The New Super Mario Bros. is a relatively new franchise despite the fact that it already feels like it’s been around forever. The title “New Super Mario Bros. 2” is actually very misleading as it is the third game in the series. The reason that this game is given the coveted “2” is because it is supposed to be the followup to the original New Super Mario Bros on the Nintendo DS. Apparently the Wii release was its own thing, so it doesn’t count. NSMB2 (Because I’m already sick of writing it out) was released as a “launch title” for the 3DS XL, and by that I mean they were the released the same day and some stores bundled them together. While technically a sub-series, the NSMB franchise is widely regarded as a full Mario game, as opposed to offshoots like Mario Party or a Mario Sport game, and consequently people expect a certain level of quality from the series. Today we are going to look and see if NSMB2 managed to maintain the high standards of Mario titles or if it falters miserably.
|Rule #1 – Never put the world “New” in your title.|
|Thankfully, these warcrimes are not present.|
The NSMB series was extremely inventive when it was launched on the DS. Prior to it, Nintendo had all but abandoned the classic 2D Marios that launched the chubby plumber into superstardom. The NSMB came and was immediately fresh and stale at the same time. Mario has always been accused of lack of evolution despite the fact that this is usually completely untrue, but even though the last 2D Mario was released years before NSMB, it still felt a little derivative. The Wii edition that wasn’t good enough to get the “2”, was well received and brought real co-op to the Mario franchise even though it caused countless friendships to end in frustration. With the release of NSMB2 and the upcoming release of NSMBU for the Wii U, it is clear that Nintendo plans to keep this series alive; although, they have promised to stick to a 1 title per system release schedule. So that is the state of Mario now: one branch 3D and one branch 2D.
|Actually the best part of the game|
The NSMB2 has the exact same plot and gameplay you would expect from any 2D Mario, which I will not be explaining because if you don’t know what that entails, there is no hope for you as a gamer. Fans of Super Mario Bros. 3 will be happy to see the Koopalings return instead of the usual Bowser Jr, but the plot is the same basic kidnap Peach affair. The gameplay is also identical, which isn’t much of a problem from a game, whose whole purpose is to be a retro throwback. The stages are well designed and there is often a good flow, but there is nothing groundbreaking or memorable in the stage design. The return of the racoon tail is a great addition, as is the return of flying, although, this aspect is underused.There are two new powerups added that likely will never be seen again. Firstly there is the coin block head, which gives you coins the further and faster you run. Secondly, there is the golden fire flower, which is a more powerful fire flower that turns enemies and blocks into coins.
These new powerups lead me to the NSMB2’s very interesting and exciting hook: coins. Coins have been present in all Mario games to date, but have never served an interesting purpose outside of life acquisition. By flooding the world with coins and adding collection elements, the NSMB2 had a really good shot of adding a fresh coat of paint to Mario. We were told in advance that there would be a goal of 1 million coins, and players would be amassing huge swaths of coins during their relatively straightforward journey. As any gamer knows, collection quests that provide constant stimulus are very addicting and are a perfect way to set this game apart from all of the other Mario games.
|You would think that this game would focus on coins, but….|
|Cute, but pointless|
This premise, unfortunately, was not followed through with. The idea that the game is about collecting coins is an absolute joke. All of the new powerups are focused on coin collection, and coins are far more present in this game then ever before, but why would you ever bother collecting them? They don’t unlock new levels, or powerups, or anything at all actually. You will receive a new title screen for collecting 1 million coins, which is a huge feat even with the added coins. I finished the game with just a little over 10,000 coins to let you know how much of a grind the 1 million is. With Mario’s rich history, it is inexcusable that Nintendo didn’t give any kind of incentive for collecting coins, such as concept art, soundtracks, or developer interviews. The game keeps track of your coin total and lets you know when you hit certain milestones, but this is all very meaningless. Without any kind of incentive, the whole hook of the game is about as useful as a Goomba.
|I almost puked when I saw that the second world was a desert world… again.|
One problem I have had with the whole NSMB series, which I will project onto this game, is the music. The Mario series is full of classic and memorable tracks. The NSMB series is a throwback, but mostly avoids using any of the classic tracks. More damningly, the soundtrack for the NSMB games plays it extremely safe and manages to be nothing more than background music at the most, leading to some really forgettable tracks. From a sound effect perspective, the game is great, with Mario being his chipper self, Peach crying out like a pro, and Bowser sounding menacing, but the soundtrack is very disappointing for such a wonderful series.
|Yeah, Luigi’s in it too, but does anyone actually care?|
Tragically, the biggest problem with the NSMB2 is that it packs in very little content. This wouldn’t be a problem if it were released at a lower price point, but there are much better platformers with much more content being released for a third of the price. That isn’t to say the basic gameplay isn’t excellent. The platforming is as great as ever, but there isn’t that much of it, and it is starting to be a problem in this day and age. The addition of a “Coin Rush Mode” was meant to alleviate this, but it isn’t that good. This mode pits you against three random stages, and tasks you to collect as many coins as possible under a time limit. It can work well, but often you will be randomly put into a stage that does not work with speed running such as a slowly scrolling level. A legitimate time trials mode would have gone much, much further. Donkey Kong Country Returns was able to pack in so much more because of time trials, and there is no reason Nintendo should have half-assed it like they did.
|Why would they make Big Boo so ugly?|
I hate to say this, but the NSMB2 is the first Mario game I have played that really doesn’t deliver. There is still a lot of fun to be had, but it is all fairly derivative, and the only fresh idea in the package is criminally underused despite the fact that it is supposed to be the central feature of the game. Is it still a good game? Yes, but it lacks anything new to justify its existence. It feels nothing more than an add-on to the NSMBWii, and while I realize Mario games often get criticized for this, it is extremely present in this game.
– Classic Mario Gameplay is still strong
– Misuses its entire concept
– More derivative than the most derivative Mario game
– Lacking content