Format: Nintendo 3DS
Release Date: August 19, 2012
Developer: Nintendo EAD
ESRB Rating: E
Consider that in 1988 Super Mario Bros. 2 was released in North America. At that time, Nintendo Power was launched. Nintendo of America decided to pass on the original sequel to Super Mario Bros. partially because it was not enough of a true sequel. Today, we have New Super Mario Bros. Nintendo Power is reaching the end of its publication run. Nintendo itself markets this new game in the series with, "It's all about the gold." Gamers and Mario fans should be forgiven for being a little cynical. For what its worth, New Super Mario Bros. 2 isn't a bad game. It fails to rise to the expectations, however, of a good Mario game. And while the advertising may play up the gold, the coins don't appear to be the true focal point.
Story and Presentation
Mario and Luigi are two plumbers and brothers from Brooklyn, NY. They used to be construction workers, professional tennis players, referees (I lose track). Princess Peach is pretty much the queen of a bunch of mushroom people. Mario and Luigi accept an invitation from Princess Peach to a party, picnic or something and they reach the castle as soon as she gets kidnapped.
You know, here's the great lost opportunity of New Super Mario Bros. 2. We should have had a different Nintendo IP that couldn't possibly sell in the States but recast with Mario characters. Could you imagine a Pandora's Tower with Mario characters? Mario has to force feed Peach beast flesh before she turns into a koopa. Or how about a Captain Rainbow where Mario has to be the one to find Birdo's... toy. The beauty behind the orginal Super Mario Bros. 2 is that it expanded the universe of Mario and introduced so many new enemies.
From the second Super Mario Bros on, the series has seen wildly different scenarios that are designed to show off what console or handheld can do. We've had that entry in the excellent Super Mario 3D Land. The New Super Mario Bros. series is something outside of the core series and merely builds on previous games.
The graphics feature 3D characters on a 2D plane similar to a decent number of games since the first Donkey Kong Country. There's also a 3D effect that creates a sense of depth to the backgrounds. Preferrably gamers play the title with the 3D feature off as the graphics lose resolution in that mode.
The graphics in New Super Mario Bros. 2 look great especially on the 3DS XL. There's a little bit of concern, though. On the larger screen, the lower amount of polygons is noticable. For comparison, I played the original New Super Mario Bros. The graphics in the DS cart are a lower resolution and the difference is noticable.
Music and sound are somewhat focal to the gameplay of New Super Mario Bros. In the original games, koopas, goombas and buzzy beetles marched coldly in a murderous rage towards Mario. In these latest games, those once hellbent adversaries take a more lighthearted tone along with the synthesized OST. The enemies skip and jump to the soundtrack, which is a nice touch if not somewhat unsettling. They're kind of friendly enemies, and yet, you still have to jump on their backs and smash them; for gold! One nitpick abou the sound is that Mario no longer announces himself at opening and closing the system. This was a nice touch in Mario vs. Donkey kong and New Super Mario Bros. It's missed in this latest entry. Outside of that, the little voice acting and sound effects are crystal clear on the 3DS.
I was particularly underwhelmed by the gold coin aspect of the game. In Super Mario Bros. 3, there was a secret white airship or coin ship that was loaded with loot. You would board the ship and jump from platform to platform loading up on gold. Going into this game, I expected every level to be as gaudy as the coin ship. But, the first few levels proved to be standard Super mario Bros. The coin block helmet was a nice addition. But, it's easy enough to bleed the helmet dry of coins before proceeding on through the rest of the level. The high point is when you receive the golden fire flower. This power up enables Mario or Luigi to shoot golden projectiles with a Midas touch. Bricks explode into coins. Enemies can be combo'd with progressive coin awards. There are golden loops that turn koopa shells golden which can be kicked to leave a trail of coins. While the opportunities for coins exist, I feel they are too spread out for gold coin collecting to be the main focus of gameplay.
Some of the best levels, however, are the non-coin related affairs like Ghost Houses. While koopas, goomas and buzzy beetles may be light hearted adversaries, the boos are as murderous as ever. A screen filling Big Boo chases Mario down through a haunted mansion early on. Boos team up to expand and contract the walls of a later ghost house. Some of the greater mind tricks happen while playing through the ghost houses. Castles and forts offer equally inspired platforming and the player feels the tension best in these levels.
A newcomer to the series will find lots to love in New Super Mario Bros. 2. in fact, it's a good starting point to play. Then, work backwards through the 2D sidescrolling platformer Mario games. while not a bad game, New Super Mario Bros. 2 falls short of what should be a great Mario Bros sequel. we're promised gold and delivered a product with not so much luster.
S&S Rating: 7.75/10