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New Super Mario Bros. undoubtedly gave a welcome rebirth to the classic Mario platformer, and with arrival to the 3DS last year with New Super Mario Bros. 2, it continues its formula with general success. Sticking to a safe formula to be sure, this latest New Super Mario Bros. handheld still manages to do most things right, whether in its solid gameplay or in its nostalgic look. Though it can feel tiresome revisiting old territory, have no doubts that this Mario romp is nevertheless a fun-filled experience that should tide over most any Mario fan.
It wouldn’t be a Mario title without the obligatory kidnapping of Princess Peach, and that’s exactly what Mario’s latest adventure delivers when Bowser and family again snatches the good monarch from her castle. As always, it’s Mario and Luigi to the rescue as the plumber bros. rush across six worlds and several special stages to show up the Bowser’s Koopa minions and get the girl, and save the day, all in the same platforming fashion of the classic NES series.
Like it’s predecessors, New Super Mario Bros. 2 has a fair amount to brag about its delightful combination of nostalgia and crisp, clear graphics. Characters’ looks and animations are all masterfully done to match their famed original models from the NES era, all the while making them look modern to the 3DS’s graphical standards. The Mushroom kingdom continues to look as high-res as it has on the big screen and shimmer of Mario’s gold stages are a plus. While the 3D doesn’t particularly make Mario’s goings on stand out any, the 3DS’s dual screens work well to stretch out players’ views of the stages and give players a feel for the size and scope of levels. In general, the game’s world map continues to give a sense of old-school magic to the level select, yet doesn’t include many unlockable secrets in it like past New Super Mario Bros. titles and the worlds are much smaller.
The levels themselves are similarly filled with the pipes, platforms, and koopa enemies of old, but most certainly get stale after a while of seeing them in the same looking castle or hilltop stages. Like previous games, there are plenty of Star Coins to collect and they can be used to unlock post-game bonus areas. Though it make take a while, these special stages are barely more difficult and constitute only another hour or two of gameplay, though with one surprise boss fight to amuse fans.
New Super Mario Bros. 2 keeps up the gameplay of the New Super Mario Bros to the letter and features every bit of its old style of side-scrolling, platform action. Mario runs, jumps, and hovers just as before, and the control scheme works well with the slight exception of the circle pad’s usage for ground-pounding. The are also single and co-op options for those with a 3DS pal, with Mario and Luigi both being available for a decent multi-player experience. Besides all the returning series power-ups that we’ve come to know and love, from the Mini Mushroom to the Mega Mushroom, players will also see the welcome return of the Super Leaf from Super Mario Bros. 3. Flying around with your raccoon tail and bashing enemies feels just as satisfying as back in the day and it equally serves a much needed change of pace in the gameplay.
As in Super Mario 3D Land, the game’s difficulty is additionally gracious. After dying five times in one stage, players will be granted an Invincibility Leaf that grants you Raccoon Mario’s abilities combined with invincibility until the stage’s end. At times like these, the game is almost too easy, but new players will no doubt appreciate it as well as Mario speed-runners.
What real improvements the game makes are the inclusion of the classic Koopaling boss battles, the real stars of the show by far. These feel like the toughest part of the games and, though they’re far from truly challenging, they’re fun and sometimes clever enough to break away from the ho-hum nature of the main levels’ content.
For checklist fanatics, much of the game’s emphasis is dedicated to collectibles, specifically its gold coin challenge. With a one million coin mark, New Super Mario Bros. 2 invites players to build up their overall coin total across all six worlds and gives you plenty of goodies to encourage you. With items like Gold Flowers and special rings, Mario’s Midas touch can turn enemies into gold and his additional block mask can generate coins as he runs. The game will further display your coin total on the title screen and the overworld map and, with a SpotPass, it can be uploaded to Nintendo Network for your viewing pleasure and updated to the grand scores of players worldwide. Small bonuses like these can seem like a cheap extension of the game’s already short length, but for all your hard work, it does provide a shallow kind of bragging rights in the form of unlocking the game’s hidden game screen.
Along with the main game, New Super Mario Bros. 2 also features the new mode of Coin Rush. Collecting as many coins as possible, players go through three randomly chosen levels with only one life and a time limit of 50 or 100 seconds. With the 3DS’s StreetPass function, players’ saved coin totals and highest scores can then be transmitted to and challenged by on-line players in a kind of leader-board feature. In small spurts, these can be amusing, but they shouldn’t be expected to be more than a mild diversion from the greater fun of the story-mode.
Already following New Super Mario Bros. Wii, New Super Mario Bros. 2 may seem entirely unnecessary. Nevertheless, its classic formula works and the game keeps a steady beat of everything that still interests players in the series. Mario is the biggest giant in the gaming industry today, and his brand name still holds a lot of meaning to a lot of gamers. Though New Super Mario Bros. 2 may not be one of the many classics he holds to his name, its many collectibles and amusing charm will no doubt keep players occupied over a good weekend and help to promote a healthy love for a great franchise.
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