As promised, here's our NSMB2 review. I hope you find it to your liking! Any questions, feel free to leave them in the comment section. I'll check them after I catch some rest. See you in a few, short hours!
I know a lot of people aren't exactly the biggest fans of the New Super Mario Bros. series. That's not to say that those same people find the franchise horrible, but there are complaints of it lacking a certain charm and level of innovation that Mario titles before it have reached. By this point in the lineup, you already know if you enjoy the New Super Mario Bros. series or not.
That's why it shouldn't be a big surprise that New Super Mario Bros. 2 doesn't really differ all that much from the two 'New' titles before it. This is Mario platforming and level design at its most basic. That's not a knock against the series at all. Mario platforming is some of the best, if not the best that you can find in games. New Super Mario Bros. 2 offers that up just like the previous titles. It just does so in the style of New Super Mario Bros..
Of course, this time around there's one big change. Nintendo has gone absolutely coin crazy. Everywhere you turn in New Super Mario Bros. 2, you'll find coins to grab. There's definitely more coins in this Mario title than any other I've played. You'll find them laying everywhere, enemies will spit them out, pipes will shower them down on you. It's hard not to grab every one you find, as NSMB2 makes them more appealing than ever. The real question is, does this mechanic actually add anything to the gameplay?
I'll tell you how I played New Super Mario Bros. 2. I made it my mission to find all of the game's secrets as I played through, rather than rushing to the finish and then backtracking to hunt down those goodies. Along the way, I'd pick up as many coins as I could find. I wouldn't go out of my way to hunt down every hidden coin that there was, but I did grab the ones that I could see. In other words, coin grabbing was the last aspect of the game I focused on.
The biggest compliment I can pay NSMB2 is that the secret levels, coins and worlds provided one hell of a challenge. I wouldn't say they required a lot of tough jumps and enemy battles. Instead, they were very well hidden and strew throughout levels. I'm telling you, hunting down all of these secrets gave me such a hard time that I questioned if I was losing my touch at Mario games! I felt better when I had 3 other outlets contact me for hints.
Sometimes the key to a hidden level can be a single hidden, invisible block. There will be some very subtle visual clues as to where these are. You really have to take in your environment and be aware of what's placed within it. I agonized on finding a few of these branching paths, some of which took me days to unearth. Man, the satisfaction of finding those secrets was amazing. Of course, they just lead to more secrets and branching paths! The hunt was my favorite part of the game, although I did wish the world maps gave you an indication as to what levels had branching paths. Just like NSMB before it, it's up to you to figure out what levels have secret exits.
Some of those exits will take you to cannons, but cannons work differently in NSMB2. As you've no doubt seen in some of the trailers, cannons force you into platforming sections where Mario runs at top-speed. You can't even make him stop. He runs from start to finish, and it's your job to perfect your jumps in order to make it to your goal. Even more engaging are the red coins placed throughout the levels. Making your jumps to grab those requires a lot of bouncing on enemies, which is quite the challenge when you can't stop Mario!
So yes, there is still plenty of brilliance in the standard Mario platforming. You may not have your platforming skills put to the test as other Mario games have done, but you'll certainly find yourself scratching your head while you explore the game worlds for secrets. It's an interesting approach that I feel is really played with in NSMB2, but not trumpeted by Nintendo. Perhaps they want to make sure you're left squirming while trying to find those hidden goodies!
The extra layer of fun thrown into NSMB2 comes from the coin aspect. It's really not something that needs to be experienced in order to truly enjoy the game. Yes, there is a counter that tracks how many coins you have. Yes, there are coins everywhere. Yes, there is a Coin Flower that lets you turn enemies and bricks into coins. Coins, coins, coins...we get it! It's not really a positive or a negative for the game. It's just kind of an extra, no matter how much Nintendo would like to say it's something more than that.
The real coin fun comes from the StreetPass Coin Rush mode. This mode has you going through 3 levels with a shorter timer than usual. It's your job to collect as many coins as you can while making it to the end before time runs out. Nailing the flag at the top of the flagpole will net you double the coins you collected in that level. At the end of the run, you'll have a total of all your coins from the 3 levels you completed. Then that tally gets sent to friends when you StreetPass, and it's up to your friends to try and do better than you did.
Couple Coin Rush mode with the DLC that's set to release in the future, and this could end up being a major reason why people keep coming back to the game. I can definitely see the appeal in trying to better your personal best, and then tackle whatever amount your friends managed to nab in a certain set of levels. That back and forth with friends will give you plenty of reason to keep picking the game up...plenty of reasons to shoot for that million coin goal.
You also have the local multiplayer, which is once again something fans of New Super Mario Bros. Wii should be familiar with. Just drop the total player amount from 4 to 2 and you get the experience. The only real new wrinkle is the ability to steal camera control. Butt-stomp the player that has the camera arrow above their head to steal it, which means the camera moves with you. Yet another way to play as a jerk and force the second player to keep up with your pace.
As I said before, you already know if you're going to like the multiplayer in NSMB2. It's the same style of play that was in NSMBW. You can either work together and actualy help each other out with platforming, or you can play as a jerk and go for maneuvers that end up dragging your P2 down to their death. That love/hate relationship is just as much fun this time around. Maybe even morso, if only because things aren't as hectic as they are with 4 players.
It's becoming a bit funny that a series that starts with 'New' isn't really offering that much in the way of new content. You're going to come across the same style worlds that you've seen in previous New games. You're getting very similar mechanics as well. The real difference is the level design and approach. For me, there's nothing quite like enjoying another round of traditional Mario platforming in 2D. Even if the themes are the same, the exploration and the perfection of the level design is always a great thing to experience.
Is NSMB2 the pinnacle of Mario gaming? I think you know it's not, and I also believe you didn't expect it to be. It's also not a throwaway experience. It may not reach the lofty goals of the Galaxy titles, or even other 2D Mario games, but it still fills a void that only Mario games can fill. It may be playing it more safe than any other Mario title before it, but that just means you know you're in for fun. Things look similar to previous outings, there's a bit too much play on recently refreshed nostalgia, but the trip is certainly worth taking.
NSMB2 is a fantastically fun Mario game that doesn't reinvent the wheel. It's up to you to decide if it needs accomplish that goal in order to warrant a purchase.