Some things in this universe are constant. Death, taxes. Slow buses when you're late. And the fact that Mario is into coins.
He's still into coins in the upcoming 3DS game New Super Mario Bros. 2. And it's a good thing, because the game has lots of coins. So many coins. Pretty much all of the coins.
Yesterday, I met with Nintendo folks in San Francisco to give the game a go on a big, shiny 3DS XL.
(What did I think of the new handheld? My thoughts are more or less with Evan. I think it's a neat thing and I'd happily play my 3DS games on it. My only concern is that it's too big to hold while using the stylus. But it's nice.)
On to the game. Know what's almost as delicious as coins? Bullet-points! Let's do this:
- As a Mario game, NSMB2 has the most in common with New Super Mario Bros. Wii — it's a side-scrolling platformer that follows a familiar story: Princess Peach has been kidnapped, and Mario must save her.
- The game will be released in North America on August 19, the same day as the 3DS XL. Nintendo was mum about the possibility of a bundle package.
- The main game can be played solo or by two people via local co-op. You jump, you dodge, you float, you shoot fireballs. And you collect coins.
- Returning Mario features include: A black mid-point flag that acts as a checkpoint and a mushroom should you need one, as well as the ability to store on extra power-up on the touch-screen to activate whenever you please.
- There are several new power-ups, most of which revolve around this new coin-fixation. The "gold block" lets Mario dress up in a brick that shoots coins into the air every time he jumps or moves. The gold ring turns all enemies gold, and killing them causes them to explode into any of a number of pre-set coin fountains. Best of all, a gold flower turns Mario gold (Luigi turns silver in co-op) and gives Mario a fireball that turns ordinary bricks into gold coins.
- You will collect a lot of coins in this game. How many is a lot? A looooooot. Coins on coins on coins, until you almost start to feel silly about the whole thing. No one could say a sure maximum number, but I saw room for at least seven digits on the counter.
- That counter is because the game tracks the total number of coins you collect in every mode, and your running totals will be shared online via spotpass so you can compete with your friends.
- NSMB2 leans a bit closer to New Super Mario Bros. for the DS than New Super Mario Bros. Wii, though it's really a lot like both. That is, of course, a heck of a combo. The levels are less roomy than in the Wii version, which is a good thing, since solo play feels more or less like a regular Mario game.
- The 3D effect is minimized — the game won't feature any of the optical illusions or motion-control bits seen in Super Mario 3D Land. Turning up the 3D slider does add a 3D effect, but mostly it causes the background to go out of focus as though players are holding a camera focused on Mario. It's a neat effect, but a bit strange when you turn your eyes to the horizon and it doesn't come into focus. This does seem to be in line with the idea that Nintendo is much less interested in 3D these days.
- NSMB2 didn't float along with the easy genius of Super Mario 3D Land — from what I saw, it's a much more conservative type of Mario game. But that's not exactly a bad thing — it's very Mario, and has a somewhat different feel to it, partly because the levels are designed to be played either in single-player or in co-op.
- I spent a bit of time playing a ghost house level that featured a gigantic, screen-filling Boo called "The Boohemoth." Heh.
- The co-op aspect of the game only works locally — another reporter and I played through a few levels together. He was Mario, I was Luigi. Because Luigi is cool.
- Co-op is still frustrating; there may be only two characters on screen, but the levels are small and usually feel crowded. Characters occupy the same physical space, giving things the same vaguely hateful, griefing quality that the New Super Mario Bros. Wii had.
- My reporter co-player: "Calling it 'co-op' isn't exactly accurate."
- In co-op, there's an arrow over either Mario or Luigi, and whoever has the arrow gets the camera. That means the other player is more or less tasked with following the arrow player around. However, you can power-drop onto the player with the arrow and claim it for yourself — which leads to all manner of shenanigans as you play.
- There are team-up moves in co-op: For example, if you both do a power drop at the same time, it can knock over enemies in unique ways.
- Unlike NSMB Wii, you can't actually throw other players, so that's at least one avenue for griefing that's no longer in the game. But still, it's more antagonistic than cooperative, which is fun but also negative in that certain potentially anger-causing way.
- In addition to single-player and co-op, NSMB2 offers a mode called Coin Rush, which provides a fun wrinkle on asynchronous competitive gaming. You'll be able to choose from three "packs" — mushroom, flower and star. The packs choose random levels from each third of the game's levels. You'll then have a limited number amount of time to run through each level and get as many coins as you can.
- You'll be able to compete against the Coin Rush scores of others, but only via streetpass — the Nintendo rep I spoke to didn't give me any reason to think that there'll be spotpass functionality or online Coin Rush leaderboards, which seems like a missed opportunity. I almost never get streetpasses, but I'd love to actually have someone to compete against in coin rush. I guess I'll have to content myself with chasing my own high scores.
- NSMB2 will be the first Mario game to have paid DLC — there will be new coin rush packs made available after launch for a price.
- It'll also be the first Mario game to be available digitally from day one — it will launch on the eShop on August 19th, the same day it launches in stores. (And incidentally, the same day the 3DS XL also launches. Our Nintendo rep was also mum about the possibility of a bundle.)
Overall, New Super Mario Bros. 2 looks to take everything that made New Super Mario Bros. on the DS such a success and combine it with some elements of New Super Mario Bros. Wii. It's a more conservative game than Super Mario 3D Land, but it's still a Nintendo Mario game, and it's still a lot of fun.
Friends with multiple 3DSs will likely have a good time with the co-op (though they may not be friends afterwards), and the insane number of coins will have die-hards and completionists working 'round the clock to collect 'em all.
Coins, coins, coins. Coins... coins.
Coins coins coins coins; coins, coins-coins.
Coins. Coins coins, and coins.