- The classic Mario side-scrolling action we all know and love is back
- Brilliant level design
- Looks fantastic
- The coin collecting aspect is just a gimmick
- Doesn’t last long enough
It’s been almost three years since the last entry in Mario’s New Super Mario Bros. sub-series, which was the Wii iteration, but the wait is finally over for fans of the portly plumber’s side-scrolling adventures this month as New Super Mario Bros. 2 makes its merry way to the 3DS. This one promises to be a little bit different from the previous games however, as the main objective this time around isn’t just to rescue Princess Peach from the clutches of serial-kidnapper Bowser; it’s also to collect as many golden coins as possible. The big question is though, has Nintendo done enough to freshen up the New Super Mario Bros. formula, or does it just feel like a rehash of the original DS and Wii games?
If you’ve seen any trailers or screenshots of the game (or even just its boxart) you’ll likely have noticed that New Super Mario Bros. 2 puts a big focus on those classic golden coins that have featured in Mario games since the NES original, challenging you to collect as many of them throughout the game as you can. To aid you in doing this, a new power-up has been introduced: the Golden Fire Flower. It works similarly to the standard Fire Flower, except instead of allowing you to shoot fireballs the Golden version allows you to shoot, erm, goldenballs, which convert enemies and blocks into coins upon contact.
Overall the whole coin collecting aspect is a nice little addition and it gives NSMB2 a slightly different feel to past Mario games. The problem is that, at the end of the day, it’s just a gimmick. There’s no actual point to collecting as many coins as you can. Something does happen once you reach one million coins, which we won’t spoil here, but to reach that number will take a heck of a lot of playtime (we’d reached around 20,000 or so coins by the end of our playthrough) and it’s the only reward for coin collecting whatsoever. It would have been nice to see some sort of shop implemented that allowed you to purchase extras (such as music tracks, bonus costumes, concept art and the like) with your coins, but there’s nothing of the sort here at all.
Of course, all that really matters in a new Mario title is how the classic side-scrolling action that we all know and love holds up. Well we can say with confidence that it holds up superbly. The level design, which has clearly been inspired mainly by the original NES Super Mario Bros., Super Mario Bros. 3 and Super Mario World, is exceptional (although there are a number of levels that you’ll feel like you’ve already played in a past Mario game due to the level design being based off of old ideas) and you’ll want to play until you’ve seen everything the game has to offer.
It’s seriously addictive stuff and is perfect for handheld play due to most levels generally only taking a few minutes to beat. There are over 80 courses on offer, and a number of classic power-ups make a return including the likes of the Fire Flower, Starman and the Super Leaf, which allows you to become Raccoon Mario and take to the skies to get to otherwise unreachable areas. Sadly it’ll only take you around 6 or 7 hours to beat the main game, but if you plan to unlock the various secret worlds and hidden courses on offer then you can easily wring a good few more out of it.
Graphically, New Super Mario Bros. 2 looks damn good. It’s bright, colourful and runs as smooth as butter on the 3DS. There’s a wide variety of world types and environments, and although you’ll recognise most of them from previous Mario games (such as the traditional leafy world, snowy world, volcano world, etc, etc) there are a couple of new ones in there too to spice things up a bit such as the new Rainbow environment.
Now with this being a 3DS game, you’ll probably want to hear how the 3D effect holds up. To be perfectly honest, it’s a bit rubbish. You’ll barely even notice it’s on half of the time, because all it does is push the two or three background layers a bit further apart from each other. Admittedly it does provide a small sense of depth, and Mario himself pops out of the screen a touch with the 3D effect on, but it’s extremely subtle. It’s a bit of a letdown, but to be fair to Nintendo there’s isn’t really much more they could have done with it as it is a two-dimensional sidescroller after all.
As you’d expect from a major Mario title, the game’s soundtrack is fantastic. It’s catchy, it’s cheery, and it will leave you grinning like an idiot, the problem is that a good majority of it isn’t actually original. There are some new tracks in there, sure, but most have either been lifted from previous New Super Mario Bros. titles or other games in the franchise. It isn’t a massive issue, as the music is brilliant; it just would have been nice to see a few more new tunes in there.
New Super Mario Bros. 2 is an odd game because, on paper, it should be a downright average title. It’ll only take you 6 or 7 hours to reach the end of the game, a lot of levels feel familiar, the soundtrack is generally made up of tunes taken from old Mario games, the 3D effect is a bit pants and the whole coin collecting aspect is just a gimmick; yet you’ll love every second of it. It definitely has that ‘one-more-go’ factor about it, every time you shut down your 3DS you’ll want to boot it back up again to play a few more levels. As we all know, gameplay is king and New Super Mario Bros. 2 really delivers in that regard. It doesn’t really shake up the New Super Mario Bros. formula, but then it could be argued that it never needed to as it’s pretty damn good as it is.