Alas, poor Mario. I knew him, reader; a fellow of infinite jumps, of most excellent fireballs; Yoshi hath borne him on his back a thousand times; and now, how abhorrent in my imagination it is! My gorge rises at it. Here lie those dungarees he hath worn I know not how oft. Where be your games now?
Simply put: New Super Mario Bros. 2 is… disappointing.
Not the Super Mario Sunshine “FLUDD’s weird, but I can live with it because the rest is so good” or the Zelda: Wind Waker “The graphics are disappointing but the combat and sailing are fun” style of disappointment, but the emotion you feel when you see a bad idea from a mile away but can only watch as it fails.
Mario is a series I grew up on. Not the 2D platformers of old, but the newer games – Paper Mario, Super Mario Sunshine, Super Mario Galaxy. I wasn’t a SNES kid or a Mega Drive kid – I was a GameCube kid and proud of it! While I don’t think they were necessarily perfect (though the former two were as damn close to it as it’s possible to be), they all had something that distinguished them from each other and at least tried to make each one special. New Super Mario Bros. does nothing that hasn’t been done better before, and it’s saddening.
NSMB2 is one of those games that are frustrating for reviewers because there’s nothing particularly exciting about them, good or bad. If you liked the first two games, you’ll probably like this one too, and if you didn’t, well, you won’t.
The central idea is pretty interesting. Not rescuing Peach – that comes as naturally as breathing by now. Mario must collect one million coins for, uh, some reason, with the ultimate goal being a kind of cool reward which won’t be spoiled here. Unfortunately, while Nintendo have raised the amount of coins relatively high, they’re still nowhere near enough to be worth the several thousand levels you’ll have to play through to actually unlock the thing.
This would be fine if the levels were anything worth playing through. You can practically sing along to the watery world, ice world and lava world by now (though that isn’t difficult with the annoying MIDI voice going “Bah! Bah! Bah!” in the music for every stage) and you could reasonably get through the main game in less than a day, even without playing constantly.
The graphics are fairly nice, and do look a lot like the Wii version. They’re one of the only parts to genuinely have nothing wrong with them, and Nintendo have actually done a good job of polishing them up. There is of course the question of why a 2D game needs to take place in stereoscopic 3D, but it doesn’t actually get in the way, and besides, if you ask that about NSMB2 it has to be asked of a good deal of other games, which would take far too much effort.
The fireball effects are nice and shiny, but it can’t detract from the fact that the powerups just aren’t numerous enough. Your choice is as follows – Fire Flower for throwing fireballs, Leaf for growing a tanooki tail and gaining the ability to fly, and, er, a gold Fire Flower to throw super-fireballs that turn things to coins. There’s the return of the Mini and Mega Mushrooms, but each of them only appears in a handful of places and are actually useful in even less, so it rather defeats the point. Would it really be so tough to come up with some items that aren’t taken from older games or do things beyond change Mario’s size?
The soundtrack manages to follow the same unfortunate pattern – rehashed tunes from older, better games. Whatever song is playing, you’ll appreciate it, but wish it were playing over Super Mario World or even the first NSMB.
Lastly, I’d like to say a quick word about digital distribution. From now on, Nintendo is planning to distribute all their 3DS titles via the 3DS eShop. That’s fine. Not my cup of tea, since I like owning physical copies of games, but I can see the appeal for people who don’t have space to carry around armfuls of cartridges. But why did Nintendo feel the need to price it far higher than a boxed copy, thus ensuring that nobody is going to buy it? For a company intent on pushing digital distribution, they’ve certainly not kicked it off very well.
New Super Mario Bros. 2 is disappointing. It isn’t bad, but there’s nothing really good about it either. When compared to the first DS game, there’s almost no distinction, and it saddens me that a franchise that was once so mighty that children knew Mario more than Mickey Mouse has sunk to such a lazy cash grab. I still love Nintendo games. Their sense of whimsy, wonder and fun is something that has shaped gaming into the industry it is today and left millions of gamers happier for their existence. New Super Mario Bros. 2 is not one of those games.
I’m sure you’ll still buy it. You might even love it. But I fear for the industry when it’s not just Call of Duty churning out endless expansion packs for full price.
New Super Mario Bros. 2 is a stunningly bland game, devoid of any charm or memorable moments. Both the New Super Mario Bros. games already released are still available for a much lower price and will provide you with far more entertainment than this lazy repackaging. Luigi’s Mansion 2 and Paper Mario: Sticker Star are on the horizon, and they may be the defining Mario games of this generation – but rest assured, New Super Mario Bros. 2 is not going to be. 4/10.
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