Another year, another Mario game. New Super Mario Bros. 2, the third entry in the series since it began in 2006, puts us back in the brown boots of a sidescrolling Mario to (once again) save Princess Peach from being kidnapped (she really needs to up her security). Being the first sidescrolling Mario game developed for the 3DS, New Super Mario Bros. 2 doesn’t quite feel as exciting or new as the name would have us believe.
From the get-go we’re presented with Peach getting kidnapped again by those rascally Koopa Kids, and Mario and Luigi rushing off to save her. It’s the typical intro that we’re all used to, but nowhere as fresh as it could have been. In fact, even the inclusion of the tanooki suit feels lackluster after its reveal and re-introduction in Super Mario 3D Land last year. The game then reverts back to its overworld map system and from there the player progresses through each stage.
An addition to the game (which was also introduced in 3D Land) is the Invicincibility Leaf and is attainable after a player loses five or more lives on a stage and feels they could use the assistance. Though some people argue that this takes away from the challenge of the game, it’s merely an option for those new to the series or perhaps even younger gamers who are having difficulty.
Also making its debut is the Gold Flower. This power-up works similarly to the Fire Flower, except when its propellent makes contact with a breakable block or an enemy, nearby obstacles of these types are turned into coins. Speaking of coins, making their return from 3D Land are the Coin Blocks, which are hidden throughout some levels and attach themselves to Mario’s head, expending a limited number of coins. The box disappears when the limit is reached or if Mario is hurt.
There is also the Coin Rush Mode which pits the player in a series of three random stages to collect as many coins as possible and reach the end before the timer runs out. At the end of each stage the coin count is doubled, and all coins collected throughout the game are put toward an overall coin-collection counter. This counter keeps track of all coins in the player’s goal of reaching 1,000,000 coins, which is then rewarded with an in-game gold Tanooki Mario statue.
The game puts a heavy emphasis on coin collection, all for the ultimate goal of attaining… an in-game trinket. With coins being such a staple asset to the Mario games for over a quarter of a century, it’s strange (and let’s face it, arbitrary) for Nintendo to be making it the “big thing” for this title. Even the cover art showcases Luigi straggling behind Mario grasping a pile of coins. It’s a feature that seems pretty superficial to the experience, but other than that, there really isn’t anything to the game that makes it more compelling over its predecessors.
Aside from a co-op mode (that works with only one other player in control of Luigi), the multiplayer aspect is completely lacking and feels less substantial to even the first game on the DS. In fact, I’d argue that the DS multiplayer features offer more to the formula with their many competitive mini-game challenges that support up to four players sharing from one game cartridge.
As for the visuals of the game, it looks just like what you’d expect from the series. The game runs well and can be pleasing to the eye, but the 3D effect adds nothing whatsoever. Playing with or without it won’t give you a better or worse experience, since all it does is blur the background and make everything on the foreground more prominent. However, with how nice the art style is you’ll probably keep the game in just 2D anyway so that the image is crisp.
Overall, the game is what you’d expect, which is both a good and a bad thing. It’s good because everyone knows what a Mario game will involve, and the formula is so refined that there aren’t any real faults to its design. But with the removal of some of the original DS game’s multiplayer features and the lack of any new compelling gameplay hooks, New Super Mario Bros. 2 just doesn’t feel new at all. Unless you’re absolutely itching for the new Mario platformer, you’ll still survive if you give this one a miss.
New Super Mario Bros. 2 was developed and published by Nintendo. A Nintendo 3DS copy was purchased by the editor for the purposes of this review.