Mario returns! But could we see more from this sequel?
Mario is old. In his twenty five year legacy he has gone from jumping barrels to exploring galaxies, and has engaged in too many sports to count. He is a platforming legend, and with each successive release his games have gotten better and better, driving him as one of gaming’s most iconic characters. Age has not seemed to have had an effect on the portly plumber; most of his games have remained as fresh and entertaining as they were twenty five years ago. That is until recently, because this time, once again age has had caught up with Mario and has left him a little unoriginal. This is still a standard Mario game, so we can get a few quick points out of the way. The first is that there is no evolution in plot at all – anyone hoping for a delving, RPG style plot clearly haven’t played a Mario platformer before – it remains the same old story: Peach is stolen by the Koopa kids and Mario must (as ever) give chase. The second is that there is no big change in gameplay – you run on a 2D stage filled with enemies, coins, blocks, secret exits and (Nintendo’s latest craze) three elusive star coins. Mario can jump and run – all the plumber ever seems to need – and the whole collection of levels (over 150) is navigated by a mini-map with many secret paths to unlock or buy. There are six main worlds to traverse as well as three secret worlds to unlock. And this is where NSMB2’s main lack of originality lies. The thing is that this title just feels far too familiar; it seems to combine a lot of things from past games, but adds nothing that hasn’t been seen before. Take the enemies for example: all the usual crew return along with a few old faces (Wiggler, Hammer Bros., those weird crow enemies,) and granted, it’s nice that such a wide variety of enemies are present, but the game adds nothing new from there. The levels are another prime example, with a lot of great mechanics returning from games new and old, but not much new is added to give the game the fresh feel it needs. Even the world themes remain the same. However the familiarity doesn’t spoil the game’s biggest positive: the platforming. This is classic Mario platforming at its best; levels are as brilliantly designed as ever, with each one introducing a new obstacle to overcome. Alternate routes are hidden well – giving a great sense of satisfaction when found – and star coins are also hidden masterfully (although there still remain a few easy coins to find). In fact, the whole game seems to have a welcome increase in difficulty (although veteran players may not notice). There is one aspect that lets down the difficulty increase and that also happens to be the games main new feature- coins. Coins have always featured in Mario titles but this time in New Super Mario Bros. 2 there is a predominant increase in them (an aspect that is not explained anywhere in the story). The number of coins available on a simple playthrough of a level still remains similar to Mario titles of old, but the change comes in that the game rewards you with coins for exploring certain parts of a level you aren’t expected to explore (even though it may not lead anywhere at all). However, the increase in coins has not had an increase in the number it takes to earn a 1up and so with the ability to sometimes earn over 400 coins in a level you can imagine what affect this has on the amount of lives you will have. While they are very satisfying to collect, there is no escaping the fact that they serve no other purpose than to make the game even easier. This theme of coins continues over into the games’ main new mode, called coin rush. Coin rush is a mix of speed-running and high score coin collecting; the objective is to play through three randomly selected levels from the main game without dying while collecting as many coins as possible. It sounds easy but there is a speed-running twist, the time limit on the level is shortened to just 100 or 50 seconds, with time bonuses available at points on the level. Getting a high score (my current high score is just over 10,000) requires a good balance of rushing through the level and collecting coins as well as trying not to bite the dust. It is a genuinely great addition to the game, that will almost certainly appeal to most players. Of course it wouldn’t be a Mario game without a selection of power-ups to choose from; this time a few old and new ones make a showing. The classics remain: mushroom, fire flower and starman make an expected return as does the ever missed racoon suit from Super Mario Bros. 3. This time, it comes with the “flutter” ability (as Yoshi can do, explaining his absence) and the tail spin attack, but for the first time the P meter makes a return, allowing you (after you have gained enough speed) to take off with the racoon suit to fly for a short while. Coin theme power-ups also make an appearance, with two unique power-ups that give a spin on the classics. The first can’t quite be considered a power-up, but is worth mentioning; after hitting a block that gives a consecutive amount of coins Mario can this time gain a gold coloured block on his head, then when he runs around a stream of coins is released (which is oh-so-satisfying). The second is the gold flower which is the best power-up by far. It is simply absurd, it gives you the ability to shoot gold fire balls which give you five coins per kill (more if you combo); luckily it doesn’t appear too often, but is a simply fantastic power-up to use. However that is where the power-ups stop. Mini and mega mushrooms do make an appearance, but only very briefly; a disappointing power-up selection, and not a particularly enticing one to veterans of the series either.
Is it worth the price? Just about, but anyone who were bored of the series won’t find enough substance here
Another issue associated with Mario games of present is length. It is safe to say that New Super Mario Bros. was far from the mark when it came to length, and while New Super Mario Bros. 2 has partially resolved this, Nintendo seem to have left a gaping hole in the middle levels. The main story will last about ten hours on a simply playthrough (not bad) and from there you have multiple routes to find, secret worlds to unlock and (a mammoth task) a load of star coins to find. Then there is the games overall aim to collect 1,000,000 coins, which is no mean feat, and of course the high score chasing coin rush mode to play. However, only the most motivated players will get through this all; most will only find a handful of the star coins, get nowhere near 1,000,000 coins and get an untouchable coin rush score that stops the mode being useful. The opportunity to continue playing is there, but can seem a bit too half-baked to actually motivate you to get there. Mario isn’t particularly about graphics, but the games appearance is worth noting. There is no doubting that the game looks great, with detailed backgrounds and smooth character models. However, 3D is a totally different story; the effect is quite good but isn’t quite as effective on a 2D platformer. But what makes it totally unnecessary is the fact that the background is blurred when 3D is activated, which is almost pointless and spoils the details added by the more powerful console. There is really nothing else to add from there. There are a few multiplayer options: a co-op mode which allows you to play through the main game with a partner, Streetpass which simply shares your best Coin Rush score with other players and Spotpass which allows all the players’ coin totals to be totalled up to show the worldwide coin total. Music is nothing special, but matches well with the levels and controls are as bog standard as ever. Nothing really unexpected there. New Super Mario Bros. 2 is by no means a bad game; it retains great Mario gameplay and has a few neat ideas to further expand the game. But it seems to add nothing relatively new to the series, and there seems to be a lack of effort on Nintendo’s part. They have promised to add Coin Rush DLC, but the game still suffers from being far too short. Is it worth the price? Just about, but anyone who were bored of the series won’t find enough substance here. I can only hope New Super Mario Bros. U will not make the same mistake.
The Bad: Lacklustre 3D effect; disappointing co-op; still far too familiar; general lack of anything exceptional; still short; coins are useless.