Fun, but totally lacking in originality, NSMB2 is one of Mario's weaker outings, which of course doesn't mean it's bad.
Now, Nintendo is trying it with 2 New Super Mario Bros games in a row, spreading skepticism around, if two games in a row isn't maybe a bit much.
Now, it's no secret that New Super Mario Bros 2 was squeezed in during the developing time of New Super Mario Bros U. While New Super Mario bros U was already introduced at 2011's E3 under the name of New Super Mario Bros Mii, New Super Mario Bros 2 was announced this year, a few months before it's release. New Super Mario Bros 2 also had inferior prerequisites. While New Super Mario Bros U is developed by the very professional people at Nintendo, New Super Mario Bros 2 was a game for younger, less experienced game developers to test their video gaming creation skill. And because of these conditions it's particularly surprising that New Super Mario Bros 2 still manages to entertain with great, classic-like gameplay. Yet, it still lacks any novelty and the magic that comes to notice in most other Mario games. It's surprising how little the team did to make NSMB2 feel like a new game.
New Super Mario Bros 2 does not dare to change anything. Peach gets kidnapped, Mario must save her and chases down Bowser's Koopaling minions who continuously drag Peach from one Tower/Castle to the next one, until Mario once again reaches the edge of the Mushroom World, the Lava World, where Bowser awaits Mario in his humongous Castle to defend his ownership of Princess Peach. And despite Luigi's appearance in the introduction, following Mario into the adventure, Luigi suddenly is only playable after you've beaten the main adventure.
After the intro, the familiar progress takes place, run from left to right to reach the end of the levels. Luckily, New Super Mario Bros 2 does not take a real step back in entertaining with simple 2D Levels. Though poor on new Ideas, New Super Mario Bros 2 still contains great Level Design, which is combined with the perfect controls the New Super Mario Bros series is also known for, as well as the many well hidden secrets in the game. The Levels are fully crafted, most times with nicely hidden secrets and Star Coins. The beginning level already alludes that the game will contain great Level Design, and World 1-3 finally introduces the Raccoon Mario for the first time in a New Super Mario Bros game. And yes, it definitely feels good to be able to simply fly over portions of the levels, and some levels reward you with hidden secrets for flying up above in the air, the best example must be World 1-3.
Mario fights his way through the familiar worlds. Again, there's the basic, grassy field world, the desert world, the cloud world and more. However, since there are only 6 worlds this time around, there has been a bit cut on the worlds. World 3 is both Beach and Forest now, with a great transition from Beach into forest, and the mountain world has been totally cut away.
Luckily, the game isn't short on worlds. The layout structure of the worlds are like that in New Super Mario Bros, that means two worlds have an alternative, secret exit that lead to alternative Worlds, on top of the six main worlds. But unlike in New Super Mario Bros, the alternative worlds are Special Worlds. Though, except the special look of the worlds, there isn't much special about the worlds, neither the levels, nor the structure of the worlds.
What separates this game from the others is the insane fixation on coin collecting. Your main goal in the game is to collect 1 million coins. There are much more coins featured in the levels than in any previous 2D Mario game, plus many extra features to procure even more coins, like golden rings, that turn all enemies into gold, golden coin bricks that stick onto Mario's head and produce coins while Mario is on the go, and there's also a totally new powerup focusing on the coin collection, the golden fire flower, which turns Mario into Golden Mario. And as Golden Mario, Mario can use golden fireballs to turn everything those fireballs hit into coins, may it be bricks or any type of enemies. Though since it's also so powerful, it's a rare item to be found, though luckily there are specific Toad Houses and Rainbow stages that contain the golden fire flower.
During his journey, Mario also comes across many familiar powerups, like the Fire Flower, Mini Mushroom, of course the Super Leaf, and even the Mega Mushroom, as well as the self-evident starman. Sadly, the Golden Fire Flower is the only new powerup in the game.
Despite all the features though, the game doesn't offer nearly enough to keep you entertained until you select that last millionth coin. After 200.000 coins the latest you will probably have to force yourself to farther play the game and select more coins. New Super Mario Bros 2 does feature a separate extra mode from the main mode called coin rush, in which you have to rush through 3 randomly picked courses in a very short time, while grabbing as much coins as possible along the way, but it doesn't extend the game's life nearly enough. Also, if you hold on until the 1 millionth coin, you will be rewarded with a slap in the face. Seriously, few rewards in video gaming history have been, for what they were, such disappointing as the reward in New Super Mario Bros. 2.
What's even more sad though, nothing really feels special or new about the game. The game might be very fun, but people who expect some new features in the game will be highly disappointed. Sure, there are a few new tweaks to the game, but the game practically consists out of the two previous games. Yes, New Super Mario Bros 2 does offers that totally new concept of collecting 1 million coins, but that doesn't make the game really feel new at all. You will barely encounter a level that actually surprises you with something you haven't seen or experienced before in a 2D Mario game. The only thing that really feels actually "new" in the game are the canon levels. Instead of just being shot into the special world directly, you must first run through a short level. And with run, I mean run. You can't just stop at a tricky section and take a breath, now Mario runs through the whole level in one shot. And you must time your jumps perfectly to not fall into a pit or lose life by crashing into one of the dangerous foes. Shockingly these are also, with exception of the very last level of the game, the most challenging levels in the entire game.
