When it comes to the Mario franchise, the old adage that the more things change the more they stay the same tends to ring true.
For all the additional characters, crazy equipment, obscure items and technical advances every iteration offers, it still boils down to the same twitch reflex platforming and linear level design from the very first Super Mario Bros. on the original Nintendo. That’s not a bad thing.
New Super Mario Bros. 2 on the Nintendo 3DS is a direct sequel to New Super Mario Bros. released six years ago, and like its predecessor it’s a classic side-scrolling platforming affair, with a healthy dose of cooperative or unintentionally competitive multiplayer.
The most obvious addition this time round is the reintroduction of the Super Leaf, last seen in Super Mario Bros. 3. This ads a raccoon tail to our favourite plumber's britches and gives him the ability to fly, a sentence that shouldn’t make any sense but somehow tradition begs to differ. Those that remember the power-up from the original NES game will be pleased to know of some minor tweaks that make major differences, especially on the Nintendo 3DS’s slightly small button layout.
Once Mario's power meter is filled, he can take flight, and rather than having to furiously tap the jump button repeatedly to manoeuvre upwards, simply holding the button will keep Mario's speed and altitude steady. Likewise floating to the ground can be done by holding the button as well, thus avoiding any unexpected button slips and deadly falls.
It's a homage to the classics, but dig a little bit deeper and players will find a new gameplay mechanic in New Super Mario Bros. 2 that could radically change the way we play Mario games. In this outing, Mario is all about the gold coins.
It’s a shift in perspective: instead of trying to rush through each level or search for secret entrances, the challenge is to collect as many coins as possible. This is made even more interesting by the addition of multipliers, meaning if players figure out a perfect path taking down enemies and collecting coins, they could be looking at quadrupling their coin count for that level.
To facilitate this, a new power-up called Gold Flowers turns blocks into coins, Floating Rings turn enemies into gold, and there's a Brick Mask that spits out coins the faster Mario runs.
What Nintendo has done is turn each level into a search for the perfect path to maximise profits. It adds an addictive degree of replayability, something that's clearly not lost on Nintendo given the inclusion of Coin Rush mode, a Streetpass system where players can challenge the level times and coin count of others.
Whether this is a good move for the iconic brand remains to be seen, though from the little shown to press so far, it seems that Nintendo's Midas touch may not be diminished.