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New Super Mario Bros. 2

November 30, 2012

I bought this when it came out, around the same time as Pokemon Conquest. That it’s taken me this long to review this says more about that game than this one.

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New Super Mario Bros. 2 is the latest in the classic quarter-century franchise. It features everyone’s favourite Italian plumber as he strives to rescue Princess Peach from Bowser’s clutches…again.

That is the plot, essentially, and you didn’t even need me to tell you that. A smidgen more detail. Bowser waits in his castle in the last of half a dozen worlds. Before him, in the castles of the previous worlds, his Koopalings try to halt Mario’s progress. I would say they add variety but you still have to jump on their heads in each castle. Their attacks change but not your strategy.

Let me pause and go back to the beginning. This is a side-scrolling adventure in the mould of the NES and SNES games (and New Super Mario Bros). Mario has to make his way past the various obstacles to the flagpole at the end of the level to progress. Clearing levels leads to the world’s castle. Clearing the castle leads to the next world. Lather, rinse and repeat.

To aid Mario, he has several power-ups which he can collect. There is the ubiquitous Super Mushroom which upgrades our protagonist to the titular Super Mario, the Fire Flower which allows Mario a chance at koopa-directed arson, and the Super Leaf continues its modern revival, allowing Tanooki Mario to spin and fly. There is also the gold coin box, which keeps giving Mario coins for a period, while acting as body armour, I guess, and the Gold Flower, which turns everything into coins, and Mario fires gold to turn more things into coins, and there are coins, coins…COINS FOR ALL!

For some reason, there is a real emphasis on coin collecting in this game. As well as the above Gold Flower, there are a glut of buttons and levers and mechanism to give Mario so many coins. There is a separate mode, Coin Rush, where the goal is to collect as many coins as possible. Wikipedia informs me that the ultimate goal of the game is to collect one million coins. Let me be clear: I do not have time for that!

Perhaps this consumerist shift is to increase the game’s longevity and replayability? Perhaps it is to distract from the brevity of the main game and the complete non-existence of plot or innovation?

In my opinion, New Super Mario Bros. 2 is both short and easy. In my gnarled veteran hands, this game offered no challenge whatsoever, excepting the final level of the extra Star World. Furthermore, there is nothing in this game that I have not seen before. Perhaps that’s my fault. Being in my mid-twenties, I remember when these level designs, characters and power-ups were original when Super Mario Bros. 3 came out. To the youngsters of today, it must all seem fresh and vibrant. Maybe even challenging, but I doubt that.

Hell, it doesn’t even add much to New Super Mario Bros and that came out six years ago! Furthermore, after struggling enough with a level, the game will offer you an Invincibility Leaf. The game is actively removing the element of challenge from itself! Pity the poor player who can’t quite time his jumps! Damn you, Mario, this is what a game is supposed to be about!

I’m growing cynical in my old age. New Super Mario Bros. 2 is a heap of fun to play. It’s bright and vibrant. The levels will keep you amused for a good few hours. This is a good game.

However, it is somewhat insulting for Nintendo to use the word “New” in relation to this game, as apart from Coin Rush, there is nothing new about it. I’ve seen this all before, and I enjoyed seeing it again, but it’s very, very lazy.

An epiphany. Nintendo have realised that the perfect Mario game is Super Mario Bros 3. All these new iterations are their attempts to re-create that game without remaking it (Which they did with Super Mario Advance 4). That just detracts from everything. Aw, ignorance was bliss. The situation is made even worse when I realise they’re doing the exact same thing with the Legend of Zelda, constantly attempting to re-hash Ocarina of Time (Or in that case, porting it to every possible console) (When they should be remaking Majora’s Mask instead). Oh, Nintendo, I do love you but you do disappoint.

Enough with this nostalgia-streaked review! New Super Mario Bros. 2 is a good, fun game, especially if you have retrograde amnesia. It just doesn’t deserve that first word.

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