Complains aside though, there is a specific pack of levels that deserve extra mention, and those must be the Ghost House Levels. Never have they been this well designed and tricky, that's for sure.
Just like the gameplay, the presentational side of the game doesn't really offer anything "new" as well. The backgrounds are a mixed bag, some of them are new and some are recycled from the previous New Super Mario Bros games, all of them still looking quite nice but also too simple by now. The soundtrack on the other hand is totally recycled, with only a few themes that got a slight remix. And speaking about the presentational side of the game, it's also important to note that the 3D effect is quite weak in the game. Actually, it might just be the worst use of the 3D effect any game had on the 3DS until now. I didn't expect much, honestly, and I was actually surprised when I saw that the foregrounds worked pretty good in 3D, which really gave a unique feel to the looks of the game, but the more depth the 3D gets, the more the backgrounds blur up. Also, the backgrounds lack way to much depth in 3D to look good anyways.
New Super Mario Bros 2's unoriginality is only one of it's problems. The game's longevity doesn't seem as strong as the previous 2 series. The worlds themselves have a decent amount on levels. However, the main adventure only takes 4-5 hours the longest (even in 3 hours you could probably beat the main game) and many levels are a little short. Of course there are the many secrets and star coins to find, some of them hidden very good, as well as the coin rush mode and the Multiplayer that however requires both players to have the game, so good luck finding a local friend to play with, but the game's length is kept within limits.
The main reason for the limited play length however is the fact that New Super Mario Bros 2's Levels aren't that challenging. In fact, the game is the easiest in it's series. Some of the later levels get quite steamy, however, you won't ever need long for any level, except maybe the final level and the canon ones. The boss battles suffer in particular because of the low challenge. Though they have good yet a little predictable designs, they are way, way too easy.
The pros will need to play Coin Rush Mode to get a real challenge out of the game, however since you will be already familiar with those levels in coin rush mode, coin rush won't be THAT hard as well.
What's New Super Mario Bros 2's main problem? Is it the fact that it isn't "totally" new? No, of course not. You can't expect every game to take big steps into the future. Heck, in many cases little steps are far enough. But New Super Mario Bros 2 doesn't even go one single step and prefers to stay where it has stood at the beginning. It seems as if it doesn't even trust itself and stays safe in any thinkable term. New Super Mario Bros 2 simply feels like an extra Mario game for on the go, to keep us a bit more entertained until the bigger games like Paper Mario: Sticker Star or New Super Mario Bros U show their faces on the shelves. It's like an inferior version of New Super Mario Bros Wii, with parts of the DS version mixed in. But while it's practically the same game like it's predecessors, only with the fixation on the 1 million coins objective, misses out on real challenge and harshly said just feels a little rushed, it still does what the Mario trademark has always stood for: It's simply a lot of fun to play. However, it's also not quite that what fans are used to get out of Mario.
+ good level design as always
+ The emphasis on collecting coins does add a little to the game
+ Classic elements appear, like the beloved Raccoon Suit
+ Many well hidden secrets and star coins
+ The Boo Hoo houses have never been this well designed and tricky
- Much of the game feels recycled
- low on challenge, especially the boss battles
- reward for collecting 1 million coins is pathetic
- very short main adventure
- The 3D effect seems unpolished
New Super Mario Bros 2 is simply more Mario. The colorful world maps, the vibrant environments and the catchy music, as well as the simple intro and the total concentration on platforming fun, but most of the game just feels a little too recycled, and the 3D effect is pretty unpolished.
--- Graphics: 7.5
New Super Mario Bros 2's looks don't separate themselves from the previous game's looks, the character models look great, animations are nice and clean, everything is wonderfully colorful, including the new and old backgrounds, which however are starting to look to plain by now. The 3D effect sadly suffers from the lacking depth in the backgrounds, and the backgrounds blur up terribly with the 3D effect on.
--- Sound: 6.0
Just like the visuals, but extremer, there isn't anything new to the sound department at all. The typical sound effects are as flawless like always, and the music is just as catchy as always, but that's because there's barely any new track in the whole entire soundtrack.
Technical Stability: 9.0
One of the trademarks of Mario games is simply the polish of each of those games. No glitches, no technical bugs or other disturbances, everything down to it's smallest detail in New Super Mario Bros 2 is polished superbly. It is questionable though if the backgrounds blur up purposely or not with 3D turned on.
Despite the lack of novelty and innovation in the game, it's still a lot of fun to run and jump through all these exceptionally well designed levels and collect as many coins as possible, even though real challenge is pretty much totally absence in the game.
New Super Mario Bros 2's main adventure takes 4-6 hours at longest, though luckily the many secrets and star coins as well as the extra mode coin rush add to the game's length drastically. It's still by far not long enough to remain entertaining until you collect the 1 millionth coin, though.