It was a bit of a shocker when Nintendo pulled New Super Mario Brothers 2 out of their hat right before E3 this year and planned on launching it within a few months. New entries in the plucky plumber’s ongoing battles with Bowser are usually teased out for a least a year. Yet all of a sudden here was the first sidescrolling Mario adventure for Nintendo’s new handheld system. Now that I’ve gotten a chance to play through the game, well it’s not that much of a surprise anymore. Considering that this franchise is known for honoring and reinventing itself with each new entry, this thing feels surprisingly predictable. Now, it’s still Mario. The game plays like a dream and offers hours upon hours of addictive platforming entertainment. Nintendo has just done such an impressive job of constantly raising the bar for their beloved mascot over the years that more of the great gameplay we already love can’t help but feel like a slight letdown.
When it comes to the new suits n’ powers, well, it’s all based on coins. The big one is a golden flower that makes Mario gold and shoots out giant fireballs that turn pretty well anything onscreen into coins. The smaller new addition is the coin block that Mario wears on his head and leaves a trail of coins wherever he runs. Coins are everywhere in this game, even when you aren’t playing with the new powers.
Unless you’re a particularly unskilled Mario player, you’ll be up to 100 lives in no time and earning a “game over” screen would require serious effort. Your coin total is diligently counted on the main menu, with notices every time you reach a new milestone. There’s also a new coin-based mini-game called Coin Rush that allows you to compete against bots or human players (via streetpass) by replaying every level in the game trying to get the highest possible coin total. It’s fairly entertaining and helps increase replay value, which is actually pretty important on this particular title.
In a way, it’s appropriate that New Super Mario Bros 2 is the first 3DS retail game that’s available as a downloadable title. This feels more like an eShop game than a retail title and isn’t worth the sticker price. $25 at the eShop is about right, but chances are it will cost more. The game is so low on new content that it feels like leftover levels and ideas from the previous New Super Mario Bros and Nintendo is saving all of their new ideas for the Wii U. Even the 3D is oddly useless. I’m not sure if Nintendo thought fully 3D backgrounds would be distracting or what, but if you turn on the 3D the background goes out of focus. Turn it of and the backdrops are clear. Now, there’s still depth between Mario and the blurry background, just so little that this is a 3DS title better suited to 2D gameplay. I’m not sure what happened there. It’s almost as if this was a DS title given a last minute 3D polish.
To read Phil’s full review of New Super Mario Bros. 2 pick up the August/September issue of Comics & Gaming Magazine coming soon to Zinio and a newsstand near you.