New Super Mario Bros. 2 is classic gameplay in its rudimentary form.....with a uniquely interesting twist.
Once again, Princess Peach has (surprise!) been kidnapped by Bowser and his silly Koopa Kids, shuttered away from her comfortable castle after Mario and Luigi take some time goofing off. This momentary distraction prompts our hero to shake off his bewilderment and chart after the evil Koopa clan in pursuit of the Princess. But, the goal here isn't simply to conquer all eight of the Worlds therein and rescue Princess Peach for the umpteenth time. The game hands you a penultimate goal of collecting as many coins as humanly possible, and while you may benefit from having at least 650 lives in the long run, there's an even better reason to do so this time around---collecting 1,000,000 of them overall will unlock a nice surprise, and every coin collected contributes to a worldwide record calculated individually from every gamer in the world who owns a copy of the game. Of course, new power-ups like the Gold Flower and a Gold Block Head will help facilitate your coin collecting by turning nearly anything you touch into cold hard cash or running like a maniac and watching coins drop out of your rear end. For dispensing with enemies, Mario will enlist the aid of a typical Mushroom to grow in size in addition to the Fire Flower and the return of the Tanooki suit from Super Mario Bros. 3. Even the humongous Mushroom that briefly allows you to go big and smash everything in sight makes a comeback from New Super Mario Bros.
And if that weren't enough, NSMB2 offers an all-new Challenge Mode, a series of challenges consisting of three randomly selected stages where you must gather as many coins as possible under a strict time limit with only one life. This is a refreshing gameplay alternative that breathes some new oil in the ever-churning Mario engine, and one that both fans and newcomers will duly appreciate. Scores obtained in Challenge Mode will determine your ranking in the local leaderboards and, while the noticeable lack of online worldwide leaderboards is indeed a shame, it's not so bad if you have friends in your immediate area devoted to becoming the greatest coin hoarders of all time.
Even though the framework is relatively the same as it was in past Mario games, there's no denying its infallible charm. Mario fans will indeed embrace the familiarity, and newcomers will feel right at home with the simplicity of the mechanics and the overall appeal of its renowned platforming gameplay by which all other similar games are judged. However, it might have been nice if there was a little more variety in the level design. Some of the platforming levels are barely distinguishable with those you've already played through in previous games, including the original New Super Mario Bros. on the Nintendo DS. Also, NSMB2 doesn't really push the power of the 3DS in any significant way, which is disappointing considering that Nintendo might have gotten away with porting the game to a normal DS. This is further compounded by playing the game on the newly-released Nintendo 3DS XL's larger screens, where pixels are visible and background objects are blurry and undefined. To its credit, a few blemishes do little to distract from the gameplay experience overall.
Still, the Mario games are none too concerned with pushing the visual envelope. The gameplay is what truly matters and, in that regard, New Super Mario Bros. 2 delivers forthright. The coin collecting aspect is a hoot, the Challenge modes bring new spice to an already zesty dish, and the unflinching charm that has maintained the soul and popularity of the franchise is fully intact. Mario fan or newcomer, you'll do well to include this in your 3DS library -- whether it be retail or through a full digital download from the Nintendo eShop. It may not be perfect, but it sure is perfectly fun.