I noticed something a bit odd while playing New Super Mario Bros. 2. It seems like nothing in the streets looks any different to me, and the slogans are replaced, by-the-bye. And something about beards.
GAME NAME: New Super Mario Bros. 2
RELEASE DATE(S): August 19, 2012
The Who references aside, New Super Mario Bros. 2 is a little similar to its predecessor. But enough understatements. Imagine you bought the newest FPS in an FPS series to find that the only differences between the new and old games were a couple new guns, some new abilities, and a new type of terrorist to kill. Okay, bad example. Imagine you bought the newest FPS in a series and the main story campaign sends you to an identical version of the previous game’s setting and pretty much sends you through the exact same corridors to fight the same aliens who awaken the same horrifying parasite creatures that they awoke last time. Okay that’s another bad example.
Alright, enough jokes, it’s time to start the review. NSMB2 is everything a 2D platformer should be. The level design is great. Mario responds to your commands as well as your own limbs respond to your brain (after your morning coffee, at least). Everything moves smoothly. There’s not a single tick in the frame rate to interrupt the nearly flawless gameplay experience. The music is catchy and upbeat and the baddies dance to it and the scenery is bright and colorful and none of the mushrooms clash with Mario’s shoes. 9.5!
Now let’s discuss how many points I have to take off due to the fact that this game is so similar to the original New Super Mario Bros. and New Super Mario Bros. Wii that any price point over $15 is a joke. Sorry if you paid full price for it.
Basically, NSMB2 is a combination of the first game and its Wii counterpart. Like on the Wii, Peach is kidnapped by the Koopalings and in each world you have to defeat one of them. The only difference is that instead of fighting each Koopaling twice, the tower bosses are always a number of triceratops standing on moving platforms and roaring adorably. They also shoot slow-motion fireballs. Very intimidating.
The overworld is exactly the same. That doesn’t bother me so much because it’s a classic formula and it’s not really the point, just like the plot. What does begin to bother me is that you have the exact same levels types as always. Grasslands, desert, jungle, ice, and Bowser’s barren wasteland of death (and lava). Of course each level is technically different from the other games, but the problem with platformer games with short levels is that the specifics don’t stand out in memory. As far as I can remember, I’m playing the exact same game. What does stand out are the nifty new gameplay features. New abilities, new traps, new enemies, new varieties of platforms. The original NSMB had all of these, and that’s what made it fantastic. It introduced the mega mushroom, hidden star coins, ropes to hang from, giant purple cheeps that try to eat you, etc. The only new things in NSMB2 are golden versions of old things.
The only actual new feature about this game is the thing with all the Coins. There are lots of them. Everywhere. They erupt from pipes and trail cheeps. Gold blocks stick on your head and give you Coins for running around. Gold flowers turn brick blocks into Coins. Gold rings make gold enemies which give you Coins when you kill them. And if you get a million Coins, something happens! I won’t tell you what it is, but I will tell you that it’s not worth your time.
I do have to admit, I like all the Coins. I’m a collector and a completionist, so these things appeal to me. But making a lot of ways to get a lot of Coins is not enough. NSMB2 is not a new game. It’s the same game with new levels. A lot of gamers complain about sequels that don’t add enough new features and really should have been sold as DLC. NSMB2 takes this to a whole new level. Every Call of Duty game has some new guns, new maps, and new abilities. This is at least enough to keep it interesting for a month or two before you feel like you’re playing the same thing. Halo 2 sent you to another stupid Halo with more dumb Flood, but the plot of the Halo series matters, and therefore it feels like a new game. Plus you got to play as an alien. I picked up NSMB2 and immediately felt as thought I was playing something I’d already played, and the feeling continued until I beat it.
I’ve always defended Nintendo games that people say are the same thing over and over. Zelda games have the same formula, but each one introduces unique new elements that make each of them their own adventure. Same with every Kirby game, Donkey Kong Game, and Mario game until now. I can’t help but feel like the developers are trying to tell us something with the one new feature in NSMB2. Are the one million Coins a gimmick or a metaphor, Nintendo? It couldn’t have cost much to make this game.
No matter how fantastic a game technically is, I can’t in good conscience let a company get away with putting out the same game twice and charging $39.99 each. So let’s take away one point for every $10 I shouldn’t have spent on this game. To get to $15, we have to take off 2.5 points. That’s still a solid 7.
Unfortunately, I have another complaint. The difficulty level in Mario games is becoming more and more of a problem. Getting from beginning to end of the game is getting steadily easier, with all of the difficulty reserved for the extras. Getting every star Coin and doing the bonus levels in NSMB2 is still sufficiently challenging, but I beat the game’s final boss (spoiler alert, it’s Bowser) in about five hours with 130 lives. That’s a problem. I understand the need to cater to both inexperienced and hardcore gamers, but the current system is only alienating the latter. Why not try something else? Perhaps the classic difficulty level selector? More baddies, less power-ups, and no holding of extra power-ups for hard mode? Again, put in some effort. I’m afraid I have to knock off another half point for further lack of innovation.
And that’s the tale of how I had to give a terrific game a 6.5. Nobody would be happy if they were promised the newest version of the iPhone with all the latest greatest features just to be given the same iPhone they already had with a new app installed. It’s a good thing NSMB2 doesn’t cost as much as an iPhone, or Nintendo would be on fire by now. The only reason I’m not giving it a worse score is because I did enjoy playing it and as I write this, I do desire to play it some more. As it is, I’m just going to try and do my part to tell Nintendo that they can’t get away with copy-pasting their games. And I will do so by saying this: Don’t buy this game. Just play the original New Super Mario Bros. again.