Review by SpunkySix
"Nintendo may have wasted a golden opportunity here"
I was one of those people that got on my iPod and checked for news about this game daily. Every new tidbit of information, whether it be a minor plot detail, a new powerup or a full trailer increased my excitement exponentially. I really thought that this game would blow its predecessor, New Super Mario Bros for the original DS, out of the water. I envisioned, no, expected this to be the greatest 2D Mario game ever. It isn't, and though it's still fun, it's also fairly disappointing.
New Super Mario Bros 2 plays much like every other 2D Mario game ever. You have your basic jumps, your run button and a ground pound, plus a few powerups. The trick here though is that this time there is a focus on collecting coins, and that's where things take a turn for the worse. On paper it sounds great. There's two new powerups that allow you to obtain more coins. One is a golden flower that allows Mario to give everything the Midas touch by tossing golden fireballs around, and the other is a mask that, when worn, releases coins and more coins are released when Mario runs faster. Gold rings can be found that turn enemies golden and make them leave trails of coins behind wherever they go.
The problem with this though is that while it works on paper, so do a lot of things. A bazooka that fires hippos and is made out of tinfoil sounds awesome on paper, but in practice, it's not reliable. Sometimes the coin gimmick works great, and when it does, it really shines. Things flow and coins fly everywhere. That said, too many levels aren't really built around mass coin collection, so the gimmick feels tacked on, like if somebody took a squirrel and stapled a lizard onto it, which is to say it doesn't really fit. Sure, there's coins around, but there's no real interesting way to get a ton of them, you just grab them and move along like in most Mario games.
This kind of tacked on feel is present in many of the game's elements. The fire flower works fine and so does the gold flower, the mini mushroom and the golden mask, but the Mega Mushroom shows up roughly one time and is never used again. The raccoon suit also just sort of seems to be there. Only in a couple of levels was I ever given an incentive to fly around other than skipping over the bland, tired feeling levels present in the reused worlds, and I'm suspicious that it was literally only included to help people that can't platform well enough to not die constantly, which isn't really needed because the game isn't that hard. That's like taking that squierrelizard that was mentioned earlier and tossing it into a bowl of salsa in order to help people have a squierrelizard in their bowl of salsa. Sure, it has a purpose now, but it still doesn't really jive with everything else the way it should.
Speaking of things that technically have a purpose but don't really fit in, this game's story is awful and pointless, even for a Mario game. It's literally summed up as Mario and Luigi are randomly flying around as raccoons and they're too busy 'coon flying to notice that Peach just got kidnapped by the Koopalings. I almost admire the writers for this game for being able to tell such a bare bones story. I know it's not super important here, but this is a special case. One of two things happened. One, the writers wanted to comment on the trend of including superficial stories in platforming games and this whole game's plot is a well done satire, or two, the writers stared blankly ahead for about five minutes until one of them threw up their hands and said "Screw it, we out!" and they all just left the job to an intern that secretly despised Mario. There's not even a justification for why you're collecting coins. You just are apparently, which is sad, because with the new gimmick there was a big chance to switch things up.
But, let's imagine for a second that we're in one of the many universes in the multiverse where New Super Mario Bros 2 has gameplay that completely flows with it's coin gimmick and the story is dramatic and powerful enough to make Simon Cowell feel an emotion other than grumpy. Even then, the game just feels a little heartless, like it's just a cash in, and the real coin gimmick is that the people at Nintendo are being showered in gold- our gold, that is. The world types, as I've already mentioned, are entirely recycled with the exception of a world, where, get this, two worlds are recycled in the same world. Almost all of the music is made up of slight remixes, and while the graphics look nice, they're nothing special.
While we're on the topic of meh graphics, the 3D effect is barely used here at all. Things stick out a little, but that's about it, which is odd, seeing as this is the 3DS we're talking about. Now, you might say it's a bad idea to force a 3D gimmick, (for a drinking game, take a shot for every time the word "gimmick" is used in this review, you'll get hammered, bro) but the fact is, NOTHING interesting is done with 3D. At all. The entire justification for this piece of hardware was that it would allow for judging depth, and 2D Mario was used for an example of that. So now that it's here, WHY IS THE 3D NOT BEING USED?!? That's like taking our good pal the squierrelizard and NOT putting him in a bowl of salsa, because now both him and the 3D effect are pointless. At least the squierrelizard is entertaining to look at.
Still with me after all this complaining? I promise, this is the last paragraph where I complain about squandered potential. Squandered potential... you know what that DOESN'T rhyme with? If you guessed boss battles, then you either cheated or you're a prodigy. Either way, the boss battles in this can only be described as lame. Normally 2D Mario bosses are nothing crazy, but these are just bad, to the point where I can't even compare it to the squierrelizard. They go in a repetitive pattern: Fight against a group of fire breathing triceratops on ferriss wheels, fight a Koopaling in a boss battle almost directly ripped from New Super Mario Bros Wii, repeat. The voice clips and prefight animations are reused too. Even the final boss is anticlimactic and unoriginal in this, to the point where I kept expecting the real final boss to jump out during the credits sequence. Also, this might just be me, but I am almost positive that Nintendo was trolling a specific fanbase when they designed Roy's boss fight. It needs to be seen to be fully understood.
Anyways, now that all THAT is out of the way, I can honestly say that I enjoyed this game a lot. The level design is a bit bland but it's fun, there are new enemy ideas that are pretty cool, some of the level gimmicks are really cool, the new powerups are fun to use, a Coin Rush mode has been helpfully added to aid in coin collection and it plays like a Mario game should. The only thing that drags the experience down is the nagging feeling that it could have been so much better, which sounds like a weird thing to be bothered by, but it's true. There are times when, if you're a longtime Mario fan, you'll be playing this and wonder what happened. Newcomers to the series won't mind so much, and even vets will enjoy the game a lot, it's just nothing revolutionary or all that interesting.
One final thing that may bother some is this game is short if you're any kind of skilled. Like, really short. As in, I'm just average good at games and I beat the main story in about three hours. That said, Coin Rush does add a ton of replay value, and if you're somebody who likes to go for 100%, there are numerous secrets to find that should keep you busy for awhile.
So, how should you take all this? I basically just told you that the game was good, then I told you it was awful, then I said it was good and then I told you it was too short and then I dissed it's mom, and there were a bunch of stupid comparisons sprinkled in there. What does it all mean? Well, here's my advice: This game is worth buying and you will most likely enjoy it, just don't expect the greatest 2D Mario game ever, because if it says New Super Mario Bros 2 on the box, then it isn't it.
Reviewer's Score: 7/10 | Originally Posted: 08/27/12
Game Release: New Super Mario Bros. 2 (US, 08/19/12)
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