New Super Mario Bros. 2 review – 3DS

It’s been three years since the last New Super Mario series entry, but less than a year since Super Mario 3D Land jumped onto the retail scene. With Mario making an appearance on the Wii U this year as well, some fans may be wondering if Mario is making his plumbing services a little too accessible.

Title: New Super Mario Bros. 2
Publisher/Developer: Nintendo
System: Nintendo 3DS
MSRP: $39.99
Release Date: August 19th, 2012
ESRB: E for everyone
Players: 1-2

If you’ve played just a few Mario games, then you know what to expect here. Peach has been kidnapped again, and Mario must traverse treacherous terrain to get her back. Mario hops across the usual fire, snow, grass, sky, and beach areas, mercilessly stomping on anything in his path. Each world has around six to seven standard stages, a ghost house, a tower, and a castle.

The controls of the game are as great as they’ve ever been. Mario has a feeling of weight and momentum, and it’s something that may need getting used to. Personally I prefer the easier movement of Super Mario World, but the controls of New Super Mario Bros. 2 are practically flawless. Having the ability to make slight adjustments to Mario’s speed as he runs adds to the depth of gameplay.

As for the presentation, I feel that the New Super Mario Bros. series doesn’t quite get its due. Just about any object in the game has subtle gradations in color, a texture, and/or a hand-drawn pattern. The ground is not merely brown. It has layers of colors, shadows, and rocks. People who say that the game doesn’t have good graphics, or that it isn’t detailed aren’t looking close enough. The one detriment in New Super Mario Bros. 2, unlike its Wii counterpart, is that the open sky sometimes has a film grain look to it that isn’t pleasing to the eye. I don’t think it has to do with the resolution of the screen because I didn’t have a problem with any of the other background graphics. Thankfully It’s not too noticeable while you’re focusing on playing. The 3D effect slowly blurs the background as you move the 3D slider up, giving a razor sharp focus on the foreground. It’s a nice effect, and it gives a greater feeling of the background being distant, though there is a major loss of detail because of it. I often kept the slider in the middle to retain more of the background details.

The bosses of the game are simply too easy, and with no extra boss rush mode with added challenge, they remain a disappointment. The towers are populated by an ancient relic from Super Mario World, the triceratops standing on platforms that rotate. They are slightly different in each tower, but they’re never difficult-I think I was hit once. Maybe. The Koopa Kids who inhabit the castles of each world mostly feel like rehashes from New Super Mario Bros. Wii. Some of them are slightly different, but slightly doesn’t take away the sting of disappointment.

A whole horde of old foes are in attendance in New Super Mario Bros. 2. What would a Mario game be without goombas? Empty, I say. The koopa troopas are also back, dancing to the music. Then there are a handful of enemies from Super Mario Bros. 3: chain chomp, fire snake (several flames connected to one larger flame), fire chomp (the chain chomp that flies around and shoots fireballs at you), and micro goombas (the little guys who stick to you and prevent you from jumping). I won’t sit here and name them all, but there are plenty of enemies to keep you on your toes.

Some levels offer up a challenge, and most are more difficult and more fun to play than the bosses. One level has you munching down a mini mushroom to grow small so you can run across a level full of water while you spring off of flying koopa troopas and dodge giant balls of spikes. This level in particular has two versions of it; their structure is slightly different, and the harder version’s screen auto-scrolls at about twice the speed. Being an experienced player, I liked having the option to play a harder version of that level. It’s just too bad that more levels weren’t built this way to better cater to a wide audience.

There are a few cannon levels that blast you across a short level, with only the jump button under your control. They can be fairly challenging, and they’re a nice diversion from the standard fare. I wish there were more surprises like this. It seems that a lot of Mario games throw in a few levels like this, but like the rest, they seem like tantalizing experiments that leave you wanting more (stingray level from Super Mario Galaxy, anyone?).

The levels are mostly compact and linear, but that’s not necessarily a bad thing. Some players may take a lot of time, struggling to get through a level. More advanced players may beat levels their first try, but they’ll also have Star Coins and secrets to go back for. The great thing about this game’s level design is that once players have explored extensively to find the secrets, levels can be replayed without those secrets bogging down the fun of dashing through to the end.

While Star Coins aren’t usually too difficult to find, and you can often get clued in on their location, finding the secret exits to levels can be unnecessarily frustrating. In Super Mario World, the game that started the trend in Mario games of levels having secret exits that open up different paths, you could at least tell which level had a secret exit to find because it was the color red on the map, as opposed to the one-exit yellow-colored levels. In New Super Mario Bros. 2, not only do you not know for sure which levels have secret exits, but sometimes finding the exit within the level is an absolute nightmare. Many of the secret exits are accessed via an invisible block hidden in the level. Most of the time there is absolutely no indication of where this invisible block is, so you’re left with having to jump around mindlessly, hoping that you’ll eventually find it. Rather than wasting my time with finding invisible blocks, it would have been great if Nintendo had included a time trial mode, and/or a bosh rush mode.

Coin Rush is a mode that gives players one life to complete three levels and collect as many coins as possible. The limited time in each level adds to the tension. The Gold Flower power-up allows players to throw fireballs that turn everything into gold. Obviously this is a very useful skill in Coin Rush, but given only one Gold Flower to be used in one of three levels, an element of strategy is added. There aren’t any leaderboards for Coin Rush, and I suspect it’s so that players compete locally, and thus have a chance to one-up each others’ scores and/or beat the scores of strangers they pass (via the street pass feature). With leaderboards in place, most players would just watch helplessly as their scores failed to approach the top ten (trust me, I know from experience). Though some players may not like the lack of a leaderboard system, I think that by not including it, most players will actually have more fun competing with people they know. A total of three courses can be found in Coin Rush mode, and players should be able to squeeze out at least an hour or two of fun out of it.

There is a two-player mode available, but I was not able to test it out.

Everything included, this is a fun Mario game that is worth your time. It’s the 2D Mario that you grew up with. It’s better than the DS’ New Super Mario Bros., but not quite as fun as New Super Mario Bros. Wii or Super Mario 3D Land. Dedicated fans of the Mario games may be disappointed that, despite the title, there’s not much new here; it feels like Mario was put on autopilot with this one. Though there are some challenges to be had, I would mostly recommend this game to the less experienced players. Advanced gamers will have fun with it, sure, but it only took me around six hours to complete, and a total of sixteen hours to find every secret and beat every level. If that doesn’t sound like enough to you for the retail price of $39.99, you might want to gift the game to a younger family member, and then borrow it. It’s great that this game exists, if only to introduce newer players to the land of Mario, but as a lifetime fan, I’ll be eagerly awaiting the next time Mario and I can go on a more unique and fresh adventure.

Grade: B+

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