The New Super Mario Brothers series has kept the side-scrolling aspects of the series alive while fighting claims of stagnation. Now, the series makes its 3DS debut and feels even more like past games. Only instead of paying homage to classics from two decades before, we’ve got a game that feels like a retread of something from 2006 – the original NSMB game. That’s not an altogether bad thing, but having a feeling of deja vu throughout the entirety of a game with NEW in its title isn’t a good thing.
While the game’s stages are different than past ones, it feels all too similar due to the lack of new themes. You’ve got the grassy stage, ice, fire, underwater — if you’ve played any entry in the Super Mario or New Super Mario series, you know what to expect. The game controls as well as it has before, and really the only new thing is the emphasis on coins. Previously used to give you 1-Ups, which they still do, your coin count is now tracked and grants you extras like being able to save without having to beat a castle. As you progress through the stages, you’ll unlock “Coin Rush” versions of every level.
In Coin Rush, you’ll go through three stages armed with a coin-granting golden fire flower, a strict time limit, and the knowledge that you’ll get an instant game over if you die. You not only need to beat the stages, but do so in an efficient and safe manner (unless you use the white tanooki suit that grants invincibility). It adds challenge and lets you rake up 1-Ups a bit faster than the main game, but doesn’t feel like enough of a hook for the game.
Super Mario 3D Land awarded you something special when you beat it — an entire second set of new levels to conquer, effectively giving you two games for the price of one. An argument can me made for coin rush trying to do that since it gives you an additional challenge for existing levels, but it really just shuffles the deck a bit. It’s nice to have this feature be StreetPass-enabled, but having complete online leaderboards would have enhanced the satisfaction of a high score. Now, there are a couple of extra sets of stages to unlock and post-game star stages, but they aren’t as substantial as 3D Land’s extra stages.
While New SMB 2 disappoints when it comes to trying new things, it does the tried and true stuff very well. Mario controls just as well as he did in past NSMB games — pretty much perfectly. You’ll run and jump exactly when you want to, and won’t be able to blame your failures on the controls. Sadly, this sequel looks about the same as the other NSMBs. Similarly, the remixed music is exactly as good as it was before, because in many cases, the songs are the same. If you loved the soundtracks there, you’ll love them here and can save on battery life by just humming the tunes instead of turning up the volume.
The game as a whole doesn’t make great use of the system outside of Street Pass for coin rush and the graphics. 3D is there, but it winds up making things more blurry than adding depth, and unlike 3D Land, doesn’t make use of the camera feature at all. Without taking advantage of the 3DS’ capabilities, the game ends up feeling like something that could’ve been on the DS as an expansion pack to the original game.
New Super Mario Brothers 2 is a very good game on a technical level, but falls short of satisfying because it feels far too similar to other games in the series. Super Mario 3D Land was able to try new things with 3D Mario gameplay, but NSMB2 really doesn’t do anything new, and as a result, isn’t able to usurp 3D Land as the Mario game to own. If you were expecting NSMB2 to be a killer app for the system, or were considering an upgrade to the XL just for this game: don’t. Instead, stick with 3D Land, and give this one a rental. You’ll be able to breeze through it in a day and save yourself a bunch of money in the process.