Mario’s adventures in the 2D realm have been just as prominent as his 3D ones within the last several years. The original New Super Mario Bros. had graced the Nintendo DS console in 2006 and the multi-player Wii iteration followed in 2009. If that’s not enough, yet another installment will be releasing on the upcoming WiiU console. So with all of these releases in such a small window, is Mario really as new as the title says it is? Well, yes and no.
If you don’t know the drill by now, then you’ve clearly never played a Mario game. The princess gets captured by Bowser and his despicable nieces and nephews once again, and it’s up to Mario to give chase and thwart all the traps that lay before him. In short, expect no surprises this time around, though Mario has never really been a game one would play for its story. Things begin and end as they always have, though veterans will appreciate the consistency at least.
Aside from the main single player mode, you’ll also have access to a Coin Rush mode that will randomly select a series of stages for you to race through and collect as many coins as you can. The further you get in the main game, the more stages that you’ll have available to you, and high scores can be saved and swapped when you Street Pass with people. You also have the option to play the main game in two-player mode if you happen to know someone with both a 3DS and another copy of the game. I didn’t have this option available to me at the time of the review, so I can’t say for sure how viable this mode is for the long term. Considering how New Super Mario Bros. Wii was though, you might not be friends for long after.
Story/Modes Rating: Decent
Visually, New Super Mario Bros. 2 is a clear step up from its DS predecessor, though it still pales in comparison to Super Mario 3D Land. This isn’t to say 2D games can’t look as impressive (as games like Odin Sphere would say otherwise), but I didn’t feel as though NSMB2 takes advantage of the 3DS hardware to the degree that it should. The characters animate well, the background parallaxing looks nice, and the worlds that you visit are well varied. Oh, and let’s not forget about all the gold, as is the theme for this particular entry. Things look pretty good, just not that good.
Bonus points for the enemies occasionally stopping to dance to the background music though, I thought that was hilarious.
Graphics Rating: Enjoyable
The music consists of a solid blend of remixed tracks from older Mario games as well as a few new ones. As is the case with most Mario games, I can only remember the tracks that have been featured in Mario games past. It certainly speaks to their strength as memorable tunes, but it’s a shame for someone trying to create any new compositions for the series. It’s worth noting that the remixes used in this game have been used in the other New Super Mario Bros. games as well.
When you’re not bobbing your head to redone Mario songs, you will be flooded with the sounds of coin collecting. The theme of this particular title dictates that you will be gathering a TON of coins, so naturally that translates into the “ding” sound emanating from your 3DS speakers. When things are quiet, you’ll notice the familiar jumping and stomping effects that have become standard up to this point, as well as the few quips that come from Mario as he’s bouncing all over the place.
Sound Rating: Enjoyable
The controls in New Super Mario Bros. 2 are surprisingly simple given the amount of things that Mario can actually do. You can use either A or B to jump, and either X and Y to dash or shoot fireballs. You can also choose between the control pad or the thumbstick to move. And really, that’s about it in a nutshell. But even with those few buttons, you’ll find that Mario can climb, fly, jump off walls, and numerous other things depending on his situation and what powers he has equipped.
Aside from the mushroom and fire flower, which have been Mario franchise staples since the beginning, the raccoon suit has made a welcome return from Super Mario Bros. 3. Just as it was back then, if you hit the dash button, you can swing your tail around and knock out enemies. But if you hold it down and run until the “P” meter on the bottom of the screen fills up, you can fly in the air momentarily until the meter empties out. Even when it ends, you can still flick your tail in order to stay hovering and slow your descent. There’s a reason this was a beloved power-up, it makes covering large distances so much easier.
On rare occasions, you may run across a tiny mushroom that shrinks Mario down to be quite a bit smaller than even his normal form. There aren’t many practical applications of this form aside from running on water and fitting into spaces that he couldn’t normally go. You’ll also discover a number of “gold” themed items, such as one that turns Mario’s head into a block. As he progresses through the level, the block will randomly emit coins that will get added to your total, and getting hit or surpassing the time limit of the item will cause it to shatter. There’s another that turns your enemies gold, earning you five or more coins for each enemy that you defeat in this form. Fire flowers even come in a gold variety, making fireballs huge and causing blocks and enemies that they hit to turn into gold coins for you to collect as well.
