Friday, 24 August 2012

New Super Mario Bros. 2

Reviewing a Super Mario Bros. game is like reviewing a chunk of video game history, for more reasons than I’d actually like. New Super Mario Bros. 2 once again gives players a fantastic opportunity to explore the beautiful Mushroom Kingdom as one of video gaming’s most iconic and loved characters. However, a lack of imagination in level design, constant repetition and blatant reliance on our unmoving love for Mario no matter how many times we play the same style of game, makes New Super Mario Bros. 2 nothing more than a competent blast from the past that once again fails to deliver anything new to the series. There is fun to be had because the formula was perfected eons ago, but it’s about time Mario embarked on a new adventure. 

My quarrel with NSMB2 should not make you assume that it’s a bad game; on the contrary it is technically very impressive. It’s just when Princess Peach gets captured by Bowser and you run off as Mario stomping on everything that moves and collecting a whole bunch of coins, power-ups and stars, you immediately think, “I’ve been here before, plenty of times.” It was very difficult to feel excited when I was playing NSMB2 because I have already completed this game hundreds of times before. 

While excitement levels were relatively low, nostalgia levels did inevitably boom. Beautiful levels brimming to life with colour and expertly crafted platform design keeps you on your toes as you go from clouds to caves and underwater to do battle and collect coins. Many of Mario’s power-ups return to including the Fire Flower and Tanooki Tail. All of this however just feels well, boring. It’s nothing you haven’t experienced or used before and no matter how many times the development team redesign the levels and platforms, an experienced Mario player will be able to maneuver around each stage gracefully with minimal problems. 

Fortunately the Super Mario Bros. formula is just so excellent that even while these thoughts are spinning around in your head, you can’t help but feel that NSMB2 is technically a very impressive game. Tight and technical development makes each level challenging and enjoyable, no matter how many hits of déjà vu you get. The addition of the golden coin power up also adds the ability to transform every block and enemy into showers of coins, making for a visually impressive scamper to pick up as many as possible. This alongside some stunningly frustrating secrets and hidden goodies makes NSMB2 a perfectionists delight. There’s definitely a lot to do here and just like any other Nintendo title, it’s well crafted that people can get as much enjoyment as they feel appropriate for their skill and commitment level. Some of you may just play through the story and call it a day, while others won’t stop until you’ve amassed one million coins and found every single treasure across the whole game – the choice is yours. 

NSMB2 also offers a cooperative mode, which unfortunately fails to live up to the technical prowess you’d expect from a Mario game. Resembling New Super Bros. Wii, this coop play lacks the handy screen-resizing mechanic and as a result, makes this mode nothing more than a struggle to try and stay close to each other and avoid inevitable doom off screen. If a friend has NSMB2 you’re probably better off both playing single player and just chatting in the same room! 

The notion of collecting as many coins as humanly possible is emphasized further by the Coin Rush mode. This challenge mode makes players complete three levels against the clock all the while trying to collect as many coins as possible without dying. There’s plenty of opportunity to amass some pretty impressive scores but for some strange reason, there are no leaderboards, only the ability to share through SpotPass. 

Ultimately it’s a testament to Nintendo that so little positive can be said about New Super Mario Bros. 2 and it still actually ends up being a good game. I have felt that Nintendo have been getting away with rehashing their titles for too long now and expecting gamers to like them just because they are reminiscent of prior glory. That’s simply not the case and if Nintendo want their fans to purchase their products and take the Wii U seriously, then they have to evolve with the times. Sure classic Mario should never die, that’s what the Nintendo Store is there for, so people can purchase and enjoy classics, but now is the time to move on and New Super Mario Bros. 2 is an excellent example of how not to do that. Dull level design, uninspiring additions and the same old formula make New Super Mario Bros. 2 nothing more than another blast from the past, albeit as much as I hate to say it, an enjoyable one. 

7.5 | Gameplay | 
As you’d expect with any Mario game the controls are tight and gameplay is precise, but that’s on the surface. If you look deeper the same monotonous and repetitive system is implemented here once again by Nintendo who I feel are showing a real lack of respect to their gaming audience by subjecting players to an almost identical Mario game and forcing them to pay out for another fully priced title. The same Nintendo spark is missing from New Super Mario Bros. 2 and this is obvious with the boring level design and lack of anything new to help this age-old formula evolve. 

8.0 | Presentation | 
Again you can’t deny New Super Mario Bros. 2 is a beautiful looking game. Bright and vibrant colours help the levels and enemies stand out and really show off the Nintendo 3DS’s capabilities, especially the XL model if you have one. The extra gold coin game modes also look stunning as you watch the entire screen explode in a shower of gold. Unfortunately the 3D actually hinders the game and is quite hard on the eyes. So this one is definitely best left in 2D to preserve the speed of the game and avoid blurring backgrounds. 

8.0 | Replay Value | 
Nintendo are masters at layering their games in such a way that everyone can get as much or as little out of it as they feel right for them. There’s a load of secret stuff to find and uncover so New Super Mario Bros. 2 is a perfectionists dream. You will spend a long time collecting all the stars, coins and goodies throughout the 80 levels available. That’s if you aren’t bored of the Mario formula already. Cooperative mode is available but isn’t that good unfortunately and Coin Rush is a fun way to run through three levels at a time, but you should really invest yourself in the campaign element here. 

8.0 | Final Thoughts | 
In hindsight perhaps this review was intertwined with my inner rage concerning Nintendo and how they treat their fans. I look back and this really has been a bombardment on New Super Mario Bros. 2 so it’s stunning that at the end of it all it’s come out with an 8.0. This is absolutely a testament to how fantastic the Mario Bros. formula is but Nintendo cannot rest on their laurels and assume year-in year-out we will play the same game again and again just because they repackage it and add a new tiny little element. The video game industry is changing and while the heritage should never be forgotten, blatant lazy rehashes should not be allowed, as it’s simply an insult to gamers. So if you’re looking to enjoy another Mario game then New Super Mario Bros. 2 has all the components to make sure you will have an awesome time. Those of you looking for something new, you will definitely not find that here because this truly is the same age-old Mario game, again. 

Igor Kharin.

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