Go for the gold.
New Super Mario Bros. 2, more aptly represented by a discarded name, New Super Mario Bros. Gold, puts a Midas touch on the traditional Mario formula. There are gold versions of everything, and everything has the potential to leave trails of gold. The renewed focus on coin collection might seem more apt for a Wario game, but the game has many shades of Super Mario World.
While New Super Mario Bros. 2 doesn’t seem to do anything significantly new on the platforming side, its focus on coin collection changes the game’s dynamics for perfectionists and completionists. The game is even more so about the journey than the destination than prior games. Level design isn’t compromised and actually seems improved.
The usual Mario staples are here: you’re again trying to rescue Princess Peach from the clutches of Bowser and the Koopa Kids. The usual Mario power-ups are back, punctuated by the return of the raccoon power-imbuing leaf. The P-meter-indicated raccoon power in New Super Mario Bros. 2 is something of a fusion of the same power from Super Mario Bros. 3 and the cape from Super Mario World. Players do not need to repeatedly tap the button as in the former game; you can hold the button to smoothly fly upward and hold it again to slow your descent.
One of the gold power-ups, the golden Fire Flower, turns Mario to gold and his golden fireballs turn everything else to gold. The classic 10-coin block now turns into a gold block if you reach the 10-coin goal. Hit the block again and it humorously attaches itself to Mario’s head. The faster he runs around with it affixed, the more coins that will spill out of it.
Coins are scattered everywhere, even where you can’t see them. Various places within the levels appear bare until you get near them, after which coins fly in for you to collect. In its quest to have players scouring every part of every level, New Super Mario Bros. 2 seems to “break the rules” more than usual with lots of hidden areas found in pits and under quicksand.
The sheer number and variety of coins within the game means lots of trial and error to find the optimum paths in each level to maximize your coin totals. And beyond this, some platform twitch skills are necessary since many of the coins move quickly or erratically. And with things like the coin roulette boxes, precision timing or a little luck is also required.
Coin rush mode is the major selling point of the game above the usual Mario adventure. The mode gives players one life and an initial 100 seconds to complete three levels. These levels are chosen at random from different sets of stages (e.g. the Mushroom coin rush takes stages from the first three levels). Extra time is awarded at the midway point and at the end of each stage. Hitting the top of the flagpole doubles your current coin count, so you can rack up major totals by completing each stage.
Coin rush mode utilizes StreetPass to trade runs. You can compete against other players coin totals, and you’re awarded an extra 1000 coins. There are 15 slots, but you can pin your favorite sets of stages so that they don’t get overwritten by future StreetPasses. You can only save one of your own runs at a time. Packs of coins rush challenges will be made available as add-on content, but pricing hasn’t been announced.
Additionally, the game includes a mysterious million-coin goal, which includes the total of all coins ever collected in the game, as well as a SpotPass-powered global coin total, though Nintendo hasn’t revealed what happens when the goals are reached.
The stages in the first worlds were very easy. The biggest difficulty came from finding all of the star coins and major coin caches. Thankfully, the levels are more non-linear than the original New Super Mario Bros., meaning that you’ll have to search in all directions for the coins. Additionally, many paths are one-way, meaning you’ll have to redo the level if you miss certain coins. So you’ll especially have to take note of the best places to collect coins for Coin Rush runs.
Each world seems to follow the classic progression. The first world is “grass land,” the second is a desert world, the third a watery island. However, there are at least two secret worlds, accessible from Worlds 1 and 3. There are the usual mushroom houses, which involve some minigames, though I don’t understand why they still award 1-ups when you can get so many from the coins. Alternate paths are unlocked not from finding secret exits, but by spending your collected star coins.
Cannons act like those in the original game, but the cannon in World 1 unlocked a glittery pink World “Mushroom.” The cool thing about the cannon is that it’s an actual stage. Once shot out, Mario can’t stop running, so all you can do is jump to collect coins and avoid enemies and pits. If you’re playing as Raccoon Mario, then your P-meter can activate while running, which makes it a bit different than a simple Canabalt level.
Two-person local multiplayer is supported, and unlike the previous handheld iteration, it is available for all stages. When playing multiplayer, the coin count is shared and automatically doubled at the end of the level, which can help in reaching the million-coin goal more quickly. One player is always the focus of the camera, and if the other player gets too far away, he or she will be encased in a bubble and brought back onto the screen. Player focus switches if one player ground-pounds the other or if a player goes down a pipe.
While the art is pretty generic, the background is purposely blurred to enhance the stereoscopic 3D effect. The music seems like Nintendo is trolling critics of the New Super Mario Bros. series’ music, recycling the tired tunes of the prior games and replacing the regular instruments with the synth voices. It’s a shame that the game’s design creativity didn’t extend to sound design.
When the game was announced, the generic name and art didn’t inspire a lot of enthusiasm. However, that changed after playing it at E3 and again at Nintendo’s offices. New Super Mario Bros. 2 provides an interesting twist, and a hook that has the potential to provides an inordinate amount of replay. The level design is solid and the experience, while not completely groundbreaking, is distinctly Mario. And as a Super Mario 3D Land time trial veteran, I look forward to many future StreetPass challenges!