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New Super Mario Bros. 2′s coin fixation is confusing

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Nintendo recently showed off how New Super Mario Bros. 2 for the 3DS is going to be all about the heroes getting paid, but something doesn’t quite add up to me. During the company’s software-showcase presentation during the recent 2012 Electronic Entertainment Expo, Scott Moffitt, Nintendo of America’s executive vice president of sales and marketing, made a reference to players helping Mario collect one million coins but didn’t say why.

The gold-piece theme is prevalent in the title’s gameplay and even its box art. And though Nintendo has yet to reveal the larger significance in the story, this money-over-princesses approach seems to be taking the series in a strange, new direction.

 

New Super Mario Bros. 2 boxartMario can now use a special golden fire-flower power-up to turn blocks and enemies into coins. A special helmet helps him create a trail of dinero when he runs. And If Mario jumps through a special gold ring, even more money magically shows up in the levels. Let’s just say the game creates tons of opportunities for the portly plumber to get rich quick.
 
Some of these scenes remind me of the Yellow Switch Palace from Super Mario World where our hero was surrounded by coins and had a limited time to grab as many as he could. It’s as if the developers thought, “Hey, let’s insert those moments all throughout this new game!” Yet, doing so would take away from the surprise and excitement of those rare opportunities. Plus, it would also further trivialize the extra lives system.

Going off of the latest NSMB2 trailer, the sound effects suggest that 100 coins equal an additional free man, same as every other side-scrolling SMB game (the life count is not shown in the video and is presumably on the bottom screen of the 3DS). Of course, the extra-life system is an iconic staple of the series, so Nintendo wouldn’t dare remove it…that is, unless the folks at the company want to deal with millions of angry fanboys. But still, the concept of having a finite number of times you can replay a level, at least in 2012, seems a bit antiquated as a holdover from the arcade days.

This is especially true for the NSMB releases where the player’s save file records his progress and how many lives he has, making reaching the maximum 99 that much easier. Now, with the new “make it rain” gameplay mechanics in this latest entry, rapidly racking up additional lives in 100-coin intervals seems like something anyone could easily do. Thus, the whole system becomes even more irrelevant and unnecessary.

I’m not sure what to think about this whole coin obsession. Part of me even feels like it’s a little out of touch with the current global economic troubles and the working class consumers who will likely buy and love this title. Obviously, we’re just talking about a video game and few people are likely to think of it in terms of their own realities — instead, using it to escape into fantasy. But, let me just say that I would love to be able to use one of those coin-making fire flowers to pay off my student-loan debt instead of having to use a keyboard to write another cover letter.

What’s the point of this money theme for New Super Mario Bros. 2? Is it a brazen symbol of Nintendo cashing in, once again, on one of its best-selling franchises? Or maybe it’s just an untouched gameplay mechanic for the developers to explore.

Perhaps we’ll find out that the whole game is a dream, just like Super Mario Bros. 2. Except this time it’s Wario, Mario’s money-hungry rival, wishing he was the do-gooder Italian and had access to his revenue streams and bank account. On second thought…probably not.

What I do know, however, is that I don’t play Super Mario Bros. games for the money. I do it more for the thrills and the action. But I suppose I’ll just have to wait for more details from Nintendo before I can start to make sense (cents?) out of all these coins.


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