Mario, the symbol of Nintendo’s dominance and sheer design brilliance, is back for yet another main adventure. Taking into consideration the vast number of Mario games in existence, side games included, Mario has a major problem. Nintendo loves milking the living tits out of the corpulent plumber’s tits. The Nintendo 3DS has received two main Mario games within a nine month period.
Super Mario 3D Land released in November of last year, with New Super Mario Bros. 2 releasing this past August. With such a short time frame, it’s easy for the game to be beleaguered by the gaming masses. Retreading old ground is Nintendo’s specialty after all, especially after this fiasco Nintendo EAD have just pulled. Is New Super Mario Bros. 2 a painful retread of nostalgic memories or is it worth the full price of admission with its addition.
As usual with the franchise, no time is wasted on setting up the story, characters, and background. Princess Peach is yet again kidnapped by Bowser for what seems to be the 200th time through a series of six worlds with three special worlds. It’s beginning to don on me just how stale the Mario series has become over the years. The extremely vapid structure remains seen throughout the series since its 1985 inception.
The 3D games may be more varied, the 2D side scrolling Mario games in particular are stagnant as stagnant can be. The lack of any real growth here is disheartening when Nintendo managed to make Super Mario Galaxy so different from previous 3D entries with its setting and power ups. Unfortunately, Nintendo knows Mario will sell regardless of the lack of creativity on display which is how the original New Super Mario Bros. on the Nintendo DS sold 28 million copies. I won’t lie. I don’t see the appeal to the first game. It was soulless, lacked any charm, and the level design was as dull as characters in a Michael Bay movie.
New Super Mario Bros. 2 takes the player through six main worlds as you try to rescue the useless, blonde broad from Bowser. If you’ve played New Super Mario Bros. or New Super Mario Bros. Wii, this recycles many assets and environmental themes from the previous games. The music is completely recycled. What happened to the Super Mario 3D Land theme? That was original and quite a fantastic accompaniment to Mario. Why must this re use music and art assets from the previous entries?
It shows a lack of effort on the part of Nintendo EAD. The recycled content must have been the reason New Super Mario bros. 2 came so soon after Super Mario 3D Land. I don’t necessarily need innovation when it comes to the Super Mario series. I simply need new mechanics, new designs, new environments, new music, etc…
For all the negativity lashed against it for the unoriginality, I can’t deny it isn’t still well designed in many respects and is a marked improvement over its direct DS predecessor. The visuals are a mixed bag of sorts. All the 2D art is rendered at higher resolutions, but with the screen sizes and resolution differences between the 3DS and DS, the bump in resolution isn’t as apparent as a PSP to a PSVita game.
The character models also sport higher polygon counts and some graphical effects used sparingly help make it a much more visually appealing experience in spite of how similar it may look from a distance. Bowser’s castle at the end of each world shows off wonderful particles rising from the lava’s surface. Even the falling meteors late in the game are rendered with a competent shader effect. The models may not be up to snuff with Super Mario 3D Land, but considering the different perspective and more zoomed out view, it is understandable.
Coin collecting is the main hook the developers have used to try to differentiate this from all the other games. Completing the main story is not the point of the game. The whole driving force behind playing it is to amass 1,000,000 coins. This shift in focus does slightly affect the way the game is played. It’s more slow paced and addictive because of the desire to collect every single coin you see.
It’s an ingenious way of altering the way the game is played without actually doing anything to the gameplay mechanics. The coin collecting hook works to an extent. The problem is that though you’ll make more of an attempt to grab the shiny, gold coins, there is no reason to. The massive influx in coins isn’t explained and the reward for collecting 1,000,000 is pathetic. It’s not worth the effort.
To put into perspective, playing the main game once will net around 10,000-12,000 coins. That is only one measly percent of the game’s goal. The amount of wasted effort on reaching that number for the reward is all for naught. On the flip side, you will be compelled to play it through several times because of how well designed the levels are. Containing some of the best level design in the 2D games, New Super Mario Bros. 2is a joyful experience. The jumping mechanics and character control/momentum is perfectly tuned as it has been for decades. Anyone would be hard pressed to find a better controlling 2D platformer.
The boss fights are on the opposite end of the spectrum for the Mario series, containing some of the laziest and most paltry boss designs ever conceived, the only partially interesting one being the final boss.
A total of maybe three new enemy types were added. None of them are entirely new. They’re merely variations on mainstays. Dry bone versions of the hammer bros. and the piranha plants are chief among them. The only other significant addition is in essence a gigantic boo. The imagination on display is staggering. Some new power ups appear with mixed results. I’m a fan of the coin block which adds to the coin count as Mario or Luigi, unlock able once you complete the game, runs or jumps. I am indifferent to the golden flower power up which turns blocks into coins and grants more when hitting enemies with one of these large radius fireballs of monetary death.
Golden rings are found on some stages, turning all enemies gold, leaving coins in their wake. Most of the power ups have no significant effect on the gameplay. They only serve the purpose of making the 1,000,000 goal easier to achieve. Any seasoned gamer can run through the single player in two-three hours. This lamentable length is an even match for its predecessor, both of which can be completed in one sitting. I don’t expect paying $40 for under three hour games. Thankfully length isn’t an issue because the player will want to play it through multiple times anyways.
Two player co-op is available as an option, though with local only, it is a missed opportunity. Any other developers creating a cooperative game in this day and age would have gone out of their way to include online. The online form of online comes in with the street pass functionality tied directly to the final game mode, coin rush.
Coin rush sets three random stages and one must complete all three stages with one life under a time limit. It adds a much welcome spin to the gameplay, forcing a speed run mentality. After completing coin rush, the coin total can be saved and sent to other players, who must attempt to beat your coin collection. Street pass was incorporated in a very cool way, but once again Nintendo has dropped the ball. Where are the online leader boards? Why can’t coin rush have its own exclusive stages as opposed to the exact same stages in the single player with no change whatsoever?
New Super Mario Bros. 2 is a sterling example of how not to handle a twenty plus year old series. Nintendo has played it very safe with this game. Nonetheless, it is still a well designed, joyous experience with missed opportunities in the online fields. It’s better than the original New Super Mario Bros., but it’s not the greatness Mario should be associated with. For a better portable Mario fix, turn your gaze towards Super Mario 3D Land. If you already own that, this still isn’t a bad purchase.