Reviews// New Super Mario Bros. 2

Posted 5 Aug 2012 10:28 by
Nintendoís penchant for delivering awe-inspiring, ridiculously playable games is something that we tend to take for granted these days. We expect every franchise title to be as imaginative and fresh as the last outing - particularly when it comes to the Legend of Zelda and Super Mario series. So when a game like New Super Mario Bros. 2 is released - immensely playable, but thoroughly uninspired - the first thing you feel is sheer disappointment.

That disappointment hasnít got anything to do with the quality of the game itself, but rather the fact that you know that Nintendo can do so much better. There was once a time where the Big N would hold off releasing any and every game until it felt that it was ready enough for prime time. In todayís world of mobile gaming, thereís pressure to deliver on a regular basis.

You can feel that pressure on Nintendo as you play through New Super Mario Bros. 2, which contains all the technical competence and gameplay wizardry that youíd expect from the company - but nowhere near as much of the magic, imagination and wonder.

Part of the problem is down to the retreading of old ground. For Nintendo developers, this is an occupational hazard - almost every Super Mario game contains the same platforming formula, a familiar story involving the capture of Princess Peach... This is partly the wont of Nintendo to maintain franchise consistency, and partly that of consumers who donít want their favourite game series to get watered down in any way.

But, New Super Mario Bros. 2 feels less of a sequel to the Nintendo DS original and more like a complete retread of New Super Mario Bros. Wii. There are next to no new enemies, the landscapes are exactly the same (and in practically the same order) and thereís barely any change in the soundtrack. Even the Mini-bosses are the same! If you werenít playing them both in a side-by-side comparison, youíd think you were playing exactly the same game.

To spice things up, New Super Mario Bros. 2 has a hook to keep you playing - an emphasis on gold coins. In every stage, the amount of coins youíve collected are tallied and saved, with an option for you to return later and beat that figure by playing more skillfully. Thereís more - by accessing certain areas, hitting switches or passing through the right hoops, you can manipulate the level to become a potential gold mine.

This can produce some absolutely lovely moments during play. You can transform enemies into gold and collect coins as you chuck Koopa shells around the stage. Activating a particular trigger - be it by switch or by simply jumping in the right place - can result in the screen being filled with a torrent of gold coins. You can even pick up a gold fireflower, which will turn Mario into gold and give him the ability to chuck large golden fireballs at enemies.

Itís a great element to the game that has the potential to completely negate the fact that the game feels all too familiar, but unfortunately these gluttonous scenes are few and far between. The coin emphasis feels tacked on, and not the core focus of the game as Nintendo would like you to think. Most of the time, youíre traversing through standard Mario levels, reaching castles and beating Koopa Kids to rescue Peach.

If youíre able to shake off that feeling of deja vu, thereís plenty to enjoy in New Super Mario Bros. 2 for the platforming fan. There are Boo castles, chain chomps, Hammer Bros and massive Bullet Bills. Mini Mushrooms, warp pipes, Tanuki suits, fire flowers and invincibility stars. This is, despite its familiarity, a very tightly-developed Mario experience and would satisfy anyone with a craving for a bit of classic platforming. The added 3D effects are a nice touch, but it doesnít really do much to benefit gameplay like it does in Super Mario 3D Land. Itís merely decorative.

For those looking for something a little bit extra (and there are over 80 stages to complete in the main story, after all) you can take part in a new mode called Coin Rush. This challenges you to play through three random stages with an extremely tight time limit - the aim being to collect as many gold coins as humanly possible whilst clearing the levels. You can switch on StreetPass to encourage other players to beat your best times.

In general, though, New Super Mario Bros. 2 is an extremely solid platformer that simply isnít varied enough to feel vastly different from past games in the series. Conceptually, it all feels slightly rushed, and thatís not what weíve come to expect from a company like Nintendo. By anyone elseís yardstick, this game is a delight. But by Nintendoís own standards, although there are some good ideas, it feels slightly phoned in.

SPOnG Score: 7/10

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Tom 5 Aug 2012 11:18
The problem with this review is that use scale it to the developers standards which is not fair considering Nintendo have released a plethora of brilliant games. I don't understand how a game with so called perfect level design can only get a 7/10.
Jackie 5 Aug 2012 15:41
@Tom By no means did he call it a game with perfect level design, rather 'extremely solid platformer'. The hypocrisy in your comment is that although you hamper the reviewer on scaling the game to the developer's standards, you are scaling this review with other reviews which value the game more highly. A clearly biased and unfair approach.
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Ergo 5 Aug 2012 17:14
So...while it might still be vastly better than 95% of games on the market, it still only rates a 7 because it failed to vault the developer's own high bar? Really?

(I'm fine with the score, but the reasoning is a bit spurious.)
Svend Joscelyne 6 Aug 2012 09:41
Thanks for your comments, everyone. Nice to see reasoned arguments and somewhat constructive notes on this. :) I'll explain my thoughts further.

