is the sequel to the Nintendo DS’ original New Super Mario Bros., which was the first truly new side-scrolling Mario game since…well, Super Mario Land 2 in 1992 (barring remakes and ports). Since then, Nintendo has essentially split the Mario franchise into the 3D and 2D Mario games and has even mentioned they wish to have a New Super Mario Bros. title for every console of theirs. That is all fine and dandy, but how well does that bode for the quality of this latest title?
Come on now, you all know the routine. Princess Peach is kidnapped by the Koopa Troop (specifically by Bowser’s children, the Koopalings) and it’s up to Mario and Luigi to save her. I hope I’m not giving anything away by this saying this, but they beat Bowser and bring the princess back home. Roll credits.
Mario games have never been big on plot nor character development, so this really shouldn’t come as a shock to anyone. However, I do like to cite a small complaint I had with this game in particular. While the previous statement remains as a fact, it bothered me immensely how even what little plot there is for this game was severely less than for previous Mario titles. Let me list some examples to explain my point better:
Super Mario Galaxy: It’s the night of the Star Festival, where a comet that only comes along every hundred years passes over the Mushroom Kingdom, and Peach invites Mario to watch. But then Bowser suddenly attacks with his many airships, traps many of the Toads in crystal, and literally steals Peach and her entire castle with her into space. Mario tries to save her, but is blasted away where he meets up with Rosalina on her Comet Observatory. Together, they search for Peach to save her. Epic.
New Super Mario Bros. Wii: It’s Princess Peach’s birthday. A big birthday cake is brought out, but the Koopalings jump out and capture her by trapping her in the cake. Mario, Luigi, and two Toads set out to save her. Obviously not as awesome as Galaxy’s setup, but it works. Plus it was the first Mario game since Super Mario World to feature the Koopalings, which was a huge delight for old school Mario fans.
Ever since Super Mario Galaxy 2, Mario games seemed to really not give a crap about setting up its formulaic story anymore. Galaxy 2 didn’t have nearly the same scale as its previous entry, and Super Mario 3D Land didn’t even bother having narration whatsoever. It told everything through photographs. But, hey. There was at least a charm to it.
This game doesn’t even try explaining how the Koopalings kidnapped Peach. It just had them show up and was like, “Yup. We took her off-screen.” It ultimately doesn’t matter as I’m not even factoring the plot into the final rating, but it bugs me a lot that Mario games have gotten this lazy in presenting motivation setup, especially after the absolutely brilliant beginning of Mario Galaxy.
1 out of 5
Coming off not long after the incredibly successful Super Mario 3D Land’s superb use of the 3DS’ 3D capabilities, this may seem like a step backwards. Visually, the game looks great. Definitely a step up from the DS’ more pixilated look on Mario and all the enemies, and full of pretty backgrounds. In terms of level design, it’s standard 2D Mario fare. You run, jump, and platform. While very much retaining the clever Mario level designs, they offer very little in terms of anything new and makes no use of the 3D whatsoever. It tries to be a little different by having more to explore, thanks to hidden blocks or areas that are unreachable without Raccoon Mario or other power-ups, but you’ve seen it done before. It probably would have helped a lot if they perhaps made levels that depended on perspective like what Donkey Kong Country Returns did, but oh well.
3 out of 5
The music was nice… when it was used in previous games. Nearly every single track was taken from its previous New Super Mario Bros. titles, with slight tweaks to them that are virtually unnoticeable. That is very disappointing and it severely weakens what little the originality or identity this title is striving to obtain. Actually, that’s probably the best way to describe this game in general…
2 out of 5
If you’ve played either New Super Mario Bros. or New Super Mario Bros. Wii before, you’ve basically played this game already. Okay, that’s a little harsh. There are bits of creativity in this title. While playing exactly how you’d imagine a 2D Mario game would play, you are given a lot of incentive to do the coin collecting that the game is all about. No, the game doesn’t really give you anything special if you reach the 1 million coins mark, but the levels are cleverly designed to make you unconsciously collect coins anyway. There are just so many coins, you might as well collect some while you’re exploring the level, right? Then you’ll soon be finding that you're killing yourself to get every last coin, whether you wanted to collect them or not. Greed is a powerful thing…
There are plenty of secrets in this game, which is what will ultimately be the thing that has you coming back to this game. There are secret exits, secret areas, and lots of secret coins that get accessed when you jump to a certain place. Every level is so full of secret places that you just might want to replay to check out what you missed. Of course, that could be said for any Mario game…
The power-ups that Mario gets are all from previous games with the exception of the Gold Flower power, which is essentially the Fire Flower but turns everything into coins. As much as I loved to use the thing to collect even more coins for myself, it rarely ever came up and I barely missed it as such. But the big thing that everyone (myself included) was super excited for was the return of the Raccoon Mario power-up from Super Mario Bros. 3 (often considered everyone’s favorite/best Mario game). It functions almost exactly like it did all those years ago, but flight can be maintained by simply holding the jump button down instead of repeatedly pushing it. Honestly, that’s probably a benefit. Didn’t stop me from habitually hitting the jump button repeatedly by accident though!
