When it was released back in May 2006, New Super Mario Bros. exploded onto the Nintendo DS, becoming a hit almost instantly. It was one of the hottest games during the holiday season and, to date, has sold just over 29 million copies worldwide. Some critics felt it was too simple for experienced Mario players, but all found enjoyment in the title. Not only did it bring a great platformer to the DS, it also helped broaden the franchise by adding the giant and mini mushrooms, allowing players to find numerous secret exits and traverse levels in brand new ways. This month saw the release of the direct sequel, New Super Mario Bros. 2, which, sadly, does not quite live up to the precedent set by the previous entry.
This time around the always inept Princess Peach is taken from her castle by the Koopa Kids, Bowser’s twisted offspring, and it’s up to Mario to save her. Along with his usual arsenal of power-ups, such as Super Mushrooms, Fire Flowers, and Starmen, Mario gains access to new power-ups like Gold Flowers, which turn everything the projectiles hit into coins. This feeds into the game's ultimate goal: collect one million coins. While this seems like a difficult and entertaining ambition, in reality it does little to further players' enjoyment by offering no rewards along the way. All the player receives for completing this tiresome objective is a different title screen.
While the gameplay in New Super Mario Bros. 2 is tight and responsive, there isn’t anything revolutionary about it, even with its original power-ups. Levels and worlds feel very similar to layouts found in other Mario titles and provide a miniscule amount of challenge for most players. Along with the main campaign, an extra mode called Coin Rush is included. While this mode does deliver an easy way to rack up coins for your grand total, it consists of nothing more than randomly selecting three levels from a world and playing them back to back to back while attempting to reach a high score. This mode has some value but would have been more enjoyable if the levels were not borrowed from the single-player.
Visually, New Super Mario Bros. 2 is very appealing. It is vivid and colorful enough to hold the attention of younger kids and older fans alike. Old enemies are true to designs while fresh ones are creative and fit in well. The major problems with the graphics appear when the 3D slider is used. Before playing, it seemed unnecessary to have 3D in a 2D side-scroller, and seeing the effect in action only furthered that belief. While in the overworld, 3D is hardly noticeable at any setting, but what's even worse is the effect on actual levels. The backgrounds are part of this title's charm, but the fun and quirky art becomes garishly blurred for the nearly nonexistent depth of field.
Reznors make a triumphant return, having not been seen since Super Mario World.
The music found in NSMB 2 is fun and helps the world pop, but most of the songs sound like they were just pulled from the DS predecessor, which were just remakes of original Mario music in and of themselves. This doesn't hurt the presentation at all, but the absence of new themes gives off a feeling of insincerity, almost like the game was not an honest endeavor to please fans.
Most Mario releases give off a certain excitement. Unfortunately, New Super Mario Bros. 2 does not bring out the childlike feelings other recent games in the franchise produce. With the gameplay seen in Super Mario Galaxy and Super Mario 3D Land, it seems hard for a classic side-scrolling Mario to hold players' interest in the same ways. While there are plenty of levels and secrets to find spanning the eight worlds and bonus star world, a myriad of both minor and major problems, including what seems to be a pointless overall goal, keep it bogged down. The irrelevant addition of 3D has me questioning why this wasn't an even more affordable DS title, the same way Pokemon Black and White 2 will be. In short, NSMB 2 just doesn't live up to the same pedigree set by other games in the beloved franchise.
Release Date: August 19, 2012
Number of Players: 1 (Single-player), 2 (Cooperative)
Platforms: Nintendo 3DS (Reviewed)