If you’re looking for the next best thing in the Super Mario series, this isn’t the game. If you’re looking for a sequel full of all new ideas and regenerated concepts, this isn’t the game. If you’re looking for a Mario game that revolutionizes everything we know and love about Mario, this is definitely not the game. But if you are interested in that classic Mario gameplay, full of collecting coins, grabbing power-ups, and dashing for the flagpole at the end of the level, this is the game.
Gameplay is New Super Mario Bros. 2’s saving grace. Just about every aspect of the gameplay is tuned to perfection. The classic Mario formula is present and it feels great, with things like collecting hidden 1-Ups and finding secret exits being the heart and sole of the experience. Defeating enemies and throwing Koopa shells feels natural and smooth, along with all your running and jumping mechanics. Using power-ups like the Super Leaf are easy to adjust to, and there is never anything that takes more than a few seconds to learn. Gameplay wise, New Super Mario Bros. 2 is fantastic product.
While the New Super Mario Bros. series may look similar from game to game, what certainly has improved is the level design. Never in the series have I thought back as much and pondered how clever that hidden Star Coin was or how interesting the new mechanic for that level was. The placement of blocks and enemies is done carefully and intelligently, lending to creating a level that feels real and well thought out. Coins are hidden everywhere, and there is so many little details that only the most curious players will find.
One distinguishable factor the game posses is the coin collecting aspect. Yes, Mario has been collecting coins for the last 25 years, but for the first time, coin collecting is being highlighted and promoted as one of your main priorities, outside of saving the princess of course. While it might sound gimmicky at first, this new goal, specifically about collecting 1 million coins, is one that changes the way you think and play the game. Collecting coins already had an addictive side, and New Super Mario Bros. 2 amplifies that to a whole an entirely new level. Running through a field of coins or vaporizing your enemies into a stack of cash could not be more rewarding
While all this is great and fun, there are some major drawbacks that pull the game back and away from becoming a standard in the Super Mario series. As mentioned before, the game is very similar to its predecessors. So much so that the game reuses nearly everything from New Super Mario Bros. Wii. I’m talking about music, enemies, world themes, sound effects, and just about every other resource in the game. This isn’t to say that absolutely nothing has been added. We do get new enemies like Undead Piranha Plants and new level themes like the aurora filled sky or the nighttime grasslands level, but there is a constant sense that continues to tell you that you have seen and done this before.
And that is exactly the case with the New Super Mario Bros. 2. You have done all this before. You’ve gone through all the grasslands and the deserts before. You’ve collected all three Star Coin in each level before. You’ve battled all the Koopalings before, with nearly the same battle attacks I might add. It’s all been done before, and while that is not necessarily a bad thing, it is a bit disappointing, especially with the “New” in the title itself.
What is new, however, is the Coin Rush mode. Players will play through three randomly selected levels with the goal of collecting as many coins as possible. Not only that, but there is a time limit that forces you to end the level within a short amount of time. Throw in a no death rule and you are set up for an interesting way to go back and replay levels from the game. Instead of playing it easy and taking the safe routes like you would in the main game, managing your time all while trying to collect every last coins. This provides an interesting dynamic to the gameplay that is only experienced with the Coin Rush mode. Your final scores at the end of the level will be saved and used a StreetPass high scores, allowing you to challenge anyone you StreetPass. This adds a lot of replayability to the game.
One thing you may have noticed is the lack of mention of 3D use in the game. It’s not because it’s non-existent; trust me, it’s there, it’s because using the 3D is a win-lost situation. Turn up the slider to see the entire background go into a blur, putting more focus on Mario and his obstacles. It actually does change the depth of field with the background, but you in turn you lost those backdrops that sets the mood and the tone of the level. From my experience, leaving the 3D off was the better option, as the trade off for 3D was not worth it.
New power-ups are always part of a new Mario game, and that is not different here. The Super Leaf makes a triumphant return, this time complete with the flying ability. It adds some interesting twists to the game, allowing us to achieve things that were simply not possible in games past. The incredible Gold Flower allows Mario to turn anything to sweet gold, allowing the addiction of coin collecting to come to an entire new level. Returning power-ups include the Mega Mushroom as well as the Mini Mushroom, but don’t expect to see them outside a handful of levels.
The game takes you through six main worlds and three extra worlds that bring an extra challenge for those looking for more. Like the previous games, three Star Coins are hidden throughout each level, giving you a reason to go back and replay some of the game. We get to see some of the most unique locations and tricks for these Star Coins, better than many found in the other two games. The same can be said about all the secret exits.
New Super Mario Bros. 2 is by no means a bad game. If you love the gameplay from past Mario side-scrollers, you will certainly love what this game has to offer. Keep in mind that you will, ironically, not get too much “new” from this experience. Nintendo seems to be relying on that classic gameplay a little too much and seems to be afraid to try anything drastically new. It’s a bit of a shame, but what the game does have, works. If you are looking for more of the same, New Super Mario Bros. 2 will suit you fine. It’s equivalent to the past two games, but definitely the best of the three.
(7.5 out of 10)