Thursday, July 20, 2000

Mario and Luigi - Dream Team - 8.5

NSMB2's unveiling was met with a lot of praise and criticism by fans of the 3DS. After superb sales on the Wii (New Super Mario Bros. Wii), NSMB2 follows in its predecessor's footsteps but maybe a bit closer than some will want to admit. Of all the discussing I see some bickering fans partaking in, the word "rehash" seems as synonymous with this game in discussion as it is with a franchise the likes of Call of Duty or Madden. So the ultimate question probably should be "Is this really bad or not"?

Gameplay, more money more problems?:
NSMB2 brings back just about all the gameplay elements of its Wii (and of course DS) predecessor in terms of gameplay style, mechanics and so on. As you can tell by the marketing campaign and the game case itself, NSMB2 takes pride in encouraging greedy players this time around. In addition to your usual princess rescuing routine a sub-goal of the game is to collect 1,000,000 gold coins throughout the course of your overall time playing the game. With a task as arduous as this you'll probably wonder if it's possible without sinking your life into the game. The answer is in a sense yes. There are a plethora of means to gain coins which range from the overpowered gold fire flower (which can destroy many enemies, blocks, and even rocks while giving you coins for everything destroyed by the spicy golden meatballs of death you fling), or turning enemies (such as koopas) into gold and kicking them away in which case they leave trails of coins for you. There are several more ways to earn quick coins but half the fun is in finding all the different ways the game will toss coins your way. Thar be gold in those hills!

Sadly the 1,000,000 coin goal falls relatively flat when you actually achieve your goal. You would think with such a hefty feat you'd be getting some amusing reward in return but the actuality of the situation will more than likely disappoint you. While I won't spoil the surprise I imagine there will be MANY facepalms when it comes time for the 1,000,000 coin revelation (there have already been for those who've spoiled themselves). Suffice it is to say that if you could deal with the disappointment that was Super Mario 64's completion reward then I suppose you could handle this well (hint, it's worse than that reward). I think the game may have been a bit better off without this "hook" but ultimately if you have fun playing for coins then the goal has arguably served its means.

Co-op, bros before toads:
I'm going to be honest, I'd always rather play a Mario game solo, NSMBW was no exception. Unless you liked trolling your friends or bumbling around the stages, more (than 2) players tended to feel like a chore in performance from my experience. That said NSMB2 jumps down from 4 players to just 2: Mario and Luigi. This works out well enough since on a smaller screen 4 player co-op would likely be very uncomfortable. When you play a co-op game (which mind you you can't do this over the internet) the host takes the role of Mario and the guest becomes Luigi. Mario (the player) will select one of their own files and both players continue from the Mario player's file. Luigi's player will not get any progress in their file but they will be able to bolster their coin count while in a co-op game.

The whole game is up for grabs in co-op so you can play beginning to end. The same mechanics in place for NSMBW are at play here, players can bubble themselves out of some situations in which case their partner can tag them back into safety. This can be used to cooperatively aid lesser skilled players through more tricky segments of the game, provided that the remaining player is never harmed. Should there ever be only one of the two players actively onscreen (non-bubbled) and they lose a life then both players lose and will need to restart the stage or at that stage's checkpoint. Another cooperative tactic one can use is sharing stored power ups. Each player can hold one reserve power up item should a situation go bad for them. Said items are called in and dropped above the owner's head but either partner can pick the item up provided they touch it first. On a co-op level, NSMB2 can still be a bit chaotic but it feels proper (and fun) at the 2 player count.

Graphics & 3D, itsa me! Familiarity!:
NSMB2 essentially matches NSMBW's graphics, but on a handheld. The game even retains NSMBW's solid frame rate consistently, even with 3D on. Character models are fluid and well done for the most part and the game looks as good as its predecessor. One can also argue that most of the game's assets literally feel directly lifted from NSMBW though. The character models obviously would be but the map designs/themes, stage designs, and so on literally make the game sometimes feel like it should be called NSMBW portable or an expansion to NSMBW. Much of what you'll see in the game will look familiar if you come from the previous NSMB title.

Meanwhile the 3D effect for NSMB2 is relatively minor. The 3D will amount to giving the game a bit more of a pop effect on the foreground layer and occasionally adds a touch to near foreground walls but otherwise 3D is not a big deal for this title (and it probably shouldn't be). However any time you are using the 3D settings in a stage the background will become blurred, detracting from details on background objects.

Sound, Bah! Bah bah...:
The same way the game graphically feels lifted from NSMBW the same can be said of NSMB2's music, though in this case it is immediately obvious. The game's soundtrack is literally NSMBW's but with more bah. If you had a problem with bahs previously, you'd best get over them for NSMB2 because this is a game that is all about the bah, and it's even heard in castle themes now. Despite the obvious lifting, cheery music is what makes any Mario game Mario and of course, musical enjoyment is subjective (I've actually had quite a laugh over the hostility some fans have for the added bahs though).

Overall, the million coin question:
Is New Super Mario Bros. 2 a rehash? As much as some defenders will relent to admit, it kind of is. The game's new gimmick never really changes much about how the game is played, the stages (and bosses) will look eerily familiar, and the music is immediately familiar. NSMB2 does have some of the criteria to be called a rehash. It may not do it on the caliber of other big named series but the point is, it does seemingly commit the crime regardless. The question is how do you feel about having more of something pretty similar (or the same)? I played NSMBW through for my nieces and while the best memories of my Mario days have been far behind me the game was still pretty enjoyable. I'm willing to pass the same judgment down to NSMB2 in that while it doesn't feel particularly mind blowing in any way, it is fun enough to be worth a spin. If you've for whatever reason never played a side scrolling Mario game though, this is a fun title to play. While the NSMB series never fully matches up to its roots, it's a fun homage to those titles that's even further accessible to newer/younger gamers.

- Co-op is fun and functional.
- If you really liked NSMBW or even side scrolling Mario games in general, you may like this.
- NSMB2 matches NSMBW's graphics, sound, and controls.
- The golden flower may be mighty but it's not the difficulty killer the helicopter mushroom from NSMBW was.
- NSMB2 is an accessible title to just about anyone given its difficulty.

- Not only does it match NSMBW's graphics, it literally feels like it reuses a lot of its assets.
- The music is barely changed, in fact it feels like they only added more "bah"s.
- The 1,000,000 coin gimmick does little to enhance the play, and its reward is truly underwhelming.
- This isn't exactly a game for challenge seekers like the original Marios, the game is way more forgiving than its source of inspiration (SMB3, SMW).

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