This might be the most ironic, or even dishonest for a game title in history. Rather then just name the 2D Mario games Super Mario Bros. 4, 5, etc. Nintendo has decided to stick with the moniker of “New Super Mario Bros.” for all its 2D series of games. To be fair this is the third game in the series in a span of six years, so its not like this has become the Nintendo Madden all of a sudden. Still with yet another console entry coming in just a couple of months you might wonder if Nintendo has just run out of ideas and can’t ignore the fact that the last two games sold around 12 million copies each. Well, there may just be some truth to that.
As with the last two games, New Super Mario Bros. 2 uses 3D character models and levels but plays in a traditional sidescrolling fashion. The models and art style are exactly the same here and frankly it wouldn’t surprise me in the least if they were straight ripped form New Super Mario Bros Wii. The 3D effect does absolutely nothing for the title. I turned it on for about ten seconds in a castle level to see the nifty fire ash effects and quickly got bored of it. What strikes me the most about this game is the world map in particular. Not only is it eerily similar to the first DS game, the world layout is the same. I couldn’t believe that the second world was a desert followed by the water/forest then Ice and eventually the lava world in the end. There are three hidden worlds as well but it is simply mind blowing how much of a copy/paste the level design is from the last two games.
Similarly the audio is on total cruise control as well. The “New Super Mario Bros.” theme is used and remixed here multiple times over the course of the adventure. Which basically boils down to the Nintendo sound team banging the fuck out of synth voices on a Casio Keyboard.
At the end of the day the graphics and audio are never really what sets Mario games apart. They certainly help a lot, but its all about the gameplay. New Super Mario Bros. 2 doesn’t disappoint but it doesn’t surprise either. As you’re all aware this game is all about coin collecting, the new power ups suits reflect this. A coin block head and gold flower that anything gold fireballs touch explode into coins. The coin block head rains coins into your collection the more you move, encouraging speed running. Now this might sound great for the more OCD Mario players out there, but the reality is that the level design is made to turn just about anything and everything into a coin reef so long as you have a gold flower. Meaning, that it is impossible to collect every coin in the game since the variables for turning anything into coins is so random. Personally I never really gave a crap about coin collecting and the emphasis on it basically guarantees you hundreds of spare lives. Not that you would need them anyways, if you are a Mario veteran at all, you will crush the main quest in a couple hours. The title is never hard and the star coins are not hidden to well, they always seem to be exactly where you would expect them to show up. They only become useful for opening up the last hidden world, and even then it should be easy enough to have collected enough of them by the time you whomp Bowser again.
The big problem with New Super Mario Bros. 2 is that it borrows so heavily from the titles before it but offers practically nothing new. While the design is still superb and the controls tight, it very carefully follows a well worn formula. Most of the innovation is regulated to the ghost houses which are few and far between. What does help the game shine though is the Coin Rush mode. This is a mode that enables you to set and distribute speed and coin collecting records for three levels and then send that data to anyone via spotpass. This adds an insane amount of replay value to the title, but the catch is if you actually care. If you’re not into the whole racing/speedrunning scene, then this mode will be little more then a nice distraction as you wait for the next platformer. Still it is a neat addition that actually uses a feature of the system.
In the end there is really nothing wrong with New Super Mario Bros. 2. The levels and simple fun are as intact as ever, but the formula is looking pretty long in the tooth here. The stripped down mechanics of the series as a whole has really become noticeable, especially when you consider the intricacies and plethora of secrets and new abilities in Something like Super Mario World. The reality is there is simply less content in the main game in just about every way compared to a 20 year old Super NES title. It might be time for Mario to get a little more daring on his next outing.
Final Verdict: Gift
New Super Mario Bros. 2 is the perfect title to receive from a relative for your birthday or Christmas. It offers a nice on the go portable experience, but longevity and lack of originality hurt the games appeal when concerning your own wallet. Save the money for something else but don’t overlook this title either.