Review by DBean
"Cashing In Another Winner"
After a six-year absence, the New Super Mario Bros. series has returned to a Nintendo handheld device, this time on the 3DS. Much like the development of the first NSMB title, this one was made by relative newcomers to Nintendo's staff in an effort to get them to learn what makes a Mario platformer tick. If this title is any indication of the future of the mustachioed man's 2D adventures, we're going to be in for some rich experiences indeed.
Now Mario and Luigi running around to the Mushroom Kingdom to save Princess Peach is nothing new. Most of us have been there and done that countless times over the years. The plot has never mattered to me in a platformer, so don't expect any gripping narrative here. No, what makes this kind of game tick is how the journey is and what gimmicks they throw in to enhance the overall experience. Well, this time around, the goal is not only to rescue Peach but get rich or die trying in the process. Yes, the Mushroom Kingdom has been overrun with coins, and it's up to you to collect as many of them as you can throughout the course of the game's 80+ stages.
Just running around and collecting coins that are floating around or in blocks isn't enough. In NSMB2, there are so many ways to go from rags to riches. Gold rings in stages can be jumped through to turn enemies into gold. By jumping on enemies, you'll earn five coins (more if you can keep jumping on them without touching the ground). Land on a Koopa Troop and kick him away, and he'll churn out the coins in his wake for you to run behind him and add them to your total. Even better, any enemies he takes out also add coins to your score just like jumping on enemies would. If he's able to take out a piranha plant, the pipe the plant was in will spew out coins. Even coin blocks or bricks can be a big benefactor. Say you're able to hit a multi-coin block ten times or more in a pass, it will then become a brick that generates up to 100 coins as Mario runs along pending you don't get hit. Otherwise, the block will fall off, and you'll miss out on adding to your score.
The biggest addition to coin collecting comes in the form of the game's only new power-up, the Gold Flower. This thing creates explosive fireballs that will turn bricks into gold and enemies into massive coinage without you having to worry about missing a jump and losing out on the loot. Still, the game will reward you for proper platforming as you earn twice the amount of coins from jumping on enemies while your Gold Flower, an item that goes away when you finish a level or get hit, is active. A few levels that I won't name in particular are great for racking up well over 5000 coins in one go!
Even if you don't care about the coin collecting aspect of the game, the levels have such a nice level of design. Coins will lead you to where you're supposed to jump or possibly even a hidden block that could take you up a beanstalk and into a bonus area. Even times when the coins aren't there to help, the game makes sure to use small ledges and other platform formations to make you think there's a hidden 1-Up or beanstalk block around. Only on a couple of occasions was I stumped in how to find a secret exit or Star Coin, and when I took a look at a guide after a few runs on my own to figure out what I was missing, I shook my forehead and told myself that I should have known.
It's not just secrets that the game makes use of on the level design either. I found NSMB2 to have some of the most fun usage of auto-scrolling I've seen in awhile. For instance, one level is a vertically-scrolling underwater level inside of a castle. Every now and then, the speed will fluctuate which could trip you up as you have those homing skeleton fish trying to swim right into you. Another level as you running on top of the water thanks to a Mini Mushroom. If you slow down, you'll slam right into a giant fish, but you'll also have to watch out as spikes are placed above the water in positions you'll have to jump over carefully. Even levels without the scrolling have a nice variety of stop and go or just go, go, go to get to the end of levels safely. Bringing back Super Mario Brothers 3's Super Leaf doesn't exactly hurt the level design either as it leads to more than simply going from left to right like the other two NSMB games have mostly done.
There's more to this than just a solo adventure, too. If you have a friend that also owns a 3DS and this game, the two of you can team up in co-op mode that is not unlike NSMB Wii's. Even better, every coin you collect will be worth double to the both of you. On top of that, there's also a Coin Rush mode which will have you running through three levels with one life trying to amass the highest coin total you can get (up to 30,000 in total anyway). You get a Gold Flower in reserve that you can only use once, and you won't know what levels you're going to get until you reach them. Luckily, you can retry should you flop or make the mistake of using your Gold Flower in a level you didn't want to. Hitting the top of the flagpole or beating a miniboss/boss doubles your coins at the end of the level and this carries over into all three that you do. I found this mode to be a lot of fun for those that just want to pick up and play the game for about 5-10 minutes when you're just looking for a quick fix.
While I have a lot of praise for this title, there are a few knocks I have against NSMB2. For one, the audio has mostly been ported over from NSMB Wii with a couple of added "Bah!" noises to just barely change it up. Why the soundtrack couldn't get complete remixes for all of the tunes is a mystery to me because the ones that were altered are pretty darn good. Also, the bosses you'll fight in the middle of the game's six main worlds are all ridiculously easy. Most of the end of world bosses aren't exactly that challenging either. I know Mario isn't on the upper echelon of difficulty at times, but I don't like getting to the end of levels and being able to just rush right through bosses without much of a hassle. There are a couple of exceptions to this rule, but it's one that I wish would be worked upon in future installments. The levels while improved in design still mostly base themselves off of the same eight world themes the previous two games have had, too. My Mushroom Kingdom for a gravity-based world or something besides grass/desert/water/ice/forest/mountain/sky/lava again!
Still, I can't be that harsh on this game because it does different things with said world themes and is very fun to play in spite of the been there and done that feeling that this title invokes at times. As a sequel to the original Nintendo DS title, NSMB2 is the perfect example of improving on the foundation that was originally set. It's what a sequel should be, bigger and better. I don't find it anywhere as memorable as the Wii iteration, yet there was enough content here to give me around fifteen hours of playtime... and counting once I feel like going back to it. The replayability factor is strong in this one whether you're just trying to play through the game normally or wanting to go on another coin-collecting spree. New Super Mario Bros. 2 might not be as good as gold, but it's nice to know that a B-Team produced effort still has a higher standard than a B-Team game. I love the creativity in the level design, but I would like to see more with different world themes in future installments. Don't feel like you're getting shortchanged here as this one will give you your money's worth.
Reviewer's Score: 9/10 | Originally Posted: 09/06/12
Game Release: New Super Mario Bros. 2 (US, 08/19/12)
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