New Super Mario Bros. 2 is evidence of a new breed in the Mario pantheon of video games. It answers the preference of fewer Mario games with more originality or more frequent Mario games derived directly from their predecessors with the latter, trading much of its potential for evolution and ingenuity to put a new handheld Mario adventure in our hands only nine months removed from the last, Super Mario 3D Land.
As its name implies, New Super Mario Bros. 2 is a sequel to the insanely addictive and successful 2006 DS title New Super Mario Bros. It takes mere moments to pick up on the similarities, from the side-scrolling to the map to the worlds that venture into the sky, ice, desert, haunted house, water and volcano. Despite some modest graphical improvements, a sense of familiarity is so strong that the game might as well be a direct DLC continuation of its predecessor with a new gimmick to call its own.
in New Super Mario Bros. 2, once again Princess Peach has allowed herself be nabbed by Bowser and his motley koopa troop, and once again Mario is off to rescue his fair maiden. He’ll have to battle through six short yet effectively designed worlds – two less than New Super Mario Bros. – to reach Bowser’s castle and set the unlucky Princess free.
Rather than rely on new tricks or weaponry to take down Bowser and the koopas, Mario has a secondary objective that hangs around like a lost little sibling. Collecting gold coins to earn extra lives has always been important in Mario games. In New Super Mario Bros. 2, the gold coins are counted cumulatively and add up into the thousands, tens of thousands, and even hundreds of thousands over time as they spew from pipes, rain from the sky, and pop up from a variety of power-up tools plucked from previous Mario outings and modified to generate coins.
There is a loose objective to reach one million coins overall which would be quite the feat considering how slowly they accumulate. The game will commend you for reaching various milestones but offer no tangible reward for doing so. Unless you plan on investing an enormous amount of time playing to reach one million gold coins, there’s really no incentive other than personal satisfaction for actively pushing the cumulative gold coin total north.
New Super Mario Bros. 2 offers an alternative Coin Rush mode that lets you consecutively play three unlocked levels from the story mode with a timer on each and a single life to work with. However many gold coins you can rack up before the timer runs out is your score for the Coin Rush level, and that score can be pitted against your pals via StreetPass. Coin Rush will test the reflexes and forward thinking of even the most advanced Mario players, and serves as the game’s lone claim to creative fame.
Nintendo also offers local coop play in New Super Mario Bros. 2 that seems more afterthought than a workable and preplanned solution. I don’t have a second copy to test the mode, but can’t see how the levels, which are designed specifically to cater to a single player, would work seamlessly and fluidly if a second player is haphazardly added.
Completing the New Super Mario Bros. 2 story mode takes roughly four to five hours using either the tanooki suit or fire flower to take advantage of a level’s design. With the tanooki able to power up and soar into the sky, the levels designed specifically with height in mind don’t always reach high enough to feel like they have fulfilled their potential.
The optional golden tanooki suit from Super Mario 3D Land appears after several consecutive deaths to push the game forward at a breakneck pace. In what seems like moments, the story mode is over before it seems to begin unless you have the willpower to leave it dangling like a piece of golden fruit waiting to be plucked.
While the obsession with gold coins won’t trip everyone’s trigger, the bonus areas that unlock after taking down Bowser will. Again, like New Super Mario Bros. before it, there are far more hidden lands waiting to be discovered, and you’ll need 90 gold medallions to start down the main mysterious new path. That sprint through the story now becomes an exercise in redundancy to venture backwards and find upward of three gold medallions per level.
Judging New Super Mario Bros. 2 is akin to the glass half-full or half-empty argument. On one hand it’s amazing that Nintendo has delivered another full-blown new Mario title less than a year from the last. On the other, these lands are so well traveled that they fail to exude any sense of substance, wonderment or fulfillment that a game like Super Mario Galaxy or even Super Mario 3D Land does. There’s no new characters, new lands, new tricks or new looks. Only recycled ideas, tweaked designs, and gold coins out the wazoo.
I’m more of a glass half-full guy. Despite Mario’s inability to leap forward creatively, New Super Mario Bros. 2 is still fun to play through and seek out those gold medallions, even if every step, jump and level is deeply steeped in deja vu. I’m willing to give Nintendo a pass as long as they can mix in some more substantial Mario entries amidst the clearly rushed fillers.
– Dan Bradley
Shop for New Super Mario Bros. 2 on 3DS at Amazon.com (August 19, 2012 release date).
Note: New Super Mario Bros. 2 is the first Nintendo 3DS game available on a card in retail packaging and as a digital download. This review was written with the digital download version.