New Super Mario Bros 2; Mediocre Mario Game, Decent Platformer
If New Super Mario Bros 2 wasn’t a Mario game, or even had an earlier installment on the DS at all, I’m fairly sure everyone would be praising it for its originality and how well designed the game is and saying Nintendo had another smash hit on their hands.
But the problem is (and this is the main reason the game gets an average score in this review)… it’s not the first Mario game. It’s not even in the first Mario game after a long time without 2D sidescrollers or the first title using the New Super Mario Bros graphics style and music, and that lack of originality and creativity in general is what hurts the game. It’s not the only thing (more issues do exist in this title), but it’s arguably the one thing standing between it and all round 90% + ratings and review scores.
First things first, how is the game visually? It’s actually pretty good. Yes the graphics don’t have that amazing hand drawn style of New Super Mario Bros U’s backgrounds and they don’t match the ones in games like Donkey Kong Country Returns and Rayman Origins and what not, but they’re great for what they do and unlike the music are entirely new to this game. So the graphics are at least decent.
New Super Mario Bros 2 does look quite pleasant.
Musically though, is where the lack of effort starts to ‘shine’ through. Put simply, about three quarters of the songs are taken straight from New Super Mario Bros Wii with a few more sound effects added. For a Mario game released after the Lost Levels, that’s pretty damn lazy if you ask me, and it shows the complete lack of thought put into so much of the New Super Mario Bros series from Nintendo. There is some ‘original’ music, as well as some pretty catchy remixes:
And some that seems new in general:
But in general, the music is a bit disappointing, and this is from someone who actually kinds of like much of the New Super Mario Bros music and was looking forward to any new compositions they may have made for this game.
Gameplay wise, New Super Mario Bros 2 is great. The game is generally fun to play, the controls are responsive and work exactly as they should do (which is a nice relief after all that time playing shoddily made fan games using the Hello Engine) and the level design itself is often pretty fun and somewhat creative (I liked the level with the moving Dry Bones style platform, the ghost houses and those Koopaling battles that were actually new).
Despite a lack of originality, New Super Mario Bros 2 did have some creative moments.
And as much as Reznor is a bit of a basic boss, I do have to admit this is probably a much better game than the original in regards to boss variety and quality. At least the Reznor fights are varied up a bit in contrast to the exactly two attack patterns Bowser Jr got in New Super Mario Bros DS and the final boss actually feels somewhat like a final boss and not just another generic Bowser bridge battle. Still a bit of a step down from the Wii game though, the Bowser Jr airship battles and the use of Kamek as a fortress boss were fairly creative, and the final Bowser chase scene actually did feel a lot more interesting than the equivalent in the 3DS version. But New Super Mario Bros 2 does generally do bosses better than many other 2D Mario games, I’ll give it that.
The bosses in New Super Mario Bros 2 are good for a 2D Mario platformer.
The main addition to the game however is the whole gold theme, and that’s something which is only done debatably well in game. On the one hand, the Gold Flower is an incredibly useful item that opens up quite a few level design possibilities (and quite a few in game levels actually have secret areas only accessible using the ‘turn bricks into coins’ thing) and the wearable brick block works about as well as it did in Super Mario 3D Land. Not to mention a bit of added depth with the coin rush mode, the high scores per level and all the coin related gimmicks.
However, it does have problems related to it. For example, losing lives is much more difficult with the sheer quantity of coins you’re getting, since 100 coins still equals an extra life for whatever poorly thought out reason. As a result, by about one world in any normal player will be at least 200 lives up from when they started and have no chance in hell at ever seeing the game over screen. Did I mention the Gold Flower can literally one hit kill near enough everything you see, including some bosses?
And in general, the game’s lack of creativity really is a massive flaw. For instance, remember how neat it was to see new enemies and bosses in the past Mario games and figure out what they did and how to kill them? Well this game has nearly none of them, to the point the only memorable new additions seem to be Boohemoth (a giant Boo) and various undead versions of common Mario games like Goombas and Piranha Plants. Other than that, nothing.
This is the height of Nintendo’s creativity? An undead plant?
Okay, there are some familiar faces making a welcome return (like Reznor, the mini boss in all the towers that was originally from Super Mario World), but people like new content as well as nostalgia and throwbacks, and Reznor itself could easily have redebuted in the likes of New Super Mario Bros U if this game didn’t exist.
There’s also a general lack of new things in the levels that aren’t enemies, like gimmicks and level design elements. For example, while the lava level with all the volcanic debris would have been a pretty neat idea a few years ago, it’s been done to death in the New Super Mario Bros series now and hence feels kind of repetitive. And really, while the elements are often used in somewhat creative ways, they’re still old things that have been previously seen in the last few Mario games and that don’t really add a lot to the game.
The raining debris is a neat gimmick, but it was also done in 8-1 in NSMB Wii.
In fact, you know what the level design here kind of reminds me of?
That in Super Mario Advance 3’s secret levels and the e Reader stages of Super Mario Advance 4. Where there are some interesting combinations of elements from the original game, but not a whole lot that you can really class as new. That’s good enough for a remake and extra levels with no real meaning in the greater scheme of things, but for a new Mario adventure it’s kind of disappointing.
It also doesn’t help that as far as gameplay mechanic changes and general game structure go, New Super Mario Bros 2 is basically as many steps forward as it is back. Co-op has pretty much been added unlike the DS one, but it uses the same flawed ‘keep everyone on one screen’ system as the Wii game despite being on a handheld where the reasons for using said system are non existant. It fixes the whole super guide stops your stars being shiny thing by making it so it only affects people who actually use the special items and by letting you earn the effect back by beating ‘cheated’ levels legitimately, but it still keeps the option in and makes the game even easier by throwing coins and lives at you like they’re candy.
Co-op is a neat idea, but handled very poorly.
Indeed, as far as gameplay goes New Super Mario Bros 2 is tricky to rate because honestly, the core gameplay works. The game is fun. But it’s also basically creatively bankrupt in many ways, leaving me with the unfortunate choice of trying to decide whether to be ultra harsh on an honestly decent game or give it a decent score purely for the fact the game generally works.
So what do I give New Super Mario Bros 2 as a review score overall? I’d say about 82% sounds about right. It’s not original or ‘new’ enough to deserve a score in the high nineties and I’m under no obligation to give the game some high score in order to keep my job, but it seems unfair to give it any less. Why? Because as I said, the game works. The game is generally fun to play. And overall, I don’t consider it particularly fair to slam a fun game and give it a terrible score based on some kind of artistic merit/ideal. Creativity is important, but so is the quality of the game as a whole.
Hence New Super Mario Bros 2 gets a score of 82%.
Overall Quality including Creativity: 8/10