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New Super Mario Bros 2 Review

About.com Rating 4 Star Rating

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New Super Mario Bros 2

New Super Mario Bros 2

Image © Nintendo
Wherever Nintendo sets up shop, Mario is rarely far behind. The turtle-stomping plumber is more than a platforming hero or a part-time princess rescuer: he’s a cultural icon, arguably one that’s kept Nintendo afloat during its roughest times (sales of Super Mario 3D Land helped pull the Nintendo 3DS out of its initial sales slump). New Super Mario Bros 2 for the Nintendo 3DS knocks Mario back about half a dimension and sets the hero hopping and bopping exclusively in 2D once again.

Mario is a fantastic entertainer regardless of what dimension he’s in, and New Super Mario Bros 2 is yet another top-notch side-scrolling adventure. That said, it’s not without its failings, including the nagging feeling that the game turns its nose up at opportunities to really shine.

Developer: Nintendo
Publisher: Nintendo
Genre: Action/Platforming
ESRB Rating: E
Compatible With: Nintendo 3DS
GOOD: A solid Mario outing, and a sturdy platforming experience overall.

BAD: Feels like we’ve been down this road before. The coin collecting mechanic is under-realized.

THE BASICS: Pennies (and Some Gold) From Heaven

Another Mario game, another adventure that begins with Princess Peach getting into trouble. This time, Mario and Luigi turn their back on the ruler just long enough for Bowser and the Koopalings to nab her and spirit her away. You play as Mario (or Luigi if you want, though you have to play through the game once before you can select the “lesser” bro) and chase Bowser’s brood across eight worlds. As usual, the art of princess-rescue involves a lot of jumping, running, flying, and brick-smacking. Power-ups are on-hand to make life easier, including Mushrooms, Fire Flowers, and even Super Mario Bros 3’s good ol’ Raccoon tail (which becomes a very fetching Fox tail when you play as Luigi).

There are some new power-ups on hand too, and they relate to the secondary goal in New Super Mario Bros 2: Coin collecting. Lots and lots of coin collecting. Coins are everywhere in every level. You can even supplement your in-game income by nabbing a gold brick hat that generates coins as you run, or a golden Fire Flower that crushes bricks or enemies and leaves shiny gold coins in the wake of the destruction.

GAMEPLAY: Unexplained Wealth

Even a timid Mario novice should have no trouble settling into New Super Mario Bros 2: it’s as basic as a Mario game gets. Series veterans will doubtlessly be reminded of time spent with New Super Mario Bros for the Nintendo DS and New Super Mario Bros Wii for the Wii—maybe to a fault.

Familiarity is expected from a Mario title. That’s part of what helps the series endure. At the same time, most Mario games have a setting, quirk, or mechanic that sets it apart and makes you smile regardless of how many times you’ve been around the Mushroom Kingdom. In the case of New Super Mario Bros 2, Mario’s trip is supposed to be made a little stranger by the inclusion of the hundreds of thousands of gold coins lying around. Unfortunately, the game squanders the coins and the potential to turn their function upside-down. While it’s fun to wallow waist-deep in money (many of us Mario fans grew up with fantasies about swimming in Uncle Scrooge’s Money Bin from Disney’s old Ducktales cartoon), New Super Mario Bros 2 doesn’t give us any incentive to do so. Story-wise, there’s no explanation for the money explosion, nor are you rewarded for reaching certain milestones. The lack of a reason for the influx of coins is especially disappointing, as Nintendo has thrown away an opportunity to deliver a stirring tale about a devastating spike in the Mushroom Kingdom’s inflation. Okay, okay, kidding. Still, what’s with Mario’s newfound greed? No one plays a Mario game for deep character introspection, but in the case of New Super Mario Bros 2, it could have been fun.

Granted, New Super Mario Bros 2 does do a couple of novel things with its coin fiesta. Players can indulge in “Coin Rush” mode, which lets you rip through select stages and collect as many coins as possible within a time limit. Your best accumulated total is saved, and can be passed on to other players via StreetPass. It’s an awesome option, but it would be made even better with some online leaderboards.

Despite all the negativity on display here, New Super Mario Bros 2 is still one of the best platformers available on the Nintendo 3DS. It falls back on old tricks like water worlds, lava fields, perilous jumps, and wild flights into the sky—but let’s face it, these old tricks still hold a lot of value.

GRAPHICS AND SOUND: Welcome Back

For the most part, the graphics and sound in New Super Mario Bros 2 match up almost perfectly with what’s been on display in previous New Super Mario Bros games. To be frank, that’s part of the reason New Super Mario Bros 2 has come under fire from critics for being “unoriginal.” Nevertheless, the game is still pleasing to look at and listen to. And the Koopas and Goombas still dance to the music, whether you like it or not.

CONCLUSION: You May As Well Do the Mario

If you’re a Mario fan, New Super Mario Bros 2 is certainly a worthwhile buy, but at the same time, you may feel like the game never reaches its full potential because it insists on playing things safe. Super Mario 3D Land had a couple of issues, sure, but at the same time it was impossible not to appreciate everything the game did to change up the old Mario formula. Hopefully the next action-based Mario title for the Nintendo 3DS will attempt to shake things up again. In the meantime, New Super Mario Bros 2 is, at the very least, inoffensive, so give it a go.
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