New Super Mario Bros. 2 Review

Developer/Publisher: Nintendo

Console: Nintendo 3DS

Players: 1-2

Rating:

  • E (ESRB)
  • 3+ (PEGI)
  • G (OFLC)
  • A (CERO)

Release Date:

  • August 19, 2012 (US)
  • August 18, 2012 (Australia)
  • August 17, 2012 (Europe)
  • July 28, 2012 (Japan)

Genre: Platformer

-Greg Livingston

This is another quality 2D Mario game. This one is more or less just as good as any other New Super Mario Bros. game, if you’re just interested in the main game.

But Coin Rush mode is one of the selling points for New Super Mario Bros. 2.

It picks three courses that you’ve completed in the main game. You’re given 100 seconds per course, and if you die at any point or run out of time, you have to start the three-course set from scratch. The idea is to collect as many coins as possible and set a high score.

Before I gave Coin Rush a serious go, I spent a great deal of time meandering about the main game. The secret exits in this game can get particularly obtuse, so unlocking every course isn’t easy. Fortunately, you can enter Coin Rush mode as soon as you exit the first world of the game, so there’s almost nothing holding you back from jumping right into it.

When I tried getting into this mode, my first impulse was to play through the courses normally. 100 seconds doesn’t leave you a lot of time to farm for coins, and the game offers plenty of coins to skilled players anyway. For instance, if you pick up all three star coins hidden in the level, that’s 80 coins added to your total right there, or 160 if you get the 2x multiplier at the end of the stage by grabbing the top of the flagpole. Coin Rush tries to reward skilled play where your normal mode doesn’t care too much.

But even then, the enemies, platforming, and powerups felt stale.

From the outset, Super Mario Bros games have been about interesting combat. The first enemy in Super Mario Bros.—the goomba—is defeated with a stomp on the head, a novel concept for the time. In Super Mario Bros. 3, you could carry koopa shells to fight off tougher enemies, and in Super Mario World, the koopas alone had four variations, each with unique characteristics.

Point is, enemies are a big part of what makes Mario fun. And for anyone worried that this review is unfair because it compares New Super Mario Bros. 2 to other games, I’ll say that the formula certainly works here. There’s enemies, they were fun to interact with before, and they’re used well here.

What’s the storyFishbone? What’s this you’re dreaming of? Such big imagination for such a little pup. Wait, that’s not right…

For instance, towards the end of New Super Mario Bros. 2, I met the fishbone. This fish skeleton guy swims in its calm little pattern, all peaceful and dead-looking, until it spots you. At this point, it charges straight forward. If it hits you, it hits you. Ouch. If it hits a wall, it crumbles and dies. I can assure you that’s a satisfying move to pull off, but what’s more fun is if you can get one fishbone to crash into another. You know those Hot Wheels commercials, when they ram two cars together? It’s the same feeling when two fishbones collide.

But, according to my research, this brand of fishbone was already in New Super Mario Bros. Wii. (Super Mario World had fishbones, too, but they behaved differently.) That’s not to say New Super Mario Bros. 2 is without new baddies, though. There’s the giant Boo that allows you to manipulate when an autoscrolling stage scrolls, and there’s the Whomp that you can bounce on if you time it right.

However, new guys are few and far between.

Most of the time, you’ll see goombas and koopas. Prepare for lots and lots of goombas and koopas.

Three different sets of snake blocks.

On the platforming end, New Super Mario Bros. 2 has a newfound appreciation for snake blocks. Those are chains of blocks that move across the screen along a set path. In previous games, you would follow one snake block through a passage of hazards. In New Super Mario Bros. 2, when you see snake blocks, there will often be two independent chains on screen, sometimes more. You’re never reliant on one snake block, but instead, snake blocks are thrown in to liven up the already-formed landscape. It lends a sense of dynamism and fun to a gimmick that’s 12 years old.

But again, moments like those are scarce in New Super Mario Bros. 2. Do you remember platforms that move up across the screen? Do you remember wide mushroom platforms that wiggle to and fro? You’ll see plenty of those guys.

And you thought the Mushroom Kingdom had inflation problems before.

There’s one new powerup this time around, and what a doozy it is. The Golden Flower allows Mario to throw Midas-esque fireballs. When one of these fireballs hits something, any enemies or brick blocks in its blast radius are turned into gold. It’ll also set off ? blocks. You can clear out swaths of enemies or bricks this way, and it’s great; the blast radius gives a sense of firepower that Mario has never had. This item is rare in the normal game, but the icing on the cake is that you get one every time you play Coin Rush mode. It waits in your reserve box until you to summon it.

You’re such a blockhead, Mario Brown.

But playing levels normally won’t earn you too many coins. Many levels have ideal farming spots. Kill a piranha plant after passing through a golden ring, and coins aplenty will spring from the pipe. Or, bonk a multi-coin brick block enough times, and it’ll stick to your head and provide even more than usual. Getting a high score is a matter of getting to know these farming spots. And, of course, since there’s a tight limit on time, you’ll need to plan which ones you want to hit and how much time you want to spend on them. It can get pretty intense.

But then, Coin Rush mode only saves one high score, and that’s for one set of three randomly chosen levels. So, you’ll need to find which three levels you can clear with the most coins, then play Coin Rush until you get that set. Practicing in the normal game isn’t that easy, either, since you need to pay attention to time. Remember, the normal game gives you plenty of time to clear each stage, while Coin Rush only gives 100 seconds apiece.

Myself, I gave up when I got a time over while fighting Ludwig near the conclusion of one of my Coin Rushes.

In retrospect, this review doesn’t capture my experience that well. I know how to talk about the scant few new things I experienced, but I don’t know how to convey how old and burnt-out most of the game felt.

Pros:

  • Another quality 2D Mario game. I wrote this review for anyone else who’s had extensive experience with Mario, but really, I could hardly tell a newcomer to get Super Mario Bros. 3 instead of New Super Mario Bros. 2.
  • Coin Rush mode gives you a reason to replay stages and really learn them. Technical gameplay is something lacking from 2D Mario games, and New Super Mario Bros. 2 at least takes a stab at it.
  • There are new things in this game, and they’re generally fun.
  • I didn’t get to mention it in the review, but I really liked the cannons. I don’t want to spoil them, though.

Cons:

  • If you have a history with Mario, it’s easy to feel like he’s burnt out at this point.
  • I don’t know why Coin Rush mode only saves one high score, why you can only do three stages at a time, or why the stages are randomly chosen.
  • The new things are few and far between.

Verdict: 50%

Purchased new in 2012 at $39.99.

I’d purchase it at $10.00. However, there’s plenty of content here, and if you don’t have much experience with Mario, I wouldn’t regret advising you to spend full price on it.