The boss battles will be familiar to those who have played previous games in the series.
The original New Super Mario Bros. on the DS was intended as a fun little throwback to the series’ roots perfecting the 2D platforming title, and thanks to that game's great success a new sub series has spawned in the Mario franchise. The series excels at appealing to a mass audience in a way that few other series do thanks to its nostalgia, accessibility to a more casual gamer as well as those who perhaps had difficulty adjusting to more complicated games since Nintendo took the main series into 3D. New Super Mario Bros. 2 doesn’t seek to evolve the formula, rather just offer more of the same.
Once again Princess Peach has been kidnapped by Bowser, this time seemingly to be used by his Koopaling children as a relay baton while our hero chases them through the Mushroom Kingdom. As with all Mario games the story is the least essential aspect of the experience and the same holds true here as a very brief sidescrolling cinematic sees Peach instantly kidnapped and Mario beginning his pursuit.
As with the original New Super Mario Bros. and the Wii version the game takes some very heavy inspiration from the classic NES Mario titles, in particular Super Mario Bros. 3. Mario makes his way through several hub maps where the player can travel between levels. The levels take a familiar structure as Mario needs to reach the flagpole at the end of the level while avoiding enemies, obstacles and endless pits. For an added challenge there are also three hidden star coins that act as currency to unlock extra levels and Mushroom houses that offer extra power ups. There are a tower and castle found in each world that end with a boss fight. The towers end with a fight with the Dinosaur bosses from Super Mario World and the final castle feature a battle with the Koopalings in variations of the boss fights in Super Mario Bros. 3.
Most of the new power-ups boost the amount of coins that can be collected within a level.
Although they have been a common feature of Mario titles since the first Super Mario Bros., coins are a much more heavily emphasised collectible this time around. As usual for every hundred collected an extra life is granted, but the sheer number of coins littering each level is definitely far greater than previous titles and there are even power ups that give out even more coins. The Gold Block attaches itself to Mario’s head and dispenses coins based on the player’s momentum and the Gold Flower is similar to the regular Fire Flower but with the ability to turn breakable blocks and enemies into showers of coins. In the corner of the screen there is an ever present coin counter that constantly keeps track of the accumulated currency. Finally, gold rings will turn everything gold allowing insane amounts of coins to trail a moving koopa shell. With all these extra coins to collect the player is constantly rewarded with extra lives, almost making the entire concept of having a finite number of lives pointless as even after the first couple of levels it's easy to already have extra lives in the double digits.
There are also the familiar array of power ups from previous Mario titles such as the Fire Flower, Mega Mushroom, Super Star and Tanooki Tail, but beyond the new coin collecting aids there aren’t any new abilities to be found this time around. As with Super Mario 3D Land if you fail the level a certain number of times the invincible White Tanooki Mario suit will unlock allowing you to not have to worry about enemies and concentrate on simply making it to the end of the level.
The new Coin Rush Mode allows players to select a ‘pack’ of levels to run through and collect as many coins as possible and save the score to challenge others through StreetPass. There’s the option to play normally or invulnerable to enemies using the White Tanooki Mario. There are also various coin multipliers that can be obtained by defeating enemies with a golden fireball or reaching the top of the flagpole at the end of a level. The mode would actually be a really good feature to keep players competing with one another if it wasn’t for the limit on the amount of coins that can be collected in this mode. Granted, the rather high 30,000 limit won’t be reached by the majority of players but those who are able to consistently reach that threshold will probably gain a greater amount of currency by simply playing through the game normally. There is also a local co-operative multiplayer mode for two players as the second player takes on the role of Luigi which plays much like a stripped down version of the New Super Mario Bros. Wii multiplayer as just as much time is spent mischievously distracting one another as helping each other out.
Co-op play can be just as fun played trying to get one another killed rather than helping.
New Super Mario Bros. 2 looks comparable to the 2009 Wii iteration featuring simple, sharp graphics that are easily read. Although technically nice the art direction is a lot blander than something like Super Mario Galaxy with the style being the same as the other titles in the New series. It’s a shame that with a new hardware generation Nintendo haven’t experimented with a new visual style as although this is supposed to be a Mario for everyone, it doesn’t require such a conservative atmosphere. The 3D effect is a lot less effective than that of Super Mario 3D Land as the game simply blurs the background more to create a depth of field effect. On lower settings it looks fine but at the maximum level the backgrounds just become a blurred mess and the overall 3D effect becomes a lot less noticeable than other 3DS titles. Anyone who found the annoying bops of the previous New Super Mario Bros. soundtracks annoying will once again be irritated as most of the music is simply recycled from those games.
With Super Mario 3D Land it felt as though Nintendo was actively trying to bridge the gap between the classic and modern Mario formulae so it feels somewhat like a step backwards rushing back to the New Super Mario Bros. series. The main problem with the refreshed version of classic Mario is simply how lacking in personality the series is, especially in comparison to something like Super Mario World or either of the Galaxy titles. The game is incredibly polished and at no point does the game look or play anything less than the platforming perfection that everyone’s come to expect from the franchise, it’s just that it never really throws any surprises at the player. The familiar array of Mario stages make a comeback as players speed through lava, snow and vanilla mushroom kingdom stages. There are a few surprises to be found in the hidden levels and on-rails sections upon being fired out of a warping cannon but they are far too few and far between.
New Super Mario Bros. 2 is a good game, it’s just that coming from a series that is known to bring something new to the table with each new release this particular game feels somewhat lacklustre. The emphasis on coin collecting almost feels like a distraction from the fact that there isn’t really anything fresh to be found here. It’s odd that Nintendo have kept essentially the same mechanics and added very little new material for a console leap for this particular series as each generation of Mario on a particular console has his own identity whereas here there’s no real distinction between this and the DS original beyond the coin collecting and improved visuals. In the end the game is a very conservative entry in a series that we expect more from.