"Some people may be turned off by the game's seemingly flamboyant disregard for real change, but if you like Mario before, there's little reason to dislike this game."
I think by now, Nintendo slapping the term ďNewĒ onto Super Mario Bros 2 has many gamers scratching their heads. The mustachioed plumberís adventures have remained mostly rooted in the same tried-and-true cycle of beating castles and chasing the princess. There is, however, one thing which tends to jump out at anyone whoís played New Super Mario Bros 2--coins. Theyíre collectible in obscenely large numbers, and thankfully theyíre a whole lot of fun to collect. Thatís essentially the concept in the plumberís latest handheld rendition, and Iím here to tell you that Nintendo has done it again. This game is a blast. Itís a wonder this concept has never been fleshed out by them before, because the iconic chime ringing from the speakers of the 3DS upon collection of every single coin is both addicting and satisfying. Thereís a new way to play Mario--fast.
You see, I may be in the minority here, but I had the uncharacteristic urge to fly through the levels at a frenetic pace, collecting coins as I went, soaking in the newfound enjoyment from sheer whimsy. In past Mario games, particularly the 2D sidescrollers, I felt compelled to take my time; to explore the spritely depths of the levels which lay before me. Here, I extracted a sense of pride in whizzing through a stage in seconds. Regardless of how fast the stage went, there were still more coins to collect than was possible, and more secrets to uncover, which meant that subsequent playthroughs were encouraged. I canít say that my desire to play levels over again has ever been as strong as it was in this game. One session is a speedrun for coins, one for collecting the three large star coins and finding secrets. I donít know why collecting coins is so utterly delightful, but thatís what makes it great. Thereís a certain ineffable charm in New Super Mario Bros 2 that I think more recent iterations have lacked.
Gamers will be excited to hear that the tanooki suit is back from Super Mario Bros 3, which lends a sense of freedom to many of the levels. This power-up allows Mario to fly up into the air after running at full speed, often times uncovering new areas, not to mention skipping portions of the stage in mere seconds. For some reason I felt like the tanooki suit wasnít as needed or desired here as it was in Super Mario Bros 3, and I often found nothing of value from going into the sky. Perhaps the inclusion of the item was more of an homage to older players than an actual needful item for flying. I found its alternate use far more meaningful. When using the tanooki suit, Mario can also flutter and float in a gradual downward fall after jumping, which is incredibly nifty when traversing tricky areas. The number of times this item bailed me out is innumerable.
Also returning from the last New Super Mario Bros is the mini mushroom. While useful in obvious spots (tiny pipe nearby, tiny entrance underneath the level, etc.), this item is often times a burden more than a blessing. It makes Mario float more when jumping and able to jump higher, but also causes him to die instantly if struck at all by an enemy. All of the obvious things like the mushroom flower and standard mushroom are here, like every other Mario before it.
Where things get raucous is after accessing either the coin box or the golden fireflower. Boy, does it get crazy. When a golden fireflower appears, suddenly the world is Marioís playplace. Virtually everything has value in it. With a simple flick of the wrist, a golden fireball careens through the 2D landscape, shredding everything in its path and turning it into coins. Coins are more fruitful than an endless valley of bunnies--beautiful, luscious coins are everywhere. I promise you, obtaining the golden fireflower will cause the hardest of personalities to surge with giddy excitement. The feeling of omnipotence is in full force, and sometimes I found it was hard to decide how to proceed--however, the best option is to run roughshod with reckless abandon and count the loot later.
Similarly, the coin box is a riot. When Mario has it, his head is a golden block instead of the standard brown hair, red cap and obnoxious nose. The trick here is to remain moving (again, speeding through the levels is encouraged--and really fun). The more you move, the more coins you collect. It cannot be stressed enough that Nintendo seems to have fostered a level of buoyancy in this game. I feel like the game doesnít take itself too seriously, and really hones in on some basic principals: fast, colorful, and fun.
Of course, the game did come out for the 3DS, which offers quasi-3D gameplay, but this feature fails to really shine. The 3D effect is mild at best, and I had it turned off through most of the game, as it doesnít add anything tangible to the enjoyment of the game. Thankfully, the graphics in general really pop and sizzle, giving life and energy to the worlds. The gold coins accentuate this, making New Super Mario Bros 2 the glitziest portable Mario game to date. While there is more power to be shown in other games on the system, the details in the environments are crisp and efficient without sacrificing the colors or brightness.
What drives home Nintendoís new approach is Coin Rush Mode. This is a standalone mode from the main quest to save the princess. There are three levels to traverse, each of them with strict time limits and more golden items available (typically found in place of 1-UP mushrooms). The goal: complete the level within the allotted time, collect as many coins as possible, and do so on only one life. After the completion of this sequence, the coins collected are added to your total throughout the entirety of the game (yes, ALL of the coins you collect throughout the game are added into one total), and you can compare scores with people through Spot Pass. This feature embodies the rest of the game, insofar as its obvious attempt to make the Mario experience casual, fast-paced, and jolly.
As a whole package, New Super Mario Bros 2 is a happy game that promotes a healthy dose of coinage, speed and nostalgia. There are plenty of things to do and reason to replay many of the levels. Nintendo even dangles a goal in front of players: collect one million coins. While this is rather unlikely for the average person, itís still another testament to the companyís commitment to golden goodness. Some people may be turned off by the gameís seemingly flamboyant disregard for real change, but if you liked Mario before, thereís little reason to dislike this game. It still boasts supremely effective platforming which requires demanding levels of precision, while also offering a nice visual treat to boot. Itís Mario and itís coins. Whatís not love?
Community review by Linkamoto (December 02, 2012)
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