I’ll admit, when the premise for New Super Mario Bros. 2 was first shown off at E3 2012, I was initially very hostile toward the game. The giant emphasis on coins in just about every piece of information Nintendo put out at the time was very…unsettling. Mario was never about collecting coins; the coins were just there as risk vs. reward factor in the level design, a source of points and a means of getting more lives so players could survive the tougher worlds later on.
Since E3, I’ve kind of warmed up to the game by watching more footage, a lot of which shows that there’s more to the level design than just “grab coins.” Nonetheless, I think the 3DS New Super Mario Bros. 2 is going to flounder more than any side-scrolling Mario has before.
People Aren’t Going to Buy Into the Coins Concept
While I’ve personally come to accept the “coins” of New Super Mario Bros. 2 as a kind of personal challenge to be as ballsy as I can in order to become the Very Best That No One Ever Was at collecting gold, I’m not entirely sure that anyone’s going really be drawn in by the concept. Even having grown to actually kind of like the idea, it’s still not something that sells the game for me. If anything, learning that the game is in fact not just “coins, coins, coins” is what converted me in the end.
Focusing so much on gathering gold remains a gimmicky move, especially once you take into account how many new game mechanics they’ve added in to boost coin counts. If there’s anything we learned from games like Super Mario Sunshine, it’s that odd-sounding changes to a working formula are more likely to put people off than get them interested.
People who were going to buy the game anyway because it’s Super Mario Bros. will, of course, look past it – whether that means longtime fans who will pick up anything new in their favorite franchise, or casual buyers for whom the gimmicks don’t really mean much. The indifference of the casual buyer is probably going to be the biggest strength the game has in terms of selling to the masses. Shopper Mom might be enticed to buy Mario because of the “coins” marketing pitch, which makes the game sound all fresh and new, but it’s more likely that she’s going to buy the new Mario for her kids because it’s Mario, and that means child-friendly fun.
But are any gamers going to invest in Mario all of a sudden now that there are “more coins than ever before”? I somehow doubt it – if anything, it’s going to turn some people off.
The Game is Still Too Derivative
Following the release of New Super Mario Bros. Wii, a lot of people noted that the game featured the same eight worlds from the original New Super Mario Bros.: Grass Land, Desert Land, Water Land, Forest Land, Ice Land, Mountain Land, Sky Land, and Fire Land, complete with environment tiles and backgrounds based directly on those from the previous game. While New Super Mario Bros. 2 looks to be changing things up in terms of environment types with an ancient ruins level and a strange high-speed Minus World/Subspace-like stage, most of the levels we’ve seen so far fall into that very same template.
What’s more, the game once again imports the Koopalings from Super Mario Bros. 3, Super Mario World, and New Super Mario Bros. Wii. In the game’s earliest trailers, we also saw Reznors, a boss from the SNES game. So far, the vast majority of “new enemies” are just gold versions of existing enemies, with a few “Dry” versions of monsters like the Goomba or Piranha Plant and an Even Bigger Boo (probably the only real enemy I’m actually remotely interested in, as you may have noticed).
The same goes for the powerups. Bringing back the Raccoon Suit is cool – but what about new stuff? Even the new Gold Mario is just Fire Mario with a twist.
We’ve visited these worlds and fought these baddies and used these abilities already. Fans of the series are ready for some brand-new content.
Where’s all that creative ambition that’s getting poured into New Super Mario Bros. U? The games from the early days didn’t attempt to get away with this much recycling. Each of them brought a host of new ideas to the table as far as worlds like Giant Land and Pipe Land, the Ghost Houses and Choco Mountain, and Bowser’s warships. In terms of enemies, we saw the initial introduction of Dry Bones and the first appearance of Rocky Wrench in Super Mario Bros. 3, and Monty Mole, Rex, and Chargin’ Chuck in Super Mario World. Even the original New Super Mario Bros. had its own set of unique bosses.
Again, I doubt Shopper Mom will notice or care how similar the games are in terms of content, but I imagine at least a good chunk of the core fanbase might be getting a little tired of the same-old stuff.
The Level Design Looks Subpar so Far
Trailers have done a decent job showing that the game isn’t going to be all about coins, but at the same time, they haven’t shown much that’s particularly special in the level design department, either. So far, it’s been mostly some basic platforming, a pipe here and there leading to a treasure room, some moving platforms. A few of the levels actually look kind of stressful, but nothing here screams “timeless classic.”
Or is it just me? You can evaluate the content we’ve seen so far for yourself by watching the trailers below:
In the end, I don’t think New Super Mario Bros. 2 is going to be a failure by any means. Super Mario Bros. is a big seller no matter what. I’m just a little skeptical that it’s going to do for the 3DS what the previous two games in the franchise did for the DS and Wii. And since 3DS needs the big boost to ensure its profitability going forward, I think that could potentially spell trouble for Nintendo if they’re banking on the game repeating the legendary sales performance of its predecessors.
Kind of funny, isn’t it? A game about grabbing coins, released at a time when 3DS needs to really boom to become profitable…