Despite being the third game in the series, New Super Mario Bros. 2 is the direct follow-up to 2006′s New Super Mario Bros. Back then, it was refreshing to see a revival of such an iconic 2D franchise. It featured new power-ups, impeccable level design, and the same classic feel the original series was known for. The game was followed up with 2009′s New Super Mario Bros. Wii, which rarely changed course, but added full co-op and vast improvements nonetheless. With these two titles preceding it, and another console title to follow later this year, New Super Mario Bros.2 has a lot to prove — that jumping on the flagpole can be fresh and fun a third time around.
Much of the game does retain many sensibilities of the series. The flagpole is still at the end of the course, you still stomp on goombas and koopas, you still try to defeat Bowser and his children, and you can still make Mario grow really small and really big. What makes this title so unique can be found in one of the working titles of the game: “New Super Mario Bros. Gold”.
This is a very apt title, as the entire game focuses around getting coins. Coins can be found everywhere, be it in the level, through gold rings (which turn every enemy into golden coin producers, like the hammer-bro who will temporarily throw coins instead of hammers), or through the game’s new power-up: the Gold Flower. The suit turns Mario gold (or Luigi silver), and spawns fire balls of the corresponding color, turning everything around him into — you guessed it — gold coins. There is an ending to the game, but the game offers a secondary challenge in trying to collect 1,000,000 coins. This is not an arbitrary figure either. Collecting the coins will provide some kind of reward, though I currently have no idea what that entails.
In requesting the collection of such a steep number of coins, Nintendo was merciful in not forcing us to play levels ad nauseam (which, admittedly, probably doesn’t exist in a Mario game), and offers up the new Coin Rush mode. The feature compiles three random levels at a selectable difficulty, and running through all three levels successfully and speedily (while getting the most amount of coins possible) guarantees a hefty coin reward. Providing a further challenge is the fact that only one life is available to the player, so mess up once and its game over. The fun in this is that you can compete with friends and other players over StreetPass to see who can get a higher score, adding a level of much appreciated competition. In addition, new levels will become available as paid DLC for the mode in the future, but it has been stated that development on such levels won’t begin until the base game is completed.
The other heavily touted feature is the new two-player cooperative play, which allows Mario and Luigi to play through the entire game locally. Rather than expanding the screen when players get separated in a level, the camera only follows the player ahead, encasing anyone behind in a bubble. This creates a competitive flow to the levels, allowing players to try to jump ahead of each other and become “leader”.
What I’m looking forward to most in this game are the nods at past entries, something this game is doing despite such a fundamental shift in the series. For one thing, some classic power-ups are making comebacks. In addition to the standard Mini Mushroon, Fire Flower, and Star, New Super Mario Bros. 2 signals the return of the Mega Mushroom, which hasn’t been in a Mario game since its handheld predecessor.
More importantly (to me, anyways), the Super Leaf from Super Mario Bros. 3 returns, able to turn Mario and Luigi into Raccoon Mario and Luigi. Like the original, running for a short while, filling the P-Meter, and jumping will cause either character to fly for a short while. Building on this, the Invincibility Leaf makes a sort-of-new appearance to the series. By failing a level enough times and getting an Assist Block, either plumber can get an Invincibility Leaf, providing invincibility during one level with the same abilities that regular Raccoon Mario or Luigi gets. This is the equivalent of White Tanooki Mario in Super Mario 3D Land, which did the same thing (minus providing the ability to fly).
New Super Mario Bros. 2 is setting up to be an excellent addition to an excellent series. More than anything, this entry isn’t trying to fix what isn’t broken, which is nice, but the game also isn’t looking to be just another Mario game either. When we all play this on August 19 via cartridge or download, I’m sure that the feelings of classic Mario will not be dissolved with the shift in direction. What I hope will make this entry great is that it twists the formula while still providing what I love, or, we, have always loved. And at the end of the day, that’s all I really want out of a Mario game.