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Review: New Super Mario Bros. 2New Super Mario Bros. 2 3DS Nintendo
Release Date: August 19, 2012
ESRB: E For Everyone
It's hard to believe but New Super Mario Bros. is a series that has been around for 6 years now. Six years - this is why I feel old nowadays. The original 2006 game marked a return to the classic 2D side-scrolling nature that Mario games were initially known for and was critically acclaimed for capturing the magic of the NES games, yet bringing the gameplay into a modern era. One Wii sequel and six years later, New Super Mario Bros. 2 is set to do what its predecessor did but this time on the 3DS and with a whole new incentive: coin collecting. Lots and lots of it. Does it succeed, or is the series starting to show signs of age?
Let me admit one thing going in: I actually did not enjoy the original New Super Mario Bros. on the DS as much others did. For me, it was just too easy and there wasn't much challenge to it, and the levels just didn't strike a chord with me. It wasn't a bad game by any means, but as a Mario game, it was slightly underwhelming. Because of this, I wasn't too excited for New Super Mario Bros. Wii when it was first announced, but I ended up thoroughly enjoying it as it was much more ambitious in terms of level design (more akin to something like Super Mario World) and just a much bigger game overall.
With New Super Mario Bros. 2, I was hoping to see a continuation of the experience that the Wii game started. Starting out, you'll notice that it uses the same visual style that its DS predecessor started. In screenshots, it might look similar - a bit too similar, some would say - and it is to a degree, but seeing it in action is a different story. The action is much more fluid with the framerate flowing much better and faster than the original, and the extra horsepower of the 3DS allows for more detail in the backgrounds and such. Perhaps some of the best visual advances in this game incorporate the 3D, as is the case with the bits of fire flurries in the air as you traverse across the lava in the end-of-world castle levels.
The story begins with the usual plot device of Princess Peach being kidnapped and Mario having to save her, and if it hasn't felt old to you before, it certainly will at this point. True, Mario games have never been about the story in the first place, but it's a shame that the development team hasn't come up with something just a little different by now. There are some reoccurring characters that make an appearance as well, such as the Koopalings (who serve as end-of-world bosses) and Reznor, the triceratops-like minibosses who make their first appearance in nearly 20 years (since first appearing in Super Mario World).
As soon as Mario is off and running, the adventure starts anew. Just like every 2D Mario game, you'll run and jump through the level, dodging and defeating enemies, traversing (sometimes perilous) terrain, eventually making it to a flagpole all the way at the end of the level. The world maps are very similar to the worlds you've been to before in the two previous games; incredibly similar, in fact, and that's not the only thing that's been repurposed. New Super Mario Bros. 2 re-uses much of the music from the first two New Super Mario Bros. games (with some new arrangements of those songs as well), which is a shame since this was a prime opportunity to debut some new songs and add to the ever-expanding library of classic Mario tunes.
Despite the re-use of similar world themes and music though, this is still classic Mario fun and a blast to play through, and the inclusion of the focus on gold coin collecting this time around serves to help making things a bit more interesting, even if it doesn't completely change up the gameplay. Strangely enough, this coin collecting focus is given no explanation in the story at all, so it's purely something that was added to spice up the gameplay a bit, and for the most part, it works.
Each level is filled to the brim with coins, from your typical coins floating in the air to coins that trail behind jumping fish to coins that appear out of thin air when you interact with certain objects and more. There's even a few new power-ups that contribute to this virtual gold rush: a golden brick that becomes Mario's head for a short time and releases coins as he runs and jumps along; and the golden fire flower, which turns virtually everything in its path into coins (be it bricks or enemies). There are even occasionally gold rings that - once you pass through - will turn all enemies golden for a short period and give you extra coins for defeating them and/or leave coins in their trail (such as kicking a koopa shell).
It all might sound incredibly trivial, but there's something incredibly cool and fulfilling about being bathed in these coins that just wasn't present in previous games. Perhaps it's the overabundance of them and the need to collect 1,000,000 that contributes to this, but New Super Mario Bros. 2 definitely makes it "cool" to grab as much gold as you can. One thing I did notice is that the coins themselves actually do look much more appealing than they used to. In the original NSMB, they're merely flat and yellow, while in NSMB2, they actually do have more of a golden sheen and sparkle to them that gives off a lot more detail.
Speaking of collecting coins, there's a new mode called "Coin Rush" where you'll traverse through three randomly chosen levels from different worlds (depending on the cup you chose), with your goal being to grab as many coins as possible. Oh, and if you die, it's all over. But if you make it through all three levels alive, all of the coins will go into your bank total AND you'll set a new record that can be shared via StreetPass with other 3DS users. So when you pass another 3DS owner (who plays NSMB2), you'll immediately go into Coin Rush and be challenged by the former's coin record, which you'll want to beat for bragging rights.
All in all, New Super Mario Bros. 2 is great fun with its new inclusions, but it still feels like they could have done more to take it to the next level. The lack of new music, re-used world themes, and general sameness do hinder it a bit, especially if the last few games didn't necessarily impress you much, but this is still a polished Mario game through and through. If you're hankering for another new Mario game with new levels to play through, this one is more than satisfies and is fun to play through, especially when it comes to tackling Coin Rush and collecting enough to get to 1,000,000. It isn't the longest game (2-3 hours just to get through the initial worlds), but it'll definitely keep you coming back again and again.
+ New levels are a lot of fun to play through
+ The revamped focus on coins is quite addicting
+ Coin rush mode is a great way of competing with friends
- Re-used music and world themes
- Feels like more of the same, despite some new additions
Overall Score: 7.5 (Out of 10)
New Super Mario Bros. 2 isn't quite the reinvention that the series needed, but it's a fun game nonetheless. As long as you don't mind some re-used assets and ideas, you'll have a good time.
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