New Super Mario Bros 2

Too safe?

By Daavpuke, Posted 14 Aug 2012

When Nintendo originally decided to remake the franchise that made them what they are today, they went all out. With New Super Mario Bros 2 (NSMB2), the giant doesn’t outgrow its progenitor, but rather it stays the course. Its feet sink firmly into the soil, but not much progress is made. Still, a giant is still a sizable beast, no matter what the motion.

Princess Peach sure is a peach. Mere seconds (seconds!) after the two brothers leave her side, she’s swept away by the Koopa family. We fear she might’ve gotten Stockholm Syndrome from her many years in captivity. Off we go through a known adventure in the Mushroom Kingdom. The game pays proper tribute to the classic NES iterations that spawned it all. The first few levels will create a warm cradle of familiarity to come back to, as new details are sparsely introduced. The sequel will keep it classic however. Many of the Super Mario Bros series tidbits will return in new forms, but the changes are more visual than practical.

The cutesy new look of Mario games is known by now, with its rounded out textures and strong color palette. Yet, the 3D effect, one of the only newer styles, is the least effectively designed. In reality, it merely blurs out otherwise enriching backgrounds without adding any depth. It’s quite baffling how little effort was put into adopting the new style to 3D and unfortunately the simple carbon copy design follows much of the core game as well.

New Super Mario Bros 2 - NoobFeed Review
Remember this one? No Scotty, not that again.

Mario will hop down to a few themed worlds as usual. We have the deserts, ice, water and lava worlds, plus a few secret paths for replay value. Anything else is the standard jumping, flying, running and jumping in a decent level design. The care put into creating naturally flowing levels in any Mario title has always been a main priority and this title is no exception.

Yes, NSMB2 will once more command gameplay that effortlessly sweeps players along its levels with vigor, but it’s done in such a methodic way that it becomes a rut at some point. Cadences are only broken up by a slight lapse in control precision. This iteration is heavy on skidding to jump off wall surfaces or roll down hills, which transfers into the rest of the game and makes precision jump hard. Often, with the trickier platforms or stages, getting the pinpoint jump NSMB2 demands can be a frustrating thing. In particular, a clever speed run level has this issue, as flying over gaps in high speeds makes precision even harder. It is however commendable that there are periodic level alterations, as the game has little variety beyond that.

New Super Mario Bros 2 - NoobFeed Review
Ebenezer Scrooge Mario.

The main focus of the game is coins. Coins rule everything around Mario. Decadence even overtakes the family friendly title, as our hero is often treated with golden showers by draining pipes or getting rocks off. Perhaps that should’ve been phrased in a better way. Anyway, one of the ways to gain optimal currency is through the new blockhead implementation that transforms its wearer into a walking bank that shoots coins. Another is a golden flower that allows for the eruption of giant fireballs that rock the stage and yield coins from anything it destroys. All coins get added to a level total and additionally serve to chase the million coin goal.

Furthermore, each level has 3 special floating around special areas. These can be used to unlock alternative routes or houses on the world map, along with being necessary to unlock the high rated Star World that requires 90 of these shiny bits. Even in the playing areas itself there are often multiple ways to reach the end and that adds more bang to the proverbial buck. Some roads might lead to new places, whilst others might be more lucrative. It’s all a matter of split decisions and as stages are quickly played it’s welcoming of an alternative retry. More so, unlocking different routes often lead to amusing secrets and more varied gameplay, so it’s advisable to seek out the path less traveled.

Perhaps bouncing around for new stuff to find could feel slightly mandatory even, as if forced to try to shake the mold that is NSMB2. Yet, perhaps this sequel just plays it safe, too safe, in order to please everyone, which effectively pleases no one. Coins quickly reveal their gimmicky nature, as the screen showers of coins never once boil down to grappling to catch each single unit. Instead, it’s just a nature of grabbing whatever is available and then moving on into the tropes of platform games as we know it. Jump here; use a Koopa shell to activate this, get to that section by jumping on a Goomba and so on. Again, each level individually is crafted with care, so this will be very enjoyable, but not as exhilarating as a brand new experience, as NSMB2 is not all that novel in the first place.

New Super Mario Bros 2 - NoobFeed Review
Also, this guy is still tons of fun.

In order to cash in a bit more on its capitalist ideas, this game has a separate Coin Rush mode. Here, players play 3 random levels and try to nab as much cash as possible for an end score that can be measured with their peers. It comes in regular Mario mode and White Raccoon Mario. The latter is a nearly indestructible character, only vulnerable to death pits. The issue here, for one, is that only 1 record is held, which makes retries aggravating, even if it creates a more uniform challenge. Secondly, the white raccoon version isn’t as appealing as the regular kind, as playing normally adds a golden flower that basically transforms entire playthroughs into coins. Yet, it’s a mandatory restart that is the death knell in this play mode. One death bounces players back to the first of the 3 stages, so playing Coin Rush will require grit and determination to get the big scores.

This leaves us with the hilarious cooperative play; hilarious, but not helpful. Playing as Mario and Luigi creates a cavalcade of sadistic comedy, as any game is a cause for mayhem. Players shove each other off in tight quarters, which happens frequently given the nature of precision platforms. What results is a never-ending stream of players bumping into each other, obstructing each other’s path and even dealing their own hand in death. A saving grace is an activated bubble that whisks a player along, but if the other one dies, it also means the end of that level. This mode is more comic relief than it is a helping hand towards a brighter future, except if both partners are superbly in tune with their other half.

New Super Mario Bros 2 - NoobFeed Review
Not featured: Luigi accidentally shoves Mario into a Goomba 2 seconds later.

There is almost a sense of melancholy that surrounds New Super Mario Bros 2. On one hand, it’s the lovable platform extravaganza it’s always been, but on the other hand it’s also nothing more and perhaps even slightly less than that. With a coin gimmick and a few new trinkets, the sequel only provides a status quo in the franchise. Even if that journey will be magical, it’s about as transcendent as the coin behind the ear trick. If only the term “mildly interesting” didn’t sound so negative, it could serve well for this solid game.

Daav Valentaten, NoobFeed. (@Daavpuke)

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General Information

Platform(s): 3DS
Publisher(s): Nintendo
Developer(s): Nintendo
Genres: 2D Platformer
Themes: Action
Release Date: 2012-08-19

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