To review games from the Super Mario Bros. series is like trying to convince an American Football fan that Rugby is the superior sport; people are bound to invest into and buy it because of the name alone. They associate it with quality, and, in all honesty, there has never before been a terrible game in the core series. But in recent times there has been a tendency for previously faultless execution to slip. Part of the issue is that since reviving the 2D perspective, there has been a lack of true innovation. Is the plumber’s latest outing in New Super Mario Bros. 2 also treading on overly familiar ground?
Commenting on the story is a moot point, but in the New Super Mario Bros. line, it is also becoming increasingly redundant to comment on the gameplay. Mario leaps high just as he always has, squishing the many minions of Bowser who are unfortunate to come across his large frame. Level design features familiar obstacles, together with one or two new ones that may flummox you the first time around. New enemy types populate the Mushroom Kingdom, with each world housing a Koopaling waiting to get the jump on Mario. While not at all terrible, the design here seems to lack in much ambition. Those who are expert Mario players will probably rinse through this in under six hours, which for a full price tag isn’t great value for money.
Power-ups this time include the ever faithful Fire Flower and Raccoon Leaf, but also making a return is the Mini Mushroom that makes Mario the size of a flea. As for brand new ones, the only one is the Gold Flower that turns Mario and anything he touches into coins. Then there’s the change in how multi-coin blocks work. If hit ten or more times, the block will eventually turn to gold, allowing Mario to trap his head inside. This brings both a slew of coins and an extra temporary hit-point. Finally, for the few who find the game a little hard on the first try, the White Raccoon makes a return to take being hit out of the picture.
All of this leads to the Spotpass meta-game: Coin Rush. After you unlock various levels, you have the ability to play three random courses to amass a grand total. You do get victory medals if you win against people via the Spotpass/Streetpass, but there are merely trophies. As for the goal, you are tasked right at the beginning of the game with collecting 1 million coins. Notifications come every few thousand coins obtained, but these don’t really amount to anything at all. Without unlocks every few thousand coins, it becomes a tedious grind. As for what happens when you get to the magical number, you’re better off not knowing. You can also opt to play with a friend in full co-operative mode, but the restriction of requiring both players to have copies of the game is baffling considering going at it with a friend is only slightly different to going solo.
You can always rely on Mario games to have a certain presentational style and this title is no exception. Once again though, you’d only need to go back to previous New Super Mario Bros. games to find the inspiration for how the game looks. Music is almost entirely rehashed too, as I can only think of maybe one tune that wasn’t present before. Still, the 3D looks better than initially expected; though judging from the rest of the presentation, this particular Mario game feels rushed. It lacks the fresh sparkle that made previous incarnations of the plumbers’ exploits so endearing.
Nostalgia is a cruel mistress. New Super Mario Bros. 2 has done exactly what it intended to do all along and yet somehow it isn’t enough. It is a competent platformer, albeit one with a stunted length, that for those blissful few hours is classic Mario. The problems with the newest Mario are threefold. Six main worlds, three hidden ones, and special rainbow courses are all well and good; but to a veteran of the series they are just not taxing any more. While the Coin Rush mode does help alleviate some of the angst about the overall length, the payoff just isn’t worth the trouble as you only get a sub-par reward at the magical million coin mark.
But the most inexcusable thing about this sequel is a lack of innovation, as essentially you’re paying for a rehash of New Super Mario Bros., with a wardrobe change that features only one brand new suit. Rather ironically, despite turning out yet another game that isn’t a complete travesty, Mario has lost his Midas touch in the one game where he can literally turn gold.