The game is pretty easy when only going straight for the end flagpole, but the real challenge comes from collecting the three Star Coins that are in every level. Some are easy to come across, and some are the devil’s obstacle course. Of course, thanks to the game’s coin collecting, you’ll never get a game over due to the excess of lives you get…. Have fun wasting lives!
4 out of 5
Like New Super Mario Bros. Wii, you can team up with a friend to play with. Unfortunately, you’ll can’t do this unless they also own the game. As you might have guessed, I haven’t gotten the chance to play co-op. However, from what I heard, it’s far less intrusive as Mario Bros. Wii so you won’t be killing each other as much. I am actually rather disappointed by that since I LIKED having the players kill each other. That was part of the fun and many lulz ensue!
A new mode featured in this game is Coin Rush, wherein the player is challenged to play through three randomly selected levels of varying difficulty. This is where the pro Mario gamers get their fun, as you’re to collect as many coins as possible within a very brief timeframe. When I first tried it, I died from timeout before even reaching the first level’s halfway point due to not paying attention to the timer. In other words, you’ve got to speed run while collecting every single coin you see, and with StreetPass you can compete against other people’s best times and scores. This is actually a lot of fun and tests your skills at Mario platforming.
4 out of 5
Frankly, I’m a little torn on how I feel about this game. It’s certainly a solid Mario title in terms of gameplay, but it feels so damn unoriginal. It plays exactly like the first New Super Mario Bros. and it feels like it as well. While New Super Mario Bros. Wii had similarities to it, it managed to have enough different elements to it to make it its own special entry into the Mario gallery of games. But this…
Even with the gimmick of collecting coins, it just doesn’t have enough to make it a truly superb experience that you should get from playing a Mario game. However, as strange as this may seem of me to say, this game might have actually been really clever and original if it was a Wario game. Wario is known for his incredible greed and it would have made more sense to have him as the protagonist of this game. Hell, it could have been a revival of the Wario Land game series. But it wasn’t.
I’ve also read a really clever idea from the TV Tropes’ Wild Mass Guessing page for this game about how the coin collecting could have been due to building up the money to pay off a ransom for Peach. That would have REALLY made the game’s main draw even more interesting and would’ve made this game a standout! Oh well, I suppose.
For the latest side-scrolling Mario game, I give a:
4 out of 5
– Classic side-scrolling Mario formula is still well done
– The true return of Raccoon Mario
– Coin Rush mode is challenging and fun
– Far too similar to the original New Super Mario Bros.
– Lacking in anything new and clever for Mario gameplay
– Personal pet peeve: REALLY bad Peach-kidnapping setup
Recommendation: Check It Out
I debated with myself long and hard as to what score I should give New Super Mario Bros. 2. I usually save 4s for when a game is good but lacking that creative spark to earn a 5, and 3s are usually reserved for things that are basically shovel-ware. This game falls between the cracks, but I don’t issue decimal scores for game reviews. I ultimately went with a 4 due to the gameplay still being very solid. It is only because how uncreative it is. I can only hope New Super Mario Bros. U will make up for it.
New Super Mario Bros. 2 was developed and published by Nintendo.
It is available on the Nintendo 3DS for retail and digital download at the Nintendo eShop (the first Nintendo game available for digital purchase) and is rated E by ESRB.