"The Treasure of Sierra Mario"
Coins were just one of many innovations within the original Super Mario Bros. that have now become commonplace. While previous games encouraged collecting items, you didn't need to get coins to complete the NES classic. However, if you got enough of them, you would gain an extra life, so you would want to scour every inch of every level to claim as many of the little gold things as possible. Every subsequent Super Mario game has had coins, but none of them featured Mario's apparent retirement fund as prominently as New Super Mario Bros. 2. The new game encourages coin-collecting with a fetishistic greed so intense that it would make Scrooge McDuck uncomfortable. Fortunately, this feature only augments an already stellar game.
Other than exponentially increasing the coin count of each level and tracking your hoarding scores, New Super Mario Bros. 2 plays like the other New Super Mario Bros. games —in other words, it plays like the old 2D Super Mario Bros. games. You run and jump across a 2D obstacle course littered with cartoony monsters and death traps. The goal is to get from point A to point B without dying, and if possible find secret Star Coins that can be spent to open paths to hidden courses. New Super Mario Bros. 2 is slightly different from the previous two NSMB games, as it marks the return of Raccoon Mario in his full glory. Unlike in Super Mario 3D Land with his Tanooki Suit, the tail sprouting out of the plumber's posterior actually lets him fly here (albeit for short periods, and only with a prior running start), reintroducing the vertical exploration that 2D Mario games had seemingly abandoned since Super Mario World back in 1991. However, the return of Raccoon Mario and the focus on competitive coin-collecting are relatively minor additions, and already many reviewers are decrying New Super Mario Bros. 2 for being too similar to other Mario games.
It's true that New Super Mario Bros. 2 is similar to both New Super Mario Bros. Wii and the original DS New Super Mario Bros. game. It's also true that each successive dose of crack cocaine is similar to the previous one. Super Mario games are addictively fun without the danger of stopping your heart, and New Super Mario Bros. 2 is no different. The levels are expertly designed and continue to offer unique riffs on the familiar levels, such as a ghost house that has players chased by a giant Boo (who, like other Boos, is paralyzed with fright when Mario stares at him, albeit for short periods), or a water level that has Mario shrink to insect size and sprint across the surface of the liquid. The difficulty level is also a pleasant surprise, providing a just right balance between the DS game's easiness and the Wii game's overly stiff challenge. Best of all, the coin saturation gives players incentive to explore the levels, and each course offers plenty of nooks and crannies full of currency. This is in nice contrast to New Super Mario Bros. 2's more linear predecessors, and it gets back to the wonderful sense of exploration seen in Super Mario World and Super Mario Bros. 3.
New Super Mario Bros. 2 represents Nintendo's best effort to recapture the glory of the old NES and SNES games yet. Similar to other Mario games, it's fairly short if you just try to rush to the princess, but doing so would be cheating yourself out of all the hidden content. Even when you're done finding the Star Coins and secret levels, there's still Coin Rush to keep you busy. Coin Rush Mode challenges you to complete levels as fast as possible with the highest coin counts you can manage. This wouldn't be so special if it weren't for the incentive StreetPass, which shares your scores with those of adjacent players. Are you going to simply sit down and let some kid you walked by at the mall beat your high score? If you are, you might not get as much value out of New Super Mario Bros. 2, but your ego won't be able to survive for long.
GameDynamo's Score for New Super Mario Bros. 2 (3DS)
Neil Kapit is a freelance writer, cartoonist, and "La Li Lu Le Lo" agent based in Los Angeles. His work can be seen on www.therubynation.com.
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