New Super Mario Bros. 2 feels like a case of Nintendo playing it safe with their core franchise, which does lead to the overall experience being a little bit disappointing. I’m not going to waste your time explaining what the game is about, as it follows the typical structure of Peach being kidnapped, and the brothers going to save her. It does feature the Koopa Kids once again, which I certainly appreciate more than Bowser Jr., but if you’ve played a Super Mario title before, you’ll have a pretty good idea of what to expect here.
The most disappointing aspect of New Super Mario Bros. 2 is that it’s remarkably easy, and doesn’t really elevate the series past what New Super Mario Bros. Wii managed to do. The original DS title that kickstarted this line of Super Mario games was pretty solid, and was certainly a breath of fresh air considering we hadn’t seen a new 2D Mario adventure in quite a while. Say what you will about the art style and music, as I know that those two things don’t seem to appeal to everyone, the core gameplay and level design was still a lot of fun and fairly fresh.
New Super Mario Bros. Wii ratcheted that up another level, featuring more worlds, four player co-op, and some actual difficulty to boot. Granted, it didn’t get tougher until the later stages, but if you factored in the optional secret world, NSMB Wii could really give you a run for your money.
And in that regard NSMB 2 feels like a step backwards. The concept of revolving around coin collecting is certainly a fun idea, and I appreciate that the developers tried to do something with that here. But I feel like it fell a little short in concept, and instead just piles on the extra lives with no other real incentive for collecting coins. As you might have heard by now, the reward for collecting one million coins isn’t all that, so outside of challenging yourself with high score runs, the focus on coin collecting does little more than make an already easy game that much easier. I had really hoped that there would be more to unlock, giving me more of a reason to collect all these coins, but that doesn’t seem to be the case so far unless something is introduced down the line via DLC.
But even though the game is remarkably easy, that doesn’t mean that it’s not a lot of fun. While the challenge might be gone, the core gameplay that makes most of Mario’s 2D adventures so much fun is still present. There’s enough enemy variety, clever level layout, and fun boss fights to keep most fans entertained. And while the core map of six worlds might seem a little light on content, there are a few others that you’ll be able to seek out if you look hard enough. And then there’s the three big coins hidden throughout each level, like the NSMB predecessors had, and locating these can be a bit of a hunt. They’re generally not hard to reach, but can be a little tough to find, usually prompting you to do multiple runs through a single stage, offering up a little replay value for the game.
Besides the main game, NSMB 2 introduces a new mode dubbed Coin Rush. Coin Rush is really where you’ll find some semblance of challenge, as it features a single life run through three randomly picked stages culled from different levels. There are different packs featured here, meaning that one pack will pull levels from Worlds 1 and 2, while another pulls from 3 and 4, and so on. Not only are you limited to a single life on these runs, but the time limit for each stage is also generally restricted to 100 seconds. I had a whole lot of fun with this mode, and it’s really the biggest reason to pick up and play the game once you’re finished with the final boss fight.
So while New Super Mario Bros. 2 might not be a revelation on Nintendo’s new flagship handheld, I certainly wouldn’t label it as a bad game. Even a sub-par Super Mario Bros. game is still Super Mario, and while Nintendo might not have put as much effort behind this release as there seemed to be in the Wii version, it’s not without a certain amount of merit. If you go into this expecting a light hearted, breezy romp through the Mushroom Kingdom, you’ll definitely have some fun with it. But the more hardcore player out there might find themselves a bit put-off by the overall ease and lack of challenge, so here’s to hoping that New Super Mario Bros. Wii U can strike a better balance between fun and difficulty than NSMB 2 managed to do.