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New Super Mario Bros. 2 (3DS) artwork

New Super Mario Bros. 2 (3DS) review

"This is what complacency looks like."

About the time the GameCube was becoming a smash hit in homes, Nintendo had given their famous plumber brothers a reboot in the form of a 3D side scrolling version of their best known exploits: Saving Princess Peach from the clawed grasp of King Bowser. Seriously, the lady needs to hire a body guard or carry a loaded mushroom. Or something.

New Super Mario Bros for DS (initially) put a spin on a tried formula and reinvigorated the franchise with much needed fresh ideas and a respectable increase in expectations for modern gamers. Creativity sold a slew of games under the ďNewĒ and ď3DĒ monikers, which brings us to one million gold coins. Yes, that is the objective of New Super Mario Bros 2, which shall be henceforth known as Bros 2. If you think thatís a misnomer, just wait until I describe some of the powers this game brings to the foray.

Some platforms lend themselves to creativity more than others. For instance, apparently Super Mario Galaxy 2 exists because the developers just kept coming up with new ideas. Bros 2 is not one of their glittering trinkets, however. Granted that every one of them is a poor excuse to kidnap Peach, who has more patience than I can imagine, this one is a real stretch that puts that thin narrative on even thinner ice.

Just how much time are they wasting to collect all those coins, anyway? Usually the latest gimmick is slotted into the opening so that it has a place in the adventure, but not this time. For no good reason youíre just collecting coins in levels as creative as any other Bros platformer, butÖ thereís no way to justify it. Mario Maker/Windwaker this one ainít, kids.

Yísee thatís the target audience, and I do get that, but thereís a bitter edge to this adventure. Before we get to that, though, letís have a gander at those aforementioned power ups. The gold block, which youíve probably seen even if you donít play it, which you wear on your head. Running at (and jumping) at top speed causes it to spit coins out of the top until it breaks. If thatís not enough, surely the golden leaf Ė introduced in Super Mario 3D World Ė will be, though it is joined by the Golden Flower. This not only turns enemies and blocks into coins, it also lands with a thud that knocks out or stuns enemies. It also works underwater, so I guess thatís pretty handy.

So I hear you saying thatís not enough? Youíve got a point, one million coins is a lot to collect. Nintendo has a couple more tricks up its sleeves, such as the Golden Star. This turns enemies gold, and knocking a turtle shell will cause it to leave a wake of coins for you to collect. Also, any enemy knocked out during the starís effect rewards 5 coins or more, depending on how many you jump on in succession.

The Gold Leaf was a point of contention among players in Super Mario 3D World, because it was rewarded when you died on your fifth attempt of a single level. Itís only available on that level, and Mario (or Luigi) reverts to a normal racoon after level completion. It makes you invincible, though you canít walk on lava or poison, and reduces run up time for flight drastically. It also makes you feel like a lamer. Or it might, if you care about that.

Oh yeah, that bitter edge. Iím getting there. Hang with me, because this next point is significant: Levels in Bros 2 are short, like, Super Mario Bros Level 1-1 short. Thereís almost no variance in length, either, and thatís probably because Bros 2 is meant to be a speed runner, rather than owing to any technical limitations of the 3DS. 3D World demonstrated that the system can handle large levels of respectable complexity, so thatís not it.

Hereís where everything comes together: Bros 2 has Downloadable Con-er, ďCourse PacksĒ. Choose your poison of difficulty for the price of three to seven dollars, or buy a three pack set for ten. Nintendo is halfway around the digital distribution circuit with this introduction of add on content, which takes so little SD card memory (ďBlocksĒ), by the way, because itís just level descriptor code, not raw content being downloaded. Ostensibly this was spun off into Mario Maker (which rendered all of this moot anyway), but I suspect they didnít sell many of these. By the way, this downloadable content is exclusively for Bros 2 Coin Rush mode, and doesnít apply to the main game.

Thatís disappointing.

This would make sense as Ninty later returned to their roots with Mario Maker on Wii U and 3DS, and one hopes the Switch in future as well. Time, naturally well tell. Now, why bring all of that up? Grab your phone and take a snap, because this is what complacency looks like. Nintendo was confident that the 3DS would work out as a good delivery system for downloadable content, but the last five years have been rocky for Nintendo as theyíve tried to circumnavigate the reality of digital content distribution.

Is Bros 2 a terrible game? Not when you play it, but when you look at in contrast to the reflex testing adventures of its betters, it looks like they got really lazy. If all they could think was that the brothers had nothing better to do than fly around collecting coins, then this title really does represent a low point for the series. Itís an unfortunate way to highlight the raw capabilities of the 3DS, but it does provide an interesting touch point as an indicator of how Nintendo learned how to become a digital game publisher.

Ironically, itís 2017 now and they donít seem much further ahead. Console storage capacities are still dwarfed by its competitors, and their libraries are still comparatively small. Nintendo offers transfer options for console-to-console moves, but game management is nowhere to be seen and their digital store front is paltry compared to their biggest competitor: Steam. What's more is the eShop on 3DS is poorly organized and slow to navigate.

Nintendo banks on the quality of their titles, though, and I found it refreshing not to have to meddle with settings or bugs unhandled by an Indie or time-crunched development house. If it costs a little more for that sort of reassurance, there are times when it's worthwhile, and the value of that is not to be underestimated. Meanwhile, give this one a pass. Pick up Mario Kart 7 instead.

hastypixels's avatar
Community review by hastypixels (October 10, 2017)

At some point you stop justifying what you play and begin to realize what you're learning by playing.

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