Vault Play: New Super Mario Bros. 2
It’s been quite a while since I played a Mario Bros title. The last time I got involved with the venerable Italians was in 2006 when I got New Super Mario Bros for my DS Lite. Having recently received a 3DS, it seemed almost blasphemous to not buy a SMB game for it, and since I’m fonder of 2D platformers, I chose New Super Mario Bros. 2 over Super Mario 3D Land. To my surprise, not much has changed in the Mushroom Kingdom over the past six years.
em>Super Mario Bros.is an iconic series, and Nintendo is careful to make sure they never stray too far outside the box with their proven formula. If you’ve played any games in the series before, you already know the plot of New SMB 2. Mario takes his eyes off Princess Peach for just a split second, and she is kidnapped by those crafty Koopalings. By now, this story has been done so many times, I’m starting to think she may have Stockholm Syndrome and actually WANT to go live with the giant turtles. Anyhow, it’s up to our fearless plumbers to go rescue her, only this time aided by the magic of stereoscopic 3-D!
The 3-D effects in New SMB 2 are excellent. They provide a nice sense of depth into the level backgrounds without being too distracting. The visuals and character animations are all top notch and have the level of polish everyone expects from a Nintendo release. The levels are well designed, but unfortunately, the game plays things very safe. You can expect the same green field, desert, snow, and fortress levels you’ve seen so often in the past. I would have liked to see Nintendo try something slightly new and maybe create some fresh environments or variations on their classic themes. However, the tried and true level designs work well in the context of this entry’s new gimmick: coins.
New SMB 2 is “all about the coins”. Coins are absolutely everywhere, and are even more of a focal point than they are in most SMB games. Coin caches appear from finding hidden areas, jumping through rings can turn enemies into golden coin dispensers, and there are even golden bricks that turn Mario into a “block head” that streams coins as you run. It’s a cool concept, and I found myself replaying levels more than once in order to find all the hidden Star coins and beat my own high score of coins collected. These scores add into your overall number of coins collected, and to the leaderboards where someone has already collected millions of more coins than you ever will (trust me, those people are crazy). In my mind, Mario and Luigi should have some sort of giant Scrooge McDuck-style money bin filled with all their stolen loot. Alas, this isn’t in the game.
There are eight total worlds to traverse, but two are optional “secrets” so you only need to conquer six worlds to complete the game. The Koopalings are in full effect here (Lemmy is my favorite) along with all the other familiar faces like Lakitu and the Hammer brothers. While some of the maps can be quite challenging, a side effect of the new coin collecting mechanic is that you stockpile an absurd amount of extra lives. I think I beat the game with an excess of two hundred extras. Combine this with an optional “White Raccoon Mario” easy mode that unlocks if you die too many times on a particular level, and any semblance of challenge pretty much goes out the window.
After beating the relatively short campaign, I had unlocked multiple extra course packs for the new “Coin Rush” mode. Coin Rush is an interesting take on the traditional score attack. You get one life to complete three randomly selected levels from a range of the game worlds. The idea is to collect as many coins as possible while fully completing all three. If you accomplish this you’ll get a nice addition to your overall coin stash, and your high score will be posted to leaderboard as well as actively shareable via Streetpass. I first saw this feature and found out my neighbor owned the game when their score popped up as a leaderboard challenge. Admittedly, it was pretty neat. Additional coin rush packs can be downloaded and purchased from the Nintendo eShop if you get bored with the ones that come bundled with the game.
New SMB 2 isn’t a bad game, it just feels somewhat uninspired. It’s almost impossible to not like a 2D Mario game, and it delivers exactly what you expect along with perfunctory local co-op and a fresh gimmick. After multiple entries in the “New” Super Mario franchise, things don’t feel very new at all. I enjoyed my time with it, but once I beat the story and the shininess of Coin Rush mode faded, I didn’t feel compelled for additional replays. If you’re an old school fan who is expecting something totally original you will most likely be disappointed. However, if you haven’t explored the Mushroom Kingdom in a while this is still a safe but solid entry to pop into that 3DS after you’ve dusted it off.