I don’t think New Super Mario Bros. 2 — or at least what Nintendo showed of it last week at E3 — was anything like what people expected from the 3DS sequel.
And that’s distressed more than a few who hoped for a new Mario experience representing the DS-to-3DS generational leap, something on the level of Super Mario World. Instead, the game looks pretty much like New Super Mario Bros., except with a mess of coins:
“Each level is littered with gold as coins rain down from overhead pipes, trails of coins are left behind special gold enemies and gold pipes transport Mario into coin-filled caverns. It’s up to players to collect as many coins as possible throughout their adventure.”
It’s an odd gimmick, one that I don’t see anyone getting thrilled about. Where’s the excitement in collecting coins? Where’s that “new” feeling promised in the title?
I did plenty of soul-searching over the weekend trying to figure out where Nintendo is going with this. It was nothing serious, just sat in my room with screenshots I printed out (blew them up in Photoshop Elements), meditating with some candles and pennies scattered around me, waiting for a vision to appear.
I learned a lot during that process, not just about myself and my place in this world, but also about what New Super Mario Bros. 2 could be out to accomplish.
It’s more than Nintendo’s version of “Get Money”
The easy answer to explain it all is that Nintendo took Junior MAFIA’s advice, and this release is a cash grab, another example of the “Fuck bitches, get money” attitude we’ve seen from so many game publishers.
But I think there’s more to Nintendo’s approach than just wanting to line its pockets. As great as Super Mario 3D Land has been at revitalizing 3DS sales in recent months, sidescrolling Mario games are a surefire way to bring sustained growth to a console’s install base.
It’s in Nintendo’s best interest to get a Mario sidescroller out there as early in the 3DS’s life as possible to secure its future, and the quickest/easiest way to do that is by re-using the tools and assets already created for the original game, and by relying on the New Super Mario Bros. design that went on to sell over 26 million copies.
According to producer Takashi Tezuka, keeping the game approachable is key: “Mario games, particularly 2D side-scrolling Mario games have changed little by little over the years. When we’re making these games, we’re always thinking about how to get as many people playing as possible and how to make them accessible.”
It’s the 3DS’s Super Mario Bros. 2J
In many ways, New Super Mario Bros. 2 reminds me of the Super Mario Bros. 2 Japan received (or Super Mario Bros.: The Lost Levels. as it was known in Super Mario All-Stars). It looks exactly like the original, delivering an all new set of stages, as well as a few twists here and there, And it’s much, much harder, too.
For those who enjoyed New Super Mario Bros. six years ago*, this sequel is more of that: new stages, bosses, mechanics, ideas, and twists (e.g. flying Raccoon Suit).
As for having a more difficult version, instead of making it nearly impossible to finish the game unless you play as Luigi (as was the case with Super Mario Bros. 2J), the challenge here is in honing your coin-collecting skills, and beating other players in the new Coin Rush mode:
“Coin Rush Mode allows players to collect as many coins as possible across three levels and challenge friends to beat their record via StreetPass.”
Plus, it’s a new approach to StreetPass with the Super Mario Bros. series — possibly one that will engage players more than Super Mario 3D Land’s oft-forgotten Mystery Box exchange and Time Attack implementations.
Having something completely different like the U.S. version of Super Mario Bros. 2 would be terrific, but I still really liked the Japanese edition, even if it did feel like a fan-made hack — maybe because of that even. Perhaps that will be the case with New Super Mario Bros. 2, too.
*Super Mario Bros. 2J released less than a year after the first game! It went on to become the biggest-selling title for the Famicom Disk System, and probably did a lot to extend the life of that peripheral
It’s another Sonic the Hedgehog 2
As a kid, I didn’t notice too many differences between Sonic the Hedgehog 2 and the original, beyond not-as-fun special levels and Sonic seeming a bit speedier.
The big change, for my friends and I, was the addition of Tails for a competitive multiplayer mode or a pseudo co-op experience. Your friend could pick up the second controller and move Tails while you played the single-player campaign, though the computer would take over and fly Tails toward you if Sonic ran around too fast.
New Super Mario Bros. 2, as we’ve already discussed, seems to have few discernible alterations, but it does let you play the game together with a friend (local-only). You can choose to work with each other or be jerks, and if Mario leaves behind his brother, Luigi is encased in a bubble that follows him. Sounds familiar!
And while New Super Mario Bros. 2 doesn’t add a Super Sonic transformation like Sonic the Hedgehog 2, it comes really close with the gold Fire Flower, which lets you turn almost any enemy or item you shoot into a coin.
As anyone who owned a Genesis/Mega Drive will tell you, Sonic the Hedgehog 2 was aces. That’s no guarantee that New Super Mario Bros. 2 is also quality, mind you. I’m just pointing out that their approaches are very similar!
But is it worth buying?
I haven’t played the game myself yet, so I couldn’t tell you — JC sampled a bit at E3, though, and he seemed to like it.
What I can say, however — speaking as someone who meditated on the matter, and communed with the spirit of a shy guy about the game (not a Shy Guy, just an actual shy guy who mumbled a lot) — is that the lack of innovation and/or overhauled visuals doesn’t preclude New Super Mario Bros. 2 from being a fun game.
Super Mario Bros. 2J and Sonic the Hedgehog 2 proved that many years ago, and managed to grow their console’s userbases considerably in the process.
Next up: How New Super Mario Bros. U is an education on asymmetric gameplay, and what that shy spirit fellow revealed to me about the next 3DS (not actually up next).