Guess what? Princess peach has been abducted. Yes. Again. That seems to be the whole story a Super Mario Bros. game needs, and even this time, that’s the whole story this Super Mario Bros. game is going to get. I’m quite sure no one is interested in playing New Super Mario Bros. 2 for its intense and compelling storyline, anyway.
Despite the overwhelming simplicity of the story, Super Mario Bros. games never fail to be loved by an overwhelming number of fans, and this one probably won’t be any different. Visuals are clean, crisp and enriched by the usual spotless art direction and design that has been a staple of the series for years.
It’s always amazing how, more than any other platform holder, Nintendo manages to completely outclass any other developer designing for its consoles, creating graphics that no one else is able to match or even get near to on the same platform. New Super Mario Bros. 2 is no exception to that rule, bringing the six available worlds (plus the secret ones) to life in beautiful and colorful detail.
The only little (relatively, considering that it’s one of the main features of the console) disappointment in the visuals is the lackluster 3D effect. Sure, it’s noticeable, but the more you pull that slider up, the more the lovely backgrounds will blur with a rather misplaced depth-of-field effect, effectively lowering the visual quality by a lot. There’s no way to deactivate the blurring, so my advice is simply to completely deactivate the 3D effect. You won’t miss much, and you’ll be able to enjoy some of the best artwork on the console to its fullest.
Music and sound effects share the level of quality of the graphics, even if most are very similar or even identical as those featured in the first New Super Mario Bros. That said, they’re very enjoyable and appropriate to the levels. As a funny and rather classy element, many of the enemies actually interact with the music, executing peculiar movements with the tempo.
Of course the strongest element of every Super Mario Bros title is the gameplay, and this one is no exception. The whole design of New Super Mario Bros. 2 feels extremely tight, and the game can easily be defined a masterpiece in level design. Every level features a rather easy direct route that will yield little rewards, but can be rushed through almost blindly, but the multiple levels of complexity and the alternate routes built on top of that easier path are staggering. I’m not exactly sure what kind of good stuff Nintendo puts in the breakfast of champions of its level designers, but I wish they’d share some.
The amazing level design and the rich variety of alternate ways to run through every level ties in with the main theme of the game: coin collecting. Mario and Luigi are typical plumbers, and considering plumbing fees nowadays, it’s not surprising that they’ve become rather greedy. Not only the game encourages you to gather as many coins as possible with the usual benefits, but it tracks your total bounty and lets you compare it with other players via SpotPass.
Quite obviously this little but clever competitive trick encourages the most obsessive-compulsive players to comb every single nook and cranny of every level in order to grab more of the coveted coins, aided by the spotless controls that turn executing the most difficult maneuvers into an enjoyable experience in itself.
The compelling temptation to explore every corner of every level raises the longevity of the game by quite a bit, and that’s a good thing, considering that otherwise the whole single player experience would be discouragingly short.
Of course New Super Mario Bros. 2 includes the usual plethora of power-ups that add quite a lot of variety to the gameplay. On the side of the classic ones there are a few new ones that fit the coin-based theme, like a golden flower that gives Mario the ability to turn everything he shoots into coins, and a box that goes on his head and spits coins as he walks. They’re very enjoyable, but if you were looking for something groundbreaking, there’s nothing to see here.
The level of difficulty of the game is… interesting. While catching every coin available without help is definitely challenging, playing through the game normally is ridiculously easy. Not only there are so many coins that, unless you’re an utter failure, will grant you more lives than you’ll ever be able to lose, but if you die a few times in a row the game will automatically give you the White Tanooki power-up (otherwise named “Epic Fail suit”), making you almost completely invincible and able to just run through the level oblivious of almost every danger.
Unfortunately this doesn’t just make completing the level easier, but also helps a lot in getting to the most difficult coin locations, kind of defeating the whole purpose of making them difficult to reach to begin with. I definitely understand wanting to cater to casual players to avoid any excessive frustration-inducing repetition, but older Mario games got us used to a level of unforgiving challenge that has simply disappeared nowadays. Disappointingly so.
If you want real, unforgiving difficulty you’ll have to resort to the Coin Rush mode, unlocked at the end of the first world. The mode prompts you to complete three random stages while collecting as many coins as possible with a very strict time limit. It can be challenged as normal Mario or with the Epic Fa… ahem, the White Tanooki suit, but even in this case the extremely low time limit will ensure that the “God mode” won’t help you that much. If you’re even a bit too slow, you’ll fail.
Cooperative multiplayer completes the suite of features, and it’s rather enjoyable, but having two players limited to the same screen and the inability to freely explore the lovely level design turns it into a way less deep experience than the single player. It’s good if you have a friend well equipped with patience, or if you don’t care about exploring, otherwise single player is definitely where the most fun is at.
Ultimately New Super Mario Bros. 2 is a very solid game that provides a classic experience that can easily be defined the best 2D Platformer on the 3DS. Unfortunately it does almost nothing to innovate a formula that is starting to become a little tired after all those years.
If you’re looking for something new and fresh, this might not be your best choice on the stiore shelf, but if you want a tight and masterfully designed Super Mario experience dripping classic Nintendo flavor and packed with gold medal-worthy level design and artwork, New Super Mario Bros. 2 is exactly the game you should get.