Release date: August 2012
Format: Digital download (eShop) and physical cart
Other platforms: NA
Price: ~$50 AUD
I didn’t get my 3DS until the console had been out for around 2 years (I got the XL console in late 2013), but one of the first games I bought was New Super Mario Bros 2. The story in Mario games is usually about as substantial as arguments against same-sex marriage, but from a gameplay perspective, they’re usually among the best platformers you can find; if you have a Nintendo console, it’s almost legally required that you will also have any Mario platforming games that have released on that console.
NSMB2 certainly doesn’t do anything dramatic on the story front. After coming back from a coin-collecting adventure, Mario and Luigi are just in time to see Peach abducted by the Koopalings. Naturally they mustachioed duo set off to rescue her, fighting Koopalings (and, of course, Bowser at the end) along the way.
There are 8 regular worlds in this game (with some requiring the player to find a secret exit in a world in a different level), plus a ninth world that can only be unlocked after finding 90 Star Coins.
The World designs follow a similar aesthetic to those in previous Mario games, ie. World 1 is green and lush, World 2 is a desert, World 3 is tropical, World 4 is snow and so on. Within these worlds, the level designs are just as inventive and charming as we’ve come to expect from the franchise, with the early levels starting out quite easy and becoming genuinely challenging in the later worlds. The bright and colourful graphics are a joy to look at, with the art style making even underground levels look vibrant. The music is cheerful and upbeat, though some of it sounded familiar; many tracks are probably revamped tracks from earlier Mario games.
Like New Super Mario Bros on the Nintendo DS, NSMB2 gives you a progress bar on the bottom screen, showing how far you are through the level as well as how many lives and coins etc you have. It also shows how many of the three Star Coins in each level you have collected. Some of these Star Coins are easy to find and get, but some require precise timing and deft platforming skills to obtain, while others are so far off the beaten path it’s a challenge to even find them. This is an aspect of modern Mario games that I really like, as it lets the player choose whether they just want to get through the levels, or if they want to really push themselves and see how many Star Coins they can get.
This game puts a huge focus on collecting gold coins, which are so plentiful Mario usually can’t even turn around without running into some. One of the new power-ups – a Gold Flower – turns Mario into gold, and any breakable blocks he shoots turn into coins. Occasionally a gold coin block will appear over Mario while you’re playing, and if you jump up and hit it, Mario will wear it like a hat, with coins flying out of it as he runs along. Since you get an extra life with every 100 coins collected (as is the case in most Mario games), you’ll practically be shitting 1-Ups by the time you get to the end of World 2.
Coin Rush mode lets you play through 3 randomly selected courses to collect as many coins as you can (with Star and Moon coins increasing your total further), but you only have one life, and there’s a strict time limit. It’s a fun mode to play around with, especially for those who like to challenge themselves to beat their personal best scores. On this note, there are some extra Coin Rush courses available as paid DLC, but I didn’t bother buying any of them. A co-op mode is also available and is essentially the same as the single-player mode, but players can choose whether to be Mario or Luigi. Again, I didn’t bother trying this out as aside from Super Mario 3D World, I tend to prefer playing most platform games solo.
Many regular power-ups from the series make a comeback in NSMB2, including Super Leaves, Fire Flowers, Mini Mushrooms and Mega Mushrooms. The Gold Flower and Mega Mushrooms make it pretty easy to get through the rest of the level, especially Mega Mushrooms, which result in Mario Godzilla-ing his way through anything in his path, including blocks, enemies and pipes. It’d be easy for these sort of gimmicks to feel overpowered, but they are thankfully spread pretty thin; on average, I think they only pop up once in each world, so they never wear out their welcome. I also like how if you pick up one of the ‘standard’ power ups (eg. Super Mushrooms, Super Leaves or Fire Flowers) while you’re already powered up, the game lets you keep one of them as a spare, which you can activate by tapping it on the bottom screen.
The Invincibility Leaf also makes a return, appearing in a block at the beginning of a level if the player loses five lives in a row in that level. This turns Mario into White Raccoon Mario and makes him impervious to enemy attacks and fire, though he will still die if he falls into lava, purple slime or a bottomless pit. It’s a good option for younger or less experienced players who are having trouble getting through the level, or for lazy bums like me who want to get all the Star Coins and are sick of getting killed by random enemies because they were so busy focusing on getting the coin. Using it is completely optional – if you don’t want it, don’t bother hitting the block. However, if a level has a secret exit, you will not be able to unlock it unless you complete it without using the Invincibility Leaf.
Boss and Mini-Boss fights in NSMB2 don’t do much to take up the formula; you work out their weak point (whether it be stomping on their head or using their own weapon against them) and then hit them that way three times. Once you do work out what sort of attacks they’re weak against, taking them down is usually doable within a fairly short time. As well as the Bosses and Mini Bosses, some worlds also have a Ghost House, where Mario is pursued through a haunted castle by a Giant Boo, along with other smaller creepy enemies. These levels focus less on platforming and a bit more on puzzle-solving, and they’re an interesting change from the standard levels.
It’s worth noting that the game does not save automatically after you finish every level; instead, it just saves after you beat one of the Boss or Mini-Boss stages. Those who have played other Super Mario Bros games are most likely aware of this, but if you’re new to the series or you’ve mostly been playing other game that do autosave, you might be caught out by this (as I was, losing progress in two levels because I didn’t realise it hadn’t saved before I turned off my 3DS to go to class). Luckily there’s a Quick Save option, so as long as you remember to use it, you can save as soon as you emerge from any level and then exit the game if you need to.
New Super Mario Bros 2 might not be a particularly challenging or ground-breaking entry in the Mario franchise, but it’s still a fun game in its own right, and it’s hard to find much to complain about. A rushed playthrough will take about 5-6 hours, but this will be greatly extended if you decide to collect all the Star and Moon coins. If you’ve recently played another 2D Mario game, you might want to take a break before getting this one so it doesn’t feel like more of the same, but otherwise if you’re in the mood for a good handheld side-scrolling platformer, NSMB2 is a worthy addition to your games library.