New is the new new.
The original New Super Mario Bros. was fine. It was the first original Mario 2D platformer in over a decade, so it felt pretty fresh from the get-go. New Super Mario Bros. Wii did a great job in expanding the original’s concept with bigger stages, bigger enemies, and 4-player co-op. Despite what people say, it’s also one of my favorite games of all time.
And then comes New Super Mario Bros. 2, a game that takes New Super Mario Bros. Wii and strips it down to nothing more than its bear bones. And so while NSMB Wii brought Mario a step forward, NSMB2 effectively brings Mario two steps back.
New Super Mario Bros. 2 is a 2D platformer that is supposed to be a direct sequel to 2006’s New Super Mario Bros. for DS, but with one catch: this time, it’s all about the coins. Each level is littered with dozens, even hundreds of coins to collect, and new power-ups like the Gold Flower (which turns everything Mario hits into gold) and the Gold Ring (which turns enemies into coin-making machines) emphasize this fact. However, this whole notion of “it’s all about the gold” didn’t feel very apparent while playing NSMB2; coins aren’t littered everywhere like you would expect, and most stages aren’t even designed with coins in mind – they just seem to be, well, just there.
So, you might be asking, what’s new in New Super Mario Bros. 2? To be honest, nothing really. The story remains largely the same – Peach is kidnapped by Bowser and it’s up to Mario to go and save her. The power-ups don’t make much of an alteration either, though you do see the return of the raccoon leaf from Super Mario Bros. 3, giving Mario the ability to fly. The bosses continue to remain the same with the Koopalings now joined by those pesky Reznors from Super Mario World. Even the music is exactly the same, albeit a few altercations here and there. So yes, there’s little new in New Super Mario Bros. 2, which is largely disappointing.
But just because there’s nothing new doesn’t mean there’s no fun. Despite my criticisms, New Super Mario Bros. 2 is still one of the best games out there that offers the twitchy, exact 2D platforming we all know and love. Every move still feels precise. Controlling Mario still feels great. And yes, I found the circle pad to be a bit awkward to use for controlling 2D, thankfully the d-pad still works exactly the way it should. New Super Mario Bros. 2’s gameplay is still as fantastic as it’s always been.
In addition to perfected gameplay, New Super Mario Bros. 2 also features the best graphics in the series. The visuals look surprisingly sharp and colorful, and the series’ cartoony graphical style still holds up well. The 3D effect is decent; the background back is pulled back and blurred to form a focal point on the foreground. Mario’s model does looks a bit pixilated though, but that isn’t really noticeable until the camera zooms in on him during some cut-scenes (which are very few and far between).
New Super Mario Bros. 2 features over 90 levels in the main game which Nintendo touts to be the most in any Mario game to date. Unfortunately, a large majority of these levels are very easy and forgettable, with some of them feeling so empty that it almost feels like the developers forgot to finish it. Finding all three Star Coins in every level as well as every secret exit proved to be significantly more challenging, but only because they are hidden by invisible blocks and such, which I’ve always felt was a cheap way to hide secrets. In total, it took me about 4 hours to beat the main game, and around ten to find every secret.
In addition to the main game, New Super Mario Bros. 2 introduces a Coin Rush mode. In this mode, players collect as many coins as they can in a series of three randomly selected stages in an attempt to achieve a high score. This score can then be StreetPassed to other people with the game, effectively creating a little community leaderboard. It’s a cool feature, but ultimately one that failed to garner interest from me.
It should also be noted that New Super Mario Bros. 2 features a co-op mode in which both you and a friend can play through the entirety of the main game together. Unfortunately, despite the fact that each player will be able to use his or her own 3DS, both players are still required to stay within the same screen, limiting exploration. This idea is, for lack of a better word, stupid and renders the game’s co-op mode completely useless.
New Super Mario Bros. 2 offers nothing new and ends up being a huge step backward for the NSMB franchise. Fortunately, the game largely plays the same as its predecessors, and despite my many problems with it, the game is still undeniably fun. Players looking for something new may be disappointed by the game’s lack of originality, but those looking for a quick platforming fix on the go will find much enjoyment in this title.