Advantage or disadvantage that it is for New Super Mario Bros 2, it is impossible to talk about this last branch without considering trunk and root. Matters of genetics: within him there is the very story of the video game, which often, in the past, coincided with that of Mario. Here, in 1985, the two-dimensional platform as we know it today was born; action games were born here. Here, between 1989 and 1991, that genre was taken to heights never reached before, and probably not even after.
Here is the noblest and most royal blood that can exist in electronic entertainment, and for this it makes you thrilled the way Nintendo has curated, and is tending, its tree of life. Mario, the two-dimensional one, was abandoned for fifteen long years: abandoned because Miyamoto, and therefore Nintendo itself, conceived it as outdated. As if Mario, the three-dimensional one, were its natural evolution. New Super Mario Bros demonstrated the inaccuracy of the postulate: they are two different shrubs, and in this context the instinct of the mass has proved more acute both than the reflections of the journalists and, more seriously, the ideas of the developers.
Making mistakes is human, but persevering, as they say, is diabolical: Nintendo creatives have never accepted the reality imposed by New Super Mario Bros. Of course, Iwata and the marketing people toasted 2D, because it sells more than all the others, because it sells more than everything (52 million with just two games, with an attached increase in the installed base of the console), but this was not enough to to restore luster to the brand. It was not enough to have the precious little hands of Koizumi, Miyamoto or Eguchi put down to work on the two dimensions. And so here we are New Super Mario Bros 2, more product than created.
It's me, Mario!
Of course, no matter how uninspired and too derivative, making an ugly Mario is impossible: the precision of the controls, and the quality of the craftsmanship in general, are pure excellence. Years and years of experience cannot be lost, unlike genius, and in this New Super Mario Bros 2 is no exception: collisions, inertia, changes of direction, jumps, triple jumps and slides, interaction between character and objects, everything is perfect. And hilarious.
Similar speech for the leaf, which finally returns after years of absence (or rather, generations: we are talking about 1989, and Super Mario Bros 3) and reveals itself in all its extraordinary eternal youth, making the stages multiplanar, modifying the rhythm with which they are crossed, proving effective even with polygons and overall strengthening its candidacy for a privileged position next to the sacred mushroom-flower-star trinity . Compared to the past, the flight loads faster, and gliding is easier because you do not have to repeatedly tap the button, but everything is part of the softening and speeding operation that carries on the design of New Super Mario Bros, and in this case the changes do not alter the brilliance of the original power-up. In addition to the problems due to excessive conservatism, which we will see shortly, the reasons why this new episode cannot be considered a success are of a conceptual nature. Super Mario Bros 2, the Japanese one, was also a "more of the same": but it openly was, in the light of the sun he took the elements of the progenitor and mixed them in an infernal soup, made on purpose to appease the hunger and the desire to challenge the passionate. New Super Mario Bros 2 instead it introduces the theme of coins, which timidly appears here and there in the level design, but which does not alter the essence of the game, limiting itself to a marginal role. There is not a single reason to justify the yellow packaging, nor the other graphic elements that would suggest a new thematic core. The ways to put coin collection at the center of the adventure would have been many, and it is not up to us to list them, but Nintendo has not undertaken even one.
Despite the side scrolling of the work, Nintendo could not fail to equip too New Super Mario Bros 2 of a three-dimensional effect. As is natural in this context, it is more a fascinating tinsel than a decisive feature to enjoy the adventure to the fullest, differently from when it happened for Super Mario 3D Land. There are some moments, especially in the final stages of the game, that enhance the three-dimensional vision, but overall the experience remains substantially unchanged.
New Super Mario Bros it was an attempt, fifteen years later, to bring together the salient features of the successors within the essentiality of the first episode, Super Mario Bros., setting up everything with a polygonal interaction. Not brilliant but fully successful experiment, which would have been perfected with the successor on Wii, which gave the project a broader scope and above all a multiplayer dimension that directly touched the soul of level design.
New Super Mario Bros 2 it is the derivative continuation of an already mannerist project in itself, an element that makes every level, world or event all too obvious. Innovative or experimental situations can be counted on the fingers of one hand, and often focus only on the search for secrets: the first level that could not have existed in the 80s is found in the second world, and the only world that takes full advantage of the potential offered by polygons is that of an aerial theme. A little bit, in short. For the rest, it's all already seen: you get from point A to point B by jumping over ravines (and so far nothing bad), avoiding enemies already known, facing dangers already seen and environments already crossed. The latter is also a serious problem: it seems that Nintendo creatives do not have enough imagination to invent new worlds. Grass, desert, water, snow, fire: the same Super Mario Bros 3 who introduced them already proposed two less obvious ones, namely the fourth, with a giants theme, and the seventh, based on pipes. The first New Super Mario Bros he brought the swampy world and the mountain world, settings that were not too interesting but at least new. This sequel does not introduce even one, it has only six worlds, plus three secrets (less extensive than the others) which are a sort of anonymous container of "free" themed internships. Same situation in the commitment to devise new mini bosses, dangerously close to zero.
Where is the ambition?
Don't think the problems of New Super Mario Bros 2 are the problems of the 2D platformer themselves. Although the genre has been mistreated for a decade, in recent years it has shown that it can evolve brilliantly in the web world, see Little Big Planet, which can still say a lot in the hands of creative developers, you see Super Meat Boy, and which can still reach heights of absolute excellence, you see Donkey Kong Country Returns. The fact that a Mario game, albeit on a laptop, is clearly inferior to the three aforementioned platformers, should be worrying. And that Nintendo does not feel the whole as treason is the most alarming symptom of all. When will Iwata decide to put its top teams, and its most talented men, back to work on this saga?
And above all, how long will a 2D Mario be able to drive the sales of a console without the public getting tired? The first New Super Mario Bros, after fifteen years of absence, he was eaten up by hunger. The second brought the saga back to the home console after three (three!) Generations, giving the whole a veil of contemporaneity with multiplayer and novelty through the beautiful power ups. And this? This proposes nothing new, and is conceptually confusing. Iwata will soon have the first answers, and they may not necessarily be what it expects: not even commercially. Never underestimate the judgment of your audience. From the WiiU onwards, the Nintendo Virtual Console will be enriched, detaching itself from the reference platform and becoming more like an online archive. It could be a double-edged sword, because it is clear that Super Mario Bros 3 will still sell a lot, for the umpteenth time, just as it had sold a lot between 1989 and 1991. But someone, even among the youngest, might realize that that very old ruin annihilates the polygons of New Super Mario Bros 2: try to compare the second world of Super Mario Bros 3 to the second of this new chapter, also with a desert theme. It is not a question of nostalgia, it is a question of harmony, genius and quality. All elements present in the DNA of New Super Mario Bros 2, buried by the layers of time, waiting to re-emerge. Waiting for skilled hands, those who have shaped this saga, those who now only deal with three-dimensional Mario. Waiting to be pulled out, and to claim their claim to the throne.
To judge New Super Mario Bros 2 It is not pleasant. There is no genius, there are no intuitions, there is no originality whatsoever. All the merits are inherited from the past, and reside in the majestic Nintendo craftsmanship. Even less pleasant is to think that the saga that has dominated and defined the world of video games for a decade has come to this point. Iwata should get a prominent team back on two-dimensional Mario soon, or it might be too late.
- Perfect controls
- The leaf power-up is an evergreen
- Academic level design ...
- ... but too derivative
- Coin collection is marginal
- Bad mini bosses