New Super Mario Bros. 2
Platform: Nintendo 3DS
Ah, Mario games. The name “Mario” conjures up so many childhood memories. As Mario enters its 25th anniversary, Nintendo has decided to bless the 3D generation with another Mario title that will act as its final bridge before the inevitable Mario WiiU release sometime next year.
Nintendo has already released a 3D-based Mario game for the 3DS earlier this year. It was a fantastic little portable gem that played with the 3D aspects nicely, whilst throwing in some lovely retro renditions of the series as a whole. The experience, however, was geared more towards a reflection of the Mario Galaxy / Console type iterations of the series, and the call for a more traditional Mario platforming experience was eventually heard by Nintendo - so they released New Super Mario Bros. 2.
Will this warp drain hopping Italian plumber have what it takes to satisfy the new and old alike? We shall see…
Anyone familiar with the original Super Mario Bros. for the DS will know how this game will generally play out. In fact most of the level layouts haven’t changed much. Mario is a pretty simple experience as a whole, so to expect complexity or massive change up’s in the little plumber’s routine isn't to be expected. The game's story is also pretty much the same. However, the cast harks all the way back to the Super Mario World and Super Mario 3 days, re-introducing the entire clan of Koopalings, complete with their hovering Koopa Clown car!
The Koopalings, along with their mastermind (or Dad?) Bowser, kidnap Princess Peach and it's Mario’s job to navigate the 10 or so stages between the 6 offered (and 2 secret) worlds, defeating the Koopalings one by one and eventually facing off against Mario’s nemesis Bowser in an epic showdown.
Initially, I guess the title of this game kind of grated on me. “New” Super Mario Bros.? What was so “new” about it? Everything is a rehash! But I started to realize something as I undertook the boss battles; as you come across the castle stages (that are mid-boss battles), you have to defeat rhinoceroses standing on top of rotating coin blocks. I suddenly realized Nintendo’s extremely simple premise; they have taken what mine and older generations grew up with and updated it for the new generation to appreciate, just with a more prettier and updated graphical appeal.
I was tempted to call this review: “Mario Bros. 2: What Recession?” due to the power-ups featured in the game. Mario’s secondary focus is to collect as many gold coins as possible, and there are many power-ups that affect and aid you in collecting these coins. Some of the power-ups featured include the gold flower power that allows Mario to shoot fireballs that can turn blocks into gold coins or can be shot at enemies for mass loads of gold cash! There is also the white tanooki suit that allows Mario to fly almost instantly, gold blocks that can attach to Mario’s head and cause a stream of gold coins to follow him as he moves around the screen and finally little gold rings that turn everything into gold, especially if you decide to throw some koopa troopers about the place!
What's the point in getting these gold coins? Nothing really. There is a little counter in the bottom right of your screen tallying the amount of coins you're amassing as well as a score but with Nintendo’s lack of a proper functioning social online experience, these features are somewhat redundant, as the only bragging rights for collecting a million gold coins would be in a kids playground where you can show it off to your friends (Ed's Note: Remember when people just played games for fun?)
Weighed up, the ability to amass even more Mario wealth wasn’t something that I felt brought a “wow” factor to the game, but you have to remember that I’m a jaded old gaming bastard who's been hanging out with Mario since I was a little kid. Overall, the implementation was nicely done and it did feel satisfying collecting a mass load of coins in one-go.
Other features are the Co-Op mode that allows one player to play as Mario’s brother Luigi and the game also features a “time trial” mode that allows the player to race through older stages collecting an insane amount of coins to complete the challenge.
The debate as to whether this series is getting stale has a clear answer for me. Nothing new has been done in this game, and there's nothing really to differentiate it from its DS predecessor. However, I will say that there's a very simple factor here that Nintendo is relying on, which is the quality within the series. Changing it isn't likely to be a priority.
I always believe in innovation and welcome new ideas, however Mario is such an ingrained franchise that we expect a certain level of quality and concepts from the series. Combine this with the fact that Nintendo has to appeal to a new generation of younger gamers, then the appeal of Mario has to become quite wide. Generally, I would say this syndrome is no different from games like the Call of Duty series, where a massive change in mechanics or cinematic style would leave a lot of fans old and new scratching their heads. It all comes down to quality at the end of the day, and by god is this a game that screams it from the roof-tops. I have yet to find a Mario game that doesn't (unless we talk about that horrible Hotel Mario CD-I game).
My only major gripe is that the 3D is STILL unimpressive. I think it does a pretty good job of conveying elements of snow or falling fire embers in the later stages, but this is still largely a 2D platformer. However, It does look gorgeous on the new 3DS XL.
A part of me also felt the coin-worship with Mario didn’t gel so well to the character’s selfless and chivalrous personality. I kept expecting Wario to make a cameo at some point during the game to steal all the treasures and coins!. Honestly, this game’s coin collecting premise would have suited Wario a lot better.
At the end of the day, it's a Mario game. I’m not saying it merits an automatic high score, but I can’t find that much wrong with it. I enjoyed the game a lot while playing it – It didn’t blow me away, but there will be kids growing up and wondering what Mario is all about who WILL be blown away - just like I was when I first played Super Mario World on the SNES. For that, I have to credit the blend of nostalgia and the newer elements within the game.
At least we shall never have to compare Mario to a certain inconsistent and untrustworthy blue hedgehog.
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