New Super Mario Bros. 2
Review by papery0shi2
"What a great surprise"
The "New Super Mario Bros." series isn't all that "new" anymore, since its fantastic debut on the original DS in 2006. It has been a series that proved to Nintendo and gamers everywhere that Mario games styled in the classic vein of masterpieces such as Super Mario Bros. 3 and Super Mario World can be a huge success in today's world. The "new" series' success may partly be due to nostalgia for the 2-D classics, sure, but it takes a lot more than nostalgia to make a great game that stands on its own. That been said, New Super Mario Bros. 2 is a great game. Its development was overseen by Takashi Tezuka, a man who shares the same position and pull at Nintendo as Miyamoto himself, and directed masterpieces like Mario Bros. 3, Mario World, and even A Link to the Past! Talk about pedigree! That said, his awesome influence brings a lot to the table in this game, and that's a very good thing. Once again, the Evil Koopalings have kidnapped Princess Peach, and it's up to Mario (and Luigi) to save the day, and perhaps get rich along the way. :P
First off, the gameplay is... well... Do I even need to go into detail about the gameplay? We all rightly expect a Mario game to be a shining example in the platforming genre, with control and level design so good, it's perfection in electronic form. That is most definitely true in this case. While playing, Mario truly feels like an extension of yourself, the controls really are that smooth, seamless, and intuitive. It just wouldn't be a Mario game without that. The level design is also a blast. The original NSMB on the DS may have been a bit easy, but NSMB2 ramps up the difficulty to be just challenging enough, but not so hard that it would chase any players away. It's a nice balance. The suits and power-ups are a blast to play with. Mario gets the classics, such as the fireball, of course, as well as the mega mushroom and mini mushrooms introduced in prior titles in the NSMB series. He also gets, *drumroll*, the RACCOON suit! For those of you who, like me, have missed the raccoon suit since its debut and subsequent farewell in 1988's masterpiece, Super Mario Bros. 3, it is a real treat to have it again! I love the Tanooki suit, but the raccoon suit is synonymous with my childhood. :D There's also a "white tanooki suit," essentially a suit that makes you nearly invincible, to help struggling players that can't quite make it past a rough spot . It's just another way Nintendo has tried to balance the playing field, so to speak, so that everyone, regardless of skill level, can enjoy the game. I for one am a fan of this design philosophy, as it will make the game more accessible to more people without actually lessening the challenging for veteran gamers. Thanks Nintendo. :)
The "new" addition to the gameplay here is the focus on GOOOOOLD! Yes, collecting gold coins have always been a mainstay in Mario's entire 25+ year history, but it really takes center stage in this game. The overall goal as you play the game is to collect one million coins. On the map screen, there's a counter that always reminds you how many coins you have accumulated over your total playtime. Coins aren't hard to come by either. They're *everywhere* in this game, and you'll find yourself collecting more than your fair share of 1-ups as you play through the game. There are new suits and power-ups that make gold coins abound. A golden fire-flower turns Mario into a mini-Midas, hurling sparkly gold projectiles that turn every block it plows through into coins. Mario can jump into a golden block, which then gets stuck on his head, and fires off a continuous stream of coins into the counter as Mario runs around. Koopas with gold shells leave a trail of coins to collect after you send him sliding away. It's all incredibly fun and addictive, trying to get as many coins as possible. Combine the addictive collecting with the masterful platforming, and you get one fantastic platforming experience.
There's also some multi-player features to be enjoyed in this game. I have always loved playing Mario games as a singular experience, but I can't deny the fun of stomping goombas and koopas in the mushroom kingdom in co-op with a friend. Co-op isn't perfect, however, as it can be hard to keep track of what's happening on screen. It can be easy to lose one player or the other, because the screen is static for both players. That can be problematic at times. There's also a competitive multi-player aspect where each person tries to rack up as many coins as possible in order to beat the others' coin total before the timer runs out. This can be very fun and intense. Overall, the multi-player is a very enjoyable, but non-essential part of the experience. That's just my opinion.
The art design and graphics are pretty much everything the first two NSMB games have lead us to expect, and it doesn't really extend beyond those expectations either. This isn't necessarily a bad thing, as the Mario series has some of the most endearing, colorful, and downright joyous artistic design in all of gaming. The 3DS' Gamecube/Wii horsepower really does well to make the art as charming as possible. Koopas will even do a little dance in sync with certain parts of the music, and even tiny Mario actually has blinking animations. Talk about attention to detail! Unlike the stupendous Super Mario 3D Land where 3-D was actually crucial to the experience, 3-D is a passive focus in this title, complimenting the experience without calling any attention to itself. The more you slide the 3-D gauge up, the more depth-of-field and sense of distance there is, but that also means the lovely backgrounds are more blurry and smudged, so it's a trade-off that will depend on your preference. Personally, I keep the 3-D slider halfway on this title so that its balanced.
Like the visuals, the sound design is what you'd expect from Mario, with no surprises. The music is catchy and enjoyable, as to be expected from Koji Kondo, but it really doesn't venture anywhere "new" for the New Super Mario Bros. series (ironic). There may be some variations here and there to change things up a bit, but overall, there is not much new here in terms of sound or music. Personally, I find that to be the most disappointing aspect of the game. It's always sad to not get much new Kondo music in a Nintendo game. At least what's there is as infectious as it gets.
All-in-all, I'd say New Super Mario Bros. 2 is another great game in the long lineage of great games in Mario's history. I've read several reviews docking the game a bit, saying it doesn't do enough "new" stuff, but honestly, I find that to be an invalid argument. The NSMB games are, despite the name, meant to be a homage and refinement on the 2-D platformers of yesteryear, and in that context, NSMB2 is a triumph. This was never meant to be a mind blowing, envelope pushing game like Super Mario 3D Land or Super Mario Galaxy 2 both were. It may be a bit short on its own. The main adventure will probably only take you a few hours, but with all the gold collecting, unlockables, and just sheer fun this game offers, the replayability on display here is immense. I think, all things considered, I'd rate it a 9.5/10, and round it up to 10. It may not be a mind-blowing masterpiece the way some modern Mario games have been, but New Super Mario Bros. 2 is still a game very much worthy of the Mario name and its reputation for platforming perfection. This is an incredibly fun and charming title, and that's all I want and expect from a Super Mario Bros. adventure. So don't hesitate to buy this game. It's a wonderful addition to the 3DS' library. Buy it, run and jump through it, and join in on the Mario gold rush!
Reviewer's Score: 10/10 | Originally Posted: 08/22/12
Game Release: New Super Mario Bros. 2 (US, 08/19/12)
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