2D Mario has come to the 3DS. After the stellar Super Mario 3D Land, Nintendo brings Mario back to his roots once again with a new team in control and a fresh take on excessive coin collecting in New Super Mario Bros. 2.
Mario has always been known for tight, responsive controls and this title does not disappoint. There is nothing broken about Mario’s feel, so why attempt to fix it? The greater Mario games are defined more on level design and good power-up use. Players will find the Mario staples like the Mushroom and Fire Flower along with the classic favorite Raccoon Leaf. The Mini and Mega Mushrooms also make a return, though on a much smaller scale. The Fire Flower has a golden counterpart that makes its fireballs explode upon contact making anything the blast radius hit turn into coins. Mario can also stick his head into a block that spits out more coins the faster he moves. Sadly, that is the only new power-up introduced and it doesn’t alter Mario’s skill set.
There are some new takes on established concepts throughout New Super Mario Bros. 2. The Reznor mini-boss from Super Mario World returns with some variations. Some chain link fences you climb on will react to your fist pounds in new ways. The Boos even have some new tricks up their ghostly sleeves as well. There are plenty of nods and other variations to be found throughout as well.
New Super Mario Bros. 2 has a coin collecting focus and the level design reflects that. Levels are built more with massive coin collecting in mind than great platforming like Mario titles of the past. For coin collecting, the level design is incredible. Grabbing hundreds of coins in each level is possible and fun to accomplish. Stray coins are placed in optimal lines, Gold Rings make every enemy a gold mine, and hidden areas will keep the 1-Ups flowing. Yet, if you aren’t concerned with getting so many coins, the platforming is rather bland. There were a few moments that made me smile and think, “Well that is pretty clever,” but not nearly as often as previous titles. There is no real “wow” factor in the level design from a traditional platforming standpoint. The platforming, even in later stages, is fairly basic offering very little challenge. Even hidden worlds won’t test your skills all that much. 1-Ups are handed to players by the handful so it is a little upsetting that the challenge bar is so low.
There are two new types of levels though. Rainbow levels will shower players with coins without any enemy threat. In previous games, Cannons would just blast Mario into another world in the blink of an eye. In New Super Mario Bros. 2, Cannon levels take a new approach. Mario gets shot out of the cannon into an endless sprint forward. Players need to time their jumps to guide Mario to the exit. These levels are short and aren’t used much, but they break up the action well and are fun while they last without overstaying their welcome.
There are over 80 levels to play through giving players tons of content, and there is even promise of DLC. There are 6 main worlds featuring the traditional Mario locations such as a desert, ice word, jungle, and others. There are also three special hidden worlds. For as many levels as there are in the game, it ends rather quickly, partly as a result of the low challenge of the game. Getting through the six main worlds will take mere hours. Collecting all the Star Coins and finding every hidden exit will take more time though. In fact, the majority of the challenge for this title is in collecting all the Star Coins and finding all hidden exits. Some of those hidden exits are really hard to find which is a nice touch.
New Super Mario Bros. 2’s biggest addition to the Mario formula is the new Coin Rush mode. In Coin Rush, players are tasked with collecting as many coins as possible while reaching the end of the level as fast as they can. Divided between Mushroom, Flower, and Star tiers, the game picks three random stages for the player to rush through. The catch is that only one life is grated during this time forcing players to be quick, precise, yet careful. After completing all three stages, coin totals are combined to give the final score. You may save your total to show off when you Street Pass with other 3DS users to see how you stack up against them. Comparing scores is a great way to add some type of competitive component to the Mario series, but the sharing option is so limited. Coin Rush is screaming for Leaderboard support.
Coin Rush also suffers from a luck based selection system. Some levels are more ideal for coin collecting than others. Since the level selection is randomized, players may not always get the best scores they could simply because the game didn’t choose a more favorable string of levels. Coin Rush has huge potential to be a very addictive feature with the proper support and tweaks in future titles.
A Co-Op is mode is included in New Super Mario Bros. 2. It is similar to the frantic multiplayer mode in New Super Mario Bros. Wii, just limited to two players. Mario and Luigi are the only two options this time around. It turns out to be a good thing since the 3DS screen is much smaller and has a harder time keeping up with multiple characters at once. Adding two more characters would force the game to zoom the view out enough to support four players and that would cause everything to be rather hard to see. Co-Op is a good addition, but hardly as fun as it was on its Wii cousin.
New Super Mario Bros. 2 doesn’t attempt to deviate itself in the way it looks. While it certainly looks better than the original DS brother, it looks slightly worse than its Wii cousin. It doesn’t even take much advantage of being on the 3DS. The 3D effect is nothing to praise. 3D blurs out the background and barely brings the foreground toward the player. The effect is so subtle that it is not even be worth the extra battery power or keeping yourself in the sweet spot for. The world map is also borrowed from the original. Sadly, it is still as dull and lifeless as before.
Much like the graphics, New Super Mario Bros. 2 borrows most of its music from previous entries. It takes the best of the two games. The music in these games has always sounded worse than what Mario has offered in the past so this isn’t the best choice. To make things worse, the traditional flavor of the “New” series is to add little chanting and this title turns it from being kind of cute to downright annoying. In some stages it becomes almost a shriek at times and it has been added in places it didn’t need to be. For the first time I have found myself wanting to turn down the music in a Mario title.
New Super Mario Bros. 2 is a fun visit to the Mushroom Kingdom that doesn’t attempt to be the new standard for the genre like many of its predecessors. While expanding on simple existing elements it fails to innovate or have any “wow” factor. The stages are well designed for coin collecting, but lack challenge in a game that hands out multiple lives in every stage. Coin Rush is a great addition to the series, but still needs a few tweaks. Core Mario gameplay is as sharp and excellent as ever so New Super Mario Bros. 2 deserves its time in the Mario spotlight, yet not quite among the Mario elite.