New Super Mario Bros. 2
: Nintendo EAD
: Nintendo 3DS
: August 19th, 2012
New Super Mario Bros. 2 continues the tried and true adventures of the Mario brothers from their classic side-scrolling days. Long-time fans of Mario will no doubt get a feel for the game as itís largely based on classic Mario, more specifically, Super Mario Bros. 3 and Super Mario World. Often it seems the way of Mario to try and innovate new gameplay elements as the series grows older, but New Super Mario Bros. 2 really only brings an emphasis on collecting coins. The rest is all too familiar but, as always, Mario doesnít disappoint in platforming level design. What we have here is something Mario fans are very familiar with but still provides a fun time despite the aged concept.
Well you know how this goes, donít you? The lovely princess gets caught and is turned into a damsel in distress, until her knight in shining armor comes to her rescue. Well, if you want details: Mario and Luigi stop to have a chat with the lovely Princess Peach at her castle. At the end of their get together, seen off-screen, Mario and Luigi sprout raccoon ears and tails and fly off the balcony of the castle with the princess waving bye in admiration.
Having saved the princess for over 25 years now, you would figure the Mario brothers would know better than to turn their backs on the princess, leaving her alone and vulnerable. And gosh, what is up with the security at the princessís castle? Anyway, yes, the sooner the brothers turn their backs is when Bowserís kiddies show up on the scene. The Koopa Kids snatch away Princess Peach and bait Mario and Luigi into following suit. You guessed it; itís time to save the princess from the clutches of the Koopa Kids and ultimately Bowser. But fear not! Princess Peach will be abducted once again in New Super Mario Bros. U!
Graphics, well what can you say here? Actually there are two things I have to say about it. Letís start off with the good. What is very promising about the look of New Super Mario Bros. 2 is that it feels like Iím playing a remastered or even a remake of Super Mario Bros. 3 and Super Mario World. No, itís not identical to either of these legendary games, but it sure does borrow elements from each of them. You know, those rolling hills in the background of Super Mario World? You know what I mean, right? What about those mountains that also appeared in the background of those games? Although you may have experienced the way those games looked many years ago, New Super Mario Bros. 2 brings back that classic look in a new way. Whatís more is that you can expect to see similar environments: forests, ocean, deserts, volcanoes, etc. I played using a 3DS XL and it really does look like a portable Wii game.
Ironically, the thing thatís bad about the graphics is its use of 3D. Basically what the design team was going for when implementing the 3D feature was depth perception between the background and foreground. With 3D disabled, those rolling hills I mentioned earlier are smooth on the screen and sharp in contrast. However, as you move the 3D slider on the 3DS upwards and upwards that rolling hill starts to blur little by little. By the time you move the 3D slider to its max setting the hill is nothing more than an amorphous blob of color. While the foreground is unaffected, the background is just lifeless. This was very disappointing. Youíre much better off playing the game with 3D disabled, or on its lowest setting. The lowest setting isnít all bad. You still get that 3D depth to it but playing on a medium to high 3D setting will just blot out the background.
As I mentioned, thereís a focus on collecting coins in this game, so youíll be hearing the all too familiar coin sound effect. Mario isnít Mario without such memorable sounds as stepping into pipes, squashing Goombas, kicking Koopa shells, throwing fire balls. The whole sound effects package is here and it doesnít disappoint.
What does disappoint is that New Super Mario Bros. 2 has hardly any new music, if at all. What we have is the familiar New Super Mario Bros. theme that debuted with the first game. They did, however, make awesome updated variations of a couple of classics like the underground theme and the battle music which plays during the boss fight against the triceratops-like Reznor. Typically each new Mario game comes with a large variety of new music, including momentary nods to catchy tunes in the series past. Itís too bad that New Super Mario Bros. 2 doesnít do that.
If youíve played any side-scrolling Super Mario Bros. game in your life even once, youíll no doubt easily pick up just fine with New Super Mario Bros. 2. Being the first side-scrolling Mario game on 3DS, it handles very, very well with the hardware. A mechanic that Iíve always held onto in platforming games, Mario ones especially, is that Mario has this weight to him and navigating each stage effectively means understanding how you control this character. As he appears on the gameís box art and in-game, Mario is gold. The control handles very well, to the point that if a mistake is made itís more likely a mistake on your part rather than a hiccup in the softwareís programming.