Stages are navigated via a world map, much like the previous games, that give you access to stages, shortcuts, and Toad houses that net items. Stages are generally completed once you find the flag pole in each one, though sometimes simply defeating the boss there is enough. Worlds that you have completed can be returned to at any time in order to unlock areas that require large coins to pass.
Control/Gameplay Rating: Classic
While I’m generally fine with paying $40 for short games, I understand that full price for a title that can be completed in an afternoon may be a tough pill to swallow for some people. There are a total of nine worlds, but only six of them are required to be completed in order to beat the game. The rest have to be unlocked by a combination of collecting gold coins to unlock new paths, or finding hidden exits in stages. This in of itself may add quite a number of hours to the experience depending on how much you care about such things, plus the game encourages you to replay it to boost your coin total (which acts as something of a high score) that can be compared with people you Street Pass with. The same is true with the Coin Rush mode.
So thumbs in the middle on this one. The main experience is quite short, but has the potential to be played again depending on how much collecting you’re willing to go through the effort of doing.
Replayability Rating: Mediocre
If you grew up with Mario titles (or any platformer for that matter), New Super Mario Bros. 2 might seem a bit on the easy side by comparison. Most stages I was able to complete on the first attempt, and for those that I wasn’t, I had an endless well of extra lives from which to draw from. You still earn an extra life for every 100 coins that you collect, so with all of the coins that get thrown at you during the journey, it’s pretty safe to say that you’ll never run out of spare lives. Plus, you can store an extra power-up on the bottom touchscreen that can be accessed at any time if you find yourself in a dire emergency, so even most boss battles end up being a cakewalk. That said, the stages are still well designed and make for a good introduction to platformers if nothing else.
Balance Rating: Decent
To say that putting the word “New” in the title New Super Mario Bros. 2 is a bit of an embellishment is an understatement. The only thing that I’ve really found to be different besides the Coin Rush mode are the power-ups that earn you more coins from enemies, and even that is not a very unique mechanic. All of the other power-ups have been recycled from previous games, Bowser’s nieces and nephews are all bosses that have been fought in previous titles, and even the three giant coin collection mechanic has been utilized before. The towers even feature the little triceratops critters that spin around a wheel and shoot fireballs that have been featured time and again. Don’t get me wrong, the game is fun. But there is almost nothing about this particular title that can be considered unique.
Originality Rating: Dreadful
Despite being exposed to the same formula time and again, New Super Mario Bros. 2 is still a blast to play. The level design is well done, if a bit on the easy side, and speeding through each stage trying to get as many coins as you can is a load of fun. The raccoon suit makes a welcome return as one of more enjoyable power-ups in a Mario title, and the concept of a two player mode in a portable entry has been long overdue since Super Mario Bros. Deluxe. In short, if you enjoy Mario titles or platformers in general, there’s no reason you at least won’t be hooked.
Addictiveness Rating: Classic
There’s a reason Nintendo relies on Mario to sell its systems: there’s no other franchise that they have besides Pokemon that can move the kind of units that it does. If you look at sales charts for Nintendo’s systems, you’ll find that Mario will rank towards the top and in most cases, more than once. People love Mario, as it’s easy to pick up and play regardless of age. The 2D Mario games have been making quite the comeback as of late too, which helps bring in the older crowd that had originally grown up with it. I wouldn’t be surprised if New Super Mario Bros. 2 performs better than Super Mario 3D Land.
Appeal Rating: Amazing
The 3D effect isn’t nearly as impressive here as it was in Super Mario 3D Land. While it certainly gives depth to an otherwise 2D environment, New Super Mario Bros. 2 just doesn’t really lend itself well to the gimmick. The parallaxing looks a touch more convincing given that you can see the individual layers move much better now, but you’re better off saving your battery and leaving it off. Heck, Virtual Boy Wario Land was able to do more with this concept, assuming you didn’t get a migraine before getting that far.
Miscellaneous Rating: Decent
Appeal Factor: Amazing
Final Score: Enjoyable Game!
Short Attention Span Summary
Mario is back in New Super Mario Bros. 2, though unfortunately, there’s not much that can be considered “new” this time around. Mario controls as well as he always has, and the level design has the quality to match, even if it is a bit on the easy side. A Coin Rush mode and two-player compatibility are welcome additions, though most everything else has been ripped right out of previous entries. NSMB2 is a blast to play despite that, and reasonably well presented, but it’s becoming clear that innovation is starting to become lost on the franchise. Hopefully, the upcoming WiiU title will do more to breath more life into this weary plumber.