New Super Mario Bros. 2: What’s “New” is Old Again.
If you find yourself reading this site to begin with you’ve likely played a Super Mario game at some point during the past five years. Chances are this game was part of Nintendo’s “New” branding for their most popular platforming franchise of which there are individual entries on both the Wii and original DS. This particular take seemingly intended to throw Mario back to his roots after allowing longtime players to hand toss a polygonal Bowser into the stratosphere for the Nintendo 64 and eventually shoot their favorite plumber through Escher-esque Galaxies for the Wii. The “New” games represented a sort of back to basics approach that would hopefully appeal to both hardcore players that had grown up maxing out their save files on the more complicated 3D games and that treasured “casual” market that sorta kinda remembered enjoying the NES original. Well since numbers never lie, this formula worked like a charm as both games hover near the top of the all time sales charts for their respective systems. So now here we are with the inevitable New Super Mario Bros. 2. A title that in and of itself is something of an oxymoron and a gaming experience that while fun of course, is tragically derivative and borderline dated. I’ve finished burning through all of the stages in this new entry and am now in the process of answering Nintendo’s bullshit “Can you collect one million coins?” campaign question.
My answer? “Sure, yeah probably. But I don’t know that I WANT to.”
Let’s go ahead and get the issues that I have with this game out of way first shall we?
First of all, most of these complaints that I have weren’t problems in any way back when this series kicked off some 6 years ago. The overall presentation is of course very well done, it’s just that it’s practically identical in every way to two games that we’ve played twice now already. When it comes to the visuals, New Super Mario Bros. 2 has some barely retooled asset shit happening. It’s almost appalling how Nintendo can expect their customers to pay full retail price for what is essentially just extra levels of a game that they already have two copies of. The added 3D effect is a joke and one that could seemingly be pulled off with any game that appears on a non-3D capable system. The slider merely progressively blurs the background and doesn’t serve the gameplay or visual experience in any way whatsoever.
Again. Been here, heard this. I just want to be clear that it’s really very hard for me to bring myself to bitch about this kind of stuff considering how many terrible, half baked products make their way onto the market on a regular basis. NSMB 2 is certainly nowhere near shovelware considering the overall quality that it offers. The sound effects are bouncy and pleasant with a lot of fun (if not exactly memorable) tunes that feel right at home in a Mario game. It’s just that given the pedigree of this series fans have every right to expect a level of freshness and discovery that is sorely lacking with this release.
It’s tragic that this is a complaint in a Mario game but it’s true. The only notable addition to Mario’s repertoire in this outing is a gold flower that is basically a fire flower that turns bricks into gold coins. It’s cool I guess, but doesn’t offer anything close to the visceral thrill of running around in a hammer bros. costume or turning your tanooki suit into stone. It’s really a shame that the fondly remembered racoon suit feels terribly wasted in its first appearance since Super Mario Bros. 3 for the NES. On the other hand, running around like a crazy asshole with coins popping out of your head feels oddly satisfying.
The platforming overall is of course enjoyable to burn through but after watching the credits roll by completing the main game, there really isn’t a whole lot of incentive here to keep coming back for more. I suppose the “coin rush” mode where you replay a 3-stage block of random levels to rack up coins is intended to prolong the experience but to be honest it just isn’t all that interesting. Also, Nintendo makes a point to occasionally offer updates on the world wide coin tally when you boot up the game but I really don’t know why I’m supposed to care. At this point I’ve logged in close to 30 hours and have amassed about 40,000 coins and the momentum (largely due to the familiarity with these sprites and sounds) is fading quickly.
If there was anything wrong with the mechanics of this thing then it wouldn’t be a Super Mario game.
I have to admit that I really, really dig the Koopalings. But any love for them that I had growing up was multiplied tenfold once Bowser Jr. was introduced back in Super Mario Sunshine. I hate that little bastard and was terribly concerned he’d become a permanent replacement for Bowser’s illegitimate litter but thankfully this isn’t the case. While their boss battles might be slightly too simplistic for my taste, their presence alone rewards the game with a refreshing bit of eclecticism that is otherwise irritatingly absent in the overall experience.
Also, Reznor is back:
Spoiler alert: Bowser did it. Nintendo’s been doing a great job with the “final showdowns” with this dipshit lately. The design of this particular battle is actually really entertaining and almost enough to make you forget all of the derivative crap that you had to wade through to get to it. In those closing moments before rescuing Princess Peach (again), ironically New Super Mario Bros. 2 ALMOST reveals itself to be a legitimately new entry in the series.
In the end, New Super Mario Bros. 2 feels like the modern equivalent of Super Mario Bros. The Lost Levels for the NES only without the novelty of being balls hard. It’s a carbon copy of a great game that ultimately fails to bring anything substantially new to the table. At the same time, it unfortunately remains consistent with its theme, rarely feeling like much more than a cash-in. Thank Miyamoto there’s always Super Mario 3D Land.
Recommended. But not at $39.99.
2.5 out of 5 Ghost Mushrooms.