Karat or Stick
Nintendo has been pretty smart about the pacing and spacing out of releases for their most famous games so that audiences do not experience Mario overload. Even though several games featuring the pudgy but agile plumber have been released in the past year, the games themselves – from tennis to 3D platforming or mini-game compilations – have been wildly different in mechanics. Therefore, when the company announced that Mario would star in two classic side-scrolling platforming adventures later this year, it felt a bit much. Is it possible that the upcoming 3DS's New Super Mario Bros. 2 would be different enough from the equally anticipated Wii U's New Super Mario Bros. U to warrant both purchases?
All indications, including my hands-on time with the game at San Diego Comic-Con, point to a resounding "yes". You can toss any reservations out the door, because it seems Mario has in his new portable adventure. Whereas the Wii U's platformer will focus on the fun of insane five-player local multiplayer, both cooperative and competitive, the numbered 3DS entry takes the genre's collecting roots to extreme heights (though two-player co-op is certainly an option throughout the game).
Considering how many copies the side-scrolling Mario games have sold throughout the past few decades, most gamers should, at the very least, be familiar with the series' iconic sounds. Out of all of them, I certainly hope you find that high-pitched, coin-collecting ping sound satisfying. In New Super Mario Bros. 2, your lofty (some might say greedy) goal is to collect a cool million of those golden coins.
Past Mario games only had two slots in the corner to count the coins you have collected; once you have hit 99, the next coin nets you an extra life and the counter resets to 00. To reaffirm your grand goal, each stage can count up to 9,999 coins! The main screen in New Super Mario Bros. 2 will detail how many coins you have accumulated throughout your journey. It has not yet been revealed why exactly you are (or what reward you receive for) collecting those one million coins, but from what I have played, that seemingly daunting task will be far from a laborious slog.
New Super Mario Bros. 2 plays as tightly as one would expect. Players experienced with platformers should have little trouble navigating their way through the familiar-looking stages (the game does not deviate from the series' colorfully charming art direction). Instead, the changes come in how items and enemies behave. Nearly everything you do turns into a way to acquire extra coins. Enemy movement patterns leave trails of coins behind them, while the golden fireflower's projectiles can turn pretty much anything into currency. You can easily earn boatloads of gold.
For those looking for an extra bit of challenge, Coin Rush Mode offers compelling "perfect run" type of gameplay that tasks you with collecting as many coins as possible over several stages with only a single life. If you survive the trial, your score is then shared via StreetPass, giving a bit of competitive nature to the proceedings. This mode will also extend the longevity of the game as Nintendo promises new stages through future downloadable content.
While the glut of Mario games is not going to subside any time soon, rest assured, Nintendo knows how to handle the use of their most prized mascot. We will know next month if New Super Mario Bros. 2 is set to be another fine addition to the series' legacy.
Writes for a few media outlets, does graphic design work for a few clients, as well as production work for a few studios (all poorly). Believes the best correlation between the words "twilight" and "sparkle" has less to do with vampires and more to do with a sarcastic pony.
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