WHAT YOU WON’T LIKE
An overwhelming sense of been there, done that
I like NSMB2. It has a decent amount of new ideas. It does not, however, look like it has new ideas. Despite the upgraded 3DS hardware (and some new effects here and there), Nintendo decided to stick with an excessively familiar art style and design formula. All the new gameplay concepts in the world can’t change that NSMB2’s first impression is one of disappointment. This is exactly the same thing we’ve played twice before. Reusing old are assets — as disheartening as that is for someone who just paid full price — is one thing, but then presenting the game world’s in the same order as always smacks of extreme laziness.
Go ahead — guess which order Worlds 1 through 5 are in. If you said Mushroom Kingdom, desert, water, snow, and sky, then pat yourself on the back and shake your head at Nintendo. I can’t talk about World 6, but I bet you know what that is also.
If we keep buying these games, Nintendo will just keep making them. It’s just a shame, though. We bought Super Mario Bros., Super Mario Bros. 2, Super Mario Bros. 3, and Super Mario World in record numbers, and each of those had a distinct voice. The company could have just crapped out another clone of Super Mario Bros. at the time with new gameplay ideas, but it didn’t (it did in Japan but smartly decided against bringing that to the States). Maybe because the company took more pride in its work back then or because it didn’t hire enough accountants to point out that it can save money by reusing the same stuff over and over.
The outdated save system
Again with this save system! If you played either of the previous NSMB titles, you know how it works. The game will only let you save if you beat a castle or a dungeon or if you spend your big coins to unlock a mushroom house. A quick save feature exists that creates a temporary bookmark to save your spot, but that’ll disappear the next time you load up the game.
If you forget to make a quick save and put down your 3DS for just a bit too long — which on the system’s short battery life isn’t really that much time — you can say goodbye to any progress you made since the last castle.
I closed the lid of my 3DS while playing NSMB2 with no warning about the battery, when I picked the device up a few hours later, it was dead. I lost about four levels of progress. After that, I was much more careful about charging and saving, but why should I have to learn that lesson? The game should save after every level.
Legacy mechanics that have no place in a modern game
The 1UP mushroom has to die. It was silly in New Super Mario Bros. Wii where I often had over 100 lives, but in this one, which is about collecting coins, I easily have over 250 lives at all times. Why does this even exist? Game Overs are pointless. I’m sure NSMB2 will dole out some punishment if I ever see one, but why? It’s just a piece of history that the developers feel beholden to for no good reason. They don’t want to leave it out because it’s always been a part of the series, but they also don’t want to a make a game that uses lives and 1UPs in a creative way. It’s another lazy design decision.
Oh, and we still have points and a timer. One of those things is meaningless and the other is meaningless and annoying. I get having a time limit in the Coin Rush mode, but for the single-player experience, a finite amount of exploration time is nothing but a hindrance. It’s something I only notice when it’s about to kill me. Just let me play, Nintendo.
As for the points, no one would even notice this disappeared. Super Mario 64 doesn’t have points, and the world is still standing. It doesn’t hurt the game to include an ever-rising number on the bottom screen, but it’s representative of everything wrong with NSMB2. The team responsible is just slapping together parts from other titles without ever asking themselves why they’re doing it.
More detrimental to the experience is the way the game handles deaths. It is 2012. Super Meat Boy has happened. Please quit kicking me out into the over-world map after every single death. That is just baffling. It only gets in the way of the fun. A platformer in this era demands an instant-restart button. The absence of that is already a problem, but to throw Mario out of the stage completely and to force the player to reselect it is a travesty of design. It’s one that you get used to, but you shouldn’t have to.
Coin Rush mode has potential
Of course, the line from Nintendo on NSMB2 is that it’s all about the coins…and I guess it is. The game keeps a persistent count of every one you collect anywhere. That goes for the new Coin Rush mode as well. This asynchronous-multiplayer-focused event sorts three-random levels into the Mushroom Cup, Flower Cup, and Star cup. Players are given 100 seconds to collect as many coins as possible in the first level. If you makes it through without dying, then you can try for the same on the second level. If you make it through all three levels without dying, you have the option to save your score and begin sharing it with the 3DS’ SteetPass functionality.
It’s an intense mode. One hundred seconds is not a lot of time, and it’s easy to slip off a ledge when you’re is rushing through obstacles. I can see myself becoming attached to this if I had a ton of friends in my local area with whom I had StreetPass’d, but I don’t. Despite it being a fun distraction, it just feels like it’s missing some basic features. You can only share one high-score at a time — even across the different level packs. If I have a high score on the Mushroom Cup, I’d have to replace it with my high score on the Flower Cup. It’s really limiting, and pales in comparison to games like Super Meat Boy that have leaderboard times for every single level.
I’m conflicted. After I got past the sensation that I’ve done this before, I discovered a really fun game with lots of new ideas. NSMB2’s later worlds and many secrets do an especially great job at setting this release apart as one of the best titles on the 3DS, but Nintendo cannot do this again. The Wii U is launching with another New Super Mario title, and that will only exacerbate. I’d be more depressed about NSMB2 if I thought that Nintendo couldn’t make something fresh and exciting again, but we’re not that far removed from the revolutionary Super Mario Galaxy. Instead, I’m just confused and a little frustrated by some of the lazy decisions I found in this otherwise great game.
I want to reconnect with Mario. I know that’s it’s possible, but NSMB2 begins as just another night of nostalgic anecdotes. It eventually overcomes that on the strength of its world-class gameplay and level design, but pieces of that awkwardness remain.
New Super Mario Bros. 2 for the Nintendo 3DS releases August 19 in North America. The publisher provided GamesBeat with a 3DS eShop download code for the purpose of this review.