Level design is top notch as well. It delivers enough challenge to keep you interested and leaving the level satisfied. What you can really appreciate about this is the gameís nod to Marioís past with hidden areas within the levels that open up secret branching paths to other new levels on the world hub. This alone gives reason to search every nook and cranny of a stage to find any and all hidden secrets.
There are eight worlds in total including one extra unlocked by beating the game the first time. Each world is divided into three levels followed by a fortress, followed by another three levels and then a castle. Ghost houses are occasionally sprinkled into the mix to provide a good change of pace.
Favorite power ups return, among them the Super Leaf which gives Mario the raccoon ears and tail, allowing him to whack enemies and temporarily fly in the sky. The Fire Flower as you know allows Mario to hurl fireballs from his hands. The Starman bestows Mario with a temporary gift of invincibility. The Mega Mushroom and Mini Mushroom return from the first New Super Mario Bros. game and allow Mario to grow to an enormous size, smashing objects as he plows across the screen, or shrink to a miniscule size to reach otherwise inaccessible areas, respectively. There is only one new addition to this familiar bag of tricks, and thatís the Gold Fire Flower. With this power up Mario can hurl larger and more powerful fireballs that multiply the amount of coins from the enemies who drop them when attacked. These gold fireballs can also destroy certain barriers and hazards, all of which rewards you with lots of coins. Itís a great new power up but it wears off at the end of a stage.
So the theme of New Super Mario Bros. 2 is if you can make it to collecting a million coins by playing the game. I can tell you, thatís going to take quite a lot of time to accomplish. I think a single play through can net you just over 15,000 coins. Something special happens when you do reach that number, but youíll have to see that for yourself. It certainly gives the game its reason to come back for more. Coins are much, much more plentiful in this game than in any other game before it. The game will shower you with coins repeatedly to the point that worrying about extra lives becomes a thing of the past. Donít be surprised if you make it out of a level having earned ten extra lives. It can happen. Golden rings can be found within stages and, jumping through it, they will turn any and all enemies gold, making their deaths all the more fruitful as theyíre worth more dead when theyíre gold. Even kicking a golden Koopa shell will cause it to spew out coins in its trail. So getting to that one million mark doesnít sound as daunting as it would be if this were any other Mario game.
Still, with this focus on drastic coin collecting, New Super Mario Bros. 2 hardly brings anything new to the series, which is unlike Mario. You get a new power up and the coin collecting part of it but that becomes second nature as you move from one level to the next. That is, one greatly designed level to the next. Youíre more likely to concentrate on platforming and eventually saving the princess more than tallying up those coins as that is also more likely to be saved for after finishing the game. In other words, while not much new appears and what we do have is easily memorable, its masterful design and execution is what makes the game very playable. Even if you donít consider yourself a pro Mario player and lose a bunch of lives the game gives you a white raccoon suit that makes you invincible.
The cooperative multiplayer is a fun addition, but doesnít handle as effectively. With two players on the screen at the same time, the in-game camera has some difficulty keeping track of both players at once. Moreover players are limited when running off to explore a level leaving the other player trailing behind them.
Whatís better is Coin Rush Mode, which acts in unison with the StreetPass functionality. You challenge different players the world over by progressing through three randomly selected levels to collect as many coins as possible. On top of that thereís a time limit. This seems like the greater of the two competitive features of the game. Itís good that this mode is added as you can get through the single player game in about four to five hours. Once again, finding secret paths, coin collecting, and opening up new worlds gives the game more longevity.
The best thing about New Super Mario Bros. 2 is that it reminds you about what you loved about Mario many, many years ago. Mario is tasked with saving the abducted princess and you join him in a whimsically colorful new adventure. The development team put in coin collecting and a new power up as the rudimentary task in this particular game but it doesnít move the series forward in an innovative way. New game changing features, new music, and good implementation of the 3D feature take a backseat this time around. The game couldíve been called ďSame Super Mario Bros. 2Ē but its great platforming gameplay execution is what makes the game a worthwhile experience for any Mario fan and is a good addition to Marioís growing library.