Mario is back with a new entry in the New Super Mario Bros. series with New Super Mario Bros. 2 for the 3DS. With this second handheld entry (third entry for the whole series), it seems that Nintendo has forgotten or given up on implanting new ideas or introducing engaging new hooks for their Mario titles. NSMB2 is fun, but the New Super Mario Bros. formula is showing its age, something many of its predecessors have yet to even do.
As you would guess, New Super Mario Bros. 2 is your basic 2D Mario platformer. If you’ve played any of the older 2D titles or some of the more recent in the series, then this game will not surprise you in the least. Six main worlds and two special worlds, each inhabited by a single Koopaling to battle at the end, with several levels in between make up the layout of Mario’s quest. You can play co-op, as always, online or with a friend as the dynamic Mario Bros. duo, and this time around it is far less chaotic than New Super Mario Bros. Wii’s 4-player co-op, and is therefore far more enjoyable.
Thankfully, the Koopalings are back to help their father run amok with the kidnapped Princess Peach. These pests make for decently diverse boss fights, as opposed to Super Mario 3D Land’s generic and repetitive boss battles. Like the Koopalings that inhabit them, the castles are the best example of diversity in level design and challenge in New Super Mario Bros. 2. While each level feels a bit underwhelming put to a colorful backdrop, the castles feel alive and have a large number of different traps waiting to take you down. It gives a real sense of battling not only the enemies, but the castles themselves. While most levels are fun to run through, the castles are the pinnacle of the level design.
The only “new” element is the primary focus of NSMB2, and that is collecting coins. The 3DS’s 3D effect can’t even be counted since it adds nothing to the mix, and can be just as useful turned off. The focus is to collect as many coins as you can each level, with the final goal being one million coins total. While this is an interesting new element and can make for a fun diversion at times, it is barely any different than any other Mario game where you probably tried to collect as many coins as possible any way for their points and 1ups.
In order to make the most of their new coin collecting element, Nintendo has added a few new toys to help in the collecting. A coin block for a head makes for a good time as it spurts out coins out of the top of Mario’s head as you run hurriedly through the level. The coin fireflower is probably the most fun new power up to use, as each one of your giant golden fireballs hits an enemy, it adds more coins to your collection, and it turns normal brown blocks into coins for you to collect.
The new Coin Rush mode is another new inclusion that adds to Mario’s rabid appetite for collecting coins this time around. Coin Rush lets you run through three random levels, the object being to get as many coins as you can as fast as you can while you complete the stage. Your score can be chased by those you encounter with the 3DS’s Spot Pass, and vice versa. Sadly, local and online multiplayer are not available, which would have made this mode go from an interesting side note to a fun and more widely distributed competition.
Aside from the few new power ups and the new Coin Rush, the rest of NSMB2 is a mixture of welcomed nostalgia and an ever more apparent aging system. Most of the original power ups are still present like the mushrooms, the fireflower, and the raccoon leaf, with the added benefit of the leaf regaining its temporary flight ability, which feels as wonderful to use as it did in 1990. Sadly, like the rest of the New Super Mario Bros. series, the controls still fail to match the fluidity and precision of the older Super Mario World and original Super Mario Bros. trilogy.
As usual, NSMB2 uses the famous Star World as incentive to find all the star coins and continuing playing. This, however, doesn’t add anything other than a few more levels to run wild through collecting coins.
Perhaps the sad truth is that the best (for now) in the Mario series lies in the past. In the realm of 3D, the recent Galaxy series and Super Mario 64 remain fun and solid titles, while on the 2D front, the NES’s Super Mario Bros. games and the SNES’s Super Mario World still hold the line after all these years. While New Super Mario Bros. 2 is enjoyable, it probably won’t hold your attention for very long after your initial playthrough. If you like collecting coins and you want a few new levels to run Mario through, you may enjoy NSMB2. If you are waiting for the next Mario title that will add new innovation the series, you’ll just have to keep waiting.