The lights are on
The New Super Mario Bros. series debuts on the 3DS with an entry that is only marginally new but still pretty super. Running, stomping and sliding through the Mushroom Kingdom feels as good as ever and now you can team up with a friend for some handheld co-op.
Of course, the main goal is to advance through the levels and reach Bowser's Castle, but this entry also challenges players to collect 1 million coins. With this in mind, the golden currency is liberally scattered throughout each stage and the game keeps a running tally of how many coins have been collected overall. Pushing that tally all the way to 1 million should prove to be quite an undertaking as I amassed only 50,000 in a complete playthrough of every level.
Simply advancing through the games six main worlds proves to be quite easy and uninspiring, but tracking down the three star coins in each level and finding the very well hidden secret exits is a satisfying challenge. I found the level design gets much more interesting and challenging in the unlockable bonus worlds, so exploring for ways to open up the paths to these areas is well worthwhile.
I've never been very impressed with the boss fights in sidescrolling Mario titles and this entry does little to change that. The end-world boss fights are very much inline with everything we've seen since Super Mario Bros. 3 on the NES and the mid-world fights are easy, simple, repetitive and frankly lack any interesting or redeeming qualities whatsoever. The final boss fight is large in scale but still disappointing as it's completely passive; you simply dodge attacks while never getting to go on the offensive.
It takes awhile to get to the really good parts, but ultimately, I very much enjoyed all my time with New Super Mario Bros. 2. Mario still controls with a responsiveness and accuracy that can't be beat, the raccoon tail power up feels just like I remember and there are enough secrets hidden in each area to encourage anyone to keep playing for 10 hours or more.
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