The point that runs through this entire review is that this is a near-exact retread of a game that was released three years ago. You're paying £35-40 for a 3DS game that gives you an identical (visually, thematically) experience to a Wii title that you can get for dirt cheap. This isn't a simple sequel - it feels like a copy-paste job. No matter how good the game is, you'll always get a sense of feeling slightly ripped off. That's not a feeling you should get when playing one of Nintendo's major IPs.

In all honesty, I think I gave Nintendo a fair bit of good will. If any other company had pulled this off, I don't think anyone would give it the benefit of the doubt.

Hope that explains a few things. Cheers!
CheekyLee 6 Aug 2012 11:04
You are mistaken when you say that nobody else would be allowed to get away with releasing identikit games. It doesn't stop the Call of Duty games from getting 10s across the industry year after year. Or FIFA. Or any amount of other annually released blockbusters. (Not that you review any of those games here, of course.)

It all comes down to, for me, the fact that Nintendo are treated differently than anyone else. It is increasingly prevalent across games media that there are games that are liked, and games that don't fit with the audience that they want to chase. CoD is the benchmark, and when it gives more of the same it gets rewarded. And I can understand this approach from a business perspective, because websites want those eyes on those ads. But, please, don't try to pretend that anyone, yourself included, gives Nintendo goodwill. When the review itself starts off by admitting that Nintendo are held to a different standard, and tells us that the source of your disappointment is the calibre of the developer, it is only right that people call to question your review score. True objectivity holds EVERYONE to the same standards.
Svend Joscelyne 6 Aug 2012 12:03
Hi CheekyLee

So... you're saying I should have given NSMB2 a higher score, because everyone else scores Modern Warfare games highly?

I don't believe I've ever said that people couldn't call to question my review score. It's good to have a debate. Sadly, I feel your comment is missing the point, somewhat.

I don't review any of the other games you mentioned here (which makes your point about me holding everyone to the same standards slightly redundant), but the thing is you can't compare sports games with platformers. Sports titles aim for realism, while platformers take players on an adventure. When you play through the same adventure twice, it's bound to give you player fatigue. It's like watching two identical James Bond films compared with watching two football matches.

You can't really compare the Call of Duty series with this either, as much as I agree with you on its annual, repetitive nature. I don't claim NSMB2 to be "identikit" in the same way as CoD, at all. CoD games may be "identikit" in engine, set-pieces and formula, but not in terms of specific story. That's where, I imagine, CoD games "get away with releasing identikit games".

Following a formula is not bad, as stated in my review - if this game was on the same level as, say, Super Mario Galaxy 2, then I'd have no issue. But, again, as I write in my review (and subsequent comment), it's clearly not.

Regardless, I try not to review games based on other genres and unrelated, non-competing titles. I primarily review a games on its own merits, not by anything else's - as well as its place in the genre that it belongs to.

Thanks for your comments, all!
CheekyLee 6 Aug 2012 13:35
Review scores are a quantification. Applying anything but uniform scales to all games regardless of genre, developer, or platform is the only approach that anyone should take. This is something that you have not only failed to do here, but have admitted to doing. (Please, don't mistake me. I have no issue at all with the score you gave. 7 is probably perfectly fair in an industry that loves to skew averages towards the top end. More games should be getting scores all over the 10-point scale.) What I am questioning is the process that you followed in order to assign it.

Would you have scored it higher if it was Super Harry O.'s Coin Carnival by Bob's Games, for example? Or, to field the question slightly differently, should it not score exactly the same as New Super Mario Bros. Wii if it is so similar? If the quality of the title is as high as you state, and it is only your own expectations that have not been matched, is it really fair to mark down the game as a direct result of this?
Svend Joscelyne 6 Aug 2012 14:43
The quality of the title is high. Which is why it gets a 7/10. A 7/10 is a score handed to a good game.

That 7/10 was assigned for the following reason: It was a franchise game that failed to live up on its own two legs as its own. It failed to characterise itself as a true sequel. It felt more like an expansion pack than full-fledged cartridge release. Again, the review explains this and goes further than mere "expectation".

On your point of marking this game the same as New Super Mario Bros Wii... this is a three-year old game. Had NSMB2 proved itself to be, in my eyes, sequel material (in the same way Super Mario Galaxy 2 is to Super Mario Galaxy) then perhaps this would have been the case. To expect the same score as a 2009 game, when fans expect more in 2012, is unreasonable.

You also assume that the game is 'marked down'. From what, exactly? Could you explain this point? I do not mark down when reviewing a game. I assess all the features of a product, determine whether under the circumstances it is value for money and place a score that I feel is appropriate. No 'marking down' occurs in the process.
DGAF 10 Aug 2012 20:08
STFU your opinion is invalid @Jackie
Micronaut 12 Aug 2012 15:38
7/10 my Goomba. Generous much? This game is worthy of a 5.5/10, nothing more.
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