davidn: (prince)
I just noticed that I had this near-complete writeup from whenever I played New Super Mario Bros 2 on the 3DS - probably somewhere on the order of five years ago. I'm not sure why I never got around to posting it, but here it is at last.

I hadn't played a Mario game until about the year 2000, and up until then I hadn't realized quite how distinctive their style was - platform games on the PC were usually very exploratory, with free four-directional movement, keys and doors, and I had assumed that that was what all platform games were like. Mario, however, always had a much simpler approach, with the goal generally being to get from left to right - and each level is made distinctive through a creative and unique use of the game elements.

What leaps out at you immediately on starting the game is how much the coins have been brought to the forefront. Platform games have always been about madly gathering collectibles, but they're usually sort of silent about it - they exist, you're guided through the level by following subtle little trails of them, and collecting a hundred might get you an extra life. This one amplifies the concept into some sort of abstract statement on the futility of capitalism - you're encouraged to keep madly gathering as fast as is humanly possible at every turn, with the total coins you've collected in the game always visible on-screen and continually being added to the global coin total through Nintendo's network - a figure that passed an absolutely economy-crashing fifty billion coins some months ago.

The new powerups are all means to this end, being heavily coin-based in one way or another - as well as the normal question mark blocks, there are now golden brick blocks which you'll get your head stuck in when you jump at them, and while wearing the block you get more coins the faster you run. And there's a very rare golden flower that turns you into what I call Midas Mario, in which mode you can fire hugely powerful gold projectiles and absolutely everything gives you coins instead of the comparatively useless score. Even with all these additions, the idea of giving you a 1-up for every hundred coins is still in place - consequently you'll very quickly obtain a preposterous number of lives, and I had a hundred and seventy-three of them by the time I finished the first run of the game. Practically, you have an infinite supply, and they're more like another trophy number rather than a serious countdown to Game Over.

Apart from those, it's another Super Mario game and does everything that you would expect from that - each level has its own miniature theme, but you know you're always going to be in a psychedelic dreamland of mushrooms and pipes, with hidden routes to find and ghost houses where things don't quite work as they seem. In fact, it's quite amazing thinking about the sheer number of iconic and recognizable characters and items that exist in the series, not just from one design team but mostly from one man. And it's full of charming touches, the best of which was when I realized that the enemies danced to the background music if you sit and watch them.

If I had a complaint, it was going to be once again that the Mario games have been recycling exactly the same bosses for the past twenty-five years - that still stands, but to its credit, the final castle suddenly whipped out a last challenge that showed off the 3D capabilities of the device rather satisfyingly. And... made me feel a bit strange, if I'm being honest.

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