Over the years, somehow, reviewing a new Mario game has turned into one of the more difficult pieces I have to write. It isn’t that I don’t love playing the games—I do, I really do—it’s just at some point it becomes a little hard to differentiate one game from the next, particularly the Mario side-scrollers.
Growing up, my absolute favorite Mario title, and I know some people find this sacrilege, was Super Mario Bros. 2. I loved the story, I loved how the levels were different, I loved having to decide whether I wanted to dig fast, float, or jump better before I started a level. There are things that didn’t work, but it was still my favorite.
I was hoping, upon the announcement of there being a New Super Mario Bros. 2 that the game would be a riff on the original Super Mario Bros. 2, in the way the New Super Mario Bros. was a riff on Super Mario Bros. That however is not what this game is (and see, Nintendo, that’s why you need to be careful about how you title things – I can’t be the only person who thought this). Imagine what they could do with Super Mario Bros. 2 update for today; it would be spectacular.
What we have instead is something which I’ll call more mundane, but probably I just mean to say it is more straightforward – New Super Mario Bros. 2 is simply a sequel to New Super Mario Bros. It is a world-based Mario side-scroller. The princess has been captured by Bowser and the kids, and you have to go get her.
Yes, I know, you didn’t see that coming. But, do you know why Nintendo keeps releasing these games, all of which feature the exact same plot and nearly the same mechanics? Because they’re ridiculous amounts of fun, that’s why. Because running Mario all over the place on land, through the air, underwater, and past Piranha Plants and Hammer Bros and Goombas is incredibly enjoyable. If you liked it the first dozen times, you’re probably going to like it here. If, on the other hand, you hated it the first dozen times, you’re going to hate it here (but, don’t be one of those people, Mario is awesome).
And now we come to the sticky bit of the review, the bit where I have to decide just how much to talk about what I don’t like about the game. This is the part where the Mario lovers end up in arms over my daring to suggest that any side-scroller with the mustachioed plumber is not perfect and where those who dislike the cute little fella go nuts because I didn’t take the game to task enough. No one ever said life was easy, so here goes…
The biggest problem I have with the game (and sorry Mario haters, it’s a small problem) is the save system (no, for me it’s not a problem that it’s the same game again). One of things being pushed with this title is the notion that you should go out and get all the gold coins you possibly can (there’s even a special mode so you can get coins) and that the game will save your total coin count! I have no idea why I want the game to save my total coin count, I don’t rate my ability to get coins vs. another person’s ability to get coins, but okay, if you want to do that, I’m not going to tell you you’re wrong. What bothers me though is this – if the game can autosave the total number of coins I’ve obtained after every single level, why the heck can’t it autosave my game as a whole at the same time? Why do I have to deal with remembering to quick save after a level (a save that will be deleted automatically the next time I start playing) or, if I turn it off without doing that, go back to the last point where the game was really saved? Why should some autosaving be taking place but not more, and not the important part? If the goal is to keep the game having a “classic” feel, that’s just misplaced foolishness.
What works about the game? Well, I feel like I’ve already given you that answer – side-scrolling Mario is great. Saving the Princess is great. Beating Bowser is great. It is a beautiful formula and Nintendo has taken to heart the adage of “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.” There is some new stuff here—like the aforementioned coin counting—and some new Mario power-ups like a gold flower that lets you shoot fireballs which destroy enemies and change bricks into coins. But, mostly it’s just Mario being Mario and Bowser being Bowser.
Graphically speaking, the plumber and the levels look beautiful in 3D. The 3D isn’t oversold, but it does add some pop and this isn’t one of those games which looks 10 times better with the 3D off. I will say that I want to see the game again on the Wii U and a big screen, but it looks good on the 3DS and no one who plays it is going to have any complaints on that score.
So, to recap, Mario is back in side-scrolling glory, and he’s got to save the Princess from Bowser. If you liked it before, you’ll like it again. If you didn’t, you won’t.
New Super Marios Bros. 2 is rated E (Everyone) by the ESRB for Comic Mischief.