Nintendo seemed to get the message after the resounding successes of New Super Mario Bros. and New Super Mario Bros. Wii that their fans still yearn for 2D, sidescrolling Mario games. After a relatively short hiatus, the Big N is now feeding those rabid fans yet again with another New Super Mario Bros. game, the sequel to the original DS release. New Super Mario Bros. 2 is the series' first foray into 3D, and follows a good deal of the standard mechanics that fans have come to expect at this point. However, this time around, NSMB2 adds in a new, overarching gameplay element that builds on a mechanic that goes as far back as the original Mario Bros., collecting coins.
Almost 30 years into the franchise's history and it's still kind of surprising when Princess Peach gets kidnapped: this time around it's at the hands of the Koopa kids. Mario must, once again, run, jump, and fly (we finally see the return of the raccoon suit from Super Mario Bros. 3 for the first time since the NES) to save his love from the clutches of the Koopa brood. Each of the eight kids gets their own unique world from which to taunt our hero, with obstacles ranging from water to fire to put him through his paces before he faces off with the Koopa in charge.
A lot of New Super Mario Bros. 2 is going to be familiar. The gameplay, the enemies, the plotline, the bosses, etc... but there are two things that set it apart from its predecessors – the level design and the coins. Over the years, the levels in Super Mario Bros. games have evolved to take advantage of new technology, new ideas, and even new power-ups, and the boards in NSMB2 are the product of those advancements. Each new world offers a handful of levels that, while they may not be excruciatingly challenging, are fun to play and riddled with secrets. With new stuff to look for, it makes even your third or fourth run through the level feel fresh.
Since NSMB2 was announced (only 4 short months ago, with its debut at E3), one of the biggest talking points that Nintendo has stuck to is that "it's all about the coins," and frankly, they're everywhere. Doing your best to collect as many coins as possible has always been a fun and essential element of Super Mario Bros. games, but NSMB2 goes the extra mile and keeps a running tally of all of your coins, and encourages you to collect a million. While this is a nice additional feature, it comes with a very clear side effect ... so many extra lives.
A running problem with all of the current Super Mario games (Land 3D included) is that there is very little chance of losing. Sure, you might die a few times throughout the level (and if you do it enough, the helpful assist blocks make a return), but you're likely never going to see the Game Over screen, unless you have a copious amount of trouble on World 1-1 (spoiler: you won't). Having an almost infinite amount of lives makes the game more accessible, but it also takes the fear out of it. If you know you have 192 Marios banked, why are you going to try really hard to make that challenging jump? You're just going to be able to do it over and over again. This excessive amount of lives doesn’t take away from the fun of the game, but it chips at the challenge.
One of the most precarious things about NSMB2 is that it was released for the 3DS, which means that things could have gone horribly wrong. Sometimes Nintendo likes to experiment with their flagship franchise, by encouraging its developers to make full use of the range of tech on their systems. New Super Mario Bros. 2 sticks to the basics, so much so that the 3D effect are minimal. There is co-op multiplayer over wireless, but outside of being offered as a downloadable title (a first for the system), and having SpotPass and StreetPass functionality, there's basically no gimmicks included, and that should come as welcome relief to fans of the series.
New Super Mario Bros. 2 includes all the classic gameplay and characters you have grown to love now on the 3DS. Longtime fans of the series will feel right at home, and newcomers (if that's even possible any more) should be enamored with the ability to pick up and play with the game's simplistic two-button controls. The easy summery here is that it's just another Mario game, and, it is, but there's always a bit more to it. Sure, the one million coin goal seems like it was layered in as a marketing technique, but stat hounds will smile every time they roll over a new milestone. Coin rush mode finally encapsulates what most Mario fans do anyways once they beat the game to get a little more life out of it, plus you get to share your scores via StreetPass. With DLC looming in the future, there's no telling just how much life you're going to get out of NSMB2, but it's pretty clear that it is more than just another Mario game.