As someone who started his video game collection with the original NES, when I think about video games the image that comes to mind is Mario, running to the right and stomping koopas. Like the recent 2D Mario games, New Super Mario Brothers 2 builds on that foundation, this time adding a coin collecting element to the game. While the new additions are fun, they don’t change the core experience in any meaningful ways, and your enjoyment will mostly depend on whether or not you wanted a new 2D Mario game.
The game begins with Mario and Luigi out collecting coins when the Koopa kids show up and kidnap the Princess. Once again it’s up to the man with the mustache to get her back, but this time the Mushroom Kingdom is overflowing with coins. The focus is apparent right from the beginning; as the game begins, you are presented with a seven-digit coin counter, setting expectations pretty high. There are certainly plenty of coins to be found – in my first trip through World 1-1 I collected about 620 of them.
Like all Mario games of this type the game is divided into several worlds, each with a different theme. Progressing through a world will be familiar to anyone who’s played a Mario game since SMB 3 – completing a level will open a path to one or more new stages. Star coins collected in the worlds can be used to open paths to mushroom houses where Mario can grab a powerup or some extra lives. Some levels have hidden exits, but unlike in Super Mario World (where level start areas were colored differently) there is no indicator for which ones, so finding the path to an inaccessible area means having to scour multiple levels, which becomes a chore.
The basic controls are the same as the last several Mario games; Mario runs through levels, jumping on enemies and throwing the occasional fireball. The raccoon suit from Super Mario Brothers 3 returns, and failing a level five times in a row will give Mario access to the white raccoon suit, which makes him invincible to enemies for that level. The super and mini mushrooms from New Super Mario Brothers on the DS each make appearances, although not many. The game controls very nicely, although I wished the ground pound could have been mapped to a shoulder button rather than pressing down, since on the analog stick it’s easy to move right or left a little as you’re pressing down and miss your target.
New Super Mario Brothers 2 adds some new powerups specifically designed for coin collection. When Mario depletes a multi-coin block, it transforms into a gold block that fits on his head. The block will generate coins based on what Mario does while he wears it until an enemy hits him or it wears off. Mario can also find the golden flower, an enhanced version of the fire flower that allows him to shoot super powerful gold fireballs, which turn any block or enemy they hit into coins.
The world itself is also focused on coin collection. Various activities such as jumping on a ledge will cause coins to appear from nowhere. POW blocks return, and when hit will break regular blocks and trigger coin blocks, transforming the terrain in some levels. Certain triggers will cause coins to shoot up from the ground, or rain down from an overhead pipe. Triggering a gold ring will turn all enemies golden, and they can produce a multitude of coins depending on how you attack them.
In addition to the single player game, there is a two-player mode (requiring another 3DS and copy of the game) that will allow Luigi to jump in and help with the coin collecting. Coin rush is a single player mode that sends you through three levels with limited time, collecting as many coins as you can. Coin rush stats can be exchanged with Streetpass to challenge your friends, and those with Spotpass enabled can have their coin totals counted in the global total.
New Super Mario Brothers 2 looks nice and smooth, and some of the new elements, like the POW block, add some nice visual flair. The levels are colorful and well designed, and they’re fun to play. It’s not surprising given that it’s a 2D game, but it’s worth mentioning that the 3D in the game basically meaningless, and turning it on does little more than blur out the background. The sound is fine, although the main Mario theme gets used too often, to the point that I started turning off the sound.
Despite the visual polish and some unique boss fights, I was never able to shake the feeling that I’d played this game before. New Super Mario Brothers 2 is incredibly similar to Super Mario World, even to the point that it re-uses that game’s mini bosses, exactly as they originally appeared. The structure is similar enough to Super Mario Brothers 3 that I was not surprised at all when worlds two and three were themed after desert and water, respectively. The coin mechanic attempts to be the differentiator, but it’s really just extra icing on top of a cake you’ve already eaten several times.
New Super Mario Brothers 2 is not a bad game – in fact it’s a very good 2D platformer that lives up to the Mario name. The game just seems stuck in the middle because the coin collecting isn’t integrated in a way that changes the core game; it just sits on top of the standard Mario shell. The best example is lives – despite the huge number of coins in the game you still earn an extra life for every 100, and I had about 250 lives when I finished the game, making them totally pointless. If you want to play another 2D Mario game, you should pick it up; it’s a very good game with some extra elements that can add to the replay value. If you’ve had your fill on this style though, the addition of coin collecting likely won’t be enough to rekindle your interest.
Review copy of game provided by publisher.