2012-08-29

New Super Mario Bros. 2 – The Pursuit of Everlasting Coins

by Yo Snyder

Mario isn’t a guy I usually associate with sequel fatigue. He doesn’t
do yearly iterations of his games, and so despite them all basically
following a familiar formula, they avoid the usual hazard of feeling a
little too similar. However, with New Super Mario Bros. 2 I just couldn’t shake the feeling of over-familiarity. It’s strange, really, because it’s been awhile since I’ve played New Super Mario Bros. Wii, and although Super Mario 3D Land is
fairly recent, it’s not quite the same game, so I’m not entirely sure
what it was that made me feel like this game was a little too much “the
same”. However, that doesn’t detract from the fact that Mario is still
as fun and challenging as ever, and with the new emphasis on coins in
this game, he’s even more obsessively addictive than ever.

It
seems as though Nintendo is acknowledging that pretty much everyone
knows the setup for a Mario game at this point as they don’t really
spend a lot of time with story. Mario and Luigi are floating around
collecting coins, Bowser and the gang show up and grab Peach, and the
game gets started. It’s short, sweet and to the point. On the one hand,
it’s kind of amusing how abruptly things get started, after all how many
different ways are there to explain how Peach has been kidnapped yet
again (seriously, she should look into private security). On the other
hand, I was a little disappointed that Nintendo didn’t even at least
make the effort to present some semblance of story this time around. I
mean, they’ve found plenty of creative ways of doing it up to this
point, so why not this time?

But then no one really plays Mario games for the riveting narrative but for the simple and fun gameplay. New Super Mario Bros. 2
once again demonstrates why that’s the case with a good variety of
levels that are fun and challenging. However, it’s here where some of
the sameness began to sink in. There just wasn’t much that surprised me.
There are the desert worlds and snow worlds and water worlds and it all
ebbs and flows just as you would expect. Toss in an overworld that
looks almost exactly like New Super Mario Bros. Wii, and I
suffered from an unexpected sense of over-familiarity. I don’t know why
that was the case this time, it’s not like any of these things haven’t
been a part of every Mario game preceding this one, but somehow it just
didn’t feel…”fresh” enough this time around. That has me rather
nervous for New Super Mario Bros. Wii U.

Regardless of my
nagging sense of over familiarity, this game is still a fun romp with
Mario. All of the elements that make these games a delight to play have
been refined down to an exact science (which may be why it’s starting to
feel a little stale?), and the challenge of finding all the secrets and
getting all the star coins in every level is still as enjoyable and
addicting as ever. Plus, this time around there’s something new to
obsess over; coins. Granted coins have always been apart of Mario games,
but in this one they are more plentiful than ever, and the game
constantly teases you with a counter to see how many you’ve collected,
with little OCD provoking messages of “You’ve collected 5,000!”, “You’ve
collected 10,000 coins!”that constantly show up to make you feel like
you’re really accomplishing something. The new gold flower ( just one of
a couple new ways to boost your coin volume), which literally gives you
the Midas touch, turns everything into glorious coins, and one can’t
help but giggle with obsessive glee while turn all that surrounds into
those glorious coins so you can collect more and more and more of them.

One
has to wonder what Mario does with all those coins (you’d think he
could afford to get Princess Peach some worthwhile bodyguards), and this
game’s obsession with collecting as many coins as possible isn’t too
far off from our culture’s own obsession with grabbing money and
collecting stuff. But what happens to all those coins at the end of the
game? Well, apparently they all go away, because as soon as the next
game comes around, those coins won’t be in Mario’s possession any more.
And so it is with our own coins and stuff that we so willing plunge into
debt for as we try to impress our friends. No matter how much we
collect now, it’s not going to matter later because we can’t keep it; we
can’t take it with us. It’s been well said that you don’t ever see a
hearse pulling a U-Haul. However, chasing after coins isn’t all bad, it
just depends on what kind of coins you pursue. Jesus put it this way;
“Do not store up for yourselves treasure on earth, where moth and rust
destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. But store up for
yourselves treasures in heaven, where moth and rust do not destroy, and
where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is,
there your heart will be also.” (Matthew 6:19-21) The point being we
should pursue treasures that last, ones that we can actually take with
us when this life is over. There’s nothing wrong with money in the here
and now, just so long as we remember that’s where it’s all going to
stay; and if that’s what our heart desires, that’s where our heart’s
will stay as well. If, however, we want something of eternal value,
something for us to truly treasure, something worth more than all the
coins Mario could ever collect, we need to look somewhere else, and part
of why Jesus came was to help point us in the right direction to find
that. It’s at least worth looking into, isn’t it?

Now, as if the coin obsession wasn’t enough in the regular mode of New Super Mario Bros. 2,
the game also features a new Coin Rush mode. Here, you go through three
random levels and must collect as many coins as possible, with a couple
of catches. You have  a very short amount of time to do it in, and you
can’t die. If you lose Mario’s life, you lose it all and have to start
from the beginning. This mode takes OCD collecting and addictive
gameplay to a whole new level, and it may take your frustrations to a
whole new level as well. It’s still a blast though, and you can share
your top scores with friends and neighbors via StreetPass. There’s also a
co-op mode, but frankly, it’s no where near as enjoyable as it was with
up to four players on the Wii, so I didn’t spend much time with it. 

New Super Mario Bros. 2
is a solid Mario game. It has all the right elements and the added
addiction of collecting all those golden coins, and yet…well, as I’ve
said, I can’t put my finger on it, but there’s just something about this
one that made me feel like I’ve played this game before. It has plenty
of secret worlds, alternate paths, hidden secrets and even some new
gameplay elements what with all the items to help boost your coin
collecting, and I still just had a strong sense of deja-vu. I can’t
explain it, but it was there for me. This is a Mario game that ably met
and fulfilled all of my expectations, but never really surprised me in
any sort of fresh way. Is Mario succumbing to sequel fatigue? I honestly
don’t think so, but I suppose we’ll have to see when the Wii U Mario
hits to know for sure.

Score out of 7:

Graphics: 6 –
The game looks like it could be on the Wii (which also may have added
to the familiarity). It looks fantastic, it’s fluid, it’s colorful.
However, there’s absolutely no reason to play it in 3D. None. So don’t
even bother, you’ll enjoy it more without that effect.

Sound: 6 – Excellent as always, with jaunty, happy music and all those familiar sounds that make Mario the game that it is.

Controls:
6 – Refined is the best word to describe them. I did find that using
the d-pad was much easier than using the thumb stick. When I would
forget that, I usually did something unintentional with the thumb stick
that got me killed.

Gameplay: 5 – Again refined is the best word
for this. It’s tried and true platforming that no one else even comes
close to duplicating. The new Coin Rush mode and the whole coin
collection push of the game adds some fun, but then there’s that whole
sense of things being a little too “the same”.

Story: 4 – Peach
gets nabbed, Mario and Luigi go to set her free. Ironically simple or
just getting lazy with story telling? You decide.

Content: 7 – It’s Mario, squeaky clean and family friendly

Final: 5 – Few games are as consistent in excellence as Mario, and that remains true in New Super Mario Bros. 2.
However, this time around there’s just something that feels a little
too familiar. It’s still a fun a game, and the focus on coin collecting
will feed anyone’s OCD tendencies, but there’s something a little too
similar about the whole experience. If you’re new to Mario, don’t
hesitate to pick up this game. If you’re a die-hard Mario fan, you’ll
still enjoy it, but you may have a strong sense of deja-vu.