I’ve been playing a good bit of New Super Mario Bros 2 on my 3DS, and couldn’t help but notice something missing from the general internet reaction. Most reviews and the general consensus seem to agree that the game is fine, serviceable, but nothing special. And oddly enough, “nothing special” for a Mario game is unique, because we’ve been trained over the years to expect Mario games to be new and fresh and exciting every time. Nintendo tends to knock it out of the park, so a base-hit is jarring.
But I think at least some of the reaction has missed what Nintendo was trying for here. The level design itself isn’t crackling with new ideas, but the base premise of the game does exactly what the company has been pressured to for years. It takes notes from the mobile market. The standard stages are just a precursor to the much longer-term goal of collecting a million coins. The primary method of pulling that off is in Coin Rush mode, which gives short time spans and multipliers. The game is meant to be played, over and over, in short bursts, over an extremely long period of time. Maybe even months.
Sound familiar? Think about mobile hits like Jetpack Joyride. It’s a quick pick-up-and-play experience with a near infinite number of goals. You aren’t expected to play for very long at a time, but you are expected to play it over a long period of time. After years of analysts telling Nintendo they need to get into the mobile market — and going into convulsions at the slightest hint that they will — the company took some pages from those ideas.
Now, granted, taking from another platform isn’t really innovation, and it’s certainly not the kind of creative new gameplay concepts that the company is known for. But the parallels seemed so immediately obvious to me that I have to wonder why it’s been missing so much from the dialogue. It’s not that the game is just more of the same ol’ Mario. It’s actually trying something incredibly different, structurally speaking, from the standard Mario franchise. The differences just aren’t very clear within the level design itself.
(As a side-note, this model lends itself to microtransactions. Frankly I’m surprised Nintendo didn’t take it the extra step and sell a 24-Hour Double Coin Bonus for a buck or something. It would fit perfectly. But that might be too on-the-nose, and I’m sure gamers would revolt even more than they already have.)
- I do like all the efforts to get the youth vote this year. Xbox 360 is a natural spot for it.
- I continue to be baffled by why Sony keeps undermining its Vita platform exclusives.