The release of the Wii U is fast approaching and with it New Super Mario Bros. U the first brand new Mario platformer to launch alongside a new console since Super Mario 64. While the prospect of a new 2D Mario platformer might not be quite as exciting as something with the innovation and originality of the Super Mario Galaxy games after the botched launch of the 3DS whatever Nintendo can offer us on day one is very welcome. In the meantime we have the not insignificant matter of New Super Mario Bros. 2, another iteration of the venerable series that feels like a dry run for the main event.
But let’s face it, you know exactly what New Super Mario Bros. 2 is like and that it’s a quality experience because some things never change. The one thing that’s new about this is the focus on gathering coins. The designers have engaged their imaginations to find inventive ways of presenting the opportunity for you to collect scores of golden coins without just putting them in plain sight. Among the ways they’ve done this is with a new power up the Golden Flower which turns Mario gold and gives you fireballs that turn blocks and enemies into coins. Pass through a golden ring and it will be the enemies that turn gold temporarily giving you some other options to make coins appear. For example send a koopa shell spinning and it will leave a trial of coins behind for you to collect. Likewise bullet bills will leave coins in their wake as they shoot across the screen.
You know those blocks that give you multiple coins when you hit them repeatedly? In this game if you score the maximum coins from one such block it will turn gold and you’ll end up wearing it on your head. It will continue giving you coins as you run and jump around at top speed until you either take a hit and lose it or until you score the maximum of a hundred. So does this new focus give the series a new lease of life? Well, it certainly changes the pace and the daunting ultimate goal of collecting one million coins does give you a reason to do more than just bomb through levels as fast as possible but it’s not an idea that can rival something like the introduction of Yoshi for its impact on the series. You are still awarded with a one-up for every hundred coins collected meaning you will gather literally hundreds of redundant lives.
The structure resembles the DS iteration very closely in both the layout of the world maps and the structure of the worlds themselves. There are three secret worlds, two of which must can be reached by finding secret exits but the overall volume of content is a lot more than the earlier game and completing every task including collecting all the star coins will take a comparable amount of time to the equivalent challenges in Super Mario 3D Land. The most important thing, of course, is that the gameplay is flawless, perfectly refined and enormous fun. It looks and sounds very polished without attempting anything surprising in either department and the difficulty level feels about right, just easy enough for young or causal gamers to have a decent chance of completing the story with plenty of meatier more difficult things for completionists to get stuck into.
The game features an all new coin rush mode in which you are given three random levels and challenged to collect as many coins as possible. You can save a record of one of your attempts at a trio of levels and share it via Street Pass for others to attempt to beat your score. If you receive a Street Pass and attempt to beat the other players score not only will your coin count be added to your overall counter but so will that of the other player making it one of the most efficient ways to build up your total. It’s the best use of Street Pass I’ve encountered so far and genuinely increases the longevity of play.
Design – 8
Gameplay – 9
Graphics – 8
Sound – 8
Longevity – 7
New Super Mario Bros. 2 is yet another top quality title from Nintendo but it does feel like there’s room for improvement. There’s more content here than the DS game but there’s plenty of room for even more and while the coin collecting angle is fairly refreshing one feels that the potential of these games remains largely untapped. It’s a superb game that all Mario fans will enjoy but this isn’t Nintendo firing on all cylinders.