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