2D Mario games have been brandishing the ‘New’ moniker for a few years now, nearly 6 years in fact. In that time we’ve seen only two games carry the branding which isn’t a lot by anyone standards, however how long can something remain new? What makes something remain new?
New Super Mario Bros. 2 might be the second game by name (third in the series) but it feels a lot older than that, like we’ve all been here before. Does it even matter?
The good news is that New Super Mario Bros. 2 is a well-tuned Mario experience from the get-go. So well tuned, in fact, that you know what’s going to happen the moment it boots up. It’s the same old story of Princess Peach getting kidnapped yet again, but it doesn’t mean anything in the long run. The story in Mario games are simply a starting point to get the ball rolling and get into that delicious Mario goodness.
So what makes New Super Mario Bros 2. different to other Mario games; why does it exist? What’s the point of this one? Each Mario game has a central theme.
This time it’s coins, tonnes and tonnes of coins. So much that there’s a great big counter on the title and map screens keeping track of all of your collected ones. You’ll unlock a few things from collecting your first few thousands, which doesn’t take long. This includes the games Coin Rush mode which is the second attraction alongside the main game.
The main story game has 6 main worlds that you’ll most likely breeze through maybe within a day, possibly even one sitting. Collecting all the star coins, unlocking secondary paths and cannon levels will take much longer though. Then there’s the impossibly hard to find secret worlds, and another world for fulfilling certain obligations. You’ll probably finish the game with 100 or more extra lives too because of the abundance of coins.
The games levels tick all the boxes of typical Mario themes. Snow, Water, Beach, Air… all of the above, but of course Nintendo’s kept the level design fresh in the new game with great new ideas. They’ve also kept the tradition of punishing you for taking the traditional or easiest looking way though a level by placing items and enemies in places where they know you’ll go.
Alright, so I’ve gone on and on about the coin focus, so what’s its all about then? While the game contains all the typical Mario flair, such as Mushrooms and the return of the Raccoon Suit (which is severely under-utilised) most of the games power ups, secrets and bonuses revolve around getting coins.
Both the Mega Mushroom makes another appearance, though it’s use is purely superficial. The Mini Mushroom, however, is used for getting into those hard to reach secret rooms, which many players will probably miss on their first playthrough.
The golden flower power-up allows Mario to spit out golden fire which turns enemies into coins, turns blocks into coins… everything into goddamn coins. You’ve also got the Coin Block appearing at random intervals, in which Mario can get his head stuck into, proceeding to run around until he stops spitting out coins.Finally, there’s pipes that spit out coins in gay abandon. Coins coins coins.
The real reason for this coin focus though comes to a head in the games Coin Rush mode and while it must be unlocked, it won’t take long to get it. Coin Rush uses a random selection of three levels from the main game, in each of which you must rush through collecting as many coins as possible. You’ll get coins from defeating enemies, hitting as many blocks as possible and there’s a hidden coin block power up in each level.
There’s three tiers of difficulty for Coin Rush and each will progressively unlock as you play through the game. You can play Coin Rush with just standard Mario or don the White Raccoon Suit to make Mario invincible making for an easier run through. The mode is a fun new way to experience New Super Mario Bros. after your main play through is complete. Competing for that high score via StreetPass will be fun but could be made better with online. Nintendo does keep track of how many coins everyone has got worldwide through SpotPass updates, but that’s the extent of online interaction so far. Extra DLC levels for Coin Rush have been promised. There is also the ability to play the game through with a friend over local wireless; we haven’t had a chance to try that out just yet but it was demoed at E3 with great success and looks to be a fine addition.
The games style is typical Mario, nothing has really changed here since New Super Mario Bros Wii, apart from new enemies and improved artwork in levels. The 3D effect doesn’t play much into the game and there are no 3D puzzles like Super Mario 3D Land had; it’s purely cosmetic. The depth of field effect when 3D is switched on drowns out the background of the levels to great effect but you can keep the 3D most of the time with no strain on your eyes, as it’s barely used. The game is very pretty.
The games soundtrack, like the game’s visual assets, is mostly recycled and remixed ‘New’ Mario tunes which in turn are remixed from classic games. There’s only a couple of tracks that are purely new for this title and you’ll be hard pressed to pick them. That being said it’s not bad, they’re all catchy and sound great on the 3DS speakers. The Goombas aren’t complaining as they still dance along to the tunes.
When I first saw New Super Mario Bros. 2 at E3 earlier this year I wasn’t too hyped for it. It looked like just another Mario title, and even after playing it, it still looks like one. After reading an Iwata Asks feature on the game, I was impressed that Nintendo appeared to have thrown away the rule book on this one. While there are some new ideas, however, such as the Coin Rush mode, it honestly feels like Nintendo are simply holding back on us for features that may appear in future New Super Mario Bros. titles.
Changing the format to a focus on coins is a great idea but it could have been developed further, and the coins are ultimately useless once you get past several thousand of them. We’re hard pressed finding anyone who could have the time let alone be bothered to capture the much talked about one million coins.
This feels like a safe game from Nintendo; in fact, just by being a Mario title its safe. However, for Mario to continue to evolve for the next game, Nintendo is going to need some really radical and new ideas – more akin to something like Sunshine or Galaxy rather than yet another sequel.