After 27 years of setting the bar for video games on the whole, Mario has a lot to live up to. And the mustachioed man (i.e. Nintendo) has done a marvelous job of it with nearly every release that sends Mario hopping across the Mushroom Kingdom. It's fitting--ironic, even--for Mario's latest adventure, New Super Mario Bros. 2 on 3DS, to see him go absolutely bonkers for coins. Mario is hungry for gold as if it'll help maintain the standard he has set over two decades.
No amount of gold will help NSMB2 live up to the reputation (and resultant expectations) that Nintendo has built. That's not to say that Mario's first 2D-ish (turn up the slider and you'll understand) adventure on 3DS isn't as entertaining and adorable as always. And there's no denying that this release will sell millions.
But when looking at NSMB2 in the shadow of the Super Mario pantheon, the latest mushroom-ridden adventure simply doesn't have the sheen of, say, Super Mario 3D Land, Super Mario World for the SNES or even the first New Super Mario Bros. for the DS. Aside from a few new features and some callbacks to fond memories of Mario's past, NSMB2 doesn't bring any terribly new or exciting elements to the table.
For one, the rampant coin collecting isn't even given much purpose aside from coin gobbling for the sake of it. Your ultimate goal across the game's six sprawling worlds is to collect 1 million coins, but what for? A near-endless amount of lives? (At this point, should lives in Mario games even be an element?) Even something as simple as "Mario wants to buy Princess Peach an extravagant present for her birthday" would have sufficed as an excuse.
At any rate, the jumping, sliding and bopping of baddies is, as always, spot-on in NSMB2. That much is to be expected of the Mario pedigree at this point, but what also should be expected is for Nintendo to bring new ideas to the table. So, what can we work with in that department?
For starters, there's the golden fireball power-up, which turns anything it touches, including enemies, into coins in a burst of gold. Then there are a few fun twists on the platforming hook, like a giant Boo that takes control of entire levels and dangling ropes for Mario to swing on a la Pitfall Harry. Two-player co-op is no doubt a welcome addition, too.
Coin Rush, however, is the most interesting feature by far. This allows players to gather as many coins as possible in a medley of three levels with only 100 seconds on the clock. Then, when players tote their 3DS around, the console's Street Pass feature will share their scores and challenge players to reach better coin totals. Nintendo is the last developer one might expect to embrace asynchronous multiplayer, much less in such a fun way.
Maybe we're jaded after nearly 30 years of Mario, or perhaps we simply expect more from the most recognizable franchise in gaming. Either way, NSMB2 isn't one of the Mario games that remind you why you're commandeering the same old plumber for the umpteenth time, like many are.
If you're a self-declared Mario fan or just have an itch to jump on things, then by all means fork over the $40 for NSMB2. There's no doubt you will be entertained, but it's doubtful that you'll feel justified for playing yet another Mario game. New Super Mario Bros. 2 hits stores and the Nintendo eShop on Aug. 19.
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