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CONSOLE: Nintendo 3DS DEVELOPER: Nintendo PUBLISHER: Nintendo
RELEASE DATE (NA): August 19, 2012 GENRE: Platformer
// review by SoyBomb

Gotta spend money to collect money.

Before I say anything about this game, please be reminded that I have long been a fan of Super Mario Bros. games. There has always been something so familiar, so welcoming about Nintendo's flagship platformer. Ever since I was a young boy playing the new family NES for the very first time at the age of five, I was enthralled by the simultaneous simplicity and intricacies of Mario games. Goodness, we must have rented Super Mario Bros. 3 so often, it would have been far less expensive to just go out and buy it. Fast forward a couple of decades when I playtested New Super Mario Bros. Wii at a Toys-R-Us many moons ago, I knew that I needed to get this game (and didů uh, seven years later). Even the more recent New Super Mario Bros. U brought great enjoyment to my life. Heck, I'm easygoing enough to think Mario Is Missing for SNES isn't half bad.

So it should naturally be presumed that New Super Mario Bros. 2 would give me the same level of thrill, as most Mario games do. But that wasn't the case. As a lifelong Mario fan, it pains me to say it, but New Super Mario Bros. 2 bored me to tears. The energy, the inspiration, the magic, they do not exist in this game. This is a rote, by-the-numbers, had-to-be-made-because-it's-Mario game. Princess kidnapped? Check. Koopalings making weird noises and causing mischief? Check. New suits that alter the gameplay? ...No check. Clever level design? ...No check. Differentiating from the norm in ANY way? ...No check.

Everything you think New Super Mario Bros. 2 is, it is. It's your standard Mario platformer with eight worlds to traverse, each stuffed with themed levels, a Ghost House as per the norm, and the final castle where you face off against one of the seven Koopalings. Heck, you can actually get through the game normally without having ever seen two of the worlds at all, shortening the experience by nearly a quarter. I can understand why Nintendo re-uses these wacky characters over and over again: so they can recycle the assets and not have to design any new bosses. And, actually, there are no new bosses at all here — in fact, I'm hard-pressed to find much in this game, visually or otherwise, that isn't just regurgitated like a spaghetti and mothball sandwich.

The one supposed draw to this game — its renegade motif, if you will — is collecting as many coins as you possibly can. The back cover asks, "Can you collect a million coins?" I then respond with, "Yeah, probably, but who has this kind of time aside from hermits and Goldman-Sachs executives?" The game keeps a constant tally of how many coins you've inhaled, always making it available for viewing and boasting purposes. I'll never make it to one million; late in the game, I'm sitting at around 26,000. I suppose I won't be listed at the top of the online coin-collecting leaderboards, unless all the other 11 million owners of this game have the same pessimistic attitude toward this challenge.

Mario's getting a serious case of déjà vu.

Oh, Nintendo — you tried your best to get me to sluck up those coins like malted milk on a hot summer's eve. You gave us Gold Flowers, which shot out golden fireballs capable of turning enemies into bunches of coins for my consumption. You gave us goofy Golden Block hats to wear from time to time, rewarding us with coins popping out as we run, skip, jump, and somersault our way through the lush Mushroom Kingdom. You made coins gush out of random pipes on a whimsy so that we may stop, amass them with glee, and be on our merry way. Temporary thrills, yes, but after you've been collecting coins in Mario games for almost thirty years, the stimulation of that Pavlovian ba-ding sound effect wears off over time.

To further push players into getting as many coins as possible, Nintendo plopped in a new Coin Rush mode. Basically, you're given a few stages (all recycled from the game's Solo Mode), one life, and a brief time limit to collect as many coins as you possibly can. Beyond the usual run-of-the-mill currency are Moon and Star Coins, which are worth more. Probably made of platinum or caviar or something. Getting to specific points in the level has benefits: the halfway point will give you extra time, and reaching the flagpole at the end will double your coin count. So what's the point of all of this, beyond guzzling up your 3DS' limited battery life? If you happen to use StreetPass, you can upload your top coin scores and see if anyone can best your "l33t c01n 5k1ll5". For the competitive tycoon in you, this could be interesting. For the slovenly nap enthusiast in me, it wasn't such a selling point. You only get three stages to compete in from the get-go, unlocking more by completing worlds in the single-player mode. Do you want more? There's DLC for that.

I'm so disappointed in just how unimaginative this whole experience is. And that's my only major gripe, because the game isn't bad at all. It's quite competent. It's still better than a majority of games out there. I'd gladly take this over, say, Low G Man on the NES or the PlayStation's beloved hidden brown gem "No One Can Stop Mr. Domino". There's nothing inherently wrong with New Super Mario Bros. 2 at all. It's a solid Mario platformer. The controls are exactly the same as the others. The audio is more or less similar to previous NSMB games (heavily borrowed in this department, actually). The visuals are the same, albeit shrunken a tad to suit the smaller screen. It's just exactly what you'd expect, but with no surprises or innovations.

But then I think, "Well, wait a minute, aren't all the old Mega Man games alike?" And I say yes, they very much are. But at least with Mega Man games, the bosses are new creations, the strategies for getting by change, the music and graphics are different, the stages don't feel like you just did them in the last game, and they at least TRY to toss a modified story in there, even if Dr. Wily DOES end up being the culprit every single time. Yes, Mega Man recycles gameplay, but at least it looks like they're not just cutting and pasting constantly.

I am just starting to believe Nintendo has a large machine, resembling that of Wart's vegetable processor at the end of Super Mario Bros. 2, that cranks out 2D Mario platformers. Maybe their machine needs a little tweak. Ultimately, if you can't get enough of that pasta-consuming plumber and his wacky adventures in the Mushroom Kingdom, then I'm sure this will please to no end. As for me, I hope for at least SOMETHING different in each Mario game, but I certainly didn't find anything here.

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